Who Cares What I Think (WCWIT) #23 : Launch Ticker Highlights…

Jason “@jason” Calacanis’ just plain excellent record of producing some seriously decent, useful content continues in his tech news feed, “Launch Ticker”. Sign up. This is one of the only newsletters I’ve ever actually read, let alone find incredibly useful, distilled and engrossing enough to quickly shape my macro tech thoughts — daily.

1. Catch Me On the Flip Flop

Uber brings Scheduled Rides to London; initially launched in Seattle, the service lets users book rides up to 30 days in advance — Link

Ifeel like this used to be a feature on Uber, but I may be recalling the paleolithic era, during college, in which I was using “Taxi Magic”. In either case, glad to see this back.

I’d also love to see easier means of calling an Uber for a friend, like a tag or toggle, rather than having to call the driver and explain our whole sitch… Probably all calls to drivers can be tagged internally as proxy use cases.

2. WhatsAaaaaaaaaaap

WhatsApp says it will begin sharing phone numbers and user analytics with Facebook; represents the first direct data-sharing between the services since Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014; the data will purportedly be used to improve friend suggestions, ads and for new business services — Link
Motherboard notes WhatsApp users can opt out of Facebook information sharing; users must select the “Read more” tab below the new terms of service, and uncheck the box; those who’ve already accepted the terms can go into settings and undo sharing within 30 days — Link

Well. At least there is a get out of this situation policy. I personally don’t mind my info being sold to advertisers who might be better able to decide not to bother throwing ad dollars at me, and those who I might actually find use for being able to find me.

I mean, why on Earth are you on Facebook or using What’s App if you don’t want to be trackable or integrated into a social networking system? Use Signal & Etherium — or all of them, like me.

3. Excedes Expectations

Recode profiles Tim Cook’s five years as Apple CEO; the firm has doubled profits under his tenure, while also increasing staff from 60k to about 110k; also notes uncertainties around future product hits, citing a decline in iPhone sales — Link

Tim Cook ain’t doin’ so bad after all. This is especially nice to see after his concerted humanitarian acts, and solid policies on user privacy, much stronger than in Steve Jobs’ day.

These numbers don’t mean that Apple’s place in this market is unshakable, by any means, given some recent competing developments in hardware & UX, but, at least in the current market, they are not only still killing it — but exceeding expectations.

4. Don’t GIF & Tell

Sports writer Jim Weber claims he was permanently banned from Twitter for posting three Olympics GIFs (the account has been reinstated); Weber says he received emails from Twitter and a note from the IOC before his suspension became a full ban; he also points to other instances of Olympic videos and GIFs still live on the web — Link

We talked about this policy at inception, but I definitely laughed at its enforceability. Which, it turns out, was proved both right and wrong. Having followed the highlights of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, BR, exclusively via casual browsing of GIFs on Imgur, it is clear that any millennial in attendance was uploading a robust stream — the standout moments trending for me, right into my daily dip into the zeitgeist.

But journalists were banned from presenting the media in the most easily translated form, and were hindered from competing on this front in very mercantilist fashion. I get that formal journalists ought to present a much higher quality product, and shouldn’t infringe on NBC’s (terribly handled) exclusivity on this 5000+ year old format — but you can’t achieve that by decree — you guys need to actually compete here, and not plug your ears and pretend that illogical agreements are gonna suffice here.

5. Hashtag Informed

Hash (iOS, Android) provides users with the latest trending stories; curates tweets to provide a visual stream of news updates — Link

So, I can see this being acquired by Twitter. This is certainly a well designed format for understanding the thrust of a story, or of all the stories in an hour/day very quickly, with the option to dive deeper.

This also particularly lends itself to Twitter’s short form native content — as well as a pretty great presentation of Medium content — in this modern magazine cover look. I think I just convinced myself to download it in the meantime.

6. What Will Become of Fiber?

Larry Page and Sergey Brin recently ordered Google Fiber to halve its team to reduce costs, according to sources for The Information; the unit, now known as Access, has paused Fiber rollouts and is reportedly exploring wireless broadband as a cheaper and more easily deployable option — Link

This is actually pretty surprising. I got so used to Googles and similar players (ie Amazon), just eating costs ad infinitum in order to establish market dominance, that I hadn’t considered they’d be sensitive to the insane costs of their Fiber strategy.

I know Ubiquiti is a great player in the international, powerful & cheap wifi space — created by a former Apple wifi router hardware developer, and that Facebook is exploring a similar path. Obviously, competition to bring the cheapest and most robust service to all corners of the Earth is a truly good, good thing — so, the more the merrier!

7. Shipping “The Interview” to NK ASAP

Shopping and delivery services marketplace Grabr (iOS) raises $3.5M seed led by led by RBV Capital’s Alexey Repik; a buyer seeking an item that’s difficult to find in their home country places request; travelers place bids to buy and ship/deliver; raised $4.5M to date — Link

Love it. An app for Gray Markets? Yes. Or even just a platform to access anything that have been either economically or politically too difficult to keep in a nation’s inventory is fantastic.

I know there are some European films that Google has even removed search results to, for reasons I can’t quite imagine, that I’d love to get my hands on. Il Concursante, some of the Takeshi Kitano films that are neither in digital download form nor US DVD licensed… In any case, really interested to see developments at Grabr.

8. Robots Dream of Emo Sheep

Short-form video startup Copper Studios raises $2.3M seed led by Accomplice with participation from Social Capital, others; the company’s Rheo app (tvOS) provides mood-based video streams, with categories including Laugh, Chill, Move; learns viewer preferences; plans mobile app — Link

So, I’m not seeing this one scale to a Hulu or YouTube competitor magnitude, but cerrrrtainly to gauge enough engagement to be acquired for such features as browsing video or music by emotion — probably serving as an awesome data source to inform virtual machines how to link content to emotional imprint, which is a terrifying and exciting thought.

