Facebook “Messenger Day” is the chat app’s new Snapchat Stories clone

Facebook is stealing the Stories format and invading countries where Snapchat isn’t popular yet. Today in Poland it launched “Messenger Day”, which lets people share illustrated filter-enhanced photos and videos that disappear in 24 hours, just like on Snapchat.

By using the international popularity of Messenger to spread the Stories format, Facebook could boost retention and return visits to its chat app while becoming the primary place where people post off-the-cuff, everyday life content before they get hooked on Snapchat.

Sources in Poland spotted it and sent TechCrunch these screenshots. We reached out to Facebook for comment, and it told us “We know that people come to Messenger to share everyday moments with friends and family. In Poland we are running a small test of new ways for people to share those updates visually. We have nothing more to announce at this time.”

Additionally, Facebook says it frequently runs small tests before rolling products out to other regions, but there’s no guarantee it will expand this feature beyond Poland. It’s unclear, but Facebook might not bring it to the US unless it really blows up abroad. 60 million people in the US and Canada already use Snapchat daily, and aggressively pushing Messenger Day on them could annoy them. But in countries where people aren’t that familiar with Snapchat, it has nothing to lose by experimenting.

Much of the feature works exactly like Snapchat Stories, with the ability to draw or add text to images. Facebook’s one big innovation with Messenger Day is the use of graphic filters as suggestions for what to share, instead of just to celebrate holidays and events or to show off your location like with Snapchat’s geofilters.

At the top of the Messenger thread list, users see a row of tiles representing “My Day” and friends’ Days they can watch, but there are also prompts like “I’m Feeling”, “Who’s  Up For?” and “I’m Doing”. Tapping on these tiles provides a range of filters “I’m feeling…so blue” with raindrops and a bubbly blue font, “I’m feeling…blessed” with a glorious gold sparkly font, “Who’s up for…road trip” with a cute car zooming past, or “Who’s up for…Let’s grab drinks” with illustrated beer mugs and bottles that cover the screen.

Messsenger is already an app people use all day with close friends, so it could end up a better home for the Stories format than cramming it into Facebook’s core app, which the company tested and scrapped. The Stories slideshow format has proven to be a powerful way to share more than the perfectly polished pics people post to Instagram, and now Facebook wants to make it ubiquitous before Snapchat can.

Additional reporting by John Biggs

We had Moved to PassionGadgets.com For latest updates: Gift / Soft Toy

Smurf’s badges

$1.50 each, 3 for $3.50

Details:

* Unique badges to pin on bags, caps and many more !

* Available in Papa smurf, clumsy smurf and smurfette

* Great movie memorabilia item.

For Normal postage is $1.00

For registered post is addition $2.50 (Mean $1.00+ $2.50 = $3.50 registered post)

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Agne’s UnicornThe Despicable Me Movie
Selling @ $
For latest price please visit our new site: http://www.passiongadgets.com/gift-soft-toys.html

 

Details:

* 6 Inch Plush Figure

* Brand new with all original tags attached!

* Despicable Me Deluxe

* Great movie memorabilia item.

For Normal postage is $3.00
For registered post is addition $2.50 (Mean $3.00+ $2.50 = $5.00 registered post)

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Angry Bird Soft Toy
For latest price please visit our new site: http://www.passiongadgets.com/gift-soft-toys.html
 Details:
7cm small is $
10cm is $
16cm is $
26cm is $

For Normal postage is $3.00
For registered post is addition $2.50 (Mean $3.00+ $2.50 = $5.00 registered post)

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Gift / Soft Toy

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Black Spiderman for Car Windscreen
Selling @ $
Details:
* Movable head easily rotates to 360 °
* 2 suction caps
* Looks cool

For Normal postage is $1.50
For registered post is addition $2.50 (Mean $1.50+ $2.50 = $4.00 registered post)

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Super Mario Bad Evil Mushroom Figure Doll $8
For latest price please visit our new site: http://www.passiongadgets.com/gift-soft-toys.html

+ Awesome build quality. Feels like a high-end doll.
+ Great for putting in the car
+ Fun to look at.

