Tech

Google makes $550M strategic investment in Chinese e-commerce firm JD.com

Google has been increasing its presence in China in recent times, and today it has continued that push by agreeing to a strategic partnership with e-commerce firm JD.com which will see Google purchase $550 million of shares in the Chinese firm. Google has made investments in China, released products there and opened up offices that include an AI hub, but now it is working with JD.com largely outside of China. In a joint release, the companies said they would “collaborate on a range of strategic initiatives, including joint development of retail solutions” in Europe, the U.S. and Southeast Asia. The goal here is to merge JD.com’s experience and technology in supply chain and logistics — in China, it has opened warehouses that use robots rather than workers — with Google’s customer reach, da...

Blockchain technology could be the great equalizer for American cities

Brooks Rainwater Contributor More posts by this contributor Do cities still want a sharing economy? As tech startups surge in cities, inclusive economic growth must be a priority The city of Austin is currently piloting a program in which its 2,000 homeless residents will be given a unique identifier that’s safely and securely recorded on the blockchain. This identifier will help individuals consolidate their records and seek out crucial services. Service providers will also be able to access the information. If successful, we’ll have a new, more efficient way to communicate and ensure that the right people are at the table to help the homeless. in Austin and around the country, it seems that blockchain technology is opening a range of opportunities for city service delivery and operations...

After twenty years of Salesforce, what Marc Benioff got right and wrong about the cloud

Grant Miller Contributor As we enter the 20th year of Salesforce, there’s an interesting opportunity to reflect back on the change that Marc Benioff created with the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model for enterprise software with his launch of Salesforce.com. This model has been validated by the annual revenue stream of SaaS companies, which is fast approaching $100 billion by most estimates, and it will likely continue to transform many slower-moving industries for years to come. However, for the cornerstone market in IT — large enterprise-software deals — SaaS represents less than 25 percent of total revenue, according to most market estimates. This split is even evident in the most recent high profile “SaaS” acquisition of GitHub by Microsoft, with over 50 percent of GitHub’s revenue co...

Original Content podcast: ‘Queer Eye’ season two is even more of a tearjerker

It’s only been a couple months since we reviewed the first season of Netflix’s revival of Queer Eye, but the show’s Fab Five are already back with another eight episodes where they remake the homes, wardrobes and lives. For season two, however, they mix things up a little — not only does the format feel more varied, but the folks being helped now include a woman and a transgendered man. On the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we’re joined by Henry Pickavet (editorial director at TechCrunch and co-host of the CTRL+T podcast) to discuss the show. We’re all fans: Queer Eye has its shortcomings, but it really works for us, with multiple episodes ending with tears, on- and off-screen. We also recap some of the latest streaming and entertainment news, including AT&T’s acquisit...

The techlash

People hate hubris and hypocrisy more than they hate evil, which is, I think, why we’re seeing the beginnings of a bipartisan cultural backlash against the tech industry. A backlash which is wrongly conceived and wrongly targeted … but not entirely unfounded. It’s hard to shake the sense that, as an industry, we are currently abdicating some of our collective responsibility to the world. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk do a ton of objectively bad stuff, but I just want to be clear that the mere act of holding onto that much money in a world with this much inequality is in itself a brutally evil action, and alone makes them bad people. — Joseph Fink (@PlanetofFinks) June 13, 2018 I don’t want to overstate the case. The tech industry remained the single most trusted entity in America as recently as...

TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield is coming soon to Beirut, São Paolo and Lagos

Everyone knows there are thriving startup communities outside of obvious hubs, like San Francisco, Berlin, Bangalore and Beijing, but they don’t always get the support they deserve. Last year, TechCrunch took a major page from its playbook, the Startup Battlefield competition, and staged the event in Nairobi, Kenya to find the best early stage startup in Sub-Saharan Africa, and also to Sydney, Australia, to find the same for Australia and New Zealand. Both were successes, thanks to talented founders and the hard traveling TechCrunch team. And now we’re pleased to announce that we’re stepping up our commitment to emerging ecosystems. TechCrunch is once again teaming up with Facebook, our partner for last year’s Nairobi event, to bring the Startup Battlefield to three major cities representi...

