Author: Jonathan Shieber

Here’s the first trailer for the VR sequel to Groundhog Day

[embedded content] Sony Pictures is taking audiences back to Punxsutawney… this time in virtual reality. Whether it’s an abomination and a perversion of one of the best movies in the Bill Murray oeuvre or a great way to immerse a viewer in one of the most perfectly realized worlds brought to the silver screen (I unrepentantly love Groundhog Day) is TBD. That’s for players to decide. In Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son players embody Phil Connors Jr., the son of Groundhog Day’s central character. For anyone not familiar with the film, Bill Murray’s character was forced to relive...

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Japan’s “Society 5.0” initiative is a roadmap for today’s entrepreneurs

Mark Minevich Contributor Japan, still suffering the consequences of its ‘Lost Decade’ of economic stagnation, is eyeing a transformation more radical than any the industrialized world has ever seen. Boldly identified as “Society 5.0” Japan describes its initiative as a purposeful effort to create a new social contract and economic model by fully incorporating the technological innovations of the fourth industrial revolution. It envisions embedding these innovations into every corner of its ageing society. Underpinning this effort is a mandate for sustainability, bound tightly to the new United Nations global goals, the SDG’s. Japan wants to create, in its own words, a ‘super-smart’ society, and one that will serve as a roadmap for the rest of the world. Japan hosts its first ever G20 summit in 2019 and this grand initiative will be on the agenda at the official B20 (Business 20) summit headed by the chairman of Hitachi. Components of Society 5.0 and its implications for the US Society 5.0 addresses a number of key pillars: infrastructure, finance tech, healthcare, logistics, and of course AI. The markets being grown in Japan are impressive. In robotics they predict $87 billion in investments and the IoT market is poised to hit $6 Billion in 2019 This means we are behind. We have not put enough focus on what AI can do not only for industry, but what it can do...

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China wants to keep its spot as a leader in the space race with plans to launch 30 missions

Keeping its spot among the top countries who are competing in the space race, China is planning to launch 30 missions this year, according to information from the state-run China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., reported by the Xinhua news agency. Last year, China outpaced the United States in the number of national launches it had completed through the middle of December, according to a report in the MIT Technology Review. Public and private Chinese companies launched 35 missions that were reported to the public through 2018 compared to 30 from the U.S., wrote Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security affairs...

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Congress needs your input (but don’t call it crowdsourcing)

Like many modern digital innovations, “crowdsourcing” is a concept borrowed from the commercial tech industry. It is a method to solicit ideas from the Internet masses to complete a task or solve a challenge.  It seems a perfect fit for Congress, an entire branch of government stuck in the past, losing public legitimacy and increasingly ineffective in policymaking. Even though it is the world’s most powerful representative assembly, Congress is working at 45% less expert capacity than it had in the 1970s.  It has remained in this state of dereliction despite accumulating millions more constituents and demands for consideration. Plus,  its most important policy bridge to the public–committee hearings–have declined, sometimes by 50% or more. It’s obvious that Congress could use collaborative assistance. Yet in a weaponized information environment, crowdsourcing appears unproductive and even ominous.  Take social media platforms. Five years ago, Facebook and Twitter looked like promising venues for more regular voices to provide feedback in the policy making process. But given the lack of civic guardrails like moderation or verified identity, that  “crowd” too often behaves like a hired mob. My colleague Nate Wong is familiar with crowdsourcing from his years of consulting.  He notes that before throwing our hands up, there are some key elements of crowdsourcing to unpack.  “Some people would say that crowdsourcing works, but it’s not as effective because the crowd is not...

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Digital influencers and the dollars that follow them

Sunny Dhillon Contributor More posts by this contributor Security tokens will be coming soon to an exchange near you Amazon’s next conquest will be apparel Animated characters are as old as human storytelling itself, dating back thousands of years to cave drawings that depict animals in motion. It was really in the last century, however—a period bookended by the first animated short film in 1908 and Pixar’s success with computer animation with Toy Story from 1995 onwards—that animation leapt forward. Fundamentally, this period of great innovation sought to make it easier to create an animated story for an audience to passively consume in a curated medium, such as a feature-length film. Our current century could be set for even greater advances in the art and science of bringing characters to life. Digital influencers—virtual or animated humans that live natively on social media—will be central to that undertaking. Digital influencers don’t merely represent the penetration of cartoon characters into yet another medium, much as they sprang from newspaper strips to TV and the multiplex. Rather, digital humans on social media represent the first instance in which fictional entities act in the same plane of communication as you and I—regular people—do. Imagine if stories about Mickey Mouse were told over a telephone or in personalized letters to fans. That’s the kind of jump we’re talking about. Social media is a new...

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Partech is doubling the size of its African venture fund to $143 million

Jake Bright Contributor More posts by this contributor Zimbabwe’s government faces off against its tech community over internet restrictions Flutterwave and Visa launch African consumer payment service GetBarter Partech has doubled its Africa VC fund to $143 million and opened a Nairobi office to complement its Dakar practice. The Partech Africa Fund plans to make 20 to 25 investments across roughly 10 countries over the next several years, according to General Partner Tidjane Deme. The fund has added Ceasar Nyagha as Investment Officer for the Kenya office to expand its East Africa reach. Partech Africa will primarily target Series A and B investments and some pre-series rounds at higher dollar amounts. “We will consider seed-funding—what we call seed-plus—tickets in the $500,000 range,” Deme told TechCrunch on a call from Dakar. “In terms of sectors, we’re agnostic. We’ve been looking at all…sectors. We’re open to all plays; we have a strong appetite for people who are tapping into Africa’s informal economies,” he said. African startups who want to pitch to the new fund should seek a referral. “My usual recommendation is to find someone who can introduce you to any member of the team. We receive a lot of requests…but an intro and recommendation…shortcuts one through all that,” Deme said. Headquartered in Paris, Partech has offices in Berlin, San Francisco, Dakar, and now Nairobi. To bring the Arica fund to $143 million the VC firm...

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With its Greenlots acquisition, Shell is moving from gas stations to charging stations

In a bid to show that it’s getting ready for the electrification of American roads, Royal Dutch Shell is buying Greenlots, a Los Angeles-based developer of electric vehicle charging and energy management technologies. Shell, which is making the acquisition through its Shell New Energies US subsidiary, snatched the company from Energy Impact Partners, a cleantech-focused investment firm. “As our customers’ needs evolve, we will increasingly offer a range of alternative energy sources, supported by digital technologies, to give people choice and the flexibility, wherever they need to go and whatever they drive,” said Mark Gainsborough, Executive Vice President, New...

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PayPal revenues miss but growth is strong from new acquisitions

PayPal revenues miss but strong growth from its recent iZettle and Hyperwallet acquisitions and booming business at Venmo point to a strong outlook for the payments giant. In all PayPal saw revenues for the quarter of $4.23 billion against analysts estimates of $4.24 billion, according to data from Yahoo Finance. Earnings per share at the company were up to 69 cents versus analysts’ expectations of 62 cents on a non-GAAP basis. For the full year, PayPal saw revenue hit $15.45 billion versus analysts estimates of $15.46 billion. The addition of 2.9 million net new active accounts resulting from the...

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