For Normal postage is $1.50
For registered post is addition $2.50 (Mean $1.50+ $2.50 = $4.00 registered post)

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Super Mario Soft Figures (2-Pack)
Selling @ $
For latest price please visit our new site: http://www.passiongadgets.com/gift-soft-toys.html

Details:
* Soft and squeeshy
* Good build quality
* Decorate your room
* Great for collections of Super Mario

For Normal postage is $1.50
For registered post is addition $2.50 (Mean $1.50+ $2.50 = $4.00 registered post)

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Cute Mario Figure Display Toy – Mario (Red)
Selling @ $
For latest price please visit our new site: http://www.passiongadgets.com/gift-soft-toys.html

Details:
* Decorate your room
* Great for collections of Super Mario

For Normal postage is $1.50
For registered post is addition $2.50 (Mean $1.50+ $2.50 = $4.00 registered post)

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Cute Mario Figure Donkey Kong JR Doll  Selling @ $
For latest price please visit our new site: http://www.passiongadgets.com/gift-soft-toys.html

Details:
* Soft and squeeshy
* Good build quality
* Decorate your room
* Great for collections of Super Mario

For Normal postage is $1.50
For registered post is addition $2.50 (Mean $1.50+ $2.50 = $4.00 registered post)

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The Poking Man Pen Stand
Selling @ $
(This items is going at super low price)

Looking for an amusing gift?

The

Poking Man Pen Stand

is one funniest desktop gadget that I’ve seen.

It’s a pen holder which you put your pen on to fill up the poor little man’s asshole and he will cry and raise his head.

Well, somehow I feel pitiful for this little man.

While he’s on your work desk for sure he’ll get all the tortures by your dirty hands!

Video to show you after the jump!

– Powered by 2×AA batteries (Free)
– Free Pen.
– Without Box or Packaging.
For Adults Above 18 only

For Normal postage is $1.50
For registered post is addition $2.50 (Mean $1.50+ $2.50 = $4.00 registered post)

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– iPhone’s Accessories Updated “Portable Battery, Screenprotector, Usb cable”

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Google launches final release version of Angular 2.0

After Google launched the first version of its Angular web application framework in 2010, it quickly became one of the hottest web technologies. Since then, the web has changed, though, and when Google announced Angular 2 in 2014, it created quite a stir in the web development community because this new version wasn’t just an update, but instead a complete rewrite that wasn’t compatible with the older version. Today, after numerous preview and beta releases, the company is officially launching the final release version of Angular 2.0.

Angular 1 first solved the problem of how to develop for an emerging web,” the company writes in today’s announcement. “Six years later, the challenges faced by today’s application developers, and the sophistication of the devices that applications must support, have both changed immensely.”

Application developers today, however, also have a far wider choice of JavaScript frameworks. Facebook’s React framework especially has a lot of momentum behind it, though, to be fair, the two projects have slightly different styles (Angular is a far more opinionated framework, for example) and strengths (React Native makes it easy to build native apps, for example). But given that Google doesn’t give developers who built applications with React 1.x an easy upgrade path, many of them are now looking at which technology to use next.

Angular 2.0 introduces a number of new features, including better support for modern browsers and mobile development. The team also moved a lot of the core functionality into modules that now make it easier to use third-party libraries in addition to the built-in ones. The team now also recommends that developers use TypeScript to write their apps. TypeScript is a Microsoft-developed superset of JavaScript that adds features like static typing and class-based object-oriented programming.

Looking ahead, the Angular team plans to provide developers with more guides and examples to help them learn Angular 2.0 faster. In addition, the team plans to put more work into animations for Angular 2.0 and move its WebWorker support out of its experimental branch. Angular Universal, a project that lets you render your app server-side so first-time users will quickly see a server-rendered version of your site, for example, will also soon get support for more languages.

Going forward, the team will also move to releasing Angular updates through three channels (major, minor and patch). Major versions are those that introduce incompatible API changes. Minor versions signal the addition of backwards-compatible functionality and the version numbers for the patch version ticks up as backwards-compatible bugs are fixed.

In the aftermath of Italy’s quake, tech supported relief efforts

On August 24th, a warm summer night, all of Europe was shaken when an earthquake measuring 6.2 on the moment magnitude scale, hit central Italy.

“The town [Amatrice] doesn’t exist anymore…..it’s all gone,” said Sergio Pirozzi, mayor of the small town of Amatrice during an interview immediately after the tragedy. More than 290 people died, and dozens more are still missing.

As an Italian expat in the UK I felt both extremely close to the population hit by the tragedy and quite powerless. I started to look online for ways to help my fellow citizens and I was glad to find out that many initiatives have been put in place.

