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Facebook features breaking news in a news section in Watch

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Facebook is going to create a new news section in its video streaming platform Facebook Watch to feature breaking news stories. The move, which Campbell Brown, the company’s year-old head of news partnerships, announced onstage at the Code Media conference in Huntington Beach, is part of a broader evolution of Facebook’s news strategy. Facebook launched the Watch platform in August as a way to compete more directly with other video distribution platforms online.

The company had created a video tab as early as 2016, but only hosted generic videos that were being shared by friends and family. With Watch, Facebook was trying to own and control original content that it distributes itself exclusively on its own channel.

Competitors like YouTube and Snap also have their own original content, but with Watch and the news focus it’s taking a big step forward.

The social media giant has struggled in recent years to manage the quality of news content that’s being shared on the platform and how news is being consumed by the massive Facebook audience. That said, Campbell continued to recite the Facebook line of self-effacement with the company’s involvement in the media landscape.

“People don’t come to Facebook for news, they come to Facebook for friends and family,” Brown said onstage. While that may be true, much of what friends and family are sharing — especially in this news cycle is news. Facebook is focusing on local news publishers rather than big national outlets to change the conversation and focus on utility of the platform. “I don’t think our focus on false news and integrity morphed into time well spent,” says Adam Mosseri, VP of news feed. “For those set of issues, stuff that violates community standards or false news, those things need to be confronted head on. You have to assume that you’re dealing with an adversary who’s sophisticated and their strategy will change over time, so the work never ends.”

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Apple Watch can detect diabetes with an 85% accuracy

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

According to Cardiogram founder Brandon Ballinger’s latest clinical study, the Apple Watch can detect diabetes in those previously diagnosed with the disease with an 85 percent accuracy. The study is part of the larger DeepHeart study with Cardiogram and UCSF. This particular study used data from 14,000 Apple Watch users and was able to detect that 462 of them had diabetes by using the Watch’s heart rate sensor, the same type of sensor other fitness bands using Android Wear also integrate into their systems.

In 2015, the Framingham Heart Study showed that resting heart rate and heart rate variability significantly predicted incident diabetes and hypertension. This led to the impetus to use the Watch’s heart rate sensor to see if it could accurately detect a diabetic patient. Previously, Ballinger and his colleagues were able to use Apple’s Watch to detect an abnormal heart rhythm with up to a 97 percent accuracy, sleep apnea with a 90 percent accuracy and hypertension with an 82 percent accuracy when paired with Cardiogram’s AI-based algorithm. Most of these discoveries have been published in clinical journals or abstracts and Ballinger intends to publish the latest findings shortly after presenting at the AAAI 2018 conference this week.

Diabetes is a huge and growing problem in the U.S. More than 100 million U.S. adultsare now living with pre-diabetes or diabetes and more than 1 in 4 of them go undiagnosed, according to the CDC. Part of the problem is the pain that goes into checking blood glucose levels. A patient must prick themselves after every meal and correctly take the right amount of insulin to keep themselves in balance.

Early detection could also help in cutting down on diabetes-related diseases before they get out of hand. While there have been other attempts to build special-purpose glucose-sensing hardware, this is the first large-scale study showing that ordinary heart rate sensors—when paired with an artificial intelligence-based algorithm—can identify diabetes with no extra hardware. So what’s next? Ballinger and his colleague on the study Johnson Hsieh mentioned they could be looking at a number of diseases to detect through heart sensors, possibly even gestational diabetes. Hsieh also cautions that those tested were already known to have diabetes or pre-diabetes and that anyone who thinks they might have it should go to their doctor, not just rely on the Watch to tell them what’s going on.

But the results are promising. We’ll just have to wait and see what else the Apple Watch and other fitness monitors with a built-in heart rate sensor are able to tell us about ourselves next.

