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“Conan Exiles shows off fortress building as it preps release into the wild survival game market” plus 29 more VentureBeat

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“Conan Exiles shows off fortress building as it preps release into the wild survival game market” plus 29 more VentureBeat


Conan Exiles shows off fortress building as it preps release into the wild survival game market

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 01:33 PM PST

Conan Exiles.

A man’s home is his castle — sometimes literally.

Developer Funcom released a new video for its upcoming survival game Conan Exiles, showing off how building works in the open-world title. You can watch it above. Conan Exiles is coming out for PC via early access on January 31 and on Xbox One on in the spring. With early access, you can buy and play a game immediately, but it’s unfinished and receives update as the designers continue working on the game, often incorporating player feedback as they do so.

The game is based on the Conan the Barbarian fantasy world created by author Robert E. Howard in a series of books and stories beginning in 1932, later appearing on the big screen in the 1982 Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name. The franchise has also spawned several video games, including 2008’s massively multiplayer online role-playing game Age of Conan.

Open-world survival games have become popular, with titles like Ark: Survival Evolved becoming hits on PC and consoles. Conan Exiles will try to reach a similar level of success, although (like most survival games) it’ll likely have a long early access period.

Hap2U wants you to get back in touch with your touchscreen

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 01:00 PM PST

We went hands-on with Hap2U's haptic screen tech.

Gamers are familiar with the sense of touch you get from rumble controllers, but it’s a pretty blunt form of force feedback. But Hap2U thinks we’ve all been out of touch.

So the five-person French startup has created a prototype of touch-feedback technology for touchscreens. I felt the demo at the CES Unveiled party this week at CES 2017, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas this week.

We’ll see if this kind of tech can help create a comeback for haptics technology, which Immersion pioneered on a variety of devices. In the demo at CES, I ran my finger up and down an image of a fish, and I could feel its scales. I also turned some knobs with my fingers and felt the resistance on the touchscreen.

Hap2U said its patented haptic technology is embedded inside the touch screen. Smart piezo actuators generate an ultrasonic vibration, which controls in real-time the friction below the finger. The user feels as if turning a real knob, pushing a real cursor and perceives various textures.

The goal is to bring the user experience in a new era by providing an accurate haptic interaction to all touch interfaces. The company is targeting a broad range of usage and applications: mobile, automotive, gaming, and also e-commerce.

Here’s a video of what it’s like, but I’m sorry you can’t actually feel what I felt.

CES2017

How retailers can keep up with Amazon Go

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 12:10 PM PST

Amazon Go

The sci-fi fantasy of seamless, AI-powered shopping has captivated the public imagination for many years running. Today this dream is essentially a reality, as evidenced most recently by Amazon’s new physical grocery store, Amazon Go, which features a checkout-free shopping experience facilitated by a smartphone app and powered by “computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning” technologies.

With many industry experts speculating that Amazon Go is ringing in “the future of retail,” brick-and-mortar retailers must brace themselves for a market wherein a virtual-physical hybrid shopping experience is not only desired, but expected. Amazon will undoubtedly continue to shake up brick-and-mortar stores in the coming years with technology innovations, and other retailers must significantly step up their in-store digital strategies in order to remain competitive.

How can retailers and retail technology firms work together to keep pace with this disruption? What specific technology does a retail store need to set the foundation for an AI-powered shopping experience? And what are best practices for brands to consider as they begin to digitally map stores to enhance the customer experience?

Brick-and-mortar well positioned for innovation

Even though ecommerce continues to grow, consumers still prefer a real-life shopping experience. This is especially true when it comes to shopping for food, a task that 92 percent of U.S. consumers prefer to do in person. Given this, it makes sense that Amazon chose a grocery store as its first digitally enhanced brick-and-mortar experiment.

Of course, grocery stores are not the only shopping category up for disruption — if Amazon continues to open checkout-free shopping stores, the entire brick-and-mortar market will have to adjust.  Retailers that have already invested in the foundational infrastructure needed to power in-store digital technologies are well-positioned to pivot to a checkout-free model. Those that don’t have a digital infrastructure in place, however, will need to work fast to stay competitive.

Despite this, traditional retailers still have the upper hand over Amazon in the physical retail market given Amazon’s lack of experience managing brick-and-mortar locations. As Amazon tinkers with its physical store model, traditional retailers must work to provide new models, enhance shopper experiences, and predict which new innovations will be most attractive to consumers.

Amazon’s promise for the future of retail

While the checkout-free concept isn't new, Amazon is the first to execute it in real life. They’re well-positioned to do this because of the sheer amount of retail tech properties under their umbrella. At their grocery location, Amazon has full control over every aspect of the store, from the physical and operational infrastructure to the supply chain and inventory, even down to the staff.

And while this structure is largely what allows Amazon to create something like Amazon Go, it is unrealistic and cost-prohibitive for other retailers to pursue a similar, completely in-house operation. More importantly, the technology behind the Amazon Go store is not yet fully understood as the company tends to hide it behind a shroud of buzzwords.

More clear are the processes the technology allows. Consumers walk into the store and log in using the Amazon app on their smartphone, and the store detects their presence. Then, using a network of cameras and sensors, products picked up and retained by shoppers are automatically added to their Amazon account. Once the shopper walks out, the store senses their exit and charges their account for the bill.

The technology needed to stay competitive

Though the details of the technology itself aren’t clear at this point, knowing the subsequent processes makes it easier for other retailers to build off of Amazon’s foundation for a “just walk out” store. For example, a number of independent retail technology startups are building sensors that show where inventory is within the store. Beacons are also being used to send targeted recommendations to people as they shop.

Underpinning it all is the indoor mapping technology that shows retailers where products are located within their stores. Digitally mapping a store provides the critical context needed for accurate product location and indoor navigation, which is the backbone of any good AR experience in retail. It enables retailers to connect the physical location of products with digital information, unlocking the opportunity to show shoppers personalized deals, product suggestions, local and online inventory information, and other information based on the shopper’s preferences, location, and the product they are viewing. When paired with sensory technologies, it would also help enable a checkout-free shopping experience.

Yes, these are the types of technologies that will help traditional retailers keep up with the times. But even better, retailers can learn from Amazon’s innovation, see what works, and implement their own digital programs accordingly. Brick-and-mortar retailers have the potential not only to follow Amazon’s innovation, but build and perfect it to create an even better experience.

Theranos lays off 41% of remaining staff

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 11:49 AM PST

Theranos wellness center.

Blood-testing company Theranos today announced that it has cut 41 percent of its workforce, less than three months after laying off 43 percent of its employees.

Today’s move affects more than 150 people.

Theranos is now working toward “commercialization of the miniLab testing platform and its related technologies,” the startup said in a statement. “In the streamlined organization, teams have been aligned to meet product development, regulatory and commercial milestones.”

In October Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes said the company would be returning its “undivided attention” to the miniLab while also closing its wellness centers and labs.

Founded in 2003 and backed by the likes of Larry Ellison and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Theranos was considered a candidate for an initial public offering (IPO) in 2015, but then came a series of reports, particularly from the Wall Street Journal, on the company’s practices. Partner Walgreens ended its relationship with Theranos and later filed suit against it for breach of contract.

Sengled hides your speakers inside an LED lightbulb

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 11:45 AM PST

Sengled Pulse lightbulbs have speakers built into them.

CES 2017 is full of strange product hybrids. Sengled created one of these by putting a wireless speaker inside its Pulse LED lightbulb.

This is one of the weird artifacts of the Internet of Things, which is making everyday objects smart and connected. But Sengled believes this combo makes a lot of sense. The company showed off the bulb at CES 2017, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas this week.

It’s always a pain to wire a home for surround sound, with a bunch of speakers positioned around an entertainment room to give you that sense of being immersed in a home theater.

Pulse lets you hide high-quality sound in plain sight. You can wirelessly control up to eight Pulse bulbs for whole home audio. A two-bulb set, with one master and one satellite bulb, costs $200.

Each Pulse has a JBL Bluetooth speaker built into it. The 1.75-inch speakes can blast 13 watts worth of sound.

What happens when the lightbulb burns out? That’s not supposed to happen for 25 years with the Pulse.

CES2017

Education startup EQtainment raises $5 million to nurture your child’s emotional and social intelligence

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 11:14 AM PST

eqtainment

How are humans going to compete with bots and AI down the road? According to child development startup EQtainment, it is emotional and social intelligence that will set us apart.

The Manhattan Beach, California-based startup announced today that it raised $5 million from angel investors to further develop and launch its products, which include an array of shows, music albums, toys, and games to teach kids social and emotional skills.

And though EQtainment’s CEO, former Mattel finance and strategy executive Erica Buxton, says it’s “never too late” to learn these traits, she remarks that acquiring social and emotional intelligence early in life could mean advantages to kids’ development.

“Young students who participated in social emotional learning programs showed an 11 percent gain in academic achievement while also improving classroom behavior and their ability to manage stress,” the company explained.

“Where the future market is going to be, social and emotional skills are key to future professionals,” said Buxton.

Targeting children ages three to 10, EQtainment’s Q Wunder app, which is available on iOS and Android, follows a monkey who faces ethical questions he has to answer with the child’s help. This, Buxton says, takes away the pressure from children, helping them learn to “identify emotions” while “teaching patience.”

EQtainment’s subscription-based service provides kids with new content on a monthly basis for $7.99 a month or $64.99 per year. There is also a free parental portal in which parents can access posts and tools to help kids’ emotional and social development.

EQtainment’s first product launched in spring 2015, with personal capital from the startup’s cofounders Sofia and Reed Dickens. Now, EQtainment expects this capital will fuel its product’s relaunch for the upcoming 2017 back-to-school season.

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French startup Gaspard’s connected mat makes wheelchairs smarter

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 11:00 AM PST

Morgan Lavaux is CEO of Gaspard.

French startup Gaspard unveiled a connected wheelchair with the ability to track a person’s position on the chair. It is one more smart device in the Internet of Things, and it could make life better for millions of people.

Wheelchairs do a lot for people with disabilities. But modern technology can make them do a lot more. Morgan Lavaux, CEO and cofounder of Nantes, France-based Gaspard, came up with the idea of creating a better wheelchair after a terrible sports accident left him tetraplegic for two years. Lavaux and his company are showing off the Gaspard mat at CES 2017, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas. I met them at the CES Unveiled party on Tuesday evening.

