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Day: July 11, 2019

YouTube is giving creators more ways to make money

YouTube is giving creators more ways to make money

July 11, 2019

YouTube is rolling out more ways for its creators to engage fans and generate revenue, the company announced today at the VidCon event in Anaheim, Calif. Last year, YouTube used the event to launch new products like channel memberships, merchandise shelves, premieres and more. This time around, it’s expanding several of those existing options with new features, while also introducing new products like Super Stickers and Learning Playlists — the latter which aims to promote the educational use of YouTube.

Super Stickers, meanwhile, is meant to complement the existing monetization tool, Super Chat.

Launched in January 2017, Super Chat lets fans pay to make their message stand out during a YouTuber’s live stream or premiere. Today, YouTube says Super Chat is now the No.1 revenue stream across nearly 20,000 channels — a 65% year-over-year increase.

More than 90,000 channels have used Super Chat to date, with some earning more than $400 per minute, thanks to the feature.

Given Super Chat’s traction, YouTube is introducing Super Stickers, which will launch in the next few months. Fans will be able to purchase these new, animated stickers during live streams and premieres in order to show creators how much they like their content.

The idea for Super Stickers seems to be inspired by gaming site Twitch’s Bits emotes and cheermotes, which also bring animated stickers into chat as a way of supporting video creators. However, YouTube’s Super Stickers will have a different look-and-feel, and will be offered across different languages and categories — including gaming, fashion and beauty, sports, music, food and more.

At last year’s VidCon, YouTube also introduced Channel Memberships — an expansion of YouTube Gaming’s previous Twitch-like “Sponsorship” model, where fans pay a subscription to gain access to special features associated with a favorite channel.

At present, fans …

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Making wearables matter: Blood pressure monitoring could be the tipping point

Making wearables matter: Blood pressure monitoring could be the tipping point

July 11, 2019

Today’s wearables are still designed for the healthy and wealthy, not those who could benefit the most. Medical wearables offer the potential to collect health data and improve health via a combination of real-time AI and expert human intervention. Apple’s announcement of FDA clearance of its Watch for screening for irregular heart rhythms was meant to be groundbreaking. But its medical value right now remains limited and controversial. What will make the promise into reality?

I believe the application that will make wearables medically matter is automated blood pressure monitoring. Blood pressure may not be sexy, but it’s a universally understood measurement and a clinically central one. Your doctor measures your blood pressure every single time you visit. Even those who don’t pay close attention to their health know that high blood pressure increases risk of heart attack and stroke, and lower blood pressure saves lives.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects between 30-50% of adult Americans, or 75-120 million people. It’s the No. 1 risk factor in deaths worldwide, and the No. 1 modifiable risk in heart disease and stroke, the top two worldwide causes of death. Despite this, only half of people with high blood pressure are lowering it enough, even with medications. Why? A big reason is lack of information.

Doctors advise everyone at risk to monitor their blood pressure, but few do it often enough, in large part because inflatable blood pressure cuffs, while universal, are uncomfortable and inconvenient. In fact, current medical guidelines recommend automated blood pressure monitoring to more accurately measure your blood pressure, but hardly anyone is willing to use a motorized cuff that squeezes your arm every 30 minutes …

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David Fincher will direct ‘Mank’ biopic for Netflix

David Fincher will direct ‘Mank’ biopic for Netflix

July 11, 2019

David Fincher will be directing his first feature film since 2014, and he’s making it for Netflix .

The director of “Seven” and “The Social Network” already helped kick off Netflix’s original content boom by directing episodes of “House of Cards” and “Mindhunter.” In fact, the popularity of Fincher’s films on Netflix was famously one of the reasons the streamer’s executives felt comfortable spending hundreds of millions of dollars on “House of Cards.”

As reported in Variety, Fincher’s new film is currently titled “Mank.” It will be a biopic starring Gary Oldman as screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, who shared credit (and the film’s only Academy Award) with director Orson Welles for writing “Citizen Kane.”

While it’s not clear what stance the film will take toward Mankiewicz and Welles, it’s worth noting that some cinephiles (including the critic Pauline Kael) have argued that Mankiewicz deserves more credit for the greatness of “Kane,” which is commonly described as the greatest movie of all time.

This sounds like a passion project for Fincher, particularly since the initial script was written years ago by his father Jack, who died in 2003.

It’s also a vein of film history that Netflix tapped last year by financing the completion of Welles’ final film, “The Other Side of the Wind.”

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Three great opportunities for startups in the entertainment space

Three great opportunities for startups in the entertainment space

July 11, 2019

With over-the-top (OTT) changing the way we consume entertainment across devices, most of the media attention is going to the big players trying to elbow their way into the streaming space with big new subscription services and original programming. Less discussed is the suite of technologies that pave the way for those services to connect to their audience and monetize the content.

Okay, it’s true video compression, identity management, analytics, front-end personalization and device-specific experience optimization are not the sexiest topics in the media world. But without those core features and functions, the OTT revolution would be dead in its tracks. And with the big providers focused on content development, user acquisition and business model optimization, development of those technologies is wide open for innovative startups.