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Apple is working on a cheap iPhone

Monday, January 29th, 2018

Apple customers who like the iPhone X’s facial recognition and edge-to-edge screen but were turned off by the $999 price tag may have additional options at lower prices this fall. Apple is working on a lower-cost iPhone with some of the iPhone X’s best features for a launch later this year, according to Ming-Chi Kuo. The lower-cost iPhone will have the same facial recognition sensor as the iPhone X, as well as an edge-to-edge 6.1-inch LCD screen and no home button. Kuo predicted in a January 23 note it could cost between $700 and $800 — significantly less than the iPhone X, but higher than the current iPhone 8 models. However, KGI Securities says to expect some tradeoffs with the lower-cost iPhone, like the possible inclusion of a single-lens rear camera to save costs. KGI Securities believes it will have an LCD screen, which is an older technology than the OLED screen found in the iPhone X. And Kuo predicts it will have an aluminum casing, which is less premium than the stainless steel on the iPhone X. But the lower price may end up making the new iPhone the best-selling model, with over half of new lineup shipments, KGI Securities predicts.

The low-cost device isn’t the only new iPhone KGI Securities predicts Apple will launch. Apple could be preparing a new version of the iPhone X with better components in the same 5.8-inch sized-body. And there could be a so-called “Plus” version of the iPhone X launched this fall with a massive 6.5-inch OLED screen. Apple typically launches new iPhones in September. The KGI Securities research, which hasn’t been confirmed by Apple, suggests that the company may try to pull a trick that it last tried in 2013. In 2013, Apple tried to introduce a new-lower cost iPhone, called the iPhone 5C, instead of selling the previous year’s model at a discounted price. It was a sales disaster. Apple CEO Tim Cook even admitted that the device sold more poorly than the company expected. Demand for the colorful iPhone “turned out to be different than we thought,” Cook said in 2014.

It seems that Apple may try the iPhone 5C gambit again. KGI Securities predicts that Apple may discontinue the current iPhone X model, instead of selling it at a lower price after the new iPhones come out. The new lower-cost iPhone could help Apple gain market share in China, according to the research, which was also the goal for the iPhone 5C. “Lowering iPhone X’s price after the … new models launch would be a negative to product brand value given 3D sensing and OLED display are features of the new high-price model,” Kuo wrote in a January 22 note. Nikkei reported over the weekend that Apple was slashing iPhone production earlier this week. KGI Securities earlier this month revised its estimate for total iPhone X shipments over its lifetime to 62 million, down from 80 million, in a January 18 research note and said that shipments were “lower-than-expected.” If Apple were to discontinue the iPhone X this year, the lineup this Christmas could look a little bit like this: iPhone “X2 Plus” — Price unknown / iPhone “X2” — $999 and up / iPhone X — discontinued / LCD iPhone with Face ID — $700 to $800 / iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus — $599 or $699 / iPhone SE — $350

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Google lets you mute annoying ads that follow you on every site

Friday, January 26th, 2018

You know those ads that seem to follow you to every website? You went to one site one time to check out a thing and bam! that site’s ads now pop up on every site you visit. Well, now Google will let you mute them. At first, it may seem an odd move. Google makes money on its ads business, and giving advertisers free rein to stalk you on every site seems really good for companies hoping to remind you of that thing you checked out one time. But the search giant wrote that it wants to give you, the consumer, more transparency and control. It’s also good for business. Barraging you with reminder ads for the thing you are no longer interested in is not useful for you and is a waste for the business hoping to get you to come back.

Google uses the example of someone looking for snow boots, so we’ll go with that. You look up Snow Boots Co. for some research but decide to go with another type of snow boot not on that site, or just decide you’re no longer interested. That site might still be sending you ads, even though you’re not into them anymore. It’s very annoying to keep seeing everywhere the thing you don’t want. But now you can shut it all down by muting that advertiser. You could already mute ads and adjust ad settings these past few years, but now Google is offering a way for you to mute those pesky reminder ads in a new control in Ad Settings. It also will mute the ad across devices. So if you mute it on your smartphone, Google will mute that ad on your laptop.