Lavaux saw that people in wheelchairs — there are 3.3 million of them in the U.S. alone — can develop back problems and even bedsores from the long periods of immobility that comes with being in a wheelchair. Bad positioning can cause severe disease and lead to pain, both physical and psychological. But with the Gaspard connected mat, people in a wheelchair can get real-time notifications when they need to adjust their sitting position.

Gaspard is a mat that makes a wheelchair smarter.

Above: Gaspard is a mat that makes a wheelchair smarter.

Image Credit: Gaspard

Gaspard’s mat has sensors that can track the pressure on the surface of the mat. From that pressure, the system can figure out if the person has a good or a bad posture, or has a posture that isn’t changing frequently enough. The app that goes with the mat can tell the person in the wheelchair that he or she should change position and engage in physical activity.

Going back and forth between the hospital and his wheelchair, Lavaux discovered that immobility on top of a lack of sensitivity was risky and can lead to a lot of pain. He also realized there were no existing connected tools to help disabled people stay active. Once he came home from the hospital, he learned it was now much more complicated to correct a bad position and then properly shift his weight. With his friend Valentin, a developer who is passionate about new technologies, they created Gaspard.

For people in a wheelchair, the pressure ulcers due to a long period of being stationary can become a nightmare. The Gaspard mat analyzes the patient on an ongoing basis. It monitors weight loss, inactivity, and poor positioning of the person as it scans. It can even tell if the wheelchair cushion itself is causing issues. Then, using the accompanying app, Gaspard acts as a personal coach to inform the person as well as the people surrounding them (caregivers, doctors, etc.) through push notifications.

Lavaux said that the company eventually hopes to add more functions, such as detecting whether a wheelchair has toppled and its user may need help. But that’s not on the horizon at the moment. The Gaspard mat is expected to debut around the end of the year. Gaspard raised some money last year. The company has five employees. The mat will cost $200 to $250.

The Gaspard mat

Above: The Gaspard mat

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi
CES2017

GamesBeat weekly roundup: PlayStation 4’s big holiday, and CES news

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 10:30 AM PST

PlayStation 4 Pro (right) with the new standard PS4.

Welcome to another GamesBeat weekly roundup! This time, we look ahead to 2017’s game release dates, Mega Man goes to mobile, and XCOM 2 is getting new content thanks to an upcoming mod.

Enjoy, and have a great weekend!


Pieces of flair and opinion


The Joy-Con controller for the Nintendo Switch.

Above: The Joy-Con controller for the Nintendo Switch.

Image Credit: Nintendo

News


Mega Man 2 is definitely a classic.

Above: Mega Man 2 is now on mobile.

Image Credit: Wallpaper Vortex

Mobile and social


Previews, reviews, and interviews

Job Simulator is one of the first VR hits: $3 million in sales

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 10:00 AM PST

Job Simulator is a launch title on the HTC Vive.

After a long day at work, people love to unwind by playing video games. And a lot of them apparently like to play a game that takes them back to work.

Owlchemy Labs announced today that its virtual reality game Job Simulator has passed $3 million in sales, making it one of the biggest hits in the young VR industry. Job Simulator is available for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR. It originally came out for PC on April 5, with the PS4 launch following on October 13.

"When we started development of Job Simulator, it was a massive risk to bet it all on a project that could only work in VR, especially with consumer VR hardware productization so far off and ambiguous" said Owlchemy Labs chief executive officer Alex Schwartz. "It's great to finally see the numbers show that even in such an early market, success can already be found. We're incredibly proud of the fact that our game has struck a chord with so many players across the globe, both young and old."

Owlchemy Labs also revealed that Job Simulator videos on YouTube have achieved over 250 million views. Let’s Play videos are popular on YouTube, and many content creators have showed off Job Simulator’s humor. These videos aren’t just entertainment; they help spread awareness and excitement for games.

"I think a huge part of Job Simulator's success comes from how honestly fun it is to just watch someone play around and be silly in VR" said Schwartz. "Tons of people have seen their favorite YouTuber play around in the physics sandbox that is our game, and that's great for showing the masses how interactive and magical VR can be. We've also seen that these early attempts at mixed reality are the best way to show people what it truly feels like to be inside of a virtual space so we're actively working towards enabling streamers and content creators to be able to share VR footage easily in a format that's clear and understandable rather than just slapping the direct VR feed to the screen.”

Meineke’s Revvy tells car owners their vehicle diagnostics and performance

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 10:00 AM PST

Meineke Revvy lets you obtain your vehicle diagnostic data.

Computer diagnostics are in just about every modern car, but when was the last time your mechanic gave you access to those diagnostics?

meinekeMeineke Car Care Centers will give you access to that data and other auto maintenance information using the Meineke Revvy. The Revvy is now on sale across the nation, and it is being tested in markets such as Charlotte, Las Vegas, and Seattle.

The Meineke Revvy is a vehicle connectivity system that puts auto maintenance on auto pilot and delivers freedom and peace-of-mind for America's drivers, the company said.

The Meineke Revvy connects to vehicle onboard diagnostic systems, creating a fully connected car that delivers deeper insights into vehicle performance — no matter who is driving. It has onboard Wi-Fi that also turns the car into an entertainment center.

“The Meineke Revvy will improve the entire driving experience — changing how vehicles are driven, maintained and repaired with the industry’s first onboard system that connects cars and drivers,” said Danny Rivera, president of Meineke Car Care Centers, in a statement. “Not only does the Meineke Revvy learn and monitor you and your car, it also links to you a trusted service partner so you are always protected on the road.”

Built on the Vinli platform, with 4G LTE service powered by T-Mobile, the Meineke Revvy delivers a high-tech approach to taking care of the family car or a business vehicle. The device plugs into the vehicle’s OBD-II port and syncs with the car’s computer. Every time you turn on the engine, the Meineke Revvy scans all of the diagnostic codes to ensure all are in working order, monitors fuel mileage, and tracks vehicle performance and driving style.

Using the Meineke Revvy, drivers can access their dashboard and download a daily Driver Score and performance report, including: miles driven and location of vehicle; average and top speeds; hard brakes/acceleration; fuel used and efficiency (miles per gallon); engine load; travel routes and travel time; Wi-Fi hotspot data usage; where the vehicle was last parked; and vehicle diagnostics and check engine codes.

If a check engine code returns an error, the Meineke Revvy notifies the driver that maintenance or repairs are needed. It will also contact the neighborhood Meineke to arrange an appointment. All the driver has to do is drop off their vehicle at their neighborhood Meineke for service.

With the Wi-Fi, drivers can create an on-board entertainment network with unlimited audio streaming through Music Freedom, including iHeart Radio, Pandora, Amazon, and more, plus unlimited video streaming through Binge On, including Amazon, Hulu and Netflix, without using their high-speed data, all with a qualifying T-Mobile Simple Choice mobile Internet plan.

For Wi-Fi, there is no contract required, so drivers can pick a data plan and use Wi-Fi to meet all their connectivity needs on the road.

You can use the My Vinli official app to monitor your vehicle, manage your Wi-Fi, and browse for other apps to customize your driving experience. You can also track teen driver records with Beagle. And you can connect Revvy to Amazon Echo and the Amazon Alexa app.

The vehicle’s onboard diagnostic system is there to alert drivers of vehicle issues or maintenance needs. Knowing what the lights mean and proactively managing the vehicle’s maintenance can save thousands in repair costs and extend the life of the vehicle. The Revvy will be available at Meineke Car Care Centers in 2017. Meineke also has its own connected car app and a rewards program.

CES2017

Professional Esports Association cancels Counter-Strike league after team drama

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 08:45 AM PST

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Behind-the-scenes drama has ended a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament before it could start.

The Professional Esports Association (PEA) today announced that it is suspending its plans to run a league for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a team-based shooter that’s one of the most popular games in the world. It said it made the decision after a majority vote by players of its teams, noting in a press release sent to GamesBeat that “there isn't sufficient financial support in the ecosystem, either from broadcast/streaming partners, sponsors or others, to profitably operate a third prominent online league, due to the oversaturation of the marketplace and the recent upward spiral in operating costs.”

Esports is becoming a big market, with an estimated $892 million in revenues in 2016, according to market researcher SuperData Research.

In December, many of the PEA’s teams protested with an open letter when the organization made a rule that its competitors could not participate in the ESL Pro League tournaments for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. PEA defended itself by saying that an oversaturation of leagues featuring the same teams would be bad for its business and that it did not want its players’ schedules to grow overloaded.

“Though the agreements which the players negotiated and signed with the organizations give the organizations the right to decide where players compete (as with all team sports contracts), the PEA organizations decided to do the PEA CS:GO league only if a majority of the players said they wanted to play in PEA rather than EPL,” the PEA noted in its press release.

Those teams chose EPL, which recently changed the prize pool of its tournament from $750,000 to $1 million per season. It also announced a plan to share 10 percent of gross revenues with non-WESA (World Esports Association) teams, which PEA says “half of which was promised to the seven PEA organizations and players.” PEA also said that those organizations would not receive the revenue percentage unless they agreed not to play in PEA’s CS:GO competitions for two years while committing to EPL for same time period.

As Trump inauguration nears, U.S. chip industry lays out concerns about Chinese rivals

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 08:35 AM PST

John Neuffler, president and CEO of the Semiconductor Industry Association.

As Donald Trump’s inauguration nears, the U.S. semiconductor industry and the White House filed reports on its concerns about maintaining the rapid pace of innovation amid China’s ambitious industrial policy to boost its own industry.

Semiconductor Industry Association President and CEO John Neuffer said in a statement that it welcomes the Obama administration report about the importance of maintaining U.S. chip industry leadership. It remains to Trump to decide what to do about the report, but the incoming U.S. President has indicated he wants to invest in the country’s infrastructure.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST) Semiconductor Working Group outlined a three-pillar strategy, as highlighted in the accompanying letter to the President from PCAST co-chairs John Holdren and Eric Lander, to “push back against innovation-inhibiting Chinese industrial policy, improve the business environment for U.S.-based semiconductor producers, and help catalyze transformative semiconductor innovation over the next decade.”