As always, entrepreneurs should look for cracks and gaps in the existing processes to find better solutions. Right now, the biggest systemic pains in the emerging OTT ecosystem are around the complexity of the fragmented user experience – having to sign in and out of multiple systems to get to the content we want to watch – and around adapting old mass-audience advertising models to the new era of multi-device, multi-platform, personalized viewing.

Here are three areas where small, nimble startups could make a real contribution to the industry.

Enabling the evolving advertising model

Currently the streaming market is divided between ad-supported services and premium-fee subscription models, but that hard division is unlikely to survive the next wave of market disruption. Premium services like Netflix will need to introduce a lower-fee ad-based tier to expand their audience and compete with lower-priced offerings like Disney+. More fundamentally, streamers will need additional …

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Attend TC Sessions: Enterprise and score a free pass to Disrupt SF 2019

Attend TC Sessions: Enterprise and score a free pass to Disrupt SF 2019

July 11, 2019

We can’t wait to dig into the competitive, high-stakes world of enterprise software at TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019 on September 5 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. We’re channeling the excitement into creating extra ROI for you. How’s that work? Read on.

It starts with the $100 you’ll save when you buy your early-bird ticket. Here comes the extra part. For every ticket you buy to TC Sessions: Enterprise, we’ll register you for a free Expo-only pass to TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2019. Who doesn’t like free?

We expect more than 1,000 attendees — including some of the top minds, makers and investors in enterprise software — for a day-long intensive event focused on the promises and challenges of this massive $500 billion market. You can expect onstage interviews, exhibiting startups, breakout sessions, receptions and more. TechCrunch editors Frederic Lardinois, Ron Miller and Connie Loizos will interview founders from both established and emerging companies about crucial topics, like intelligent marketing automation, AI and the inevitability of the cloud.

Case in point. You can’t talk about enterprise software or its shift to the cloud without talking about the Kubernetes container management system. That’s why we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with Aparna Sinha, Google’s director of product management for Kubernetes; Tim Hockin, who currently works on Kubernetes and the Google Container Engine; Kubernetes co-founder Craig McLuckie; and Microsoft’s Brendan Burns — the lead engineer for Kubernetes during his time at Google.

These four heavy hitters will discuss the history of Kubernetes, why Google went open source with it and the five-year-old project’s rapid growth. It promises to be a fascinating look at the past, present and future of containers in the enterprise.

That’s just one presentation in a jam-packed day dedicated …

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This new autonomous startup has designed its delivery robot to conquer winter

This new autonomous startup has designed its delivery robot to conquer winter

July 11, 2019

Refraction, a new autonomous delivery robot company that came out of stealth Wednesday at TC Sessions: Mobility, sees opportunity in areas most AV startups are avoiding: regions with the worst weather.

The company, founded by University of Michigan professors Matthew Johnson-Roberson and Ram Vasudevan, calls its REV-1 delivery robot the “Goldilocks of autonomous vehicles.”

The pair have a long history with autonomous vehicles. Johnson-Roberson got his start by participating in the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2004 and stayed in academia researching and then teaching robotics. Vasudevan’s career had a stint at Ford working on control algorithms for autonomous operations on snow and ice. Both work together at University of Michigan’s Robotics Program.

The REV-1 is lightweight and low cost — there are no expensive lidar sensors on the vehicle — it operates in a bike lane and is designed to travel in rain or snow, Johnson-Roberson, co-founder and CEO of Refraction told TechCrunch.

The robot, which debuted onstage at the California Theater in San Jose during the event, is about the size of an electric bicycle. The REV-1 weighs about 100 pounds and stands about 5 feet tall and is 4.5 feet long. Inside the robot is 16 cubic feet of space, enough room to fit four or five grocery bags.

It’s not particularly fast — top speed is 15 miles per hour. But because it’s designed for a bike lane, it doesn’t need to be. That slower speed and lightweight design allows the vehicle to have a short stopping distance of about five feet.

Refraction has backing from eLab Ventures and Trucks Venture Capital.

Consumers have an appetite and an expectation for on-demand goods that are delivered quickly. But companies are struggling to find consistent, reliable and economical ways to address that need, said Bob Stefanski, managing director …

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Twitter returns after an hour-long outage

Twitter returns after an hour-long outage

July 11, 2019

After an hour of sweet freedom, the world has been returned to the grasp of Twitter.

At about 2:50 pm ET, the desktop and mobile site were down, displaying a “Something is technically wrong” error. The app was also not working. The site returned at about 3:45 pm ET, but took a few minutes to regain full functionality.

Twitter’s status page said little more than it was an “active incident.” A spokesperson for Twitter confirmed the outage but referred us to the status page.

After the site returned, Twitter said it was because of an “internal configuration change,” which it has since rolled back.

It’s not the first time Twitter’s had a hiccup in the past few weeks. The social media giant was hit by a direct message outage earlier this month. In fact, between June and July, most of the major internet companies had some form of outage, knocking themselves or other sites offline in the process.