“Un Aiuto Subito” (A Help Now) is a crowdfounding campaign started to collect money to support the victims and the reconstructions of the areas hit by the earthquake.

As of now, the campaign has raised almost $500,000.

“We are very proud of this result and the level of solidarity expressed during this campaign. Donations came from all over the world and we are very grateful for this. Many were asking for a way to donate from abroad without having to pay banks the transfer fee, hence the idea of a crowdfounding campaign,” said Claudio Bedino, founder of Starteed — the company that provides the technology behind the platform.

According to the organizers, around 15% of the money came from foreign countries with US making the biggest single donation with $5,000 from a donor in NY.

Together with Starteed, the campaign was promoted by TIM, a telecom company, Corriere Della Sera, Italy’s leading daily newspaper and LA7 one of the country most influential TV network. This the first time that a crowdfounding campaign in Italy has been initiated to support victims of a natural catastrophe.

Mark Zuckerberg made a controversial donation while visiting Italy for a friend’s wedding (Spotify’s CEO, Daniel EK). Facebook CEO’s donated $500,000 to the Italian Red Cross…in Facebook ads. While many criticized the donation for being not real money and, after all, it’s not going to cost Facebook nor Zuckerberg anything, others saw the real opportunity.

“If this money is spent wisely and strategically, then they could potentially be turned into donations worth several millions of Euros,” says Alessandro Sportelli author of “La pubblicità su Facebook – solo i numeri che contano” a book on Facebook advertising.

When questioned by the audience during his speech at LUISS University in Rome, Zuckerberg also pointed out that Facebook have done a lot to help families and friends of those hit by the tragedy. “We ran a “Safety Check” the day of the earthquake and […] has been one of the most successful we’ve ever seen across the world,” Zuckerberg was quoted as saying.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Thursday, April 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Not everyone donated, but people from all over the world expressed their solidarity through social media. In particular, Blogmeter, a social media monitoring company, registered in the first two days over 2.7million messages, 1.4 of which were in a foreign language, while the remaining 1.3 were in Italian.

“This is the first time that regular people arrived before the institutions. Thanks to the hashtag #terremoto (earthquake), the news spread really fast since the early morning, while institutional accounts arrived only later,” said Vincenzo Cosenza of Blogmeter.

Other popular hashtags used by the international community to express solidarity and support have been #prayforitaly, with over 450.000 messages, and #italyearthquake registering more 150.000 tweets.

The Italian tech community also reacted quite quickly. A network of civic hackers, supported by ActionAid Italy, put together an initiative called “Terremoto Centro Italia” starting from a Facebook group. The network used Telegram to collect and spread vital information, including videos, images and emergency request.

“When emergency units were in need of connectivity cables, we immediately sent the request to the group and in less then an hour we manage to have everything they needed” tells Matteo Tempestini co-founder of the initiative together with Matteo Fortini.

Unlike previous natural disasters, this time the overall telecommunication system never got disrupted. “There were moments in which some network went down. Thanks to our group of hacktivists, we got hold of the people in charge of that particular network and manage to get it restored,” said Tempestini.

Cristian Quintili of ActionAid has been one of the first to be on the ground “The help we received from the hacktivists has been absolutely fundamental. We worked closely together to fill the gap of information due to the emergency and their network help us save several lives,” Quintili said.

On a similar note “Emergenza 24” (Emergency24), a “social network” for emergency management founded in 2012, connected the entire population affected by emergency, including citizens in need of information.

Nontechnical people helped with communications as well, with organizations like The Italian Community of Open Street Maps updating their maps in real-time using satellite images and Waze to inform the community on transportation issues.

Furthermore, the Italian “Protezione Civile” — the public body responsible to bring immediate help in case of emergency — immediately announced that they needed PC, tablets and smartphones to keep the communication going rather than money. “Progetto Nuova Vita” (Project new life) manage to collect over 100 devices to donate for the emergency.

Thanks to the Internet, and all the initiatives to gather support, Italy realized the huge potential of new technologies to collect more than just money.

Social media and new crowdfunding platforms worked as a tool to spread vital information and gain international support. The Italian network of civic hackers demonstrated that the help needed during such a huge crisis can come from people with skills that are not traditionally connected with natural disasters. Everyone can help, and help can come in ways that have never been taken in consideration before.

