Telus Ventures is collaborating with Israel-based Zebra Medical Vision to advance AI-based preventative healthcare in Canada.
Read more here.
Telus Ventures is collaborating with Israel-based Zebra Medical Vision to advance AI-based preventative healthcare in Canada.
Read more here.
Brief, a newly launched news aggregator founded by former Google engineers, aims to tackle a number of problems with today’s news cycle, including information overload, burnout, media bias, and algorithms that prioritize engagement over news accuracy.
Today, there are so many places to read the news and many aggregators on the market offer access to a near-infinite number of sources. Meanwhile, algorithms profile you to determine your leanings, then serve up more of the news that fits your worldview, to keep you engaged with the product.
Brief’s founders wanted to make it easier to stay informed on key topics without having to spend hours reading the news from a variety of viewpoints to get the full picture.
Before Brief, co-founder and CEO Nick Hobbs was a Google product manager who had worked on AR, Google Assistant, Google’s mobile app, and self-driving cars, among other things during his time at the company. Co-founder and CTO Andrea Huey, meanwhile, was a Google senior software engineer.
The two met while building the Google iOS app and left, says Hobbs, “after becoming increasingly alarmed by the damage technology is doing to public discourse.”
Brief (which was founded as Broadsheet), is staffed by similarly-minded, mission-driven team, including engineers from Apple and Google, and a small editorial team who had worked on curation and fact-checking at Snapchat and Wired.
Before today, the company tested a beta version of their news app on the Apple App Store. The version arriving on Tuesday offers a new design, feature set and overall experience.
Brief’s app is a lot different from what you might expect from a news aggregator like Apple News or Google News, for example. It’s not meant only as a tool that points you to news articles published elsewhere, that is. Instead, it summarizes the key fact, provides context, and offers viewpoints from both sides.
“Traditional aggregators were designed to help readers discover more and more content—a vestige of the days when it was actually hard to find enough interesting stuff to read online,” explains Hobbs. “However, now that the internet has ‘grown up,’ everyone faces the exact opposite problem: there are so many things clamoring for our attention we end up skimming everything and understanding nothing,” he says.
Brief takes the opposite approach. Instead of offering far too many articles to actually read, Brief gives you just a few, easily digested news bulletins crafted by journalists. These “front-page” story summaries will help you keep up with key developments in areas like U.S. news, politics, business and technology, among others. Much of the content for Brief comes from its licensing of AP wire feeds, but it will feature breaking news stories and exclusives from other sources, as needed.
These bulletins are also paired with timelines that help you understand the latest development in context and relevant quotes offering different perspectives.
The result is that you’re able to catch up with the most important news in only minutes, not hours — hence the app’s name, “Brief.”
One key area where Brief aims to differentiate itself is how it will heavily rely on human curation.
“We strongly believe that human editorial judgment is irreplaceable, which is why our newsroom decides which stories are covered and what priority they’re given,” notes Hobbs.
This is similar to how Apple News relies on a human editorial team to program its own News app, for instance. But in Brief’s case, journalists aren’t just selecting the news to feature, they’re also helping to translate it to this short-form news reading experience.
That said, Brief does lean on technology where it makes sense. Algorithms help to smartly organize the content in the app and its software will automatically archive the stories you’ve already read to keep you focused on what’s new to you.
Perhaps just as important as its efforts to address the information overload crisis, Brief also attempts to tackle issues around increased polarization of the news. This problem has led to readers isolating themselves within their own ideological bubbles and among their prefered set of either right-leaning or left-leaning sources.
Though it won’t stop news addicts from clicking on their prefered, if biased, cable TV news channel, Brief hopes to reach those who are, in fact, interested in hearing a more balanced perspective. It even aims to reach those who have largely given up on news altogether, due to being overwhelmed.
To counteract bias, Brief first ensures that all users receive the same information. Its algorithms will not attempt to profile you to determine your leanings, then feed you ever more of the content you’re naturally inclined to seek out.
And not only do all users see the same news, all content is ordered the same, too.