Neuffer said that “semiconductors form the very foundation of America’s innovation infrastructure, enabling modern technologies critical to U.S. economic growth, national security, and global competitiveness. The new PCAST report highlights the strategic importance of our industry and the significant challenges it faces, including the rising cost and complexity of innovation and challenges from competitors abroad, most notably ambitious Chinese industrial policy.”

He said that the success of the American semiconductor industry relies not only on its technological ingenuity, but also on continued access to overseas markets and a level playing field in the global arena. China is a critical market and an important part of the global value chain, yet it appears a significant number of its policies are not market-based or impose market-access restrictions, he said.

The White House announced on Oct. 31 of last year the launch of the PCAST Semiconductor Working Group, which includes 11 leading experts on the semiconductor industry and the broader economy from industry, academia, and government. The Working Group has provided recommendations to PCAST for its report to the President regarding current challenges facing the semiconductor industry.

The semiconductor industry directly employs nearly 250,000 people in America and supports more than one million additional jobs throughout the U.S. economy, Neuffer said. Thanks largely to the strength of U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, semiconductors are one of America's top manufactured exports, ranking third after airplanes and automobiles.

“Semiconductors were invented in the United States, and America is still globally at the tip of the spear in leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing and design,” he said. “But our future leadership of this strategic technology cannot be taken for granted. We cannot stand idly by in the face of our challenges. We stand ready to work with policymakers in Washington to advance initiatives that keep us in the pole position in the race to maintain U.S. leadership in the global semiconductor industry.”

Why marketers should embrace a holistic approach to their data

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 08:10 AM PST

tableau

Presented by Tableau 


Marketers have gotten the message: data matters.

Yes, we've gotten data-savvy, but many marketers still aren't fully leveraging the value of their data. Let me tell you what I mean.

By now, we've all started using data to measure progress, spot opportunities, and reach new audiences. The problem is many marketers are doing so in their own corners of the building. That's the baseline — the minimum viable set of marketing analytics, if you will.

Because marketing is a huge group effort, tracking the performance of just your own work doesn't give you the whole picture. That's why marketers should embrace a holistic approach to their data analysis. This involves connecting the data dots across functions and teams for a complete view of the entire marketing organization. That's how you get to next-generation marketing analytics.

Why is this a better approach? Think of all the moving parts and stakeholders, and imagine linking all those pieces together through data. What if every marketer could explore the data to see the results of her work in the context of the greater effort? And what if the decision makers can see all of the data together to make strategic decisions quickly and move the business forward?

By pulling together all the data and empowering people to expand their analysis, marketing organizations can gain a full-picture view of their efforts. Here are some ways this integrated approach can maximize the impact of your work.

Capturing the full life of a lead

Many marketers have data snapshots of their leads' journey down the funnel. These come in the form of metrics like email open rates, website visits, and web-form submissions. Sure, these metrics are valuable on their own, but when you stitch together these snapshots, you gain something even more valuable: the full life of a lead through the marketing funnel.

You can follow the data to see the person's entire path — how you first reached the person, which content, channel, or activity triggered the highest point of engagement, when the person converted, what the resulting sale looked like, and what the customer's journey has looked like since.

With all your data in one place, you start to see how the pieces fit together. Did A lead to B, to C, as you expected? If a prospect responded well to a free trial offer, what is the experience or content served up next? Is that an effective path? Where are the weak spots?

By looking at the entire journey, you can gain a deeper understanding of how customers and prospects engage with brand touch points — which are working, which aren't, and which are sending people to competitors. Then you can refine your strategy to make sure your efforts deepen relationships, address needs, and improve your conversion rate.

Fine-tuning your media mix in real-time

The media mix is a huge part of the marketing budget as it plays a critical role in generating leads. It's also an area that can benefit from an integrated approach to analytics.

Sure, data can be valuable in measuring the performance of each channel — whether digital ads managed to reach a certain target audience, for example. But looking at that single metric is only so valuable; it's when you look at the performance of all the channels side by side that you start to see how to best reach your intended audience.

Let's say your digital ads aren't performing well for a certain campaign. If that's the only metric you're tracking, you'll likely pause any spending on that channel and leave it at that. But if you've pulled together the data for all of your channels, that first metric can be your starting point. You can look to the data to see which channels are successfully reaching your intended audience. Then you can quickly reallocate your budget to those channels to maximize the reach of your campaign.

Your media strategy likely involves a dozen different platforms with different metrics. But that doesn't mean those platforms have to work in silos. With real-time data and a comprehensive approach to your analytics, you can get the most reach out of every dollar you spend.

Empowering the sales team with full-picture insights

Having a 360-degree view of the data also helps you deepen your relationship with your internal customers, the sales team. For marketers, it's crucial to build trust and partnership with sales, and transparency is a big part of that equation.

You can use data to demonstrate how they're engaging with leads. One option is to create and share a campaign history dashboard so the sales team can easily see the prospect's journey down the marketing funnel thus far. Share information like which activities occurred when, and which activities resonated with the prospect.

You can also create an activity tracker. Instead of making the sales team dig through rows of data to piece together history, offer a quick overview of activities that lets them click through to see what's happening and when. With a real-time "who's hot" dashboard, the sales team can drill down by territory and prioritize their lead queue.

Once you create these dashboards for sales, you can embed in a place the team frequents, like Salesforce or your CRM tool of choice. That way, they become a natural part of the team's workflow.

Gaining a competitive edge with next-generation marketing analytics

Data-smart marketers are using data to move the needle in pockets across the organization. And now, it's time to take the next step in your analytics journey. By bringing together all the data for a complete view of your analytics, you can leverage the full value of your data. You can connect dots and uncover broader actionable insights that can impact strategy at the organizational level. With next-generation marketing analytics, the entire organization can work smarter, innovate faster, and gain a competitive edge.


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Dova Pharmaceuticals Announces Hiring of CEO and Presentation at the 35th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 08:05 AM PST

BusinessWire_FeaturedImage

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–January 6, 2017–

Dova Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a clinical, late-stage company, having recently completed enrollment in two global, pivotal Phase 3 trials, is pleased to announce the appointment of its new CEO, Alex Sapir. Mr. Sapir will present a corporate update at the 35th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference at 11:30 a.m. PST, Tuesday, January 10, 2017 in the Elizabethan D conference room at the Westin Hotel in San Francisco.

Mr. Sapir, a twenty-five year commercial veteran of the pharmaceutical industry, recently completed a 10-year term (2006-2016) at United Therapeutics (NASDAQ:UTHR) as the Executive Vice President for Marketing and Sales. Under Alex’s leadership, the company grew from a one-product company generating $100 million in annual revenue to a five-product company generating $1.6 billion annually. Prior to United Therapeutics, Alex was a consultant with ZS Associates as well as served in various commercial roles with GlaxoSmithKline in the US as well as in Europe. Alex will be overseeing all operational aspects of Dova as it transitions from late-stage clinical development to NDA submission and ultimately commercial launch. Alex holds a B.A. in Economics from Franklin and Marshall College and an M.B.A from Harvard Business School.

About AVA (Avatrombopag)

Avatrombopag, a novel, oral thrombopoietin receptor agonist that stimulates platelet production, recently completed two Phase 3 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, pivotal clinical studies as a possible treatment for thrombocytopenia in patients with chronic liver disease undergoing an elective procedure.

About Dova Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Dova is a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company developing treatments for patients suffering from orphan diseases. The company’s lead compound candidate, AVA, recently completed two pivotal Phase 3 clinical trials for the treatment of thrombocytopenia in patients with chronic liver disease undergoing an elective procedure. For additional information, please visit www.dovapharmaceuticals.com

Dova Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Sean Stalfort, 434-980-8104
sstalfort@pbmcap.com

The DeanBeat: Great gadgets, moments, and trends at CES 2017

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 08:01 AM PST

CTA chief Gary Shapiro (left) and Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of Nvidia, at opening keynote of CES 2017.

When the leaders of the tech industry get up on the big stages at the Consumer Electronics Show, you can learn a lot. I’m at the big tech trade show in Las Vegas, where face-to-face interaction can still yield some insights. I’ve collected some of those insights and looked for trends at CES 2017, which remains the best crystal ball to see the future of technology.

It’s easy to miss things amid the 165,000 people, and no one can cover all of the 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space. But after more than 20 of these shows, I’ve trained myself to look for patterns. Here’s a list of 10 memorable moments, gadgets, ideas, and trends that made me think during the show.

A.I. is becoming pervasive

Nvidia has partnered with Audi on AI cars.

Above: Nvidia has partnered with Audi on A.I. cars.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

John Curran, managing director at Accenture, predicted that A.I. had the chance to become the story of the show. And he was right. Hundreds of companies announced integration with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant — two technologies that use A.I. and the cloud to create a better voice recognition — to create a more natural human-machine interface.

In 1995, the error rate for speech recognition was 100 percent. By 2013, it was 23 percent. And now, in 2017, we essentially have parity between humans and computers with speech recognition, said Shawn Dubravac, analyst at the Consumer Technology Association, during at talk at CES.

Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of Nvidia, credited the advance in A.I. and voice recognition — after decades of failures — to the graphics processing unit (GPU). Before the programmable GPU (which debuted in 1999), he said that central processing units (CPUs) were like sports cars, and they were good for processing a lot of instructions.

But they were not useful in solving A.I. problems. The GPU came along and Nvidia made it programmable for tasks behind graphics. It was now more like a truck, able to process an enormous amount of data at once. The machine-learning software creators recognized this, and they used GPUs to process a huge amount of data necessary to teach a neural network to learn. This truck paid off in huge improvements in neural networks for tasks such as voice recognition.

“Part of it was destiny. Part was serendipity,” Huang said in a small press gathering. “The deep neural network is computationally a brute force solution. It is simple and elegant but only effective if you use an enormous amount of data. When the GPU and deep learning came together, it was serendipity.”

He said in a small press gathering that his company is working with more than 1,500 A.I. startups now. Those startups have a chance at life because it is possible to train neural networks for many different kinds of pattern recognition tasks in many different applications using powerful GPU technology and machine-learning software. They can layer better A.I. across one problem after another, from the smart Nvidia Shield TV set-top box to self-driving cars.

Voice control is only one of the new interfaces

Rick Bergman, CEO of Synaptics.