Featured Image: MARIO LAPORTA/Getty Images

Jonah Peretti on staying innovative with BuzzFeed Open Lab

What’s a media company doing making stuffed animals that can read your emotions? Received wisdom in business is that young companies innovate so naturally that they don’t need help or special programs to foster innovation. So when a young media business like BuzzFeed starts an innovation “lab,” it feels something like a college freshman sporting grandpa’s golf pants.

Still BuzzFeed, which was founded in 2006, started something called the BuzzFeed Open Lab one year ago, and we caught up with BuzzFeed’s CEO and founder Jonah Peretti to find out how it’s impacting the company overall.

Peretti said his inspiration for BuzzFeed Open Lab came partly from his own experience as a fellow at a tech, media and arts organization in New York called Eyebeam.

“When I was at Eyebeam, and working on projects funded by the MacArthur Foundation, we hung out in this little warehouse working with no commercial focus to understand what’s happening in tech and media without constraint,” Peretti tells me. “At BuzzFeed, of course, we don’t need a lab to innovate, but I’ve always liked things that feel more like a scene than something commercial.”

The Open Lab program just admitted its second cohort of fellows. They include:

  • Cathy Deng who will “exploring ways to puncture our filter bubbles and invite voices into the conversation”
  • Jamica El who will be “interweaving re-purposed mobile hardware — cameras, microphones, and hard drives — into modern apparel”
  • Logan Williams who will be “building interfaces that use machine learning to transform of personal media into rich and reflective stories”
  • Caroline Sinders who will be “using machine learning to identity and mitigate abuse in online conversations”
  • Lam Thuy Vo who will “explore ethical ways to mine and utilize social data for storytelling”

Peretti said fellows in the experimental program over the past year developed futuristic technology and projects that stand to transform the way BuzzFeed sources news and tells stories for years to come.

BuzzFeed Open Lab fellow Ben Kreimer flies a newsgathering drone.

While that could mean Open Lab contributes to BuzzFeed’s profitability in the end, don’t confuse it with an incubator or accelerator. Fellowship money, office space, equipment and mentorship are granted with no strings attached.

BuzzFeed Open Lab is not the only place where the media company hashes out new uses for emerging technology, of course.

In recent examples, BuzzFeed launched Tasty and Proper Tasty in December 2015. The Facebook-only food video channels now garner billions of views every month and have become a big franchise for BuzzFeed, Peretti said.

More recently BuzzFeed announced a reorganization of sorts, including the launch of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, an entertainment division headed by Ze Frank, and video teams to support news and entertainment, separately. Video used to be a separate division within the company.

“These things are perfectly of the moment,” says Peretti. “They fit with the way people are consuming video now. As a company, we focus on pop culture and reaching large audiences.”

BuzzFeed Open Lab fellows instead spend time on tech that isn’t pervasively used as something like Facebook, Snapchat, livestreaming and online video are today. They also explore, and sometimes create, media formats that haven’t become dominant and may never, in fact.

The idea for the lab was also partly inspired by his sister’s early career. Stand-up comedian, actress and writer Chelsea Peretti got started as part of a comedy troupe called Variety SHAC. “She would get together with people to try ideas, or test out materials, and with limited resources would learn so much because they had total freedom to experiment,” her brother recalls.

Chelsea Peretti Emcee’s the TechCrunch 9th Annual Crunchies Awards at War Memorial Opera House on February 8, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

According to BuzzFeed’s bureau chief in San Francisco Mat Honan, and BuzzFeed Open Lab Senior Fellow Amanda Hickman, the fellows in San Francisco frequently interact with the company’s editorial staff, and vice versa.

News professionals can help fellows think about applying sophisticated technology practically to problems they may have never realized were a part of newsgathering and production.

Having a bunch of engineers and developers in-house has also given BuzzFeed reporters a resource for figuring things out like the technological feasibility of different inventions, or the impact of a certain development in an industry that they’re writing about, Honan said.

The fellows present their work at a Show and Tell, the creative world’s answer to a Demo Day.

Fellows in the most recent cohort developed news gathering drones, 360-video creation tools, VR content editing programs; data analytics and bot-driven systems for news gathering and investigations; and robots that are cuddly, and when held, help users track their own biometric and emotional responses to different stories they read or videos that they watch.

Christine Sunu’s Buddy is an “emotionally connected toy.”

“There’s a lot of hardware or interactive stuff that’s nice, but it’s not helpful or useful to people. I’m building weird interface experiments that should make your life easier, including emotionally, while also being protective of you and your data.” said engineer and Open Lab fellow, Christine Sunu.

