24 Sep 2019

TechBits, Sep 24, 2019

1. Facebook acquires startup building neural monitoring armband

  • CTRL-labs developed a noninvasive neural interface that is pitched as fundamentally reimagining how humans and machines collaborate. The company’s technology allows developers to address issues of immersion and control in the fields of X Reality, robotics, productivity, and clinical research.
  • CTRL-labs’ main product, CTRL-kit, is a wireless electromyography device that’s said to translate neural signals into control. Using the CTRL-kit software development kit and application programming interface, developers can begin integrating neural control into their applications.

2. Blockchain card game Gods Unchained raises $15M in funding

  • Immutable, a company formerly known as Fuel Games that makes games that use distributed ledger blockchain technology to create player-owned assets, announced today that it has raised $15 million in new funding.
  • The company’s flagship game “Gods Unchained” launched a public beta in July features playable digital cards similar to the hit game “Hearthstone” published by Blizzard Entertainment Inc. The project is led by Chris Clay, the former director of “Magic the Gathering: Arena,” another digital card game played online that’s modeled after a physical trading card game.
  • The company intends to use the money not just to continue to develop its card game, but also to build out the Immutable Platform, an open-source blockchain toolkit that will permit developers to create “immutable assets.” This asset type will allow players to truly own in-game items like cards, skins, weapons, virtual clothing and more types of digital “things.”

3. Facebook buys Servicefriend, an Israeli chatbot startup, for Libra customer service

  • Israeli chatbot startup Servicefriend has been acquired by Facebook Inc. to help it provide customer service for its forthcoming Libra cryptocurrency and related Calibra digital wallet service.
  • The news was first reported Saturday by TechCrunch. Facebook neither confirmed nor denied the acquisition, saying in a canned statement reminiscent of Apple Inc. that “we acquire smaller tech companies from time to time” and that “we don’t always discuss our plans.”

4. Presto establishes formal community under the Linux Foundation

  • The open-source Structured Query Language engine Presto is getting its own project within the Linux Foundation.
  • The Presto Foundation, as it’s called, will be organized under a standard open and neutral governance model, with its main goal being to attract more users to the community and scale adoption of Presto in the enterprise.

5. Cisco working with a startup – SingularityNET, to make humanlike ‘artificial general intelligence’ real

  • SingularityNET, a startup that bills itself as a “decentralized artificial intelligence” company, said today it’s working with networking giant Cisco Systems Inc. on an ambitious project to create more advanced AI technologies that will soon be able to surpass humans in their ability to learn and perform new tasks.
  • The partnership is a strong validation of SingularityNET’s technologies, which include a blockchain-based, decentralized marketplace for AI algorithms, and various deep neural net models for computer vision and language understanding. Its biggest project, however, is a customized version of the OpenCog Advanced General Intelligence engine, an architecture for robot and virtual embodied cognition that defines a set of interacting components designed to give rise to “human-equivalent AGI.”

6. Station head a Social radio startup moves beyond live broadcasts

  • Station head, the mobile app that turns its users into streaming radio DJs, got a big upgrade today. Where Stationhead DJs were previously limited to broadcasting live, they can now record their shows, making them available on-demand for anyone to listen later.
  • The idea behind Stationhead is to democratize and recapture the personality of traditional radio broadcasts — the kind of conversation and personal connection that’s missing from a playlist.
  • The app includes features like the ability to call guests to join the show and integration with Spotify and Apple Music. For Station head, that means it doesn’t have to make its own licensing deals with the music labels; for listeners, it means that when a DJ plays a song, you’re hearing it stream from the music service of your choice.

7. Unity launches cloud testing with new Simulation product

  • For the past several years, Unity’s valuation has ballooned alongside their public ambitions to become essential to customers beyond game developers.
  • One of the more interesting use cases of the real-time rendering game engine had been helping companies train their systems inside a virtual environment. This has become a key part of the workflows for robotics startups and self-driving car companies that build technologies that need to be trained repeatedly on ever-changing circumstances.

8. Amazon’s Echo Show can now identify and describe household pantry items held in front of its camera

  • Amazon is introducing a new feature to its Alexa Show device designed to help blind and other low-vision customers identify common household pantry items by holding them in front of Alexa’s camera and asking what it is. The feature uses a combination of computer vision and machine learning techniques in order to recognize the objects the Echo Show sees.
  • The Echo Show is the version of the Alexa-powered smart speaker that tends to sit in customers’ kitchens because it helps them with other kitchen tasks, like setting timers, watching recipe videos or enjoying a little music or TV while they cook.

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