Apple snaps up Google’s AI chief to fix Siri

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In an effort to catch up to its rivals’ AI assistants, Apple has brought on board Google’s head of AI and search, John Giannandrea, reports The New York Times. Giannandrea, who’d been at Google since 2010 and served as its senior vice president for search since early 2016, will run Apple’s machine learning and AI strategy, and report directly to CEO Tim Cook. That’s huge for Apple, which will now hopefully be able to improve its Siri assistant, which presently features on its iOS devices and woefully lags behind Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa when it comes to understanding voice…

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Celebrities keep hurting Snap’s stock price — this time over an inappropriate ad

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Rihanna at the Grammys

Rihanna isn’t happy with Snap, and the stock is down. But the company is also dealing with an advertising problem.

For the second time in the past month, a popular celebrity has torched Snap’s stock with a public complaint.

Last month, it was Kylie Jenner who tweeted that she “[does] not open Snapchat anymore,” an admission that some believe caused Snap’s stock to drop more than 6 percent.

On Thursday, it was pop star Rihanna, who blasted Snap for allowing an inappropriate ad that asked users if they would rather “slap Rihanna” or “punch Chris Brown.” The ad would be inappropriate regardless, but you may also recall that Rihanna was the victim of domestic violence while dating Brown almost 10 years ago.

“Now SNAPCHAT I know you already know you ain’t my fav app out there!,” she posted Thursday. “But I’m just trying to figure out what the point was with this mess! I’d love to call it ignorance, but I know you ain’t that dumb!”

Snap apologized for the ad, calling it “disgusting,” and blocked the advertiser who posted it.

“This advertisement is disgusting and never should have appeared on our service,” the statement reads. “We are so sorry we made the terrible mistake of allowing it through our review process. We are investigating how that happened so that we can make sure it never happens again.”

The damage was done, though: Snap stock is down almost 5 percent on the day.

There are a few things to consider here.

The first is that celebrities seem to have an incredible impact on Snapchat’s business. These celebrity comments, while not happening in a vacuum, also seem to have a disproportionate impact on Snap’s stock.

It seems clear that investors are still trying to understand Snapchat themselves, a product still dominated by teen users. If you don’t use a product, a celebrity endorsement (or condemnation) goes a lot further than it would otherwise.

A Snapchat ad for Ashley Madison. Snapchat

Snap is also still establishing itself as a business and a public company. Can you imagine a single tweet or statement from any celebrity hurting Facebook’s stock? Facebook has been bashed by every politician and news organization in America for the past 18 months. Its stock is up almost 60 percent since the start of 2017. That’s because Facebook’s business is solid and proven, and investors aren’t overreacting to every new piece of information.

But there is also a legitimate issue here with Snapchat’s ad content: The quality of the ads isn’t always very high. This Rihanna ad is a perfect example, but there are others, like this ad for cryptocurrencies or an ad one user sent us for Ashley Madison, the dating site for people looking to have an affair.

This is usually what happens when you sell ads programmatically, or through software programs that don’t always require human moderation. Facebook deals with this issue, too, and so does Google. But their businesses are much bigger, and people are more immune to their stumbles.

Surprisingly, though, you can’t blame the algorithms for crummy Snap ads. The company still uses human moderators to approve the vast majority of ads, according to a company spokesperson. Only a small group of pre-approved advertisers can buy ads without a human approving them first.

Which means that Snap may not be suffering from a technology problem so much as a human problem, at least in the Rihanna case. But the issue also underscores Snap’s need to grow its pool of advertisers. If there were more ads to choose from, it’s likely these low-quality ads wouldn’t make it to the top of the pile.

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AR/IoT startup RealWear snaps $17M in new funding

Vancouver based startup RealWear has raised $ 13.5M (17M CAD) and seeks another $ 3M, reveals the startup’s SEC filings. The company plans to use $ 20 million investment to get its product, head-worn computers called HMT-1, into the hands of more companies.


Founded in Silicon Valley, RealWear was headquartered in Milpitas, California and shifted to Vancouver in last summer with its presence in Shanghai, China. According to Silicon Forest standards, an early stage round of $ 20 million is a huge amount of investment.

RealWear’s product HMT-1 is a hand free wearable computer that connects industrial workers in the field and helps industrial companies implement the ‘Connected Worker’ program. It’s OS is an Android 6.0.1 (AOSP) and runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.0 GHz 8-core chipset. It supports Bluetooth, WiFi and GPS. The wearable devices come packed with microphones, speakers, cameras, and additional ports.

Andy Lowery, CEO of RealWear stated that the company has pilot projects in the pipeline with large enterprises like Tesla, WalMart, Amazon, and Boeing. One of the investors is another Vancouver based company, Columbia Ventures which has invested $ 8M in the startup.

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The announcement late last year that Snap intended to completely rebuild the Snapchat app would have been welcomed by frustrated users. A fresh design followed, and since then we’ve also heard that Stories will soon be available on the web. The latest crumb of news to come out of Snap Inc. brings word that there’s a new update for its other popular app, Bitmoji, offering tons of new styles.

For those who don’t know, a Bitmoji is a personal animated avatar that’s created by the app using a selfie you take for it.

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Snap’s leaked memo threatens employees with jail time for leaking information

Snap Inc. really can’t catch a break. After news broke earlier this week that it was laying off two dozen of its employees, a leaked memo has surfaced that doesn’t exactly paint the company in a favorable light. And as if yet another leak wasn’t bad enough, here’s the real kicker: the leaked memo was actually about preventing leaks.

In it, Snap goes on to assert that it has a zero-tolerance policy on information leaks, and that any employee caught leaking information will lose their job and even potentially face fines or jail time.

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Snap’s leaked memo threatens employees with jail time for leaking information was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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A smart use for Snap’s open AR platform is to preview real-sized menu items

Snap publicly launched its Lens Studio this past week, meaning that brands and general people can create their own augmented reality lenses. We figured brands would take advantage of the platform and maybe even pay Snap for promotion of their work. But today, we saw an actually inventive idea for the custom lenses: to preview your food.

Snap employee (and former Verge writer) Ellis Hamburger tweeted that restaurant owners could create their own lenses and share the Snapcode to them on their menu. Customers could then view the food before ordering in AR. The only way to retrieve a friend’s lens…

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