17 Aug

Amazon reportedly looks to enter the brick-and-mortar cinema business

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Amazon has already established brick-and-mortar stores selling its products and groceries, and now it apparently wants a slice of the cinema business.

As reported by Bloomberg, Amazon is looking to acquire Landmark Theatres, which claims to be the largest cinema chain dedicated to independent and foreign films, with 52 theatres in 27 markets.  

The e-commerce giant is reportedly working with other suitors to buy the chain from Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner-backed Wagner/Cuban Cos. There have been no decisions made, and with talks still to come, it’s not set in stone that a deal will go ahead. Read more…

More about Entertainment, Movies, Amazon, Cinema, and Entertainment
Source: Mashable

17 Aug

Angela from 'The Office' called out her nephew for his Tinder photo

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Angela is so over this. 

James, 25, is a salesman at Toyota. He is a ”life long musician” and can ”get along with just about anyone.” He’s a former firefighter, but you can still call him a fireman because he’s still got the ability to ”turn the hoes on.” 

Oh, and Angela from The Office is his aunt. 

James’ Tinder profile features a brightly lit selfie with the one and only Angela Kinsey, who played the perpetually unamused Angela Martin. James had been using it to get those sweet right swipes — and then Kinsey called out her nephew in an Instagram story: ”Nephews … Do not put me in your @tinder profile photos. K. Thx. Byeeeee.”  Read more…

More about Twitter, Tinder, The Office, Culture, and Web Culture
Source: Mashable

17 Aug

Smashing Pumpkins and Smash Mouth are arguing over the 'Shrek' soundtrack

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The Shrek soundtrack is the arguably the quintessential album of the 2000s, rivaled only by the magnum opus of movie soundtracks, Shrek 2.

The opening scene — from Shrek bursting out of his outhouse to shattering a mirror with his ogreish grin — wouldn’t be the same without Smash Mouth’s iconic ”someBODY once told me.” Smash Mouth’s ”All Star” became an absolute banger, constantly resurfacing through memes and remixes. And their cover of the Monkees’ ”I’m a Believer” sweetly accompanies Shrek and Fiona through their swamp wedding as they party with the rest of the fairytale creatures.

More about Twitter, Shrek, Culture, and Web Culture


Source: Mashable

17 Aug

Teen hacks Apple and stashes files in folder named 'hacky hack hack'

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Ah, teens.  

Smart enough to hack into the most valuable company in the world, not smart enough to hide their stolen files anywhere other than a folder named ”hacky hack hack.”

A teenager in Melbourne pleaded guilty after hacking into Apple’s corporate computer network, where he accessed customer files and downloaded 90 GB of data. 

Apple noticed the breach and contacted the FBI, which notified the Australian Federal Police, according to The Age. Law enforcement raided the teen’s home and found two Apple laptops with serial numbers that matched those on the devices used in the hack.  Read more…

More about Apple, Melbourne, Hacks, Tech, and Cybersecurity
Source: Mashable

17 Aug

Remember the driver disguised as a car seat? That helped Ford develop a self-driving 'language.'

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That man who dressed as a car seat to make it look like he was in a self-driving car last year was, in fact, not a terrible Halloween costume, but part of a study for Ford’s self-driving cars. 

At the time, pesky reporters quickly uncovered that the disguised driver was with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Now we also know that that covert driving attire was to help Ford’s self-driving car team shape a ”common language” for cars to ”talk” to pedestrians and other people on the road.

That's not a car seat, that's a man!

That’s not a car seat, that’s a man!

Image: ford

This all came out this week when Ford released its self-driving safety report, in which it explained how the ”simulated” autonomous experiences with the disguised driver in a seat suit led to its windshield light bar, which lights up with different patterns to show what it the car is doing. A back-and-forth white light means the car is yielding. When the car is about to go, the white light quickly blinks. Ford said it’s trying to find a way to communicate that doesn’t use text. Read more…

More about Autonomous Cars, Ford, Safety, Self Driving Car, and Tech


Source: Mashable

16 Aug

DoorDash raises another $250M, nearly triples valuation to $4B

Food delivery startup DoorDash announced this afternoon that it has raised $250 million, just five months since the company announced a $535 million round.

