Author: Catherine Shu

Microsoft pledges $500M to create affordable housing around Seattle

TECHCRUNCH At a time when tech companies are being blamed for creating housing shortages in cities across the country, Microsoft told the Seattle Times it will make a $500 million pledge, its largest ever, to create affordable housing around Seattle. The company is currently in the middle of a multi-billion dollar expansion of its Redmond, Washington campus. Microsoft’s pledge comes half a year after Seattle City Council failed to pass a “head tax” that would have required companies making more than $200 million a year to pay $275 per employee in taxes. The money would have been used to...

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On-demand telehealth company Tyto Care adds Sanford Health, Itochu and Shenzhen Capital Group as strategic investors

TECHCRUNCH Tyto Care, a telehealth company that enables physicians to conduct on-demand remote exams, announced today that it has added $9 million to its Series C, bringing the round’s total to $33.5 million. The new funding comes from strategic investors Sanford Health, Itochu, and Shenzhen Capital Group. First announced last year, the oversubscribed Series C was led by Ping An Global Voyager Fund, run by the Chinese financial conglomerate. Itochu, Shenzhen Capital Group, and Sanford Health, the largest rural not-for-profit health care system in the United States, will serve as Tyto’s new strategic partners as it expands in Japan,...

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YouTube will “ramp up” enforcement of its policies against dangerous challenges and pranks

TECHCRUNCH YouTube announced several policy updates today, including more stringent enforcement of its ban on videos of dangerous challenges and pranks. In a FAQ posted to its support site, YouTube wrote “we’ve updated our external guidelines to make it clear that challenges like the Tide Pod challenge or the Fire challenge, that can cause death and/or have caused death in some instances, have no place on YouTube.” Its policies also extend to pranks “with a perceived danger of serious physical injury,” like home invasion or drive-by shooting pranks. Reminder 1⃣: Custom thumbnail images must follow our Community Guidelines. A...

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Roku now deleting Infowars from its platform after customer outcry

TECHCRUNCH Roku is deleting the Infowars channel from its platform, a couple days after adding it as a supported channel. In a tweet, Roku said after the channel became available, “we heard from concerned parties and have determined that the channel should be removed from our platform. Deletion from the channel store and platform has begun and will be completed shortly.” After the InfoWars channel became available, we heard from concerned parties and have determined that the channel should be removed from our platform. Deletion from the channel store and platform has begun and will be completed shortly. — Roku...

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Hulu unexpectedly releases “Fyre Fraud” days before Netflix’s competing documentary

TECHCRUNCH Not since the literary biopic showdown between “Capote” and “Infamous” has there been such an intense battle for the attention of viewers. This time, the fight is between Hulu and Netflix’s competing documentaries about the disastrous Fyre Festival, a 2017 music festival whose failure led to eight lawsuits and a six-year prison sentence for co-founder Billy McFarland. Hulu unexpectedly released its film, “Fyre Fraud” today, just four days before Netflix’s “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened” was scheduled to premiere. Both films are helmed by award-winning filmmakers. Entertainment Today reports that Hulu hopes its documentary, directed by...

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Samsung’s new Galaxy M smartphones will launch in India first

TECHCRUNCH Samsung will launch its new lower-priced Galaxy M series in India before the smartphones roll out globally. Asim Warsi, senior vice president of Samsung India’s smartphone business, told Reuters that three devices will be available through its website and Amazon India at the end of January and are intended to help the company double online sales. Samsung is currently trying to recover its lead in India, the world’s second-largest smartphone market behind China, after losing it to Xiaomi at the end of 2017, when Xiaomi’s sales in India overtook Samsung for the first time, according to data from...

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The company behind YouCam Makeup app launches a new set of AR tools for beauty brands like Ulta

TECHCRUNCH Released in 2014, the year before Snapchat put face filters on the road to ubiquity, Perfect Corp’s YouCam Makeup app gave many smartphone users their first taste of augmented selfies. At the beginning, it let users experiment with different makeup looks and portrait-editing tools. Since then, YouCam Makeup has expanded beyond selfies into e-commerce and retail with tools for over 200 beauty brands and retailers, including L’Oréal, Estée Lauder, Cosmopolitan, and Target (the big-box retailer’s online Virtual Try-on tool uses Perfect Corp.’s technology). At CES this week, Perfect Corp announced a new roster of products under the brand name Beauty 3.0, including AI-based augmented reality tools that recommend foundation, makeup, and hair with a solid rate of accuracy and realism (I tested several of the new apps last month at Perfect Corp’s Taipei headquarters), even for finishes like glitter and metallics. It also recently signed a partnership with Ulta to bring its try-on technology to the retailer’s beauty stores and hair salons. Launched in 2014 by CEO Alice Chang and owned by CyberLink, a digital media software developer, Perfect Corp says its apps have now been downloaded 700 million times and claims a total of 60 million monthly active users (in China, it also has a mini-program for WeChat). The company says its tools help retailers increase basket sizes and conversions, reduce the number of products returned, and...

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Chamberlain Group acquires Lockitron and Tend for its myQ smart garage hub

TECHCRUNCH Chamberlain Group, which owns several security and access brands including the myQ smart garage hub, has added two new companies to its portfolio: connected door lock maker Lockitron and wi-fi home security camera startup Tend. In a press statement, Chamberlain Group CEO JoAnna Sohovich said Tend and Lockitron’s produts will be integrated into myQ. “We know families enter and exit their homes through their garage doors multiple times a day. Our myQ technology allows homeowners to monitor and control access from their smartphone,” she said. “Adding video, connected locks, and enhanced artificial intelligence to our access solutions will provide even further peace of mind as homeowners connect to their homes and loved ones.” Lockitron was one of the first smart lock brands, shipping its first connected lock in 2010. Its flagship product is the Bolt, a smart lock that is accessed by smartphone. The Bolt launched in 2015 and was the first smart locks available for under $100. The Chamberlain Group will integrate Lockitron’s technology into myQ so users can control their garage and residential doors with one app. In an email to TechCrunch, Cameron Robertson, who co-founded Lockitron with Paul Gerhardt, said they began looking for potential buyers in order to have the resources to scale up and meet retail and e-commerce demand. Chamberlain Group was the best fit because it will support existing Lockitron users, and...

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