Honan said he could see Sunu’s creations being used as a next generation type of Nielsen People Meter if she wanted to find a commercial application for them. But so far, she doesn’t want to go commercial, Sunu confirmed.

Perhaps the most anti-commercial project in the inaugural cohort of BuzzFeed Open Labs first cohort is the Saito Group’s “data poetry projection” system.

The pseudonymously named Saito Group automatically ingests social media posts, namely Tweets and geolocation data, turns them into found poems which are projected onto surfaces like brick walls in public locations where they will likely have personal resonance with passersby.

The developer behind the Saito Group declined to be named for this story as a condition of speaking with TechCrunch.

“There’s so much public space. Every surface could be used for people to communicate,” Saito said. “I want to have people know about this [technology] and be able to contribute to it and put up works around their city.”

Honan and Hickman said from the start, they have focused outreach around diversity and inclusion, making sure to go beyond the usual suspects in tech in Silicon Valley to promote their program and draw in applicants.

Asked what futuristic technologies, including from the Open Lab, BuzzFeed may soon employ, Peretti said: AI, virtual reality, drones and bots were all on his mind.

“There is a lot of work to be done on the underlying tech before the media piece becomes important and you can reach a lot of people and lives with content with these,” Peretti says. “But if we understand these things as a medium, that will allow us to make better news and entertainment when they are scaled out.”

Peretti also said, perhaps too humbly, it would be easier for robots to steal the job of a CEO than that of any writer or creative.

“AI systems and robots can eliminate some of the drudgery of reporting work,” he says. “But it’s going to be hard for a robot to call and interview someone, or write something funny or insightful. On the other hand, it’s probably pretty easy for a robot to make decisions about where to allocate capital within a business.”

Lenovo’s gutting of Motorola is nearly complete

My first cell phone was a Sanyo. But only because I couldn’t afford a Motorola. I wanted a StarTAC. All the cool kids had a StarTAC. My Sanyo said loud and clear I was not a cool kid. Sometime later, I spent around $650 to be one of the first people to get the RAZR. People didn’t stand in line back then, but I purchased it at the store the first day it was available. I was finally a cool kid.

I stuck with Motorola through the Droid years. I loved my Droid X, X2 and still think the RAZR M is one of the nicest feeling phones ever made.

But now the cool kids have iPhones and Galaxys.

Motorola’s days are numbered. Earlier today Lenovo announced another round of layoffs leaving just several hundred people working at Motorola — 3500 people worked at Motorola when Lenovo bought the division from Google in 2014 and 20,000 worked there Google bought the company in 2012.

Motorola was an American icon founded in 1928. It was the United States’ Sony and Philips. It was the pride of Chicago. Like other early mobile icons, BlackBerry and Nokia, the company failed to innovate quick enough and fell behind Apple and Samsung. Eventually Google bought part of the company. It wasn’t a good fit so a Chinese giant bought the brand and engineers off Google in 2014.

At the time there were soft cries about a Chinese firm buying a historic American brand. But this was Lenovo, which years earlier purchased another iconic American brand, IBM’s laptop division, and managed to become the world’s largest PC vendor. If anyone could turn around Motorola, it could be Lenovo, most hoped.

That hasn’t happened. Motorola’s marketshare has dwindled to a tiny percentage though it continues to produce stellar devices.

The Motorola of today is not the Motorola that made the cell phone or m68k or even the RAZR. That Motorola is gone and all that’s left is a shell and empty cubicles in its Chicago headquarters.

Review: Apple tees up the future with iPhone 7

The depth mapping that this feature uses is a byproduct of there being two cameras on the device. It uses technology from LiNx, a company Apple acquired, to create data the image processor can use to craft a 3D terrain map of its surroundings. This does not include the full capabilities of the Primesense chip Apple purchased back in 2013 (we have yet to see this stuff fully implemented), but it’s coming.

It is not a stretch of the imagination to say that once the iPhone can see in 3D (which it’s already starting to do), it could provide positional and hand tracking for virtual reality and augmented reality, image capture for VR and AR and spatial mapping. I’ve gone through this in detail before so I won’t belabor the point, but if you listen to the pundits, Apple always seems to be “behind” in innovative technology when in fact it is already applying it in purpose-driven ways that are less about tech demos and more about customer delight. This is a recurring theme and it’s good to remember it every time someone calls Apple boring.