It also plans to roll out the new controls on more platforms in the future, like YouTube, Search and Gmail. On top of all that, Google is expanding controls for another unwanted ads feature it implemented in 2012 that allows you to mute ads you don’t want to see anymore. “Millions of people use Mute this Ad on a daily basis, and in 2017, we received more than 5 billion pieces of feedback telling us that you mute ads that aren’t relevant,” Jon Krafcik wrote on the Google post explaining the updates. “We incorporated that feedback by removing 1 million ads from our ad network based on your comments.” Of course, these updates only affect ads rolled out within Google, so you may still see reminder ads from other places. It also can’t get rid of the annoying barrage of ads from your Facebook and Instagram feeds.

The good news is all you have to do to shut down those annoying reminder ads now is go to Google’s Ad Settings to see the ads currently targeting you and hit mute.

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Snapchat clone – Snow, raises $50M from SoftBank and Sequoia China

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

It’s been a while since we heard from Snow, the Snapchat clone app in Asia that Facebook once tried to buy, but today the company behind it has scooped up a $50 million investment from SoftBank and Sequoia China. Snow was started by Naver, the Korean firm behind popular messaging app Line, and it had proven popular in Japan, Korea, China and other markets in Asia thanks to a focus on localized filters, stickers and features. Not to mention Snapchat’s famous lack of effort in Asian markets. The Snow app has changed significantly since we last wrote about it, however. It’s no longer a Snap clone.

A major updated that dropped last week removed Snow’s user-to-user communication features and turned it into a dedicated selfie camera app. Without chat, the app doubles down on filters, stickers, augmented reality, and other selfie-related features to make photos and other media that can be exported to social networks or chat groups. Snow users can now, for example, record a video set to music from artists that include Charlie Puth. There’s the usual array of photo filters, alongside a GIF maker and Instagram-like Boomerang feature.

Snow plans to use this new investment to develop its augmented reality and facial recognition technologies. Its App Store listing shows it is working with Chinese unicorn SenseTime on facial recognition. It is also aiming to build partnerships and localize its service in China. Outside of Snow, Snow Corp also owns camera apps Foodie and B612, which it acquired from Line, so they may also be pushed in China as standalone apps, although the tech behind them is also shared with the core Snow app. A Snow representative told TechCrunch that the app now has over 200 million downloads on iOS and Android. The company doesn’t break out specific data for each market, but it said that China is its largest market. In January 2017, we reported that Snow had 40-50 million monthly active users but there’s no further update on the MAU front for now.

SoftBank and Sequoia have bought up 20 percent of the shares of Snow’s China business unit via this deal. Line is among Snow’s other backers, via two investments.

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YouTube tightens monetization and partnerships

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

For one thing, it’s setting a higher bar for the YouTube Partner Program, which is what allows publishers to make money through advertising. Previously, they needed 10,000 total views to join the program. Starting today, channels also need to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of view time in the past year. In an effort to regain advertisers’ trust, Google is announcing what it says are “tough but necessary” changes to YouTube monetization. For now, those are just requirements to join the program, but Google says it will also start applying them to current partners on February 20.

This might assure marketers that their ads are less likely to run on random, fly-by-night channels, but as Google’s Paul Muret writes, “Of course, size alone is not enough to determine whether a channel is suitable for advertising.” Muret also described changes planned for the more exclusive Google Preferred program, which is supposed to be limited to the best and most popular content. Vlogger Logan Paul was part of Google Preferred until the controversy over his “suicide forest” video got him kicked out last week, a story that suggests some of the limitations to Google’s approach.

Moving forward, Muret said the program will offer “not only … the most popular content on YouTube, but also the most vetted.” That means everything in Google Preferred should be manually curated, with ads only running “on videos that have been verified to meet our ad-friendly guidelines.” Lastly, Muret said YouTube will be introducing a new “three-tier suitability system” in the next few months, aimed at giving marketers more control over the trade-off between running ads in safer environments versus reaching more viewers.