Why raise more money so soon? CEO Tony Xu told Axios that he wasn’t actively looking for additional investment, but was open to investor interest because it could help the company expand more quickly. (Maybe he’ll have more to say about those plans at Disrupt SF next month.)

The new funding was led by Coatue Management and DST Global. It sounds like the terms were pretty appealing too, with the valuation growing from $1.4 billion to $4 billion.

In a blog post, the company said it’s had a good 2018, with deliveries increasing 250 percent year-over-year, restaurant chains like Chipotle and IHOP signing up and last week’s launch of the DashPass subscription service, where you can pay $9.99 per month to get unlimited free deliveries.

“As we grow, we will stay true to our values and our mission of connecting people with possibility  —  and, trust us, we’re just getting started,” DoorDash wrote.

Source: Tech Crunch Mobile

16 Aug

Autonomous retail startup Inokyo’s first store feels like stealing

Inokyo wants to be the indie Amazon Go. It’s just launched its prototype cashierless autonomous retail store. Cameras track what you grab from shelves, and with a single QR scan of its app on your way in and out of the store, you’re charged for what you got.

Inokyo‘s first store is now open on Mountain View’s Castro Street selling an array of bougie kombuchas, snacks, protein powders and bath products. It’s sparse and a bit confusing, but offers a glimpse of what might be a commonplace shopping experience five years from now. You can get a glimpse yourself in our demo video below:

“Cashierless stores will have the same level of impact on retail as self-driving cars will have on transportation,” Inokyo co-founder Tony Francis tells me. “This is the future of retail. It’s inevitable that stores will become increasingly autonomous.”

Inokyo (rhymes with Tokyo) is now accepting signups for beta customers who want early access to its Mountain View store. The goal is to collect enough data to dictate the future product array and business model. Inokyo is deciding whether it wants to sell its technology as a service to other retail stores, run its own stores or work with brands to improve their product’s positioning based on in-store sensor data on custom behavior.

We knew that building this technology in a lab somewhere wouldn’t yield a successful product,” says Francis. “Our hypothesis here is that whoever ships first, learns in the real world and iterates the fastest on this technology will be the ones to make these stores ubiquitous.” Inokyo might never rise into a retail giant ready to compete with Amazon and Whole Foods. But its tech could even the playing field, equipping smaller businesses with the tools to keep tech giants from having a monopoly on autonomous shopping experiences.

It’s about what cashiers do instead

Amazon isn’t as ahead as we assumed,” Francis remarks. He and his co-founder Rameez Remsudeen took a trip to Seattle to see the Amazon Go store that first traded cashiers for cameras in the U.S. Still, they realized, “This experience can be magical.” The two met at Carnegie Mellon through machine learning classes before they went on to apply that knowledge at Instagram and Uber. The two decided that if they jumped into autonomous retail soon enough, they could still have a say in shaping its direction.

Next week, Inokyo will graduate from Y Combinator’s accelerator that provided its initial seed funding. In six weeks during the program, they found a retail space on Mountain View’s main drag, studied customer behaviors in traditional stores, built an initial product line and developed the technology to track what users are taking off the shelves.

Here’s how the Inokyo store works. You download its app and connect a payment method, and you get a QR code that you wave in front of a little sensor as you stroll into the shop. Overhead cameras will scan your body shape and clothing without facial recognition in order to track you as you move around the store. Meanwhile, on-shelf cameras track when products are picked up or put back. Combined, knowing who’s where and what’s grabbed lets it assign the items to your cart. You scan again on your way out, and later you get a receipt detailing the charges.

Originally, Inokyo actually didn’t make you scan on the way out, but it got the feedback that customers were scared they were actually stealing. The scan-out is more about peace of mind than engineering necessity. There is a subversive pleasure to feeling like, “well, if Inokyo didn’t catch all the stuff I chose, that’s not my problem.” And if you’re overcharged, there’s an in-app support button for getting a refund.