Above: Rick Bergman, CEO of Synaptics.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

The triumph of better voice controls is only one of the ways that humans can better interact with machines. Rick Bergman, CEO of Synaptics, the maker of touchscreen sensors, believes his company’s larger job is to be a visionary for the human-machine interface. And he foresees some big advances as each company figures out how to best apply technology to solving problems for consumers, who want cheap and practical solutions.

It’s easy, for instance, to appreciate the value of the touchpad on a laptop. You can swipe across to move your mouse cursor. But how many of us know that you can use two fingers to swipe down and scroll down a page? We can appreciate the basic value of a touchpad, but few of us will ever take the trouble to fully exploit it.

“We found it’s hard to train people to do new things,” Bergman said.

I thought about that as I used my eyeballs to control the cursor and targeting in a series of new computers with Tobii’s eye-tracking technology built into them. This is a neat trick for targeting multiple zombies at once in a shooting game. But it’s going to be quite hard to change my habits and use my eyes instead of my hands to interact with a computer.

On the other hand, Synaptics has a cool technology that allows it to identify a fingerprint and authenticate a user through a touchscreen glass. That means that instead of pressing the Home button on your iPhone, you can press any spot on the touchscreen to authenticate yourself on your smartphone. With this technology, Apple could get rid of the Home button altogether, and we could all get used to interacting with our smartphones in a slightly different way.

The non-tech companies take technology to the masses

Carnival's Ocean Medallion wearable makes it easy to tailor a guest experience on a cruise ship.

Above: Carnival’s Ocean Medallion wearable makes it easy to tailor a guest experience on a cruise ship.

Image Credit: Carnival

A.I. is a tool that can be used by everyone, and that’s one reason why the non-tech companies are showing up at CES. Car companies were the first ones to show up. The appliance makers are out in force to trot out Internet of Things products. And now we had a keynote speech from Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival, the world's largest cruise ship company.

He introduced the Ocean Medallion wearable at CES as a platform for everything including unlocking your cabin door, paying for goods aboard the ship, and keeping track of your kids. Donald isn't from a tech company, but his presence at CES shows how technology has spread into all forms of business. Once the tech companies create the foundations, it’s up to the non-tech businesses to make it mainstream and use it to affect the lives of billions of consumers, said Gary Shapiro, CEO of the CTA, in an interview with VentureBeat.

The Internet of (insert adjective here) Things

Samsung Family Hub 2.0 is spreading the smart fridge everywhere.

Above: Samsung Family Hub 2.0 is spreading the smart fridge everywhere.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

I’ve come to believe that the Internet of Things is an inevitable trend, where companies uses processors, sensors, and connectivity to make everyday objects smarter and more useful. But that doesn’t mean that every one of them is going to be useful. As Samsung and LG described their new washers and dryers, I loved how these connected devices could let you know when your load was done or you needed more laundry detergent.

I also knew that I wasn’t going to buy them anytime soon. That’s because the reality today is that this is the Internet of Expensive Things. I’m not going to pay hundreds of dollars more to get these appliances, at least not as long as they add extra costs. I don’t want a smart pet feeder, if it means it costs $200 compared to the $5 pet bowl it replaces.

I can foresee a consumer disconnect for many things the Internet of Things vendors are trying to solve. We don’t want the Internet of Hackable Things. We don’t want the Internet of Stupid Things.

Chip competition thrives in 2017

AMD's Ryzen debuts for desktops in the first quarter of 2017.

Above: AMD’s Ryzen debuts for desktops in the first quarter of 2017.

Image Credit: AMD

In chips, you can compete with a better manufacturing process (which can make your chips smaller, faster, and cheaper) or with a better architecture (which allows your chip to do more things at the same time in an efficient way). Those are a couple of good rules to remember, and it means a lot when one company says or doesn’t say something about either one.

Lisa Su, CEO of Advanced Micro Devices, believes her company has a rare opportunity to take on the competition in 2017 as it launches two new architectures in both processors and graphics. Nvidia is busy transforming itself into an artificial intelligence company, maneuvering to stay ahead of Intel in new battlegrounds such as processors for self-driving cars. In doing so, will Nvidia take its eye off the graphics chip market? In that market, Nvidia competes with AMD, which unveiled its Vega graphics architecture at the show.

Vega-based graphics chips will appear in the coming months, but Nvidia’s Huang did not announce any new chips or follow-on to last year’s Pascal architecture during his keynote speech at CES. Huang believes Nvidia will stay competitive, but Su thinks that AMD has a chance to regain market share in graphics.

And AMD’s new Ryzen processors, based on its new power-efficient Zen architecture, are poised to launch in the first quarter. Intel debuted its Kaby Lake processors at the show, but those are only slightly faster than last year’s Silver Lake processors. Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, did not describe any new architectures during his press event. And he said that Intel would debut its 10-nanometer manufacturing process by the end of 2017. That’s late. Qualcomm said at CES its contract manufacturing partner (believed to be Samsung) had begun making 10-nanometer Snapdragon 835 processors.

That means that, possibly for the first time, a mobile processor company might take the lead in switching to a new manufacturing process ahead of Intel. The result: Intel can’t use a process advantage to stay ahead of AMD this year. Su and her colleagues expressed this hope for a rare opening at a dinner at CES. I find it to be plausible. And overall, it means that the market for processors and graphics chips will become more competitive in 2017.

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Apple says it’s targeting health, environment, and education for its charitable giving

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 07:39 AM PST

Apple's (RED) products

Apple’s response to a shareholder proposal requesting that the company disclose more about its charitable giving was to oppose it…by disclosing more about its charitable giving.

In a proxy statement filed today, Apple executives wrote: “Apple already provides detailed information about our core values and our most significant charitable contributions on our website at apple.com/diversity/creating-opportunities and apple.com/product-red.”

The company then went on to list those contributions, some of which are well known and others less so:

  • “Apple has joined President Obama's ConnectED initiative and pledged $100 million to bring technology and services into 114 underserved schools across the United States. Under this program, we are donating an iPad to every student, a Mac and iPad to every teacher, and an Apple TV to every classroom, as well as services and professional development for teachers. There are now more than 50,000 students learning, creating, and exploring on iPad through our ConnectED commitment, and 96 percent of those students are eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch program.”
  • “When our customers buy (PRODUCT)RED™ Apple products, Apple contributes to the Global Fund to provide counseling, testing, and medical care to those most affected by the AIDS epidemic. So far, (PRODUCT)RED has raised over $360 million for the Global Fund, including nearly $120 million through Apple.”

Among the lesser known:

  • “Apple has launched a multiyear, $40 million partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. The TMCF in turn creates opportunities for students from public and private historically black colleges and universities who are pursuing careers in the tech industry. Apple does not just give money to the TMCF; we work collaboratively with the fund to advance its goals. For example, Apple hired 33 students from these institutions as summer interns in 2016, and as part of the TMCF partnership, also hosted them for a weeklong immersion at Apple's campus several months ahead of time to provide them with a foundation of Apple culture and values to help pave the way for a successful experience.”

And here is a list of organizations that have been recipients of Apple’s charitable giving:

  • American Red Cross
  • The Conservation Fund
  • Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing
  • Mercy Corps
  • National Center for Women & Information Technology
  • National Society of Black Engineers
  • World Wildlife Fund

“Apple believes in leaving the world better than we found it,” the company wrote. “We actively support our communities through philanthropic activities.”

Apple is planning its first retail store in South Korea, Samsung’s home turf

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 07:17 AM PST

The Apple logo on the side of the company's new retail store in downtown San Francisco, Calif. on May 21, 2016.

Apple said it was planning to open a retail store in South Korea, its first in the country that is home to its smartphone arch-rival Samsung Electronics.

The iPhone maker listed hiring notices for 15 positions dated Thursday on its website, including a store leader and business manager. The listings did not specify the exact location or when those who are hired will begin working.

“We’re excited about opening our first Apple Store in Korea, one of the world’s economic centers and a leader in telecommunication and technology, with a vibrant K-culture,” Apple told Reuters in a statement Friday.

“We’re now hiring the team that will offer our customers in Seoul the service, education and entertainment that is loved by Apple customers around the world.”

Apple declined to comment on where in Seoul its retail store would be or when it would open. But South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency said in a report on Friday that construction was underway for the store at a location in a southern district of Seoul and that the work will likely be completed by end-November.

This story originally appeared on Fortune.com. Copyright 2017

Pope Francis has a Facebook Messenger bot, and it’s kind of funny

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 06:30 AM PST

Pope Francis leaves San Cristobal Cathedral in Mexico.

Some fairly prominent people (or imitations of fairly prominent people) have made Facebook Messenger chatbots since the platform was created last year.

50 Cent and Justin Bieber have bots, so do President Obama and Elon Musk. Now, so too does Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome, a.k.a Il Papa.

The bot is named Missiobot and comes from Missio USA, an organization inside The Pontifical Mission Societies, which is, as the bot states, sort of like the pope's personal Red Cross.

Shortly after you start a chat with Missiobot, you meet Pope Francis, and it doesn't take long for a smiley face emoji with hearts in its eyes to enter the conversation.

Pope Francis in bot form is kind of funny. To be clear, the pope isn't exactly Louis C.K. There's no stand-up schtick, but the bot does serve up thumbs up shots of the pope and a GIF of him trying (and failing) to catch a baseball, followed by a self-deprecating joke.

It also has more personality and is a lot more fun to speak with than most Facebook Messenger bots you may have encountered.

Maybe it isn't surprising to find a sense of humor in a bot that’s modelled after a pontiff who’s considered a bit unorthodox compared to his predecessors.

Missiobot tells stories in a conversational manner in the pope's tone of voice, augmented with photos, video, audio snippets, and text.

The projects supported by the pope’s Red Cross are no laughing manner. They include helping nuns care for kids in the slums of Nairobi, getting wheelchairs and supplies for wheelchairs to kids in Zambia, and raising funds for kids in Cuba to play baseball. Each project is headed by a nun.

Each project story ends with Pope Francis encouraging you to lend a hand and three call-to-action options: donate $7, share the story, or add a Missio overlay for your profile pic.

Missiobot is currently featured by Messenger staff in the search area of Messenger. That's a spot reserved for bots that have demonstrated high engagement or retention, former Messenger product manager Seth Rosenberg told VentureBeat last year.

Apple execs take a compensation hit as company misses financial goals in FY16

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 06:14 AM PST

Apple chief executive Tim Cook.

