Author: Brian Heater

Amazon reports better than expected Q4, but lowers Q1 guidance

Amazon had a heck of a holiday. The online retail giant posted Q4 earnings today, reporting $72.4 billion in revenue, topping last year’s $60.45 billion and besting the analyst forecat of $71.92 billion. Extremely wealthy individual Jeff Bezos singled out Alexa’s record holiday season as a source of the robust quarter. “Alexa was very busy during her holiday season. Echo Dot was the best-selling item across all products on Amazon globally, and customers purchased millions more devices from the Echo family compared to last year,” the CEO said of the earnings. “The number of research scientists working on Alexa...

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Rana el Kaliouby and Alexei Efroswill be speaking at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI April 18 at UC Berkeley

TechCrunch’s third robotics event is just over two and a half months away, and it’s already shaping up to be a doozy. We’ve already announced Anca Dragan, Hany Farid, Melonee Wise and Peter Barrett for our event and have an exciting pair of new names to share with you. UC Berkeley’s Alexei Efros and Affectiva CEO Rana el Kaliouby will be joining us at Zellerbach Hall on April 18 for TC Sessions: Robotics+AI. Alexei Efros is a professor at UC Berkeley’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences and a member of the school’s Artificial Intelligence Research Lab. His work focuses on computer vision, graphics and computational photography, utilizing visual data to help better understand the world. Efros also researches robotics, machine learning and the use of computer vision in the humanities. Prior to joining UC Berkeley, he was member of CMU’s Robotics Institute. Rana el Kaliouby is the cofounder and CEO of Affectiva, an MIT Media Lab spinoff that creates softs signed designed to recognize human emotions. el Kaliouby designed the startup’s underlying technology, which helps bring more depth and understanding to facial recognition. Prior to cofounding the company, she worked as an MIT research scientist, cofounding the school’s Autism & Communication Technology Initiative. Early-Bird tickets are on sale now for just $249 – that’s $100 off full-priced tickets. Buy yours today here. Students can book a deeply discounted ticket for...

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Microsoft highlights the Xbox Adaptive Controller in emotional Super Bowl ad

Once upon a time, people had to wait for the Super Bowl to watch the ads. Those dark days are over. Now you can have companies sell you products on-demand, any time, day or night. Amazon has already debuted its latest Alexa ad, and now Microsoft’s getting in on the action — and this one’s a bit of a tear-jerker. The software giant’s Super Bowl spot highlights some of the work it’s done to increase the accessibility of its products. Front and center is the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a $100 ad-on that makes the console more accessible to gamers...

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Here’s why Amazon’s Super Bowl ad won’t trigger Alexa

South Park famously annoyed the world by triggering Echo and Google Home devices with familiar wake words. When Amazon’s at the wheel, however, the company is able to ensure that Alexa stays quiet, using a method called acoustic fingerprinting. In the lead of to the Super Bowl, the company’s offered up a (relatively) easy to understand breakdown of why its celebrity-laden ads won’t wake up Alexa during the big game. With its own ads, the company ads a fingerprint of the audio, which is stored on-device. Given the Echo’s storage limitations, additional fingerprints are stored in the cloud, where...

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Robert Swan named Intel CEO

Intel, it seems, didn’t have to look too hard to find its new CEO. Half a year after being named interim CEO, Bob Swan is taking the job full-time. Swan, the seventh CEO in Intel’s 50 year history will also be joining the chip maker’s board of directors. Prior to this gig, Swan was Intel’s CFO, grabbing that gig in late-2016 after holding positions at eBay and Electronic Data Systems Corp. Swan stepped into the interim role as word emerged of then-CEO Brian Krzanich’s “past consensual relationship” with an employee. “In my role as interim CEO, I’ve developed an...

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MIT researchers are training a robot arm to play Jenga

Turns out training a robotic arm to play Jenga is a surprisingly complex task. There are, so to speak, a lot of moving parts. Researchers at MIT are putting a modified ABB IRB 120 to work with the familiar tabletop game, utilizing a soft gripper, force-sensing wrist joint and external camera to design a bot that can remove a block without toppling the tower. The robot was trained with 300 attempts, rather than the thousands it would traditionally take, learning to cluster different attempts into groups as a kind of short hand similar to how human teach themselves. With...

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NYC Council questions tax breaks and economic impact of Amazon HQ2

Braving 20-degree weather, protesters crowded the steps of New York City Hall this morning with signs highlighting a “crumbling MTA” and rising tuition. Several held pro-union placards, while a man in a bright yellow warehouse vest claimed, “Amazon doesn’t let me pee.” This morning, New York’s City Council held a hearing examining Amazon’s proposed HQ2 in Long Island City. Titled “Does the Amazon Deal Deliver for New York City Residents?,” the hearing follows one held last month that focused on the closed-door proceedings that delivered Amazon’s bid to the industrial Queens neighborhood. The second time around, the council promised to explore the tax incentives that made the deal possible, along with the potential impact such a move could have on the city, residents and infrastructure. Last year, New York was revealed to be one of two cities that would house a second headquarters for the retail giant. The other, Crystal City, North Virginia, approved $750 million in subsidies after a brief debate earlier this week. The company has been subject to a larger pushback in New York, where rent prices and infrastructure are already feeling the strain of the city’s 8.6 million residents. Both the company and city officials came under scrutiny for backdoor dealings ahead of the official announcement. “In this case, the deal was done backwards,” Speaker Corey Johnson said in his opening remarks. “The City and State...

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Sinemia drops ticket subscription prices, adds rollover feature

Sinemia’s ticket plans change about as often as box office receipts — but at least they appear to be a bit of good news for customers. The movie subscription service, which has made a name for itself in the wake of MoviePass’s on-going struggles, announced. this morning that it has dropped the pricing on its monthly plan. Beginning this week, one ticket a month plans start at $4 a month — down two buck from before. That means three tickets a month now run $8. The price also includes a new roll over feature, letting subscribers grab one unused...

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