Inokyo co-founders (from left): Tony Francis and Rameez Remsudeen

Inokyo was accurate in what it charged me despite me doing a few switcharoos with products I nabbed. But there were only about three people in the room at the time. The real test for these kinds of systems are when a rush of customers floods in and cameras have to differentiate between multiple similar-looking people. Inokyo will likely need to be more than 99 percent accurate to be more of a help than a headache. An autonomous store that constantly over- or undercharges would be more trouble than it’s worth, and patrons would just go to the nearest classic shop.

Just because autonomous retail stores will be cashier-less doesn’t mean they’ll have no staff. To maximize cost-cutting, they could just trust that people won’t loot it. However, Inokyo plans to have someone minding the shop to make sure people scan in the first place and to answer questions about the process. But there’s also an opportunity in reassigning labor from being cashiers to concierges that can recommend the best products or find what’s the right fit for the customer. These stores will be judged by the convenience of the holistic experience, not just the tech. At the very least, a single employee might be able to handle restocking, customer support and store maintenance once freed from cashier duties.

The Amazon Go autonomous retail store in Seattle is equipped with tons of overhead cameras

While Amazon Go uses cameras in a similar way to Inokyo, it also relies on weight sensors to track items. There are plenty of other companies chasing the cashierless dream. China’s BingoBox has nearly $100 million in funding and has more than 300 stores, though they use less sophisticated RFID tags. Fellow Y Combinator startup Standard Cognition has raised $5 million to equip old-school stores with autonomous camera-tech. AiFi does the same, but touts that its cameras can detect abnormal behavior that might signal someone is a shoplifter.

The store of the future seems like more and more of a sure thing. The race’s winner will be determined by who builds the most accurate tracking software, easy-to-install hardware and pleasant overall shopping flow. If this modular technology can cut costs and lines without alienating customers, we could see our local brick-and-mortars adapt quickly. The bigger question than if or even when this future arrives is what it will mean for the millions of workers who make their living running the checkout lane.

Source: Tech Crunch Mobile

16 Aug

Facebook cracks down on opioid dealers after years of neglect

Facebook’s role in the opioid crisis could become another scandal following yesterday’s release of harrowing new statistics from the Center for Disease Control. It estimated there were nearly 30,000 synthetic opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017, up from roughly 20,000 the year before. When recreational drugs like Xanax and OxyContin are adulterated with the more powerful synthetic opioid Fentanyl, the misdosage can prove fatal. Xanax, OxyContin and other pain killers are often bought online, with dealers promoting themselves on social media including Facebook.

Hours after the new stats were reported by The New York Times and others, a source spotted that Facebook’s internal search engine stopped returning posts, Pages and Groups for searches of “OxyContin,” “Xanax,” “Fentanyl” and other opioids, as well as other drugs like “LSD.” Only videos, often news reports deploring opiate abuse, and user profiles whose names match the searches, are now returned. This makes it significantly harder for potential buyers or addicts to connect with dealers through Facebook.

However, some dealers have taken to putting drug titles into their Facebook profile names, allowing accounts like “Fentanyl Kingpin Kilo” to continue showing up in search results. It’s not exactly clear when the search changes occurred.

On some search result pages for queries like “buy xanax,” Facebook is now showing a “Can we help?” box that says “If you or someone you know struggles with opioid misuse, we would like to help you find ways to get free and confidential treatment referrals, as well as information about substance use, prevention and recovery.” A “Get support” button opens the site of The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. department of health and human services that provides addiction resources. Facebook had promised back in June that this feature was coming.

Facebook search results for many drug names now only surface people and video news reports, and no longer show posts, Pages or Groups, which often offered access to dealers

When asked, Facebook confirmed that it’s recently made it harder to find content that facilitates the sale of opioids on the social network. Facebook tells me it’s constantly updating its approach to thwart bad actors who look for new ways to bypass its safeguards. The company confirms it’s now removing content violating its drug policies, and it’s blocked hundreds of terms associated with drug sales from showing results other than links to news about drug abuse awareness. It’s also removed thousands of terms from being suggested as searches in its typeahead.

