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Pixyle AI wants to make visual search more intuitive for online retailers

When Svetlana Kordumova was studying for her doctorate in AI and computer vision, she grew frustrated by the process of looking for items to buy online. Search results were often inaccurate, and she knew the tech she was learning could improve the experience. Pixyle AI was launched in 2019 to improve product discovery on e-commerce […]

Pixyle AI wants to make visual search more intuitive for online retailers by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch

Sigfox tech owner UnaBiz doubles its Series B funding to $50 million

UnaBiz, the Massive Internet of Things service provider and owner of Sigfox’s technology, announced today it has raised another $25 million in Series B funding. This doubles the round’s total amount to $50 million, after the first tranche was announced in October 2021. UnaBiz, which is based in Singapore, has now raised $60 million in total. […]

Sigfox tech owner UnaBiz doubles its Series B funding to $50 million by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch

Microsoft vows to bring ‘Call of Duty’ to Nintendo consoles

Microsoft vows to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo and to continue making it available on the latter’s consoles for 10 years if its Activision Blizzard acquisition pushes through. Phil Spencer, Microsoft Gaming’s CEO, has announced the company’s commitment on Twitter, adding that “Microsoft is committed to helping bring more games to more people — however they choose to play.” Spencer previously said during an interview that the company intends to treat Call of Duty like Minecraft that’s available across platforms and that he would “love to see [the game]” on the Switch. A 10-year commitment potentially means that the franchise will also be released for the current Switch’s successors. 

In addition, Spencer has announced on Twitter that Microsoft will continue to offer CoD on Steam, alongside the Xbox, after the deal is closed. As The New York Times says, this announcement could be a move to appease the Federal Trade Commission and to get regulators on their side. The publication says the FTC is expected to discuss the acquisition in a closed-door meeting on Thursday, where the agency will decide whether to take steps to block the deal. 

A recent report by Politico claimed that Microsoft failed to convince the FTC staff reviewing the acquisition with its arguments and that the commission will likely file an antitrust lawsuit to block it as soon as this month. The FTC is reportedly concerned the purchase would give Microsoft an unfair advantage and that it would reduce competition in the market. 

In an opinion piece written for The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft President Brad Smith defended the acquisition and argued that it’s good for gamers. FTC suing to block the deal “would be a huge mistake,” he said, and would hurt competition in the industry instead. Smith also said that Microsoft offered Sony, the loudest dissenting voice to the merger, a 10-year contract ensuring all new CoD releases would be available on the PlayStation the same day they go out for the Xbox. “We’re open to providing the same commitment to other platforms and making it legally enforceable by regulators in the US, UK and European Union,” he wrote. Whether these efforts are enough to assure regulators that the purchase wouldn’t be detrimental to the industry remains to be seen. 

Dead Island 2’s latest trailer blends zombies and Alexa voice commands

When Dead Island 2 remerged earlier this year after a lengthy absence, publisher Deep Silver announced it would be the first title to support Amazon’s Alexa Game Control, a feature that allows you to use your voice to play a game. On Tuesday, the company shared a trailer showcasing the functionality, albeit one that offers a staged view of things.

The trailer opens with a group of zombie apocalypse survivors finding a playable build of Dead Island 2. “What a weird coincidence,” says one of the characters, commenting on the meta-narrative. “What’s Alexa Game Control?” asks the leader of the group. As one of their friends goes outside for a smoke, the video shows how certain voice commands will trigger actions within the game. “Hey zombie,” for example, draws the attention of the nearest undead. You can also say, “get me my ax” to cause your character to, well, switch to their ax.

Not every voice command that’s in the game is shown off in the trailer. An Amazon spokesperson told The Verge you’ll be able to use your voice to do things like set waypoints and greet other characters. Alexa Voice Control doesn’t require an Echo device. All you need is a headset with a microphone. We’ll get a chance to see how well the voice commands work when Dead Island 2, after nearly a decade of development, finally arrives on April 28th.

Apple’s future iPhones and Macs will use TSMC chips made in Arizona

You didn’t have to wait long for confirmation of Apple’s domestic chip plans. Company chief Tim Cook has revealed that Apple will buy chips made at TSMC’s upcoming factory in Phoenix, Arizona. While Cook didn’t say just how those chips will be used, the 4- and 3-nanometer parts are expected to find their way into next-generation iPhones, Macs and other key products. Apple is currently TSMC’s largest customer.

The Phoenix facility is expected to start production in 2024. A follow-up plant is expected in 2026 due to increased demand. Combined, they’ll make about 600,000 chip wafers per year. TSMC is spending $40 billion on the factories, but they’ll be partly subsidized by the government through the CHIPS and Science Act meant to incentivize US semiconductor manufacturing.

Intel is also building factories in Arizona and Ohio. It’s planning to serve as a foundry for other companies looking to outsource chip production, and has expressed interest in making Apple’s components. Whether or not that happens may depend on Intel’s ability to keep up with foundries like TSMC, which frequently leads the push towards next-generation chip manufacturing processes.

The output will represent just a tiny portion of TSMC’s total capabilities. CNBC notes the Taiwan firm made 12 million wafers in 2020 alone. The National Economic Council estimates that should be enough to fulfill US demand, though. That could alleviate chip shortages, create jobs and reduce American dependence on foreign production.

While the plants won’t come online for two years, news of the expansion comes at an appropriate time. Apple has warned of iPhone 14 Pro manufacturing setbacks due to China’s COVID-19 policies. In theory, American facilities would have reduced the impact of those restrictions. Although many parts could still be made overseas even after TSMC’s expansion, there could soon be a greater chance of Apple devices reaching your door in a timely fashion.

