Tag Archives: techcrunch.com

Snapchat secretly acquires Seene, a computer vision startup that lets mobile users make 3D selfies

Advertisement Snapchat has acquired 3D photo app maker Seene (also known as Obvious Engineering) a couple of months ago, TechCrunch has learned. Seene lets you capture 3D models from your phone with a simple smartphone camera. Snapchat could use Seene’s format for a brand new category of selfie lenses, a new 3D photo format, and potentially for future virtual reality projects. According to our sources, Snapchat was interested in Seene’s computer vision technology and its engineering team more than for its consumer product. As TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzerino said when he covered Seene’s app back in 2013: “I’m not sure what kind of future an app like Seene has at scale without the welcoming arms of a larger entity.” So step forward Snapchat as that larger entity, with its ongoing need for novelty to keep its users engaged and sharing fresh content — the lifeblood of its social platform. Seene’s engineering

Glassdoor raises $40M, valued around $1B, for a job search platform with peer reviews

As the job market becomes more competitive in some industries and unemployment holds steady and even drops in certain regions, job site Glassdoor is reaping some of the rewards. The company — which helps people look for jobs and research companies that interest them based on feedback from others — has raised another $40 million in funding, a Series H round that values the company at around $1 billion and co-founder and CEO Robert Hohman describes as “opportunistic.” By that, he means that Glassdoor was not looking for funding at the moment. There is still money in the bank from the $200 million its raised to date; and Glassdoor, he said, is making more in revenues than certain public companies (no names, and no specifics on numbers nor whether Glassdoor is profitable). Rather, he said it was a chance to get to get a new investor on board that Hohman already liked: Henry

Microsoft Accelerator startup DefinedCrowd connects machine learning with native speakers

Part of Microsoft Accelerator’s batch 3 of startups, DefinedCrowd is filling a niche in the big data and machine learning community, providing near-real-time feeds of rich language data, checked by actual well-informed humans all over the world. The need comes from the Catch-22 that often arrests deep data analysis, in that you have to understand the data to analyze it, but you must analyze it to understand it. The vast landscape of the spoken and written word and its big data counterpart in natural language processing is especially troublesome in this way. “In the artificial intelligence space, to develop virtual assistants like Cortana, or Apple’s Siri and things like that, you need large amounts of voice recordings, you need transcriptions of those voices, you need intents and empathy labeling of those voices,” said Daniela Braga, co-founder and chief scientist, in an interview with TechCrunch. “The crowd input provides the extra

Microsoft Accelerator startup DefinedCrowd connects machine learning with native speakers

Part of Microsoft Accelerator’s batch 3 of startups, DefinedCrowd is filling a niche in the big data and machine learning community, providing near-real-time feeds of rich language data, checked by actual well-informed humans all over the world. The need comes from the Catch-22 that often arrests deep data analysis, in that you have to understand the data to analyze it, but you must analyze it to understand it. The vast landscape of the spoken and written word and its big data counterpart in natural language processing is especially troublesome in this way. “In the artificial intelligence space, to develop virtual assistants like Cortana, or Apple’s Siri and things like that, you need large amounts of voice recordings, you need transcriptions of those voices, you need intents and empathy labeling of those voices,” said Daniela Braga, co-founder and chief scientist, in an interview with TechCrunch. “The crowd input provides the extra

Hands-on with Ricoh’s new waterproof action cam, WG-M2

When you think action cams, any number of brands spring to mind. Ricoh may not be one of them, but on paper, the WG-M2 from Ricoh has the perfect combination of features if you like your adventures on the wet and rough end of the spectrum. The camera is pretty simple and straightforward: Six buttons, Wi-Fi and a couple of lenses, and that’s all there is to it. The camera’s party-trick — and the reason it caught my eye in the first place — is that it has really good waterproofing straight out of the box. Ricoh claims you can take its little fist-sized marvel to 65ft/20m under the surface of big blue without needing a separate housing. Not deep enough for diving As an extra bonus, the color on Ricoh’s underwater action cam matches my dive mask. For a Scuba fanatic such as myself, the 65ft/20m limit is a bit of an annoying