A few more camera tidbits for those interested:

  • The image processor now does body detection, as well as facial detection. This helps to lock on faces faster and aids in the Portrait Mode.
  • There is now a RAW API that developers can tap into to grab raw sensor data in the form of DNG files. This enables real Lightroom-style RAW editing, as well as a bunch of other fun stuff in the form of video and still manipulation.
  • The RAW images can be grabbed from either the wide or telephoto lens.
  • This API does not expose the depth mapping data used in Portrait Mode to developers.

Retina HD display

Symbiotic with the camera is a wide color gamut screen that displays colors in the P3 space. As illustrated above, this means that the screen can show more colors and show them more accurately. This effectively brings the iPhone 7 screens on par with the Retina iMac and the iPad Pro 9.7”. Expect to see P3 screens roll out to all Apple devices in the future.

Of note, the iPhone 7/7 Plus do not have True Tone displays. These displays, which match their color temperature to surrounding ambient light, require additional sensor packages, and there was likely no room to include them in the iPhone’s smaller casing. Probably soon though; it’s a stellar effect.

Performance

Apple’s silicon team has some of the best talent on the planet. It went from buying off the shelf, though tweaked, processors to designing and shipping tens of millions of completely custom CPUs a year. Every year some new clever addition gets added to the vocabulary — not just of Apple, but of the industry.

This year, Apple debuts the A10 Fusion chip; let’s head into the weeds a bit to talk about it.

The new chip is a 4-core configuration that, at first glance, looks like a standard “big.LITTLE” ARM setup. Two powerful cores for the heavy lifting and two lesser cores for conserving battery life by handling lightweight tasks.

In fact, it is not a standard big.LITTLE setup. There are some similarities in that the lower-powered cores are there to handle small or background tasks, but there are some differences.

Though the concept is similar, the architecture that connects the cores is completely different. Apple was not satisfied with the performance of the standard ARM processor and once again designed its own in-house. The two levels of cores are supposed to be able to switch contexts on the fly without a heavy switching penalty and even share the last level of their cache with each other. The majority of the actions you take on your phone, outside of huge tasks like rendering games and the like, can be done using the low-power cores, eating up one-fifth of the power of what the high-performance cores require.

This smoother switching between cores, along with emphasis on optimization of low-power tasks, is what leads to the iPhone 7’s increased battery life even though the processor has gone up in raw overall power.

In Geekbench testing, the iPhone 7 Plus scored 3424 in single-core performance and 5560 in multi-core performance. The iPhone 7 scored similarly. In practical terms, that means a roughly 22 percent increase in performance over the iPhone 6s.

This supports my assertion last year that the “tick” years (the ones in between major casing changes) are focused on changes outside of pure performance.

For context, this follows a 56.5 percent increase in Geekbench benchmark scores from the iPhone 6 Plus to the iPhone 6s Plus. There was a 97 percent increase from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 5s. Increases continue to be less, in pure benchmark percentages, on the tick years.

Despite increasing the processing power by nearly a quarter, Apple has managed to deliver even better battery life than previously. It claims two hours and my testing appears to bear that out. I’m left with a little more power after a day’s use — about 25 percent — than I was with the iPhone 6s.

End of an Eara

The stereo speakers are loud and effective. The bottom one is oriented down, replacing 1:1 where the headphone jack used to be. The top one is behind the same grille as the speaker for your ear when taking phone calls.

You might ask why stereo speakers are a big deal? The answer is in every kid that grabs an iPhone or shift worker that watches a TV show at lunch and in the enormous swaths of the world where mobile phones are not just becoming the primary computer but the only computer any person actually owns themselves. Having great speakers matters for communal viewing, casual video watching and more.

In addition, this brings an end to the era of cupping your hand around the bottom of your iPhone to try to project as much of the sound forward as you can. This awkward gesture has become synonymous with iPhone users trying to watch video in noisy places or to share a captured video with friends and family.

The new speakers work great, as intended.

Jacked

The headphone jack is gone, and it wasn’t a controversial decision at all; people were ready to let go. Just kidding. The tech pundit-sphere has gone ape.

And, honestly, there is validity to the fact that the headphone jack is being yanked off of the iPhone early. There are billions of pairs of headphones out there that work with the jack, and there are plenty of legitimate gripes about the new iPhones not having one.

