Microsoft advances several of its hosted artificial intelligence algorithms

Tech, Artificial Intelligence, Tech Crunch

by  | Tech Crunch

Microsoft Cognitive Services is home to the company’s hosted artificial intelligence algorithms. Today, the company announced advances to several Cognitive Services tools including Microsoft Custom Vision Service, the Face API and Bing Entity Search .

Joseph Sirosh, who leads the Microsoft’s cloud AI efforts, defined Microsoft Cognitive Services in a company blog post announcing the enhancements, as “a collection of cloud-hosted APIs that let developers easily add AI capabilities for vision, speech, language, knowledge and search into applications, across devices and platforms such as iOS, Android and Windows.” These are distinct from other Azure AI services, which are designed for developers who are more hands-on, DIY types.

The idea is to put these kinds of advanced artificial intelligence tools within reach of data scientists, developers and any other interested parties without any of the normal heavy lifting required to build models and get results with the myriad testing phases that are typically involved in these types of exercises.

For starters, the company is moving the Custom Vision Service from free preview to paid preview, which is the final step before becoming generally available. Sirosh writes that this service helps “developers to easily train a classifier with their own data, export the models and embed these custom classifiers directly in their applications, and run it offline in real time on iOS, Android and many other edge devices.”

Andy Hickl, who works in the Cognitive Services group as principal group program manager, says the tool is designed to help companies identify similar entities in an automated way such as not only recognizing that a particular picture is a dog, but that’s it’s a specific kind of dog or a dog that belongs to a particular person.

The Face API, which is generally available as of today, helps identify a specific person from a large group of people in an automated way. With today’s release the tool allows developers to create groups of up to a million people. Hickl says this is significant because up until now, many face recognition algorithms could only recognize a handful of faces, useful as far as it goes, but not truly scalable like this, he pointed out.

Finally, the Bing Entity Search algorithm enables developers to embed Bing search results in any application. So for example, you could retrieve search results within any tool narrowed down by any Bing entity such as image or website. This tool is generally available as of today.

Microsoft search results embedded in application. Photo: Microsoft

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The Global Race for Artificial Intelligence: Weighing Benefits and Risks

Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Social Intelligence
Image Credit and Source: Ajit Nazre and Rahul Garg, “A Deep Dive in the Venture Landscape of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.”

Classification of stream under Artificial Intelligence

This chart is taken from the article, The Global Race for Artificial Intelligence: Weighing Benefits and Risks, contributed by Munish Sharma.

Munish Sharma is Consultant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.

AI systems can learn on their own. Rather than depending upon pre-programmed set of instructions or pre-defined behavioural algorithms, they can learn from their interactions or experiences and thereby enhance their capabilities, knowledge and skills.

Read the article in its entirety – The Global Race for Artificial Intelligence: Weighing Benefits and Risks

Google Assistant adds more languages in global push

Google, Androids, Cyborgs, Artificial Intelligence
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by Staff Writers
San Francisco (AFP) | Robo Daily 

Google said Friday its digital assistant software would be available in more than 30 languages by the end of the years as it steps up its artificial intelligence efforts against Amazon and others.

Google Assistant, the artificial intelligence software which is available on its connected speakers, Android smartphones and other devices, will also include multilingual capacity “so families or individuals that speak more than one language can speak naturally” to the program, according to a Google blog post.

The move aims to help Google, which has been lagging in the market for connected devices against Amazon’s Alexa-powered hardware, ramp up competition in new markets.

While Alexa currently operates only in English, Google Assistant works in eight languages and the new initiative expands that.

“By the end of the year (Google Assistant) will be available in more than 30 languages, reaching 95 precent of all eligible Android phones worldwide,” Google vice president Nick Fox said in the blog post.

“In the next few months, we’ll bring the Assistant to Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish and Thai on Android phones and iPhones, and we’ll add more languages on more devices throughout the year.”

The multilingual option will first be available in English, French and German, with support for more languages coming “over time,” Fox wrote.

The move comes amid intense competition for artificial intelligence software on smartphones and other devices by Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Samsung and others.

Amazon took the early lead with its Alexa-powered speakers and is believed to hold the lion’s share of that market, with Google Home devices a distant second.

Apple got a late start in the speaker segment with its HomePod, which went on sale this month in the US, Britain and Australia.