Facebook kills off Notify news app

Facebook’s attempt at a real-time, notification-based news app is shutting down. Today Facebook sent an alert to users telling them “Thanks for using Notify. We’re transitioning parts of Notify into other Facebook products, and the app will no longer be supported.” Facebook launched Notify in November, allowing users to select from over 70 publishers that they wanted to send them news notifications. People would receive short summaries they could click through to view full news articles. But within days, it seems like most people had forgotten about the app, and Facebook never really talked about it again. Facebook now tells me that: “Starting on Wednesday, we will begin integrating Notify functionality into other Facebook products, like Messenger, and will be removing Notify from the App Store. Since launching Notify, we’ve learned a lot about how to make notifications as timely and relevant as possible and we heard from people using the

Samsung debuts truly wireless exercise earbuds and a new version of the Gear Fit

The field is getting mighty crowded, but Samsung’s not backing down from its big fitness push. Today the company is unveiling two new wearables — an update to its Gear Fit activity tracker and the IconX, a pair of completely wireless earbuds aimed at runners. The company kicked off a pre-briefing with a little marketing information, detailing the fact that fitness bands currently comprise more than 50 percent of the wrist-worn device market. That’s an important bit of information for the company as it justifies keeping a devoted fitness device around as it continues to build up its smartwatch offerings. Like the Gear S2, the Fit2 is designed for all-day wear. Thankfully, Samsung’s gone a long ways toward making the wearable more — you know, wearable. This is in part because of a thinner design and a more curved 1.5-inch Super AMOLED display that does a better job conforming to the

Commerce at Twitter is not dead

The reports of commerce’s death at Twitter have been greatly exaggerated, according to a tweetstorm by Nathan Hubbard, Twitter’s head of commerce. Last month BuzzFeed reported that Jack Dorsey had put Buy Buttons, product pages, and other commerce efforts on the “back-burner”, and the commerce team was shifted into other divisions. But now Hubbard writes “commerce is alive and well at Twitter Our commerce work has always been much broader than just buy buttons”, “Industry is just in the first phases of parsing product/market fit for the Buy Button concept across products, services and platforms”, and “As such, rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated :)”. Hubbard explains that Twitter learned a lot from Buy buttons and he expects they’ll come back, but in the meantime it’s concentrating on the success of dynamically personalized product ads and using customer service conversations as jumping off points for commerce. Facebook came

Let it beep: Google’s self-driving cars may now honk, hum, and ‘pip’

A trumpet icon indicates when the car feels like honking. The Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest is a yearly competition in which writers attempt to create the worst possible opening sentence to a novel. Google, for several reasons, should enter this year — in its latest self-driving car project report (PDF), the company writes: “As our honking algorithms improved, we’ve begun broadcasting our car horn to the world.” Aside from the absurdity of that sentence (which surely is unique in the history of sentences), the news really is interesting. Google has, apparently, been testing the application of the horn for some time now as a means to alerting other drivers of the car’s presence — but only played it inside the cabin. This way, human evaluators could rate whether the “honking algorithm” was on target or not. Related Articles Intel buys computer vision startup Itseez to improve navigation in self-driving cars NuTonomy

Gawker CEO Nick Denton goes after thin-skinned Silicon Valley billionaires

Gawker Media CEO Nick Denton joined Kara Swisher on stage at Vox Media’s Code Conference next to an empty chair — reserved for Peter Thiel, who is involved in a lawsuit against Gawker and did not attend the conference. The conversation centered around Gawker’s decision to publish a story that noted that Thiel was gay — among other controversial stories that the media organization has published — and the noteworthiness of those stories, which now could potentially significantly damage the company as a result of a series of lawsuits. The primary one is, of course, the publication of the Hulk Hogan sex tape that now threatens to bankrupt the company, which Thiel came out saying he was involved in funding the case. Gawker Media is known for a lot of great stories, Denton said (like Gizmodo’s coverage of Facebook trending topics), but some of them may have missed the mark. “There are