Prior to recent changes, buyers could easily search for drugs and find posts from dealers with phone numbers to contact

Regarding the “Can we help?” box, Facebook tells me this resource will be available on Instagram in the coming weeks, and it provided this statement:

We recently launched the “Get Help Feature” in our Facebook search function that directs people looking for help or attempting to purchase illegal substances to the SAMHSA national helpline. When people search for help with opioid misuse or attempt to buy opioids, they will be prompted with content at the top of the search results page that will ask them if they would like help finding free and confidential treatment referrals. This will then direct them to the SAMHSA National Helpline. We’ve partnered with the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration to identify these search terms and will continue to review and update to ensure we are showing this information at the most relevant times.

Facebook’s new drug abuse resource feature

The new actions follow Facebook shutting down some hashtags like “#Fentanyl” on Instagram back in April that could let buyers connect with dealers. That only came after activists like Glassbreakers’ Eileen Carey aggressively criticized the company, demanding change. In some cases, when users would report Facebook Groups’ or Pages’ posts as violating its policy prohibiting the sale of regulated goods like drugs, the posts would be removed, but Facebook would leave up the Pages. This mirrors some of the problems it’s had with Infowars around determining the threshold of posts inciting violence or harassing other users necessary to trigger a Page or profile suspension or deletion.

Facebook in some cases deleted posts selling drugs, but not the Pages or Groups carrying them

Before all these changes, users could find tons of vendors illegally selling opioids through posts, photos and Pages on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook also introduced a new ads policy last week requiring addiction treatment centers that want to market to potential patients be certified first to ensure they’re not actually dealers preying on addicts.

Much of the recent criticism facing Facebook has focused on it failing to prevent election interference, privacy scandals and the spread of fake news, plus how hours of browsing its feeds can impact well-being. But its negligence regarding illegal opioid sales has likely contributed to some of the 72,000 drug overdose deaths in America last year. It serves as another example of how Facebook’s fixation on the positive benefits of social networking blinded it to the harsh realities of how its service can be misused.

Last November, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that learning of the depths of the opioid crisis was the “biggest surprise” from his listening tour visiting states across the U.S, and that it was “really saddening to see.”

Zuckerberg meets with Opioid crisis caregivers and the families of victims in Ohio in April 2017

Five months later, Representative David B. McKinley (R-W.VA) grilled Zuckerberg about Facebook’s responsibility surrounding the crisis. “Your platform is still being used to circumvent the law and allow people to buy highly addictive drugs without a prescription” McKinley said during Zuckerberg’s congressional hearings in April. “With all due respect, Facebook is actually enabling an illegal activity, and in so doing, you are hurting people. Would you agree with that statement?” The CEO admitted “there are a number of areas of content that we need to do a better job policing on our service.”

Yet the fact that he called the crisis a “surprise” but failed to take stronger action when some of the drugs causing the epidemic were changing hands via his website is something Facebook hasn’t fully atoned for, nor done enough to stop. The new changes should be the start of a long road to recovery for Facebook itself.

Source: Tech Crunch Mobile

16 Aug

Tonal launches at-home digital strength-training system

If you want to have a brutal workout from the comfort of your own home — and have about $3,000 to spend — look no further. Tonal, a strength-training system powered by electromagnetism resistance technology and machine learning, is launching today to let you get ripped and in shape without having to go to the gym.

There are two key features that make Tonal different from the weightlifting machines you’ll find in the gym. For one, there aren’t actual weights. Instead, Tonal uses electromagnetism to simulate and control weight.

So when you’re doing a bicep curl, for example, “the thing pulling back on you isn’t gravity — it’s an electromagnetic field controlled by a computer algorithm,” Tonal CEO and founder Aly Orady told me at the company’s San Francisco headquarters last week. “It’s digitally controlled weight.”

The other key feature is the built-in personal trainer. For $49 a month, Tonal members get access to personal training sessions, recommended programs and workouts.

“It’s like having an entire gym and a personal trainer in your home,” Orady said. “That’s a pretty big claim, but I’m going to show it to you and you’re going to love it.”