Please tweet about how it was down and how it’s hard to tweet about how Twitter’s down when it is itself down, and the irony therein.

We’ll patiently wait to hear from Twitter about the cause of the outage.

Devin Coldewey contributed.

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Microsoft’s $399 Azure Kinect AI camera is now shipping in the US and China

Microsoft’s $399 Azure Kinect AI camera is now shipping in the US and China

July 11, 2019

Earlier this year, at MWC, Microsoft announced the return of its Kinect sensor in the form of an AI developer kit. The $399 Azure Kinect DK camera system includes a 1MP depth camera, 360-degree microphone, 12MP RGB camera and an orientation sensor, all in a relatively small package. The kit has been available for pre-order for a few months now, but as the company announced today, it’s now generally available and shipping to pre-order customers in the U.S. and China.

Unlike the original Kinect, which launched as an Xbox gaming accessory that never quite caught on, the Azure Kinect is all business. It’s meant to give developers a platform to experiment with AI tools and plug into Azure’s ecosystem of machine learning services (though using Azure is not mandatory).

To help developers get started, the company already launched a number of SDKs, including a preview of a body-tracking SDK that is close to what you may remember from the Kinect’s Xbox days.

The core of the camera has more to do with Microsoft’s HoloLens than the original Kinect. As the company notes in its press materials, the Azure Kinect DK uses the same time-of-flight sensor the company developed for the second generation of its HoloLens AR visor. And while the focus here is clearly on using the camera, Microsoft also notes that the microphone array also allows developers to build sophisticated speech solutions.

The company is positioning the device as an easy gateway for its users in health and life sciences, retail, logistics and robotics to start experimenting with using depth sensing and machine learning. We’ve seen somewhat similar dev kits from others, including Microsoft partner Qualcomm, though these devices don’t usually have the depth camera that makes the Kinect DK a Kinect.

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Microsoft says Teams now has 13M daily active users

Microsoft says Teams now has 13M daily active users

July 11, 2019

Teams, Microsoft’s two-year-old Slack competitor, is the company’s fastest-growing application in its history. That’s something Microsoft has said in the past, but for the first time, Microsoft today also announced actual user numbers for the service ahead of its Inspire partner conference next week. Teams now has 13 million active daily users, Microsoft said, and 19 million weekly active users. Microsoft also today said that Teams is now in use by 91 of the Fortune 100 companies.

The company isn’t afraid of putting those numbers up against Slack, which IPOed only a few weeks ago. Jared Spataro, Microsoft Corporate VP for Microsoft 365, doesn’t mention Slack by name in his blog post, but the company put together a little graphic that clearly shows why it is now willing to share these numbers.

The last official number from Slack is that it had 10 million daily active users in January. Without update numbers from Slack, it’s hard to say if Teams now has more users, but unless Slack’s growth accelerated in recent months, that’s probably the case.

In addition to disclosing these numbers, Microsoft also announced a number of updates to Teams that range from features like priority notifications, which take the annoyance of chat notifications to a new level by pinging you every two minutes until you respond, to read receipts, new moderation and cross-posting options for Teams channels and a time clock feature that lets employees clock in and out of work shifts right from the Teams mobile apps.

Because Inspire is an event for Microsoft partners, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Microsoft is also launching a few new Teams features that involve its resellers and other partners. These include the ability to integrate teams with compliance recording partners like ASC, NICE and Verint Verba, …

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Cannabis processing startups hope to unlock new chemicals and treatments

Cannabis processing startups hope to unlock new chemicals and treatments

July 11, 2019

Jeff Ubersax knows yeast.

The chief executive officer of Demetrix studied yeast genetics and biochemistry in school and was an early employee at Amyris Biotechnologies, a technology company that was using fermentation to make biofuels back in the early days of the first clean technology boom back in 2008. 

Now, the same technology that Ubersax and Jay Keasling, the celebrated professor from the University of California at Berkeley who co-founded Amyris and Demetrix, used to make biofuels is being applied to the production of cannabis.

The company launched with an $11 million seed round led by Horizons Ventures, a Hong Kong-based investment fund backed by the multi-billionaire real estate mogul Li Ka-shing, to begin commercializing the technology that Keasling had been researching in his lab.

The goal was to refine a process that would enable yeasts to make a range of cannabinoids that are found in the marijuana plant which could be used to develop new pharmaceuticals, additives and supplements for use in clinical and consumer applications. The technology works much the same way as brewing beer. Except instead of fermenting to produce alcohol, the fermentation process produces cannabinoids from genetically modified yeast cells.

While the technology holds promise, it’s still got a long way to go before it becomes competitive with extracts from the marijuana plant, but given new capital infusions the tide is turning.

Demetrix, for instance, has raised another $50 million from Horizons Ventures and Tuatara Capital, an investment firm focused on the legal cannabis industry, to significantly expand its production while simultaneously pursuing initial tests on the efficacy of rare strains of cannabinoids as treatments for certain illnesses.

“Natural cannabinoids have been used for a really long time,” says Ubersax. And last June the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first pharmaceutical derived from cannabis

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