Following a drop in revenue for the fiscal year that ended in September 2016, Apple execs missed out on some of their biggest bonuses.

The company had already tweaked compensation at the start of the year by awarding $20 million stock packages to all top execs, except CEO Tim Cook, in October 2015. But those packages are tied even more to performance and don’t start vesting until 2018.

Of course, no one here is headed to the poor house. But with the company experiencing its first annual revenue drop since at least 2003, the board obviously decided not to lower the bar, according to a securities filing today.

The filing reveals the compensation for the following top execs:

  • Tim Cook Chief Executive Officer
  • Luca Maestri Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer
  • Angela Ahrendts Senior Vice President, Retail
  • Eddy Cue Senior Vice President, Internet Software and Services
  • Dan Riccio Senior Vice President, Hardware Engineering
  • Bruce Sewell Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary

In the filing, the company writes: “Our 2016 net sales of $215.6 billion and operating income of $60.0 billion were 96.4 percent and 99.5 percent of the respective target goals set by the Compensation Committee.”

This meant that Apple execs did not receive their maximum bonuses:

“As a result, the annual cash incentive payouts to our named executive officers were below target. Apple was below its target performance goals for both net sales and operating income, resulting in a payout of each named executive officer's annual cash incentive at 89.5 percent of target. The Compensation Committee determined that no downward adjustments would be made based on Apple's or an individual's performance and approved the payout for each named executive officer for 2016.”

Cook, however, did get an annual salary raise from $2 million to $3 million. The other execs got $1 million in salary.

As a result of those big stock packages, the total pay received by Apple execs this year appears much larger than it is in reality:

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No one knows what Trump will tweet next, spokesperson says

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 05:55 AM PST

Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Mesa, Arizona.

As Donald Trump has moved from being just another Republican candidate to the president-elect, speculation has intensified about the “loose cannon” approach he appears to take when it comes to using Twitter. Does he just tweet whatever he feels like saying at any moment, or are his tweets crafted by a PR team?

According to Sean Spicer, who will soon become the Trump’s press secretary, no one — including Spicer — has any idea what the incoming president is going to say until they see it on Twitter (or get the blowback from one of his statements, presumably).

“I do not get a memo [about what the tweets will contain]. He drives the train on this,” Spicer said during an event on Wednesday night in Chicago, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. The event also included President Obama’s former press secretary, Robert Gibbs, as well David Axelrod, a former Obama adviser.

Although Spicer said Trump chooses what to tweet and when, he hasn’t always had that kind of control. His campaign staff took over his Twitter account just before the election, although he regained his control over it after winning the campaign.

Spicer said that he checks Trump’s Twitter feed as soon as he wakes up because “it drives the news.” And he suggested that it’s not the incoming president’s job to fact-check everything before he posts it on Twitter.

At the same time, however, Spicer rejected the idea that Trump doesn’t consider what he is going to say, or what the potential outcome of his comments might be. It’s a “misconception… that he is just randomly tweeting,” Spicer said. “He is a very strategic thinker.”

So far, that strategic thinking has led to a political faux pas involving relations with China, repeated allegations about millions of illegal voters — a claim that has been repeatedly proven false — and what appeared to be a threat that the U.S. would enhance its nuclear-weapons program, followed by a comment encouraging a potential arms race. Trump has also complimented Russian president Vladimir Putin on his political strategy and used his Twitter account to criticize the CIA.

Trump’s Twitter comments have also caused often dramatic movements in stock prices, including a drop in Boeing shares after he criticized the company’s Air Force One contract (using inaccurate numbers) and a similar decline after he said the Lockheed-Martin F-35 program was too expensive.

After Trump’s remarks about nuclear weapons, senior staff rushed to qualify his comments, saying there were no plans to add more weapons. Similar qualifications were required after Trump suggested he was not confident in the work of the U.S. intelligence community, comments that came just before a report that his administration may cut back or reorganize the existing intelligence agencies in some way — a claim that Spicer says is untrue.

Despite the impression that much of his job will consist of trying to put out fires that President Trump starts on Twitter, the incoming press secretary said he didn’t see it that way at all. He described it at the Chicago event as “an exciting part of the job.”

Spicer also said that Trump will likely continue to pursue the same approach on Twitter once he becomes the president, because it gives him a direct way to communicate to the American people. The administration is also considering other ways to do this, Spicer said, including reaching out to bloggers and other non-traditional media outlets that aren’t usually part of White House briefings.

Trump’s chief of strategy, Steve Bannon, is the chairman of one such outlet known as Breitbart News, a right-wing publication that has boasted about its ties to so-called “alt-right” conservative groups, many of whom advocate a form of economic nationalism that includes overt racism.

In any case, if you enjoy the prospect of having the U.S. president pursue various aspects of national and foreign policy via Twitter, and engage in public attacks on those he perceives as his enemies, it would appear that you are in for an exciting four years.

This story originally appeared on Fortune.com. Copyright 2017

French IoT unicorn Sigfox carries hopes of a nation hungry for a global startup hero

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 05:21 AM PST

Sigfox CEO Ludovic Le Moan delivers a keynote at the Slush conference in Helsinki, Finland.

Xavier Torres-Tuset saw his future the first time he heard of Sigfox.

The French engineer had been interested in building a new type of tracking device for remote objects, one that was unlimited by range. But the combination of cost, battery life, and connectivity created what seemed like an unsolvable puzzle.

Then he discovered Sigfox, a French startup that is building a global communications network dedicated to Internet of Things devices. The company had developed technology that allows inexpensive devices to send tiny packets of information over long distances while using little power. It had solved his unsolvable puzzle.

Using Sigfox technology, Torres-Tuset launched a Kickstarter campaign to develop his first product: the HidnSeek smart global positioning tracking device. From there, he’s turned HidnSeek into a company with a suite of trackers, including a new one for boats called Swail (coming soon).

“It was Sigfox that inspired us to develop these products that were not in the market,” Torres-Tuset said. “Because Sigfox was there, and they were offering these attributes, it seemed obvious to us how to hop on their network and develop these products and make a business out of them.”

Those HidnSeek gadgets are now among the 10 million devices connected to the Sigfox network. Riding a wave of excitement, Sigfox has now raised over $400 million in venture capital, including $160 million in November, to fuel its expansion into 60 countries. As one of the most well-funded startups in French history, Sigfox is regularly singled out for praise by local government officials as an example of the entrepreneurial spirit they hope will transform the nation’s sluggish economy.

Now, Sigfox faces the challenge of delivering on the hype and hope. Despite pioneering this market, Sigfox faces growing competition from alternative IoT networks backed by other startups and telecom providers. Analysts note that having built the world’s largest IoT network, Sigfox and its partners must now convince developers to use the capacity they’ve put in place. And even cofounder and CEO Ludovic Le Moan is quite blunt about the sales and technical challenges the company must overcome.

Still, he remains convinced Sigfox has the potential to become a disruptive force that helps realize the potential of an IoT revolution that’s always been just over the horizon.

“The Sigfox business model and vision is to provide a worldwide network for IoT,” Le Moan said. “We want to be like a giant radio telescope that can listen to messages from the objects all around us. It will be tough to achieve. But we have the right partners and strategy to make this a reality.”

A Silicon Valley story…in France

In a country where politics and economics remain heavily centralized in the nation’s capital of Paris, Sigfox stands out for being located several hours to the south, near Toulouse, France’s fourth-largest city. Sigfox’s headquarters can be found just outside Toulouse in Labège, a town of commuters, low-slung office buildings, and strip malls that resemble the look and feel of Silicon Valley’s suburban aesthetic.

That’s fitting, because the arc of the company’s founding is not unlike the classic Silicon Valley startup tale. It begins with Christophe Fourtet, who worked in the Toulouse region for many years with Motorola’s semiconductor division, which was spun off into a separate company called Freescale in 2003.

Fourtet’s specialty was radio communications and cellular technologies, and by 2008 he was thinking a lot about the surging interest in IoT. For all the hype, IoT’s impact was being limited by the technical challenges and costs of keeping the gadgets constantly connected to mobile networks. It’s one thing to connect a baby monitor over your home Wi-Fi. It’s another thing if you want to install 1 million sensors across a city. That scale was hard to achieve, given that the wireless connectivity drained batteries and was expensive.

Numerous companies were trying to tackle this problem by pushing the boundaries of technology. Fourtet had a counterintuitive idea: The solution might be to go backwards and used the type of radio signals that had been around for decades.

“I came back to some very frugal technologies,” he said. “There is obviously some need for low-energy, small data transfers, with minimal infrastructure.”

As Fourtet spoke, he was seated in his Sigfox office, surrounded by vintage radio gear. Years before cellular networks, such gadgets were capable of transmitting communication over long ranges while being economic with power usage. Fourtet began building a more compact modern version to refine these ideas.

Itching to do his own thing, he left the comfort of Freescale to pursue the risky entrepreneurial path. But as he did so, he quickly realized he needed a cofounder who could shoulder the business end of a startup.

That’s when he met Le Moan, a serial entrepreneur who had founded Anyware Technologies, a company that was tackling similar issues back when the industry jargon was “machine-to-machine” or M2M communications. Le Moan saw what Fourtet was doing and was immediately convinced he was on the road to cracking the code for IoT communications.

In addition to being cofounders, the two men have formed a rather public mutual admiration society. Le Moan often refers to Fourtet as the “Mozart of the radio.” Fourtet is equally effusive.

“It was an incredible meeting that first time with Ludovic,” Fourtet said. “He realized how we could connect really simple things. And he was quite fast in transforming that into a business idea. I knew nothing of the world of venture capital. I couldn’t have raised money without him.”

Sigfox co-founders

Above: Sigfox cofounders Christophe Fourtet (left) and Ludovic Le Moan

This was the idea: Build a global communication network for IoT. Partner with incumbent telecom providers who had the capacity to help install things like communications antennas across countries. Charge a basic subscription for gadgets that want to connect.

Those gadgets would use a small Sigfox module that allows them to connect to the network. The devices only turn on and connect when they need to send small bits of data, typically about 12kb, over unlicensed spectrum. That’s the key to allowing long battery life, which in turns means someone can install them on a large scale without having to run extensive electrical wires or constantly change batteries.

While the vision came into focus quickly, convincing the rest of world took a bit longer.