Facebook’s new AI research is a real eye-opener

There are plenty of ways to manipulate photos to make you look better, remove red eye or lens flare, and so on. But so far the blink has proven a tenacious opponent of good snapshots. That may change with research from Facebook that replaces closed eyes with open ones in a remarkably convincing manner. It’s far from the only example of intelligent “in-painting,” as the technique is called when a program fills in a space with what it thinks belongs there. Adobe in particular has made good use of it with its “context-aware fill,” allowing users to seamlessly replace undesired features, for example a protruding branch or a cloud, with a pretty good guess at what would be there if it weren’t. But some features are beyond the tools’ capacity to replace, one of which is eyes. Their detailed and ...

First look at Instagram’s self-policing Time Well Spent tool

Are you Overgramming? Instagram is stepping up to help you manage overuse rather than leaving it to iOS and Android’s new screen time dashboards. Last month after TechCrunch first reported Instagram was prototyping a Usage Insights feature, the Facebook sub-company’s CEO Kevin System confirmed its forthcoming launch. Tweeting our article, Systrom wrote “It’s true . . . We’re building tools that will help the IG community know more about the time they spend on Instagram – any time should be positive and intentional . . . Understanding how time online impacts people is important, and it’s the responsibility of all companies to be honest about this. We want to be part of the solution. I take that responsibility seriously.” Now we have our first look at the tool via Jane Manchun Wong, who’s re...

VCs serve up a large helping of cash to startups disrupting food

Joanna Glasner Contributor More posts by this contributor Scaling startups are setting up secondary hubs in these cities Here is where CEOs of heavily funded startups went to school Here is what your daily menu might look like if recently funded startups have their way. You’ll start the day with a nice, lightly caffeinated cup of cheese tea. Chase away your hangover with a cold bottle of liver-boosting supplement. Then slice up a few strawberries, fresh-picked from the corner shipping container. Lunch is full of options. Perhaps a tuna sandwich made with a plant-based, tuna-free fish. Or, if you’re feeling more carnivorous, grab a grilled chicken breast fresh from the lab that cultured its cells, while crunching on a side of mushroom chips. And for extra protein, how about a brownie? Dinne...

UK report warns DeepMind Health could gain “excessive monopoly power”

DeepMind’s foray into digital health services continues to raise concerns. The latest worries are voiced by a panel of external reviewers appointed by the Google-owned AI company to report on its operations after its initial data-sharing arrangements with the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) ran into a major public controversy in 2016. The DeepMind Health Independent Reviewers’ 2018 report flags a series of risks and concerns, as they see it, including the potential for DeepMind Health to be able to “exert excessive monopoly power” as a result of the data access and streaming infrastructure that’s bundled with provision of the Streams app — and which, contractually, positions DeepMind as the access-controlling intermediary between the structured health data and any other third parties th...

Crown, a new app from Tinder’s parent company, turns dating into a game

If you’re already resentful of online dating culture and how it turned finding companionship into a game, you may not be quite ready for this: Crown, a new dating app that actually turns getting matches into a game. Crown is the latest project to launch from Match Group, the operator of a number of dating sites and apps including Match, Tinder, Plenty of Fish, OK Cupid, and others. The app was thought up by Match Product Manager Patricia Parker, who understands first-hand both the challenges and the benefits of online dating – Parker met her husband online, so has direct experience in the world of online dating. Crown won Match Group’s internal “ideathon,” and was then developed in-house by a team of millennial women, with a goal of serving women’s needs in particular. The main problem Cro...

Teaching computers to plan for the future

As humans, we’ve gotten pretty good at shaping the world around us. We can choose the molecular design of our fruits and vegetables, travel faster and farther and stave off life-threatening diseases with personalized medical care. However, what continues to elude our molding grasp is the airy notion of “time” — how to see further than our present moment, and ultimately how to make the most of it. As it turns out, robots might be the ones that can answer this question. Computer scientists from the University of Bonn in Germany wrote this week that they were able to design a software that could predict a sequence of events up to five minutes in the future with accuracy between 15 and 40 percent. These values might not seem like much on paper, but researcher Dr. Juergen Gall says it represent...