Article Source originally published February 23, 2018:

Nike teamed up with Snap and Darkstore to pre-release Air Jordan III ‘Tinker’ shoes on Snapchat

Nike, Athletes, Tennis Shoes, Social Media
Image Source: Tech Crunch

by  | Tech Crunch

Snap, Nike’s Jordan brand, Darkstore and Shopify teamed up in a collaboration of epic proportions to pre-release the Air Jordan III “Tinker” on Snapchat with same-day delivery last night after the NBA All-Star game. This is the first time a brand other than Snap has sold a product via Snapchat.

The thousands who attended the Jumpman All-Star after-party in Los Angeles last night were able to scan exclusive Snap codes to receive the shoes by 10:30pm that same night. Once they scanned the Snap code, they were brought into the Snapchat app, where they could then purchase the sneakers.

Within 23 minutes, all the shoes sold out, Darkstore CEO Lee Hnetinka told me. Darkstore, a startup that aims to become an “invisible retailer,” facilitated the deliveries.

“This is the Holy Grail of the experience [Nike is] trying to intend, which is direct to consumer — to the actual consumer, versus a bot, — and same-day delivery,” Hnetinka said. “The Snap code introduces a new paradigm for commerce.”

Darkstore works by exploiting excess capacity in storage facilities, malls and bodegas, and enables them to be fulfillment centers with just a smartphone. The idea is that brands without local inventory can store products in a Darkstore and then ship them out the same day.

In addition to the exclusive Snap codes, Snapchat geofenced the area over the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles during the All-Star game. Within that geofence, fans had access to a special 3D augmented reality Michael Jordan lens.

The official release for the shoe isn’t until March 24, but Nike wanted to do something extra special in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Michael Jordan’s slam dunk in 1988. That dunk is often referred to as the moment when Jordan “took flight.”

This isn’t Nike’s first time selling shoes via app-based experiences. Last June, Nike’s release for the SB Dunk High “Momofuku” required people to go a Momofuku restaurant, or to the Momofuku website, and then point their camera at the menu in order to see a sneaker pop up in augmented reality. From there, sneakerheads could purchase the shoes. Similar to what Nike is doing with Snapchat, you have to physically, or virtually, be somewhere in order to buy a pair.

“Jordan Brand and the Jumpman represent greatness, so we hold ourselves and our partners to that standard to create distinct and meaningful experiences for our community,” Jordan Brand Senior Director of Global Digital Dan Harbison said in a statement to TechCrunch. “To execute on that, we worked with some of the industry leaders in this space. Snapchat had an existing partnership with Shopify to create the frictionless commerce experience, so we felt that would make sense. We had also talked to Darkstore and liked their same day delivery solution and learned they had partnered with Shopify in the past, so that became an easy decision.”

This collaboration also marks Snap’s moist aggressive move into the in-app e-commerce game. Snap launched the Snap Store within the Snapchat app’s Discover section earlier this month to sell the Dancing Hot Dog Plushie, Snapchat winkface sweatshirt and other Snap-related products. At the time, TechCrunch’s Josh Constine noted Snapchat could position itself as a way for top brands to reach their audiences in a medium that bridges both shopping and social experiences.

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Disney World, Perdue Chicken ‘Most Loved Brands’

Disney World, Purdue Chicken, Brand Marketing
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by  | Media Post

Disney World and Perdue Chicken are the “most loved brands,” offline and online respectively, based on positive conversations and referrals, according to Engagement Labs. 

When consumers love a brand, they don’t just purchase its products and services, they are more likely to recommend that brand, talk about it with friends and engage with its marketing content. In a recent analysis of more than 500 consumer brands in a variety of categories, Engagement Labs ranked the most loved brands based on positive conversations happening online (via social media) and offline (via face-to-face conversations), as part of its TotalSocial Brand Awards series.

Disney World, Wegmans and Febreze were the top finishers offline, and Perdue Chicken, CVS and Hampton Inn were the top finishers online. 

The awards are based on the company’s proprietary TotalSocial data, which continuously measures the four most important drivers of brand performance. These are: sentiment (having more positive than negative conversations), brand sharing (the extent to which people are sharing or talking about a brand’s marketing or advertising), volume (a measure of how many conversations mention a brand) and influence (the extent to which an influential audience is talking about a brand).  

“While creating a beloved brand is, first and foremost, predicated on having a good product or service, it also requires the cultivation of a passionate fan base that is encouraged to evangelize for the brand,” said Ed Keller, chief executive officer of Engagement Labs, in a release. “The country’s most loved brands aren’t just big marketing spenders. In fact, Wegmans, which ranked second, made our list of most beloved brands without a large marketing budget. Wegmans chooses to invest in recruiting and training employees. The brand has been able to create a positive customer experience that consumers are eager to talk about with friends and family, both offline and online.”