“In the beginning, we spent a lot of time justifying the need for a low-power solution,” Le Moan said. “People thought we were crazy. Everyone else was trying to increase bandwidth.”

Eventually, however, a network was built across France, and, as it came online, it started attracting attention and customers. Today, one of its biggest customers is Verisure Securitas Direct, which has connected about 1.2 million of its alarms to the Sigfox network.

Still, for many people in France, the first time they heard of Sigfox was in February 2015 when the company announced it had raised $115 million in venture capital. At the time, that was the largest round ever in French history.

The eye-catching fundraising came in the midst of a national push by the French government to encourage and support entrepreneurs through a program called “La French Tech.” Suddenly, France had a new startup poster child it could brag to the world about.

"This funding will demonstrate that we can work with other partners to provide a network that will help us achieve our vision of a world with more connected devices," Le Moan said in an interview at the time. "It was not easy when we started to raise this round because we didn't know what the market would be like."

Not alone

Of course, with success comes competition.

While Sigfox defined a market and raced ahead, plenty of others are trying to solve the same riddle and seize the same opportunity.

Most notable among these is the LoRa Alliance, a constellation of companies developing an IoT communication platform with a different protocol and philosophy. In recent years, there have been sometimes heated disagreements between the two camps over their relative technical merits, their respective business models, and which of the two is really embracing an “open”  versus “proprietary” technology.

LoRa supporters like to say it’s open-sourced, but the underlying intellectual property and the radios needed for the network are controlled by SemTech, a California semiconductor company (which now licenses the radio technology). Critics have slammed Sigfox for being a risky bet because its technology is proprietary, but the company points out that it gives the underlying protocol away free to anyone who wants to build devices for its network.

In any case, LoRa has also continued to make progress. In France, IoT startup Actility raised $25 million in 2015 to develop its equipment and software platform that supports the LoRa protocol. The investors included Foxconn and Orange, France’s larger telecom carrier. The company, which focuses on selling devices and software, rather than operating the network, also announced a partnership with Cisco last year to develop LoRa-related solutions.

“We think this is going to be about billions and billions of interactions,” said Mike Mulica, who was hired as Actility CEO last summer. “LoRa offers a scalable solution, and we have a lot members of the alliance who are all pulling in the same direction.”

Meanwhile, telecom operators are jumping in. Vodafone, for instance, announced in October that it would begin rolling out a NarrowBand Internet of Things network in four European countries, starting in early 2017. This system uses licensed wireless spectrum to carry the data. In the U.S., Sigfox launched its network a year ago on its way to expanding to 100 cities. But in the coming year, it may face competition from Verizon, which recently began trials of its own IoT network.

“All these guys are trying to get scale, or at least trying to give the impression of scale,” said Gartner analyst Sylvain Fabre. “It’s truly a race, and not everyone is going to make it.”

The road ahead

On a late November day, the Sigfox campus in Labège welcomed a high-profile visitor: President François Hollande. Though Hollande’s popularity has dipped as low as the single digits at times last year, it was under his watch that the government launched the French Tech program.

While Sigfox’s story began well before the French Tech program, Hollande clearly felt a sense of pride as he toured the headquarters, where the company has announced it is expanding into several nearby buildings to accommodate its global workforce, which has grown to 310. The campus also hosts IoT Valley, a startup accelerator that concentrates on new companies making connected products. And the two cofounders have created the Sigfox Foundation, a nonprofit that helps develop IoT projects for groups focused on the environment, the arts, and social issues.

“In recent months, I have wanted to push innovation,” Hollande said. “We see here that there is a whole environment that can be favorable to the future of the French economy.”

Hollande’s visit came on the heels of some more big news for Sigfox: In early November, the company raised $160 million in venture capital. And Sigfox made it clear that it could have raised more, and still might as part of that round. But what seemed to be just as important as the money was the long list of investors: Salesforce, Total, Parrot cofounder Henri Seydoux, Alto Invest, Swen CP, and Tamer Group. Previous investors also participated in the round, including Bpifrance, Intel Capital, Air Liquide, Idinvest Partners, and IXO.

That round of funding let Sigfox send a statement to developers that the company has scale and momentum on its side. Le Moan knows the company is going to be facing growing competition. But Sigfox says the latest round of funding will help it expand from 26 countries to 60 by 2018, and to reach profitability, as well.

Partnering with Salesforce will allow companies on Sigfox to gain more intelligence and insight from data they are sending to the cloud. That Sigfox cloud is part of another partnership with Microsoft’s Azure cloud. And the company has a major partnership with Samsung, which is building its technology into its own IoT services and products.

But the investment from France’s Total, the world’s fourth-largest oil and gas company, is equally interesting. While Sigfox may have the biggest IoT network, it still needs to attract users for all that capacity. It’s one thing to get an entrepreneur to use Sigfox technology for their Kickstarter-funded gadget that they might sell a handful of. What Sigfox would really like, however, is for a company like Total to place a massive bet on Sigfox and use it to transform their business.

“The scope of possibilities is enormous!” Le Moan said in an interview on a Total blog. “Sigfox could, for example, help you completely re-invent your customer relationships by installing sensors that would allow you to offer new high-value-added services.  Sigfox could also give you ways to improve predictive maintenance at your industrial sites. Today, you’ve got sensors on some of your key equipment, but they are costly and their batteries need to be changed on a regular basis. With Sigfox, you could put sensors on all your devices for less, and with very little maintenance.”

At the same time, Sigfox has been trying to address another challenge: The cost of its modules. The company recently introduced a significantly cheaper version that costs $2 per unit.

“We need to drive the evolution of the technology so we can drive the price down,” Le Moan said. “That is a big challenge we have.”

Sigfox has grown to 10 million devices on its network as it continues to build out infrastructure around the world, and analysts are now watching to see if the company can accelerate that adoption. This coming year may demonstrate whether Sigfox can continue to ride the wave of IoT innovation and realize its global ambitions.

“They're doing a very good job at shaking up the cellular industry,” said Jamie Moss, an IoT analyst at Ovum Research. “They've done a great job of showing how a small technology company can shake a large, established industry into action. 2017 is going to be a very telling year. We’ll have a much better idea which of these IoT technologies is going to survive.”

31317970026_63e4261722_k

Above: Le Moan at Slush.

 

Cloud security startup Bitglass raises $45 million to help companies protect their data

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 04:23 AM PST

Bitglass

Bitglass, a cloud security startup that helps protect corporate data, has raised $45 million in a Series C round from new investor Future Fund, with participation from existing investors NEA, Norwest, and Singtel Innov8, among others.

Founded out of California in 2013, Bitglass is the brainchild of CEO Nat Kausik, a veteran of the IT industry who worked as principal scientist at HP from 1989 until 1997, after which he founded and sold a number of companies to heavyweights such as Cisco. He also authored a book on machine learning way back in 1991.

As more and more companies switch to cloud-based “SaaS” services, employees are able to access company data remotely from any location, so firms no longer own or control many of the conduits through which their information flows — be they servers, apps, devices, or the networks themselves. And this is where Bitglass comes into play, by putting itself between employees' apps and the servers, ensuring that everything is monitored, encrypted, or redacted as required. The technology essentially allows employees to securely use their own devices on companies’ cloud-based applications, including Google’s G Suite, Microsoft Office 365, Box, and more.

“Cloud and mobile are driving business data beyond the firewall, introducing new security and compliance risks,” said Kausik. “Bitglass uniquely delivers real-time inline data protection in the cloud, at access and on any device. This funding is testimony to our strong position in the market and fiscal health.”

The company nabbed a $10 million funding round shortly after it was founded in 2013, and a year later closed another $25 million round. This latest cash injection takes its total funding to $80 million, and the company says it will use its fresh capital to grow globally, including in the U.S., Asia-Pacific (APAC), and in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) regions.

Companies are thought to be spending around $110 billion each year on cloud services, and this expenditure is growing at a rate of 28 percent, so Bitglass is in the right industry for continued expansion.

“Bitglass has all the ingredients for a lasting independent company — growing market, breakthrough technology, and strong management team,” said Scott Sandell, managing general partner at NEA.

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Uber drivers are employees ‘eligible for company social security contributions,’ Swiss agency says

Posted: 06 Jan 2017 12:55 AM PST

A photo illustration shows the Uber app logo displayed on a mobile telephone, as it is held up for a posed photograph in central London, Britain October 28, 2016.

(Reuters) — Uber drivers are employees for which the company must pay social security contributions, a Swiss insurance agency has ruled, dealing a blow to the U.S. ride-hailing platform that says drivers are freelance contractors.

The California-based startup whose cab service has expanded worldwide stands accused in many countries of bypassing national labor protection standards and shunning collective negotiation with drivers who work on freelance terms.

Suva — which as a provider of Swiss obligatory on-the-job accident insurance helps decide which workers are freelance — found Uber Technology drivers are staff because they faced consequences if they did not meet Uber rules and could not set prices and payment terms independently, broadcaster SRF reported.

SRF cited an appeal ruling in one driver’s case it said it had seen. Suva was not immediately available for comment.

Labor representatives hailed the ruling, but local Uber boss Rasoul Jalali pointed out to SRF that the Suva decision was not the final word.

“If we cannot find an agreement with Suva, we will have to rely on the courts,” he said.

Founded in 2009, Uber has taken the world by storm but come up against opposition too.

Various services it has proposed have been banned in some countries and it faces numerous battles in U.S. courts over labor standards, safety rules and pricing policies that trigger fare surges at peak times.

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Nick Macfie)

How French studio DotEmu specializes in resurrecting lost classics like Windjammers

Posted: 05 Jan 2017 09:33 PM PST

Development studio DotEmu is bringing back that Windjammers fire.

Bringing back old video games is a complicated job. You can’t just say “I want to make a new Karnov, so let’s go talk to Data East about that.” That publisher doesn’t exist anymore. It went bankrupt, and the rights for many of its franchises are now scattered among different developers, individuals, and holding companies.

But that is where French developer DotEmu comes in.

DotEmu has found a niche bringing back beloved classics even if it means tracking down obscure rights holders, and that team is now using its knowledge to bring back ancient hits like the SNK arcade disc battler Windjammers and shapeshifting platformer Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap. Both have cult followings, and they also had complicated legal barriers that prevented anyone from remaking them before this current effort.