Yeah, I’m seeing more of a YouTube / Alphabet acquisition for this purpose — if they can get enough users to make themselves more valuable than google just developing a doppelganger feature.

9. It Learns While We Sleep

Facebook open-sources computer vision tools DeepMask, SharpMask and MultiPathNet; the first two algorithms detect and segment objects in images, down to the pixel; MultiPathNet identifies the objects (man, dog, etc) — Link

Google has meta tagging for this purpose, but Facebook can use tags, titles, comments, shares, and a ton of other network centric tools to narrow down each piece of billions of images… They really do stand a chance at making headway here.

I know they are doubling down focus on AI, bots and Machine Learning, and I’m beginning to assume they’ll eventually focus more on data sales than ad sales somewhere down the line…

10. FAA Approves Flying Pizza-Bots

New Zealand approves Domino’s for drone pizza delivery tests; will work with delivery drone startup Flirtey, which recently completed the first FAA-approved commercial drone delivery in the US; Domino’s also hopes to test robotic delivery in New Zealand — Link

This is just rad. I’m sorry, but flying pizza robots just is rad. Ever since Domino’s media gaff with those two gross employees posting an outrage-inciting video to YouTube in… what was it, 2010?

Well ever since that event & the CEO’s quick subsequent redress of the event as an opportunity to revamp the brand, Domino’s has made some killer moves as a brand. If I weren’t predominantly based in NYC these days, I’d be ordering from them, just out of respect for their forward thinking brand leadership here.

11. Exo-Skeletons Are Soooo 2015

Harvard researchers develop the world’s first self-contained, entirely soft robot; the 3D-printed Octobot uses amicrofluidic logic circuit to control the flow of gas to the tentacles, generating movement; powered by chemical reaction, there are no batteries or other power source — Link

Oh my word. Would you just look at that lil’ monster? I’ve never seen such an adorable artificially sentience holster / harbinger of the techpocalypse. In all seriousness, this is an impressive stride in forms and format for 4D, programmable material. Looking forward to 2017 Kickstarters based on this new platform for consumer tech products.

12. 100 Years of Keeping America Pretty Great

Barack Obama narrates 360-degree video celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service; produced by National Geographic, Oculus Studios and Felix & Paul, the 11-minute video showcases features of Yosemite; now available on Gear VR and Facebook; coming to Rift — Link

This is just nice. Can’t we just appreciate nice things every once in a while?

13. Well Would Ya Just Look At That

Microsoft has applied for 611 AR patents in the past six years, more than any other tech firm, according to The Information; Samsung has filed for 374 in the same period, while Google has 230; Magic Leap has applied for 177 and Apple 116 — Link

By about double, Microsoft is investing in Augmenting Reality. I didn’t see that coming. This is actually kind of surprising, given the fact that only 9% of the developer community, the far & away minority, is working on their play in the VR space, the HoloLens.

14. Good. I Mean, Maybe, Iduuno.

Future iOS devices may capture video, photos and fingerprints on stolen iOS devices, according to a patent filing; the details suggest the tool would be activated “by the occurrence of one or more trigger conditions,” and that stored biometrics could be provided to others for identification — Link

This feels like an awesome development, so long as Tim Cook’s user privacy stances stay the same. Even as open as I like to be with my data and activity, I’d hate to think what could be done with an aggregate of anyone’s every google search, video watched, picture taken, etc. etc. in the hands of some abusive regimes.

I mean, what will happen if Chief Commanding Officer Trump finds out that I’ve like Brian Caplan’s latest talk on the benefits of open borders? I’ll be in big big trubbs, I reckon.

15. Is… Is this what you wanted?

Google adds simple, playable games to search results; searching for tic tac toe or solitaire returns interactive results — Link

Ican diggit.

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Funding Roundup Week To Date :

14 Deals — $238,100,000

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Denali Therapeutics
portfolio of therapeutic holdings:$130M Series B from Baillie Gifford.
BlueTalon
multi-platform cybersecurity provider: $16M Series A from Maverick Ventures.
SongKick
concert and band-tracking platform: $15M undisclosed from Access Industries.
Auth0
authenticity and identification platform: $15M Series B from Trinity Ventures.
Curology
online prescription skincare company: $15M Series B from Advance Vixeid Partners.
 
Symphony Commerce
cloud storage for e-commerce: $11M undisclosed from Charles River Ventures, Blue Cloud Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, et al.
Tempered Networks
identity-defined networking platform: $10M Series B from Rally Capital LLC.
SelfScore
AI analysis for credit scores: $7M Series A from Pelion Venture Partners.
Gobiquity
provides mobile health screening technology: $6M undisclosed from InterWest Partners.
 
RedShelf
educational software provider: $4M Series B from Rick Patterson.
Miami Bay Beverage
produces protein-infused water Trimino: $2.5M undisclosed from Vineyard Point Associates.
 
Genesys Talent
talent acquisition platform: $2.1M Seed from angels.
Nespris
platform to connect industry and education: $1M Seed from Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.
If we missed anything, post a comment on our public sheet or email fundings@launch.co

Again, definitely, definitely subscribe to J-Cal’s Launch Ticker for more information, less uninformed exposition, updated daily @launchticker.com

Tweet me at @ElizabethHunker to yell praise / threats / dadaist riffs at me on this post, or life in general.