Disney World topped the list of most loved brands offline—or those which are spoken about positively during face-to-face conversations. Disney World and Febreze, which ranked first and third respectively on the offline list, are big spenders on advertising. In 2017, for example, Febreze launched its “OdorOdes” campaign and debuted its first Super Bowl commercial.

Perdue Chicken tops the list of most loved brands being talked about during online conversations. Perdue’s marketing campaign featuring its multi-generational family business resonated with consumers in 2017, according to the study. Similarly, when it comes to budget-friendly hotels, travelers have plenty of good things to say about Hampton Inn, which ranked third for its high sentiment in online conversations.

“Brands need to be aware that you don’t have to be an e-commerce or digital company to have consumers speak positively about your brand on social media,” Keller says. “You just have to inspire consumers enough that they want to engage in conversations about the brand, and that is exactly what the brands in our most loved online list did.”

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SPN Spaces: UNO’s Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Franchising

Innovation, Tech
Image Source:

By  | Silicon Prairie News

SPN Spaces is a new series that takes a look inside the region’s most inspiring startups, workspaces, incubators, accelerators and organizations.

Inside Mammel Hall on the south side of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s campus is the Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Franchising. The Center supports entrepreneurial education and collaboration, innovative hands-on learning experiences, as well as faculty research, conferences and mentorship. CIEF also provides advisory services to start-ups and small business entities throughout the region.

The CIEF website says the center serves as a bridge between the entrepreneurs of tomorrow and the diverse entrepreneurial community in the Omaha, Nebraska area. SPN dropped in on UNO’s Maverick Startups class led by Dr. Dale T. Eesley, Director and John Morgan Community Chair in Entrepreneurship to talk more about how the CIEF and UNO are preparing the region’s next wave of founders.

Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Franchising at University of Nebraska at Omaha’s College of Business Administration

Lead by: Dr. Dale T. Eesley, Director & John Morgan Community Chair in Entrepreneurship

SPN: What classes and programs does UNO offer through the CIEF that are supporting the Silicon Prairie’s next generation of business founders?

DE: The CIEF at UNO’s College of Business Administration offers a wide range of entrepreneurial classes, all of which have a heavy applied focus.  These include Entrepreneurial Foundations, Maverick Startups, New Venture Formation, Entrepreneurial Finance, Social Venturing, Entrepreneurial Selling, Commercializing Technology and Technology Ventures (IS&T students paired up with Business students in teams).

We also have a number of classes taught by faculty outside the College of Business Administration including Media Entrepreneurship, Geography, Gender & Entrepreneurship, Political Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship & the Arts, Entrepreneurship & Leadership in British Literature, and Creativity & Innovation in Organizations (taught by the Psychology department).

SPN: How are you emulating real-life business problems and experiences in the classroom?

DE: Classes such as Entrepreneurial Foundation and Social Venturing have hands-on projects where they apply their classroom learning to solve problems for local startups, businesses and non-profit organizations.  In Maverick Startups students engage in customer discovery and validation with 50 potential customers using their own concepts and business models.  New Venture Formation and Technology Ventures are classes where students work on their own business concepts and try to create new businesses or at least test their viability.

A new program we have started, the Maverick Venture Fund, trains 12 students a year on how to do seed-stage investing.  After a semester of training, they make actual investments in student, alumni, and community startups.  It doesn’t get any more real than that!  By the way, if you are searching for funding, please apply to pitch your venture to the fund!

SPN: Do things like startup classes and entrepreneurial groups in college give students an advantage over their self-taught peers once they graduate?

DE: Our classes are very hands-on and applied classes always enhance students’ ability to understand and master the content, so it stays with them long after graduation.  Our students have to venture “outside the building” and in so doing, they learn about the startup community in Omaha.  So compared to the self-taught, they know where to go for advice, partners and funding when they are ready to launch a new company.  Our graduates tend to stay in the Omaha area, so the connections they make through our classes have long-term benefits.

SPN: How are you teaching young entrepreneurs to look at their talents and skills (everything from music, to design, to athletics) differently?