To tackle bias in the framing of news stories — including the selective uses of quotes and biased sources — Brief introduces a feature called “Perspectives” that presents a range of influential voices for every story. This, again, is viewed by all users in the same way.
For example, a story around U.S. politics may include relevant quotes from both the Republican and Democratic senators or representatives. That means users will see the way both sides are thinking and talking about the topic at hand, and they won’t be spared from the “other” side’s views, however distasteful.
In the case where one side is effectively being untruthful, the app’s timeline feature comes in handy. This feature aims to give the news more context, which can help highlight was was actually said and done and when that took place. The timeline can also be useful for tracking updates on a politicized issues where often much of the talking is being done by voices on one side, while the other stays quiet. At later times, who’s being vocal may shift from one side to the other. The timeline helps keep this in balance.
While Brief makes an admirable attempt to solves issues around news consumption and bias, these are not simple problems to solve by technology alone. There are often stories reported accurately by major publications, but those who don’t like the story simply choose to disagree with it.
In addition, for Brief’s app to actually have the impact it desires, it needs to attract a large mass of users. And it has to also figure out how to steer people away from getting their news on social media, where misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, and conspiracies thrive. That’s a far larger challenge — and one which the app doesn’t have a strategy to address. It’s only focused on what Brief itself can do, not on how to bring users to its less algorthimic-driven solution.
But Hobbs believes there’s a market for a news app that steers users away from the drama.
“I think we can do a pretty good job of finding a lot of people who are really tired of having their news come with a side of shouting relatives,” says Hobbs, noting also the app has gained its initial traction just through App Store search ads alone. Before its public debut, Brief made it to No. 12 Magazines & Newspapers on the App Store.
Another issue is that Brief limits its audience by way of its subscription model, which requires a $ 4.99 per month commitment. Those in most need of a news detox aren’t likely going to pay for the pleasure.
This is Stretch — or, more precisely, the Stretch Research Edition. The name certainly conveys the tall, skinny and minimalist design of the home helper robot. Stretch is different and somehow familiar, with a straightforward technical design that adapts a number of standard robotic elements designed to offer a versatile machine that’s capable of navigating a house and getting out of the way when necessary.
It’s the first product out of Bay Area-based Hello Robot. Fresh out of three years operating in stealth, the company was founded by CEO Aaron Edsinger, a Georgia Tech product who was previously the director of Robotics at Google after its acquisition of his company, Redwood Robotics, in 2013.
Stretch is still in quite early stages. At $ 17,950, it’s really more of a developer platform at the moment, but it’s easy to see how the company could ultimately spin it into something more commercial, with the right software. “Subsequent editions of Stretch will likely be targeted more directly at commercial applications,” says Edsinger, “but at this point we’re focused on providing the best customer experience possible with the Research Edition.” In addition to a gripper, the robot also sports a 3D camera and range finder for navigating and an on-board computer. On the software side, it uses a combination of ROS and Python.
It’s an open-sourced platform, designed to help robotics develop a unique range of potentially useful tasks for the home and retail setting.
“What sets this robot apart is its extraordinary reach — which is why we named it Stretch,” Edsinger, says in a release. “Its patent pending design makes possible a range of applications such as assisting an older parent at home, stocking grocery shelves, and wiping down potentially infectious surfaces at the workplace. We see Stretch as a game-changing platform for researchers and developers who will create this future.”
Again, this is all still quite early. Hello Robot is still a small team — with a headcount of fewer than 10 employees at the moment. Thus far, the startup has been completely bootstrapped. Edsinger tells TechCrunch, “based on customer response so far we expect to have a healthy and profitable business.”
Can someone suggest me the best testing tools for mobile apps? I am building an app and want to test it on my laptop..
Also, what are the best tools for Auth (I have read about cognito, but is there anything better out there?)
Hello, I am looking to create a simple prototype version of the mobile app idea that I've been working on for some time now. The core of the app will be a social network where people can share content. I know basic Python programming and OOPS concepts though I've never really built anything of significance. I am looking for a platform that will allow me to build native iOS and Android apps using simple codes and drag-drop actions. I am not looking to develop anything fancy but just a minimum viable product to validate my idea. I thought of building a website but that would defeat the purpose of the idea. Thanks for your suggestions.