But that’s just how DotEmu chief executive officer Cyrille Imbert likes it.

“Since the beginning, we've specialized in bringing back awesome licenses from the past — the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s,” Imbert told GamesBeat during a chat in December. “That's how we got these licenses. We've also worked on games like Double Dragon, Another World — we worked a lot with SNK in the past, which is why we're doing Windjammers.”

Experience and respect

Imbert has developed a skillset specifically aimed at sniffing out licenses and bringing back lost games. After years of working with companies like SNK and Square Enix, he has developed a strong roster of contacts in Japanese publishing that enables him to make deals that others would find impossible.

“Personally, I go to Japan at least twice a year,” he said. “Each time I go there, I have my list of IPs, and I go to try and find the IP owners. We explain what we do and why we want to do it, try to convince them that it would be a good idea to bring these games back.”

Imbert explained that the responsibilities of working directly with Japanese companies fell to him largely because these deals often require a CEO’s involvement. Japanese companies respond better to someone at that level of a business, and it’s important for a high-up decisionmaker to understand the intricacies of making contracts based on established IPs. And so through his experience, Imbert has developed the proper touch for gaining the trust and respect of business owners in that country.

“It's always good when it's the CEO or the president who goes to see these companies,” said Imbert.”It gives more credibility to the project and more confidence to the IP owners. It's not easy to convince people, especially on the Japanese side. The IP owners are very careful with their properties.”

But after successfully updating nearly a dozen games, Imbert said that his whole team now understands how to present a prospective project to Eastern rights holders.

“It's not all about business or all about money,” he said. “It's about respect, mutual respect, and passion for the project. Usually the games we work on — at DotEmu we think about it all together, whether it's the developers or the marketing people or whoever else. We all know the games really well. Maybe people feel that we really enjoy these games. We're not just there to exploit a license for money. We're there because we like these games and we want to share them. We're a small team of passionate people, and maybe that rings true to them.”

The unique difficulties of Windjammers

At the PlayStation Experience fan event in Anaheim early last month, Sony revealed the trailer for DotEmu’s rerelease of Windjammers, which is coming to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita “soon.” As part of the announcement, Sony third-party-relations boss Gio Corsi called the game “Dave Lang’s nightmare.” That’s a reference to developer Iron Galaxies and its CEO, Dave Lang, who looked into the possibility of bringing the franchise back. During an interview with the publication Giant Bomb at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2015, Lang declared that fans would never get another Windjammers. The CEO was apparently convinced that figuring out the property rights weren’t worth the effort.

Well, DotEmu figured them out.

“Every time we look into a license we do some research on the existing community or any other recent stuff that's been talking about with a particular license,” said Imbert. “We found Dave Lang's video on YouTube, where he said that there would never be another Windjammers again. It had a few thousand views already. That gave us some confidence, because we found out that a lot of people wanted the game back. We even thought about including that in the trailer.”

Imbert and DotEmu wanted to bring Windjammers back; they have a deep affection for the game. The studio had already built a strong relationship with SNK after working with the publisher on bringing back some of its previous arcade hits, like Metal Slug and Fatal Fury. So DotEmu is familiar with Neo Geo-based games. Imbert calls the people at SNK his “good friends.” And the team at DotEmu are even passionate Windjammers players who regularly organize internal tournaments. Bringing back that game seemed like the obvious next step. But, of course, it wasn’t that easy.

“We knew that SNK didn't have the license for that one because otherwise they would have asked us to do it already,” said Imbert. “We've done almost all of their games. But this game is so awesome, and we were having so much fun with it in the office —  we all thought it would be so cool to bring it back and bring the esports side out of it. Our tournaments were getting pretty crazy. People were shouting and really getting into it, really wanting to win. So we did the same thing we always do. We started searching.”

DotEmu first started trying to follow the trail of who owned the rights to Windjammers on the Internet. When that turned up nothing, Imbert reached out to his contacts in Japan. In the end, one of those friends helped them find the current IP holders and even set up a meeting.

It turns out that a mobile developer called Paon had picked up the rights. Imbert met with them and explained the project.

“These guys were so cool,” he said. “We really had a good feeling. They're rock music lovers; I'm a rock music lover. We talked about music and all this different stuff, and we explained the project we had in mind for Windjammers and the love we have for the license. We know every character by heart, every sound effect by heart. They said, ‘Yeah, we had some propositions from other companies in the past, but we were never convinced. But we'll try it with you guys.’ Maybe it was because of our experience with SNK, but also because of our passion for the game. That's how it came to be.”

And that’s how DotEmu made Dave Lang cry.

Chin up, big guy.

Above: Chin up, big guy.

Image Credit: Stephanie Tinsley Fitzwilliam

Samsung estimates Q4 profit likely surged 50% to a 3 year high

Posted: 05 Jan 2017 08:14 PM PST

Samsung logo

(Reuters) – Samsung Electronics said on Friday its fourth-quarter profit likely leapt 50 percent from a year earlier to its highest level in more than three years, beating expectations on strong chip sales and a smartphone rebound.

The upbeat outlook comes despite a slight fall in revenue and the anticipated $2.1 billion profit hit from the withdrawal of the fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 premium smartphone in October.

The guidance points to a more rapid recovery for the mobile business than many analysts had anticipated after one of the biggest product safety failures in tech history, and reflects steady price increases for memory chips.

“Samsung posted solid earnings only with sales of older smartphone models like the S7 after the Note 7’s discontinuation,” said Kim Sung-soo, a fund manager at LS Asset Management.

“This makes me have hopes for the (Galaxy) S8. Should they fare well, I expect Samsung to report record earnings this year.”

The South Korean technology giant said October-December operating profit was likely 9.2 trillion won ($7.8 billion), the highest since the third quarter of 2013 and well above the 8.2 trillion won tipped by a Thomson Reuters StarMine SmartEstimate from a survey of 21 analysts. The estimate was also higher than any individual forecast in the survey.

The South Korean won’s recent depreciation may have helped boost profits, some analysts said, as component sales are typically settled in U.S. dollars. The local currency fell 8.8 percent against the dollar in the fourth quarter.

Investors pushed Samsung shares up 43 percent last year, betting the surge in demand for memory chips and organic light-emitting diode screens for smartphones will more than make up for the Note 7 setback and translate to strong earnings growth.

Samsung shares were up 2.1 percent as of 0038 GMT, outperforming a 0.3 percent rise for the broader market. The stock briefly traded at a record high of 1.831 million won on Tuesday.

The world’s biggest maker smartphones, TVs and memory chips will not disclose detailed earnings, including the performance of its individual businesses, until late January.

Analysts expect Samsung’s chip division to earn a record of more than 4 trillion won in operating profit in October-December thanks to strong demand from smartphone makers, including major client Apple, and high-end data storage products.

The mobile division’s quarterly profit is also expected to rebound from the third quarter, when the firm booked the bulk of its Note 7 losses, and post its first annual gain in three years thanks to healthy sales of Galaxy S7 smartphones.

Samsung Electronics said fourth-quarter revenue likely fell 0.6 percent from a year earlier to 53 trillion won.

(Reporting by Se Young Lee; additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin, Nataly Pak and Cynthia Kim; Editing by Stephen Coates)

BotBeat: This week’s top bot stories

Posted: 05 Jan 2017 07:12 PM PST

BotBeat Weekly Newsletter for posts

VentureBeat's Bots Channel tracks the most important news and analysis from the exploding field of bots and messaging. Each week, we select the top stories and present them in our free weekly newsletter, BotBeat. We include news stories by VentureBeat staff, guest articles from leading figures in the bots community, and a good number of posts from a wide variety of other outlets. You can subscribe to our BotBeat newsletter to receive this information in your inbox every Thursday.

Here's this week's newsletter:

Happy 2017! With CES in full swing, it's evident that bots and AI have arrived. Whether in refrigerators, cars, or hairbrushes, smart assistants or voice-activated bots are pervasive. So pervasive that I'm not entirely sure what to call them anymore. Look up in the sky! Is it a bird, a plane, or a bot?

Even as they go mainstream, chatbots and their brethren still have a long way to go to become truly useful. What's needed is a meta-bot that enables people to communicate with each other and access services seamlessly across all platforms.

I'm not talking about Messenger users communicating with Telegram users, rather I'm imagining an interoperable chatbot world where Alexa in, say, my self-driving Ford can connect with Google Assistant in, say, my wife's self-driving Toyota. Sure mobile phones already meet his need, but only in part. Once bots participate in the conversation, they add structure and functionality. If we're discussing dinner plans, this meta-bot should not only make a reservation for us, but also direct our cars to the restaurant. Something for CES 2020, perhaps? CES 2025? Drop us a line and let us know when you think this meta-bot might appear.

As always, please send news tips to Khari Johnson and guest post submissions to John Brandon. Be sure to visit our Bots Channel for comprehensive news on bots and messaging.

Thanks for reading,

-Blaise Zerega

Editor in Chief

P.S. Please enjoy this video of Liam Boogar, Branding Director at Algolia, speaking at Slush 2016: "Chatbots It’s Like Uber for Conversations."

From the Bots Channel

amazonecho_2733_hr

Ford to bring Amazon's Alexa to millions of cars already on the road

Ford is working to incorporate Amazon's Alexa into cars with its Ford Sync 3 service, giving drivers the ability to control their car and smart home devices, the company announced Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Owners of Alexa-enabled devices like the Echo will be able to turn the car on, lock […]

Read the full story

 

From left to right: Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Tap
Amazon Prime members can now voice-order meals through Alexa-enabled devices

Amazon is expanding the capabilities of its smart Alexa assistant by letting consumers order meals using just their voice through Alexa-enabled devices. The internet giant introduced meal deliveries to Seattle back in 2015, before expanding to cover countless U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, and New York. The Amazon Restaurants […]

Read the full story

 

Nvidia has partnered with Audi on AI cars.
Nvidia partners with Audi to build AI cars

Nvidia is partnering with Audi to develop artificial intelligence for a new generation of self-driving cars. The companies are looking to commercialize Nvdia's latest technology for advanced automotive applications. Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of Nvidia, announced during his keynote speech at CES 2017 that Nvidia has a new version of its car supercomputer chip, dubbed Xavier. […]

Read the full story

 

The Slack Fund, with partners like Index Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, has invested in 25 companies making bots for business and collaboration

Slack invests in 11 bot startups to seed its platform

Slack announced today that it has invested in nearly a dozen new botstartups to bolster its Slack App Directory. The team collaboration chat app has invested in 25 startups thus far with money from the Slack Fund, an $80 million investment fund backed by venture capital firms like Index Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. The group […]

Read the full story

 

Lenovo Smart Assistant.

