Archive | December, 2013

Is Google Ushering in a Robotics Future?

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Is Google Ushering in a Robotics Future?

From self-driving cars that were said to be safer than any human driver, to biotech research aimed to fight ageing, Google is known for its revolutionary moonshots. Last week, the company took another technological leap into robots. Google acquired Boston Robotics, the company that makes fearsome, military machines such as, Big Dog, Atlas and Cheetah, a robot that has been touted to run faster than Usain Bolt. This latest deal is Google’s eighth robotics acquisition. Based on news reports, the acquisitions make for an assorted product lineup that includes walking humanoids, jumping robots, assembly line robots, special-effects cameras for making movies, and animal-like androids for the military. Andy Rubin, the head of Google’s robotics division, is keeping mum over the specifics of this new project. It may not be clear exactly where Google goes from here but this much is certain: the latest deal shows just how valuable and significant artificial intelligence is becoming.

Saving the World is Big Business

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Saving the World is Big Business

Palantir Technologies, the secretive software startup that helps governments around the world fight fraud and terrorism via data mining, has raised up to $107.8 million as part of a new funding round. The latest round has brought its total funding to over $800 million at a whopping valuation of $9 billion. Clients such as, the NSA, the FBI and the CIA, along with corporate customers like the Bank of America and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, use Palantir software to detect financial frauds, terrorists plots and the other big-scale criminal activities.

Palantir is named after the palantir from JRR Tolkien’s novel, Lord of the Rings. The palantir are seeing stones that allow the holder to look at any part of the world. The Tolkien reference does not end there. In the press, Palantir executives have proudly revealed that their job is to battle evil and “save The Shire.” For a company being funded by massive amounts of money from powerful government institutions, the big question is, can Palantir truly remain independent from its financiers? After all, according to the Lord of the Rings, the palantir can be used for both good and evil, depending on who is controlling the stone.

The Future of Search

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‘The Future of Search

Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology is rapidly changing the way we search the web and obtain information. Apple’s Siri, a voice-operated “personal assistant”, is capable of answering a wide array of questions from both iPhone and iPad users. Google has their Google Glass product, a wearable computer that displays information instantly via natural language voice commands. It seems Yahoo now wants a piece of the action as well. Last week, Yahoo acquired SkyPhrase, a natural language processing company. According to news reports, SkyPhrase’s team will be joining Yahoo Labs in New York and will work on developing a natural language user interface for Yahoo products. This latest acquisition underscores Yahoo’s increasing focus on mobile, and supports the growing theory that the future of search appears to be NLP.

‘Tis the Season for Gifting

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‘Tis the Season for Gifting

Just in time for the holidays, online gifting startups have been getting a lot of attention from investors. Last week, Jifiti, a mobile app that allows users to scan the barcode of an item in a store and turn it into a digital gift card, has received $2.5 million in funding, while Addwish, a free online gift registry raised $1.8 million. Bond, a gift-giving mobile app that allows users to purchase a gift and send a handwritten note, also brought its platform online last week.

By leveraging the convergence of the Internet, mobile technology and social networks, businesses like Jifiti, Addwish and Bond will continue to innovate the way consumers buy and receive gifts.