Atomico report: European startups on track to raise $85B this year, down from $100B+ in 2021

Startups across Europe are on track to raise $85 billion in funding this year — a drop of $15 billion on 2021 when funding passed $100 billion, according to a new report published today. The figures come from London VC firm Atomico’s annual State of European Tech, which has become a bellwether for the tech […]

Atomico report: European startups on track to raise $85B this year, down from $100B+ in 2021 by Ingrid Lunden originally published on TechCrunch

Chrome is adding shortcuts to easily search for tabs, bookmarks, and history from the address bar

Google is making it easier for users to search for tabs, bookmarks, and history from the address bar with new shortcuts. You can now type @tabs, @bookmarks, or @history to begin searching for websites. Tab search is probably the handiest feature out of the lot. Chrome already offers tab search, but you have to either […]

Chrome is adding shortcuts to easily search for tabs, bookmarks, and history from the address bar by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch

FTX marked down Chipper Cash’s $2B valuation to $1.25B

African fintech Chipper Cash saw its valuation slashed from $2 billion to $1.25 billion before FTX’s bankruptcy, according to documents shared by the Financial Times on Alameda’s venture capital portfolio. TechCrunch got a whiff of this information from sources familiar with the company’s financial situation, and though the African cross-border payments company didn’t confirm the […]

FTX marked down Chipper Cash’s $2B valuation to $1.25B by Tage Kene-Okafor originally published on TechCrunch

Real ID enforcement delayed yet again — this time to 2025

The Department of Homeland Security said Monday it’s again pushing back the enforcement of Real ID requirements for state driver’s licenses and ID cards. The latest delay moves states’ compliance deadline to May 7th, 2025.

Passed by Congress in 2005 as a response to the Sept. 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Real ID Act requires stricter documentation for boarding flights and entering federal or nuclear facilities. For example, to get a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or state ID card, you need to provide paperwork for your name, date of birth, address, Social Security card and birth certificate.

The DHS says the requirements increase state IDs’ reliability and accuracy. Officials can quickly see whether a card is Real ID-compliant by looking for the gold star in the upper right-hand corner.

When the bill passed, states initially had a 2008 compliance deadline. But after some states and US territories refused to play ball, the cutoff faced delay after delay. Despite the ever-shifting deadlines, 13 states rolled out support in 2012. The list grew in the following years as reluctant states faced the prospect of having their residents blocked from flights. But the COVID-19 pandemic led to even more kicking of the can, and today’s cutoff point pushes it back from May 2023 to May 2025.

“DHS continues to work closely with US states, the District of Columbia, and the US territories to meet Real ID requirements,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas in a news release today. “This extension will give states needed time to ensure their residents can obtain a Real ID-compliant license or identification card. DHS will also use this time to implement innovations to make the process more efficient and accessible. We will continue to ensure that the American public can travel safely.” 

Neuralink is reportedly under federal investigation over animal testing

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Inspector General is reportedly investigating Neuralink over potential animal welfare violations related to research testing. According to Reuters, internal documents show that staff members have been raising concerns that the company has been rushing animal testing and causing needless suffering and death. 

The news organization said the company has killed 1,500 animals, including more than 280 sheep, pigs and monkeys, since 2018. Those numbers don’t automatically mean Neuralink is violating the law, and the company has passed all USDA inspections of its facilities. Former and current employees told Reuters, however, that pressure from Neuralink founder Elon Musk to accelerate development has led to faulty experiments and, hence, death rates higher than they need to be. 

Musk has reportedly been telling employees since the company was launched in 2016 to imagine that they had a bomb strapped to their heads in an effort to make them move faster. He also reportedly told staff that he would trigger a “market failure” unless they made progress, which some employees interpreted as a warning that he would shut down the company. Earlier this year, Musk also sent staff members an email with an article about Swiss researchers who created an implant that helped a paralyzed person walk again, Reuters said. “In general, we are simply not moving fast enough. It is driving me nuts!” he reportedly wrote in a follow-up email.

Upon reviewing internal testing documentation, Reuters said it found four experiments involving 86 pigs and two monkeys with results that were rendered questionable by human errors. Neuralink had to repeat those experiments, leading to more deaths. A message written by an angry employee talked about how rushed animal surgeries had led to under-prepared and overstressed employees who ended up making mistakes. A couple of examples Reuters found in the documents detailed how Neuralink staff implanted the company’s brain-machine interface device on the wrong vertebra of two different pigs — something that could’ve been easily prevented by counting the animals’ vertebrae — forcing the team to kill them to end their suffering. 

Earlier this year, the animal rights group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine accused the company botching surgeries that killed monkeys. Neuralink admitted that it had killed six monkeys in its joint study with the University of California, Davis due to issues caused by their experiments. However, they defended their research and said that it didn’t break any laws. 

Neuralink recently held an event announcing that it could start human trials within the next six months. During the program, company founder Elon Musk directly responded to the Phyisicians Committee accusations: “Before we would even think of putting a device in an animal, we do everything possible we with rigorous benchtop testing, We’re not cavalier about putting these devices into animals. We’re extremely careful and we always want the device, whenever we do the implant — whether into a sheep, pig or monkey — to be confirmatory, not exploratory,” he said. 

Reuters, however, said it found Neuralink records with numerous references to “exploratory surgeries.” Autumn Sorrells, Neuralink’s Animal Care Program Director, also reportedly ordered employees in October to remove “exploration” from their study titles and to stop using the term going forward.