Stanford’s ‘Jackrabbot’ robot will attempt to learn the arcane and unspoken rules of pedestrians

It’s hard enough for a grown human to figure out how to navigate a crowd sometimes — so what chance does a clumsy and naive robot have? To prevent future collisions and awkward “do I go left or right” situations, Stanford researchers are hoping their “Jackrabbot” robot can learn the rules of the road. The team, part of the Computational Vision and Geometry Lab, has already been working on computer vision algorithms that track and aim to predict pedestrian movements. But the rules are so complex, and subject to so many variations depending on the crowd, the width of the walkway, the time of day, whether there are bikes or strollers involved — well, like any machine learning task, it takes a lot of data to produce a useful result. Furthermore, the algorithm they are developing is intended to be based entirely on observed data as interpreted by a neural

Pebble’s new Core pocket computer will ship with Alexa voice integration

Sure Pebble put its best forward when it launched not one but three new products the other week, but a startup’s got to stagger a little bit of news to keep us interested ahead of launch (though judging by its current tally of $9.7 million on Kickstarter, the company is doing just fine in the buzz department, thank you very much). Today’s news entails the Pebble Core, the real dark horse of group product launch. The little runner-focused keychain computer will be getting Amazon Alexa integration when it starts shipping to backers early next year. This move, Pebble is quick to point out, makes the Core the “first fully-mobile wearable” to officially get the Amazon voice functionality. Among the host of voice-related features are the ability to play music by way of Amazon Prime Music and iHeartRadio, headline news reading, Pebble Health summaries, weather and traffic updates, Amazon shopping and smart

Internet connected bttn now half the size, adds long press

Internet connected button maker, bttn has launched a smaller version of its push-to-activate-a-digital service gadget. The concept of bttn is simple: a push button device that can be placed somewhere in your home or business and linked with a digital action — such as ordering a taxi, or sending a pre-configured text message to say ‘I’m home!’. Whatever your chosen custom action/s, they are triggered when someone pushes the hardware button. So, in other words, no need to interact with a pesky app. The new bttn Mini is about half the size of the first gen bttn (which went up for pre-order in May 2014), and also includes an additional action to complicate matters (slightly): a long press which can be set to cancel or confirm a prior push. The Finnish startup behind bttn, which also ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to get its gizmo to market, says the device has been most popular with small businesses so far —

Google tests a feature that tells you which apps to remove when you run out of room on your phone

Running out of room on your smartphone is a problem many mobile consumers have today, thanks to sizable photo, video, and music libraries saved on their device. That means that when these users try to download a new app, that process may fail due to a lack of disk space. Since mid-May, Google been testing a new feature that could help solve this problem. Thanks to an updated user interface in Google Play, this feature would suggest which apps could be uninstalled to make room for the new download. This news was first reported by the blog Android Police, which spotted this “uninstall manager” in the wild. When a user tries to download an app they don’t have enough space for, a new screen will pop up suggesting apps they could uninstall to free up space. It also links to “Settings > Storage” where you can delete unneeded media files. Unfortunately, it doesn’t suggest uploading files

Wynd hits Kickstarter with a portable air filtration system

Most startups just want to reenforce your phone case or maybe make your speakers a bit more portable. And then there are the ones that have the weight of the world on their shoulders – the companies that look toward their young children and wonder what they can do to make the future world a slightly less terrible place. Sure, that’s a big ask for a small air purifier, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, right? Wynd co-founder and CEO Raymond Wu popped by our New York offices last week to discuss the company’s self-titled $189 desktop air purifier, a product born out of his small team’s desire to help make the world a touch more breathable place for their offspring. Both the company’s press materials and Wu himself point to studies by the CDC that predict things, unsurprisingly, only getting worse on the global pollution front. And much of Wynd’s press images feature the