But the school of thought that says Apple removing the headphone jack is almost entirely a business decision – a way for Apple to sell more Beats headphones — is ridiculous and myopic. The near-term gains of making more money on headphone sales (which is not even guaranteed —  there are plenty of makers out there) is far outweighed by the issues Apple would bring upon itself in the long-term by making decisions that were bankrupt of real design justification.

Even though Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller was criticized for using the word “courage” to describe deleting a ubiquitous and accessible port, Apple founder Steve Jobs used a similar argument to explain why the iPhone was not going to ever support Flash. Jobs, orator as he was, pulled it off through charisma and sharp word choice. (Courage of our convictions is far more precise than just plain “courage,” a word used to describe war veterans and cancer defeaters.)

The situations are not exactly parallel, but it explains the motivations even if you don’t agree with them.

A recent online poll by Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies indicates around 54 percent of iPhone users primarily use the headphones that come packed in the box.

Those who don’t, buy external headphones, and the wireless segment is growing — up to 31 percent of headphones last year, according to Piper Jaffray. Apple is betting hard on that second bit because it’s converting people to headphones that work fine, but not while charging, and asking a wired headphone industry to pay it a vig to make headphones that work with the new iPhone (Apple requires registration and a fee for manufacturers who make Lightning port accessories). Wireless headphones, by comparison, only need to support Bluetooth.

Both Jobs’ Apple and Tim Cook’s Apple are making the same bet — but with higher stakes. Apple is betting hard that the future of audio (and everything else) is wireless. But while Jobs was making a bet on an iPhone (and iPad) business that was just heating up, Cook is putting Apple’s backbone product, the core of its massive profitability, on the block.

You may disagree that this could be called “courageous,” but it’s certainly a statement. But we can argue that until we’re blue — this is about how the deletion actually works, in real life.

Meet the startups that just pitched at EF’s 6th Demo Day (and our top picks)

I’ve just finished watching Entrepreneur First‘s sixth cohort’s Demo Day Demo in London. The event, held at Facebook’s UK HQ, saw 21 newly outed startups pitch their wares on stage to investors, press and other actors in the European tech scene.

But before I give a run down of the presenting companies, including our top 3 picks, here’s a quick reminder of how EF works and what has made it the new darling of the UK startup community.

Founded back in 2011 by Alice Bentinck and Matt Clifford, the so-called “talent first” investor targets the best technical graduates in Europe and beyond to put them through a six-month program where they form teams and in turn found startups.

This includes financial support in the form of a monthly stipend for living costs while founders find their co-founders and decide on an idea. This is then followed by £10,000 in pre-seed funding, in addition to office space, legal and administrative support, and mentoring and advice from the EF team and external entrepreneurs from the wider UK startup scene.

It is this “pre-team, pre-idea” approach that sets EF apart from other accelerators — and something that initially left the rather conservative European VC industry grossly underestimating its potential — while the emphasis on technical talent is producing some very interesting results.

Not least, EF’s biggest (albeit only significant) exit to date: Magic Pony, sold to Twitter for a reported $150 million and creating a huge return for EF itself and the 1 year old startup’s other early investors.

EF has also raised two funds of its own, having just announced its £40 million “Next Stage Fund” to add to £8.4 million raised last year. The new investment vehicle, which is majority backed by the UK taxpayer-funded British Business Bank and also counts LPs such as Imperial College, Sir Charles Dunstone’s Freston Ventures, and Isomer Capital, will co-invest in graduating companies at the seed and Series A stage.

Calipsa

Calipsa describes itself as automating traffic video surveillance using Artificial Intelligence. Its computer vision and big data technology claims to able to tap into a city’s existing CCTV infrastructure — no new hardware required — and crunch all of that data on a per vehicle or item level, including counting cars!

And, ‘Big Brother’ tendencies not withstanding, the resulting efficiencies have a lot of potential to improve city security, traffic control and planning. Or, in the words of the team pitching, to make our cities smarter.

Accurx

Accurx tackling the problem of eliminating inappropriate antibiotic, which is a major contributor to diminishing effectiveness antibiotics. Basically, antibiotics are dramatically over prescribed and, due to bacteria resistance, are becoming less effective.

To help physicians make better decisions regarding appropriate use of antibiotics, the startup is building what it describes as a “supervised, linked, person-level dataset, to provide an empirical diagnoses free from human biases”.