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Netflix was 2017’s top non-game app by revenue

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Netflix was the top earning app of 2017 that wasn’t a mobile game, according to Sensor Tower’s new year-end report on the most successful apps and publishers across Apple’s App Store and Google Play. In previous years, the top spot had gone to Spotify, and before that, LINE. But this was Netflix’s year to shine. The service saw gross subscriber revenue of approximately $510 million – a 138 percent increase over last year – per the firm’s estimates. That’s about 2.4 times the $215 million users spent in the Netflix app in 2016. It’s not surprising to see Netflix snagging this top-grossing position. The app has been at the top of the revenue charts at various points throughout 2017. For example, in Q2 Sensor Tower had reported the app saw 233 percent revenue growth year-over-year to $153 million, which was then up from the $46 million it had seen at the same time last year.

At the time, Netflix was reporting a surge in international subscribers, which were accounting for the majority of its new signups. These new users are often joining Netflix through their phone and paying through in-app purchases. By its Q3 2017 earnings reported in October, Netflix had gone on to beat its own expectations for subscriber growth, again thanks to its adoption in international markets. Of the 5.3 million new subscribers in the quarter, 850,000 came from the U.S. while 4.45 million came from international markets. The Netflix app was also the top earner across all of Apple’s App Store. But on Google Play, it ranked below Tiner, Google Drive, LINE, Pandora, and HBO NOW. Another notable app success last year was Tencent Video. In 2016, it was the #14 top grossing app (non-game) by revenue on the App Store alone. This past year, it jumped up to #3 by revenue on the App Store, and #5 in overall revenue across both stores.

In terms of downloads, however, the top app list was dominated by Facebook. This year, Facebook’s main app lost the number one spot to WhatsApp as it sank to #3. Messenger and Instagram followed, and Snapchat was in fifth place. Sensor Tower’s report analyzed mobile games separately. Mixi’s Monster Strike was the top grossing mobile game in 2017 – a position it’s now held for three years in a row. Tencent’s Honor of Kings earned second place, but again, because Google Play isn’t in China. The games list is interesting for other reasons, as well. The one-time hit Pokémon Go didn’t make the top 10, but five year-old Candy Crush Saga did (#5). That goes to show that even though games is largely a hits-based business, it’s possible to have staying power in the market, too.

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Petal uses $13 million to build Credit Card for those without credit history

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

You might be enjoying the benefits of a credit card with robust rewards today, but odds are when you were first getting started, it was hard to get even close to a card like that. That’s because, for those just getting started or who have a poor credit history, those cards are generally out of reach and a lot of them are, Petal co-founder Jason Gross said. That’s why he and his co-founders looked to start Petal, a service that identifies candidates that would be good credit card holders even if they don’t have a credit history, based on some of their actions rather than just their credit score. The startup said today that it has raised $13 million in a new financing round led by Valar Ventures.

“That has to do with critical changes in the market and access to do with credit post-financial crisis,” Gross said. “The way we think about credit scoring is that it’s sorely outdated; its tech was developed 60 years ago based on a limited subset of financial data that was the only info at the time. It disadvantages certain groups in society in particular. The data that you need to create a more comprehensive score is now available but not being used. When we assembled all those pieces, we felt this was a real problem for millions of people.” Petal’s main product is a credit card, in which qualification for the card is based on the digital record it builds for its users. Rather than just looking at borrowing history, it looks at how much that user makes, spends or saves each month, and looks to offer them more differentiated products like lower interest rates on introductory products. The main goal here is to get people who should be able to responsibly manage a credit card, based on their spending history, actually get one in their hands and start building up that history.

A few of the startup’s most obvious targets are younger audiences that are picking up credit cards and associated products for the first time, as well as those who don’t have access to credit simply because they haven’t had an opportunity to build it. If you’re going to qualify for an important loan down the line say, a mortgage you need to build up that credit history, and that still requires actually getting in the door. “If you look at folks who are thin-file, credit invisible, those who don’t have an accurate score, they’re predominantly young people but they’re disproportionately groups that have historically lacked access to financial services,” Gross said. “Minorities, immigrants, if you lack a score or an accurate score it can cost you very real money throughout your life. Having no score, you’re treated as subprime, you won’t qualify for most financial products, or they’ll be more expensive and inferior.”