DE: In our classes, we train students to think empathetically and to really understand their customers’ true needs.  We do this by having them identify their interests and experiences and then identify an area in which they can contribute.  We also use Gallup’s Builder Profile assessment to help them better understand how their talents can be used to create solutions.  We emphasize the development of an entrepreneurial mindset that can be used for much more than starting a new venture.  For example, our classes in Journalism, Political Science, Theater and Psychology apply entrepreneurial thinking and processes to topics far outside of business.

In the last two years, we have offered an Entrepreneurial Living Learning Community where freshman live together, take cohort classes, travel to places like Denver and Silicon Valley and engage in 30 hours of entrepreneurial activity each semester.  This is an incredible way for them to explore their entrepreneurial interests and what they discover about themselves helps shape what they do and the way they do it throughout their college experience.

SPN: Every entrepreneur will experience at least one “small failure” in their career. What advice do you give students for when they inevitably face setbacks?

My best advice, and one we teach in our classes, is that the startup process is a search for information, and failures are really important pieces of information!  By taking the steps to minimize the financial risk in the earliest stages, students will have the ability to fail fast multiple times while searching for the right business model.  I also support students who start their careers working for others because it lets them build their skills, save money, and let their employers pay the price for their early mistakes.  At the same time, if they have a great idea, I think now is the perfect time to go for it, before they are saddled with responsibilities and commitments we take on as older adults.

SPN: What CIEF events are coming up that will give the community a chance to get involved with the program and UNO? 

The CIEF offers a lot of events and programs outside of the classroom to enhance their entrepreneurial development.  We are always in search of judges, mentors, and sponsors for events such as:

We are particularly excited about this year’s Midwest Entrepreneurship Conference April 6 & 7. Over 400 people from Omaha and more than 25 universities will come together to learn from speakers that include billionaires, shark tank contestants and social entrepreneurs.  There’s something for everybody and it is open to the public.

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A journalist’s 12 tips to writing good content

Writing, Content
A journalist’s guide to writing good content / Thought Catalog

By  | The Drum Network

Good writing isn’t easy, nor should it be. The fact that every man and his dog thinks he can write these days only serves to make the role of writers more important – with a real need for people to write quality content that stands out from the mediocre morass.

However, even the best writers get writer’s block and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. In that spirit, here are 12 things I learned as a journalist that I’ve taken into marketing. Hopefully they can aid you in your quest to fine tune your writing.

  1. Read widely: The more you read, the better a writer you become. Look at your competitors – but also become a voracious reader of blogs, websites, newspapers, magazines and books. Good writers ‘magpie’ ideas from a variety of sources.
  2. Keep it simple: Journalists are encouraged to consider whether their parents or grandparents would understand their copy, stripping away unnecessary jargon and explaining terminology. Always consider if your audience would understand what you’ve written and use short, sharp sentences without too many clauses to avoid confusion.
  3. Be active: Think of the loose formula ‘subject, verb, object’. So, ‘Andrew wrote a rant for The Drum’ is probably better than ‘The rant came in an article written by Andrew’. Don’t be constrained by this rule but keep it in mind to write punchy content.
  4. Bullet point lists: Google loves a bullet point list – and so does your reader. Use them to make your content digestible.
  5. Use a thesaurus: Avoid using the same word more than once in a sentence. A thesaurus is your friend.
  6. Become self-reflective: Read back over posts you’ve written, preferably after a week or more has passed. Learn to critique your content and see what has and hasn’t worked.
  7. Write for pleasure: Writers who keep their love for their craft will give you that little bit extra. Write a blog about your personal passion in your free time and the process of writing will never become a chore.
  8. Listen to others: Good writers observe the world around them and channel their observations through the written word. Listening carefully to others will especially help if you write for an audience you aren’t part of.
  9. Don’t be too precious: People will disagree with you as a writer. They’ll often fuss about one or two words. You need a thick skin. Don’t be upset by the one word you were forced to change, be proud of the hundreds of others that are published.
  10. Challenge your brief: If you’re writing something and it feels wrong, it probably is. If you’re bored or confused by what you’re writing, then you can expect your reader to feel the same. Be prepared to question what’s in your brief.
  11. Write it how you’d say it: Are you stuck? Think about what you would say if you were to explain this verbally. Maybe write this out and then turn those words into something that’s more appropriate in a written form.
  12. Talk to other writers: A good team spirit and open dialogue between writers is important. Writers can help each other through difficulties by suggesting possible solutions or maybe offering links to articles they’ve read or written for inspiration.

This article first appeared as a chapter in volume two of The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Your Brand. 

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