He was right. I loved it in a pure-hate kind of way. I had a chance to try it out and I feel confident saying I had the worst day of my year — but, you know, in a good, yet sadistic way. It’s just that I’m horribly out of shape and this machine isn’t messing around.

Tonal works by first determining your baseline strength with a 10-minute test. The test entails completing four movements (seated lat pulldown, seated overhead press, bench press and neutral grip dead lift) as fast and as powerful as you can. From there, Tonal gives you a baseline score for your core, upper body and lower body.

As you can see from my results below, I’m very strong.

But seriously — my trainer told me I was very strong. From there, I completed my first workout. And that’s when I realized that while I may be strong, my endurance is non-existent.

As I made my way through my first workout, Tonal could automatically tell that I was on the struggle bus headed further into struggle town. That’s because Tonal was constantly monitoring the quality of my reps and, based on that, dynamically adjusted the weight.

Tonal, which mounts to your wall like a TV, is pretty pricey ($2,995), but it joins the likes of startups like Peloton and Mirror. Peloton is an internet-connected cycling bike that retails for $1,995 plus $39 a month for content, while Mirror is similarly an at-home device that lets you see video of a fitness instructor and classmates for exercises like barre, yoga and pilates. Mirror has raised $13 million from Spark Capital, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, First Round Capital and others. The company, however, has yet to launch its product and pricing.

Tonal is not disclosing its amount of funding, but has raised money from Mayfield, Shasta, Bolt Capital, Next Play Capital, Upside Partnership and others.

Source: Tech Crunch Startups

16 Aug

Credit Karma acquires mortgage platform Approved

Credit Karma, the service best known for providing free credit score monitoring and other financial advice (mostly to millennials), is getting into the mortgage business. The company today announced that it has acquired Approved, a mortgage platform that brings modern technology to a process that even today often still involves faxing documents back and forth. The companies did not disclose the financial details of the transaction.

At first glance, this may seem like a bit of an odd acquisition, given that Approved is mostly a service for banks and mortgage brokers. But it also makes perfect sense for Credit Karma to get into the mortgage business.

Indeed, Credit Karma Chief Product Officer Nikhyl Singhal told me that he sees this as the natural next step in the company’s evolution.

“As we’ve expanded, you’ve seen us move from credit cards as a way to help members with that part of their life to first personal loans to auto — meaning auto loans, auto insurance,” he said. “Today, we’re really talking more publicly about mortgage. Mortgage being for many of our members the most important financial decision they’ll make.”

It’s also no secret that Credit Karma’s largest user base is millennials. As they get older and start getting to the point where they consider buying a home (assuming they are in the financial position to do so), the company obviously wants to keep those users engaged on their platform and offer them more services.

Singhal also stressed that 80 percent of Credit Karma members are active on the service before they get a new mortgage — and Credit Karma obviously knows all of this because it is able to collect a lot of very detailed financial data about its users.

As Singhal noted, Credit Karma has been working on getting deeper into the mortgage business for about 18 months. “The acquisition is just the continuing effort of saying, ‘look, we’re serious about taking our scale and being that trusted destination for our members as it relates to helping them with their mortgage.’”

Credit Karma already offers some mortgage brokerage services, and today’s acquisition is meant to help speed up this process with the help of Approved’s technology. “What approved has spent a lot of time doing is working with lenders to help them automate and make them more efficient,” Singhal explained. A more efficient process, Singhal expects, means the lenders can reduce rates and save Credit Karma members money.

Approved CEO Andy Taylor and CTO Navtej Sadhal are both Redfin alums, so they know this business well. Taylor told me that he believes that Credit Karma will allow him to scale his service up beyond what a stand-alone company could’ve done. Taylor tells me that he sees Approved’s mission as helping consumers navigate the often tedious and painful world of getting a mortgage. “Moving to Credit Karma is going to immediately give us the sort of resources and immediate scale to continue to drive that mission-driven work,” he said. “We can reach significantly more people than we could otherwise. We can spend less time focusing in on the minutia of building the lender system and more time focusing on bringing transparency to the transaction and having a better loan application process.”

Source: Tech Crunch Startups