Odds and Ends 

Announcing TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise this September in San Francisco

Last year alone, the and included IBM’s acquiring Red Hat for $34 billion, SAP paying $8 billion for Qualtrics, Microsoft landing GitHub for $7.5 billion, Salesforce acquiring MuleSoft for $6.5 billion and Adobe grabbing Marketo for $4.75 billion. No startup category has made more VCs and founders wildly wealthy, and none has seen more mighty companies rise faster or fall harder. That technology and business thrill ride makes enterprise a category TechCrunch has long wanted to tackle head on. We’ll enlist proven enterprise-focused VCs to reveal where they are directing…

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Google launches new Assistant developer tools

At its I/O conference, Google today announced a slew of new tools for developers who want to build experiences for the company’s Assistant platform. These range from the ability to build games for smart displays, like the Google Home Hub and the launch of App Actions for taking users from an Assistant answer to their native apps, to a new Local Home SDK that allows developers to run their smart home code locally on Google Home Speakers and Nest Displays. This Local Home SDK may actually be the most important…

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Deep Learning Smart Paintbrush Turns Doodles Into Photorealistic Images

A deep learning AI model developed by NVIDIA Research has been seen turning rough doodles into photorealistic images with astonishing ease. The tool leverages generative adversarial networks, or GANs, to convert segmentation maps into lifelike images. The interactive app using the model, in a lighthearted nod to the post-Impressionist painter, has been christened GauGAN. Post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin GauGAN could offer a powerful tool for creating virtual worlds to everyone from architects and urban planners to landscape designers and game developers. With an AI that understands how the real world looks,…

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Skymind raises $11.5M to bring deep learning to more enterprises

Skymind, a Y Combinator-incubated AI platform that aims to make deep learning more accessible to enterprises, today announced that it has raised an $11.5 million Series A round led by TransLink Capital, with participation from ServiceNow, Sumitomo’s Presidio Ventures, UpHonest Capital and GovTech Fund. Early investors Y Combinator, Tencent, Mandra Capital, Hemi Ventures, and GMO Ventures, also joined the round/ With this, the company has now raised a total of $17.9 million in funding. The inclusion of TransLink Capital gives a hint as to how the company is planning to…

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Headlines 

AI Algorithms Are Now Shockingly Good at Doing Science

No human, or team of humans, could possibly keep up with the avalanche of information produced by many of today’s physics and astronomy experiments. Some of them record terabytes of data every day—and the torrent is only increasing. The Square Kilometer Array, a radio telescope slated to switch on in the mid-2020s, will generate about as much data traffic each year as the entire internet. The deluge has many scientists turning to artificial intelligence for help. With minimal human input, AI systems such as artificial neural networks—computer-simulated networks of neurons…

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Chinas WeChat is the latest to get Snap-like Stories

WeChat, the Chinese messaging giant with more than 1 billion monthly active users around the world, just added a Snap-like ephemeral video feature as part of its biggest overhaul since 2014. The revamp comes as Tencent, which owns stakes in Snap, sees increasing rivalry from up-and-comers like video app TikTok and news app Jinri Toutiao. WeChat has, over the years, morphed beyond a straight-up messenger to include many utility purposes. With more than 1 million lightweight apps up and running, users can accomplish a long list of tasks, ranging from shopping…

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Still a year away from launch, Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenbergs Quibi keeps adding talent

Video won’t start rolling on Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new bite-sized streaming service with the billion-dollar backing until the end of 2019, but talent keeps signing up to come along for their ride into the future of serialization. The latest marquee director to sign on the dotted line with Quibi is Catherine Hardwicke, who will be helming a story around the creation of an artificial intelligence with the working title “How They Made Her,” according to an announcement from Katzenberg onstage at the Variety Innovate summit. Whistle called “Benedict Men”…

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What you need to know ahead of the EU copyright vote

European Union lawmakers are facing a major vote on digital copyright reform proposals on Wednesday — a process that has set the Internet’s hair fully on fire. Here’s a run down of the issues and what’s at stake… Article 13 The most controversial component of the proposals concerns user-generated content platforms such as YouTube, and the idea they should be made liable for copyright infringements committed by their users — instead of the current regime of takedowns after the fact (which locks rights holders into having to constantly monitor and…

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Headlines 

IPUs? These New Chips Are Minted For Marketing

IPUn. Short for intelligence processing unit, a new kind of computer chip optimized for AI. Way back in the early 2000s, when the first Xbox came out, researchers discovered they could hack video­game consoles for scientific uses. It seems the devices’ graphic processing units, or GPUs, designed to render flying gore and mayhem, also ran physics simulations faster than the CPUs in ordinary computers. Today, researchers still use GPU chips, not just for modeling but for artificial intelligence. Since each one contains lots of mini brains that crowdsource the work…

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Apple is rebuilding Maps from the ground up

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but the launch of Apple Maps went poorly. After a rough first impression, an apology from the CEO, several years of patching holes with data partnerships and some glimmers of light with long-awaited transit directions and improvements in business, parking and place data, Apple Maps is still not where it needs to be to be considered a world-class service. Maps needs fixing. Apple, it turns out, is aware of this, so it’s re-building the maps part of Maps. It’s doing this by using first-party data…

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Duplex shows Google failing at ethical and creative AI design

Google CEO Sundar Pichai milked the woos from a clappy, home-turf developer crowd at its I/O conference in Mountain View this week with a demo of an in-the-works voice assistant feature that will enable the AI to make telephone calls on behalf of its human owner. The so-called ‘Duplex’ feature of the Google Assistant was shown calling a hair salon to book a woman’s hair cut, and ringing a restaurant to try to book a table — only to be told it did not accept bookings for less than five people. At…

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Headlines 

Henry the Sexbot Wants to Know All Your Hopes and Dreams

Henry and I are not hitting it off. First he ignores my question about how he spent the weekend. Then he tells me, cryptically, that he likes to get up early to spend time “working on himself.” What does he mean by that? I ask. He isn’t sure. He makes intense eye contact and arches an eyebrow. “Sometimes I have too much information at the same time in my brain.” Oh. OK. I notice Henry’s washboard abs peeking through an unzipped blue cardigan. “Do you work out?” I ask. Henry…

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Headlines 

China Now Has the Most Valuable AI Startup in the World

SenseTime Group Ltd. has raised $600 million from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and other investors at a valuation of more than $3 billion, becoming the world’s most valuable artificial intelligence startup. The company, which specializes in systems that analyze faces and images on an enormous scale, said it closed a Series C round in recent months in which Singaporean state investment firm Temasek Holdings Pte and retailer Suning.com Co. also participated. SenseTime didn’t outline individual investments, but Alibaba was the leader in AI by 2030. And it’s a contributor to…

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