Gone — or at least on hold for a long while — are the days of hanging around a coffee shop, poking around the internet on the free Wi-Fi while sipping the same coffee for three hours. The entire idea feels kind of alien right now. A little anxiety-inducing, even.
But coffee shops still want to find ways to safely stay in business, and people still want their coffee. With many states limiting orders to pickup/to-go, mobile ordering is seeing a massive uptick across the food industry. That’s great for Starbucks and anyone else who already had mobile ordering in place, but it leaves many smaller shops scrambling for a solution. Building your own app is complicated — and getting people to download it can be its own challenge.
For the last few years, Seattle-based Joe Coffee has been building a mobile ordering “network” for indie coffee spots — basically, a one-stop app for ordering from nearby coffee shops that aren’t Starbucks. The team had raised $ 2.2 million previously; after seeing a massive uptick in usage and interest from coffee shops in recent months, the company has raised another $ 1.3 million to scale up with demand.
CEO Nick Martin tells me that they’ve seen sales volume increase by roughly 20x since March. He also notes that they’ve seen the average tip increase by over 200% during the pandemic — a nice sign that people are trying to show love to the folks behind the counter right now.
This round — a second seed, as the company calls it — is led by Craft Ventures, and backed by Flying Fish Partners (which also invested in Joe’s previous funding).
Joe Coffee’s role here is a two-parter: On the consumer side, they provide the mobile app and web interface for taking orders and offering up promos, with a loyalty points system that works across the “Joe network.” On the coffee shop side, they’re providing signage to get customers into the app, the interface for baristas to process orders and set up deals, along with reporting/analytics to help figure out what’s working best. In exchange, they take 9% per order, which includes credit card processing fees.
Joe Coffee initially focused strictly on its home turf of Seattle, where it’s supporting around 300 coffee shops. They started to expand to other regions in August of last year, opening it up nationwide in January of 2020; today, Martin tells me, they’re working with more than 1,000 shops across the U.S.
Today Traplight, the Finnish mobile games studio focused on highly accessible mid-core games, announces the global launch of its new mobile gaming title Battle Legion alongside an €8 million funding round. Lead investor in the round is the EQT Ventures fund, with participation from Play Ventures and existing investors Initial Capital and Heartcore Capital. The funding will be used to double down on Battle Legion, which merges qualities from both mid-core and casual titles and has already secured high engagement metrics and a positive community response.
Traplight (2010) was founded by Sami Kalliokoski, Jari Paananen and Riku Rakkola, who have more than 40 years of game development experience between them. Following the success of Big Bang Racing, which was named Best of AppStore 2016, Traplight’s 30-strong team has focused on the development of Battle Legion. The mass battle multiplayer spectator game has deep strategy elements and AI-controlled troops do all the fighting. Players can build their dream army from dozens of versatile fighters, customize everything and discover an expanding collection of skins, battlefields, portraits, banners and titles.
Lars Jörnow, Partner and Investment Advisor at EQT Ventures, said: “Many of today’s top-grossing mobile games have been produced by Nordic gaming studios and the Traplight team is set to continue this rich heritage. Industry veterans Sami, Jari and Riku are a strong founding team who have surrounded themselves with some top mobile gaming talent. The EQT Ventures team believes the Traplight team has the ambition and ability to build the next global gaming success story and we’re looking forward to supporting them on this journey.”
“We’ve learnt a huge amount in the past two years through active testing of different game ideas, building prototypes with small teams, and improving our production processes,” said Riku Rakkola, co-founder and CEO at Traplight. “We now have a game with huge potential and are proud to be partnering with EQT Ventures, Europe’s tier-1 mobile gaming investor. Lars and the team’s extensive mobile gaming experience will be invaluable as we set out to turn our vision of becoming one of the world’s chart-topping games into a reality.”