Petal isn’t alone in trying to identify good potential candidates for credit cards and getting one into their hands without a robust credit history. There are startups like Deserve, which raised $12 million in October earlier this year. Identifying these potential customers without a credit history is a tantalizing opportunity simply because the credit score might not be the best indicator, but it’s what banks and agencies have to work with for now. Gross hopes that Petal will be able to identify them with their technology and, by doing that, start to build up that big user base.

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Chatbot to manage all your connected devices by Netatmo

Monday, January 8th, 2018

French company Netatmo is adding one more way to control your smart objects around your house. You can now talk and control with all your connected devices using a chatbot in Messenger. The feature is now live in English, with more languages coming later this year. Search for the Netatmo Smart Home Bot in Messenger to start using it. Netatmo has always tried to embrace as many ways as possible to control your devices. You can control your Netatmo devices using Siri and Apple’s HomeKit, an Amazon Echo device and anything that comes with Alexa, Google Home and now Messenger.

You’ll be able to type straightforward queries, such as “turn on the lights in the living room” and “adjust the temperature in the bedroom to 72°.” But the chatbot will also handle more complex queries, such as “who’s at home right now” and “what’s the weather like right now.” Netatmo says that the chatbot is going to get better over time once you start using it. I’m still not sure the connected home is going to happen. But I believe people will need many different ways to control their devices. There won’t be an Amazon Echo in every single room, and it’s also quite convenient to control your home while you’re already texting a friend. I hope Netatmo is going to release its chatbot in more messaging apps though.

The company first started with a sophisticated connected weather station but has since expanded to more product lines. Netatmo now sells indoor and outdoor security cameras, connected thermostats and radiator valves, an air quality monitoring device. Last year, the company announced a couple of partnerships with existing home appliance brands to connect everything in your home. For instance, home makers can now buy connected switches from Legrand and connected windows from Velux. This program is called “with Netatmo”.

Chances are you won’t change your window just so that it closes automatically when it rains. That’s why Netatmo targets construction companies that want to build and sell connected homes from day one. So far BNP Paribas Real Estate and Vinci Immobilier have built around 140 apartments with Netatmo solutions. So it’s not a huge market for now, but the company is going to roll out connected radiators with Groupe Muller called Intuiv with Netatmo. It’s a smart heating device that automatically adjust the temperature based on user habits.

Netatmo has developed a connected module that is compatible with many different Groupe Muller radiators that have been sold since 2000. Slowly but surely, Netatmo is expanding its product range to all sorts of appliances and use cases.

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Nissan new technology allows car to read your mind to boost reaction times

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

Nissan’s latest research project is ‘brain-to-vehicle’ (aka ‘B2V’) tech that could have your next car anticipating your driving reactions before you can even translate them into a turn of the wheel or applying the brake. The neural interface, which can not only improve reaction times, but also manage cabin comforts based on signals it takes from your brain, is one of the things Nissan will be showing off at CES this year.

The automaker shared a look at its B2V tech ahead of the show, demonstrating how it improves reaction times by around 0.2 to 0.5 seconds, which, while a seemingly small period of time, could actually make a big difference on the road, where split-second decision-making can mean the difference between accidents and narrowly avoiding the same.

Anticipating things like braking, applying the accelerator, or anticipating turns, Nissan could develop great advanced driver assistance (ADAS) features, or it could help bridge the gap between semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles more safely. It could also help with non-driving functions; Nissan imagines being able to detect discomfort from a driver, which could lead to changing the way the vehicle drives in order to fit the driver’s expectations – and potentially using augmented reality to change what the driver sees to make the driving environment more amenable to safe conduct on the road.

Nissan will show off aspects of the tech using a driving simulator at CES, so attendees will get a chance to see what this cold look like in practice. It sounds like the premise for a ‘Black Mirror’ episode, but it could be something that improves ADAS now and paves the way for much smarter and more capable fully autonomous driving down the road, thanks to the data it provides.

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