Lenovo launches Smart Assistant, a $130 Amazon Echo competitor with Alexa inside

At the CES consumer technology conference in Las Vegas today, Lenovo is unveiling its answer to the trendy Amazon Echo smart speaker — a speaker called the Smart Assistant, which packs Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant. It's coming in May. Alexa has gotten inside more and more products, but not many outright speakers that compete directly […]

Read the full story

 

The Google Home personal assistant.

Google's AI assistant has 5 New Year's resolutions for you

Google Assistant and the smart speaker Google Home have some opinions on how to be a better person in 2017. Ask "What should my New Year's resolution be?" and the AI assistant will tell you to do things like write a novel or pick up calligraphy. Here are the five answers to the question Google […]

Read the full story

 

Related coverage

CES trends to watch in 2017: Self-driving cars, bots and internet of things

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), an annual event that often sets the tone for the year in tech, hits Las Vegas the first week of 2017. It’s usually dominated by gadgets like phones, cameras and TVs, but those aren’t expected to be this year’s headliners, said Vivek Wadhwa, distinguished fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s college of engineering and a director of research at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering. (via CNBC)

Read the full story

 

Virtual assistants, chatbots poised for mass adoption in 2017

Enterprises will continue to experiment with virtual assistants and chatbots in 2017 as they look to balance better customer service with operational efficiency. (via CIO)

Read the full story

 

CMO’s Guide to Chatbots

Chatbots are the next phase in the migration from a desktop-dominant world to a mobile one. While bots are still nascent, as technology improves they are poised to replace brand websites and individualized apps. (via Advertising Age)

Read the full story

 

Japanese white-collar workers are already being replaced by artificial intelligence

Most of the attention around automation focuses on how factory robots and self-driving cars may fundamentally change our workforce, potentially eliminating millions of jobs. But AI that can handle knowledge-based, white-collar work are also becoming increasingly competent. (via Quartz)

Read the full story

 

Subscribe to BotBeat Weekly 

and receive this newsletter every Thursday

CES2017

Nissan is placing Cortana in the passenger seat

Posted: 05 Jan 2017 05:43 PM PST

Nissan Murano.

At the CES consumer electronics conference in Las Vegas today, Nissan announced that, as part of Microsoft’s existing partnership with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, it’s working with Microsoft around the use of the Cortana virtual assistant and other services that are part of a new Connected Vehicle Platform.

This builds on Microsoft’s commercial relationships with BMW, which involves Azure, and Volvo, which pertains to Skype. But with the new offering, Microsoft is going after carmakers in a unified way.

“Available as a public preview later this year, it brings Microsoft's intelligent services from across the company right into the car, including virtual assistants, business applications, office services and productivity tools like Cortana, Dynamics, Office 365, Power BI and Skype for Business,” Microsoft executive vice president of business development Peggy Johnson wrote in a blog post.

The package of services calls to mind what Microsoft did in 2015 with its Cortana Intelligence Suite.

As a result of the partnership around the new platform, the alliance will “power next-generation, connected vehicles with advanced navigation, predictive maintenance, remote monitoring of car features and more,” Johnson wrote. More explicitly, as Business Insider points out, Nissan will be embedding Cortana into upcoming vehicles.

This comes a day after Google said that Daimler and Hyundai will be integrating the Google Assistant, and Ford said Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant will be coming to its cars. Apple, for its part, fields CarPlay, which is integrated into hundreds of vehicles.

While Cortana is getting embedded into things like speakers, clearly Microsoft also senses an opportunity to be part of cars, particularly amid the current excitement around self-driving cars.

Libre Wireless Technologies Announces Industry Leading Wireless Mic-to-Cloud and Smart Voice Assistant Solutions with Broad Ecosystem Support

Posted: 05 Jan 2017 04:47 PM PST

BusinessWire_FeaturedImage

IRVINE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–January 6, 2017–

Libre Wireless Technologies, Inc., a leading embedded WiFi and wireless solution provider, today at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas announced their launch of a range of LibreSync products now integrating smart voice assistant capability as well as new products specifically designed for delivering Mic-to-Cloud voice control, audio streaming, home control and security services and applications. Libre’s industry leading scalable WiFi and BlueTooth connectivity modules with their extensive LibreSync software enable OEMs and ODMs to more easily integrate these complex new voice interface and voice assistant technologies into their products. In addition to fundamental Mic-to-Cloud backend integration and media streaming capability integrated into the LibreSync platform, Libre announces a new range of flexible turn-key microphone front-end voice modules called “Libre Voice Modules” or “LVM” products.

This new range of Libre Voice Module (LVM) solutions are the perfect complement to Libre’s range of scalable LibreSync WiFi and BlueTooth connectivity modules, and uniquely enabling scalable price/performance options, from single mic up to six microphone configurations. These LVM modules deliver optimized features with advanced far field, beam forming, acoustic echo cancellation, wake-word recognition algorithms and on-line/off-line control command recognition to deliver industry leading performance. Certain configurations also include high value options for security and safety features using sound classification technology such that products can detect and respond to smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, glass breaking and even baby cries for parental monitoring for example. These voice modules can seamlessly integrate with the LibreSync WiFi/BT modules and platform to deliver many advanced audio and music streaming features along with a growing list of Smart Home applications. Holding true to the Libre strategy, these solutions will offer price/performance options and integrate voice support across multiple ecosystems such that OEMs and ODMs can leverage one platform and supplier in Libre to service their broad product line needs.

“Libre Wireless Technologies continues to lead the market with innovation and uniquely enabling mainstream products and ecosystem solution options in the rapidly expanding segments, and now integrating network mic and voice control applications and services,” says Hooman Kashef, Chief Executive Officer of Libre Wireless Technologies. “We continue to work with top ecosystem providers and brand customers to enable this incredibly compelling new world of voice assistant applications with market leading technologies and are planning many product launches in the coming months.”

About Libre Wireless Technologies

Libre Wireless Technologies has extensive expertise and experience in developing WiFi/Wireless technologies with IoT, Media streaming and voice interface/control software and SDK platforms, electronic modules and RF/antenna design solutions. The Libre team has deep WiFi/BT technology, IoT and A/V system design experience combined with world wide sales, technical support and design partnerships. The LibreSync platform incorporates unique media streaming technology, scalable mic-to-cloud voice processing modules, broad mobile platform ecosystem support, seamless interoperability, scalable price/performance solution options, optimized and flexible WiFi/BlueTooth options (1×1 11n, 2×2 11n, 11n/ac) and extensive system level features. Optimized for performance, power, size and cost, LibreSync solutions provide ODMs and CE Brand customers with the most complete, flexible and ecosystem leading Smart Home, voice and media streaming platform available.

Libre Wireless Technologies, Inc.
Jordan Watters, Chief Revenue Officer
(512) 757-9490
Jordan.watters@librewireless.com
www.librewireless.com

Focus Home Interactive enlists Asobo Studio for its mysterious Plague

Posted: 05 Jan 2017 04:02 PM PST

The Plague is an upcoming action-adventure game from Focus Home Interactive.

Focus Home has enlisted some help in making its upcoming action-adventure game.

The French publisher announced today that it’s working with veteran developer Asobo Studio on The Plague. It’s another French company, and it has worked on a number of high-profile games like Quantum Break and Recore. It was also the first independent studio to announce it was working on a game for Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality platform.

The Plague is for PC and consoles, and Focus Home will announce more about it at its What’s Next de Focus event in February.

“Collaborating with Focus Home Interactive on a new, original creation of our team is a major step in the development of our studio,” says Asobo chief executive officer Sebastian Wloch in a canned statement. “For this ambitious project, we needed the full support of a strong and growing publisher. The Focus team, through their professionalism, enthusiasm, and openness, have naturally established themselves as the ideal partners to bring the experience we wish to offer to players. “

Insta360 Pro is an 8K 360-degree virtual reality camera

Posted: 05 Jan 2017 03:45 PM PST

Insta360 is an 8K 360-degree camera.

China’s Insta360 has announced its 8K professional virtual reality camera, the Insta360 Pro, to raise the bar for 360-degree VR films.

The company made the announcement at CES 2017, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas this week. The 8K-resolution Insta360 Pro camera is designed for shooting 360 films that can be displayed with virtual reality headsets.

The standalone camera can capture 3D images and videos and is also suitable for livestreaming. It is aimed at professional photo and video creators, as well as non-professionals who demand excellence from the camera they use to pursue their creative visions.

Insta360 Pro uses six independent high-definition lenses. It captures 60-megapixel 360-degree 3D stills and supports both HDR and RAW formats to bring out levels of detail and low-light performance unprecedented in a 360-degree camera of this size.

When recording 4K video, the camera supports up to 100 frames per second. In addition, the VR time-lapse mode adds a new dimension to videos, and the live preview function allows users to get the best angle before shooting.

Insta360 uses real-time image stitching technology and offers both H.264 and H.265 video compression, which substantially improves video quality at the same bit rate.

HD image files can be easily auto-stitched with Insta360 Studio. The company is enhancing the imaging potential of the camera by offering professional 3D 360-degree video that applies the 3D video-capturing capabilities of Hollywood films.

The camera can capture 3D videos in up to 6K (4K in real-time stitching mode). As a standalone camera, it can be used with the dedicated Insta360 Pro iOS and Android apps. It connects via Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or 4G, and it is ready to livestream and share any event instantly on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

"Insta360’s most advanced technology comes together in the Insta360 Pro, the most powerful, all-in-one VR and 3D content capturing platform that empowers you to create the unforgettable,” said Liu Jingkang, Insta360 CEO and founder, in a statement. “Never before has such power been put into an easy-to-use, compact system that enables users to share their VR content live with international audiences."

The Insta360 Pro will cost $3000 and will be available on Amazon and Insta360's official online store later this year.

Established in 2014, Shenzhen Arashi Vision Co. is a consumer technology company that goes by the name Insta360.

 

CES2017

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