In practice, this translates into much better data, linking medical history, presenting symptoms, treatment given, and, most crucially, clinical outcomes. By crunching this data and providing supporting tools, the idea is, as the pitch goes, to remove human bias from the antibiotic prescription process.

Drafter

Admittedly, more frivolous than most of the ideas being pitched today, Drafter is an in-box assistant that automatically drafts email responses based on your previous interactions.

It’s initially aimed at sales people. Why? Because, so the pitch goes, a speedy response to a sales enquiry, of, say, 5 minutes, dramatically increases the chance of closing a sale.

In fact, the first to respond is invariably the person who wins the deal, yet response times are on average 10 hours. And so much of sales involves a very repetitive workflow.

Eventually, however, Drafter, wants to apply its tech to any kind of email, eliminating the times you begin composing a new email only to think, “I’m sure I’ve written this exact same response before”. Welcome to my world, people.

The full list of presenting teams (in their own words)

  • Accurx– Working to eliminate inappropriate antibiotic use by building a supervised, linked, person-level dataset, to provide an empirical diagnoses free from human biases.
  • Bloomsbury AI– Building a platform to enable everybody to program. It provides web services that enable everyone to rapidly create, train, use and share models online.
  • Brolly– Brolly’s mission is to re-define how customers experience insurance. Brolly is a mobile app that brings all insurance into one place, across understanding, buying and managing.
  • Calipsa– Calipsa’s mission is to automate traffic video surveillance using Artificial Intelligence.
  • Crypto Quantique– Working to develop a hardware based cybersecurity solution that simplifies, improves, and reduces cost of performing authentication and encryption in a (wired) local network. Our appliances benefit from cutting edge secure quantum communication technology, and can be integrated into current existing infrastructure.
  • Cyra – Aiming to make the hiring process simpler and cost effective for the employers of small to medium businesses, by providing an inexpensive, easy to use and smart Artificial Intelligence based recruiting assistant.
  • Eblur– The company’s mission is to bring about a revolution in the highly competitive and popular eSports game genre, by providing access to an online AI coaching companion
  • Flexciton– The company’s mission is to revolutionise industrial automation in the process systems and energy sector.
  • Intelligent Robots – Its mission is to democratise the use of mobile robots for industrial applications, by developing robots equipped with cheap sensors and controlled by cutting-edge deep learning algorithms.
  • Keypla– Its aim is to build a 360° view of all for-sale properties in UK, to reduce the cost of house viewings. With advances in hardware, the cost of 360° tours can be reduced by 90%.
  • Kheiron– Kheiron is developing and building tools to help radiologists with their various everyday professional workflows
  • Loop Perfect– LoopPerfect’s mission is to streamline the development of C++ code, by using a just-in-time compiler, which allows the user to update their program logic without closing the running application.
  • Neurofenix– Aiming to make rehabilitation more autonomous, enjoyable and accessible to stroke victims
  • Petagene– The company’s mission is to make genomics data cheaper, faster and better. The cost of storing and transferring genomic data is rapidly outstripping sequencing costs.
  • Quotable– The company aims to drastically simplify the purchasing of bespoke goods and services, by providing a cheap, cloud-based solution that automates most of the quotations process and pro-actively provides market insights to both buyers and suppliers.
  • Neo AI – Neo AI develops a technology that makes using machine learning cheaper and faster, enabling new applications around different industries and making complex computations available to more customers.
  • Drafter– is an inbox assistant for sales people. It suggests responses to messages based on how you’ve responded to similar messages in the past.
  • Sanctum Technologies – Working to eliminate the sound of planes for households and companies near airports, by providing a 360% aviation noise cancelling device.
  • Suits Me– The mission is to develop the most personalised lifestyle assistant in the world; starting with fashion. The immediate problem SuitsMe is solving is to bridge offline with online shopping in terms of customer experience, by making it equally comfortable.
  • Alpha I – The company’s mission is to bring research into the heart of quantitative investing, by applying advanced multivariate Bayesian models together with cutting edge computing platforms.
  • Xihelm– Working to ensure that street surveying for utilities are more reliable, cheaper and faster than before, by visualising current and own augmented data from multiple sources, showing where likely assets are, in a user friendly format.

Robots pave the way for our sci-fi future now

Walmart is experimenting with autonomous shopping carts. Domino’s, Uber and Auro are heavily invested in autonomous driving research. Robots are serving as security guards, performing surgery, checking inventory at grocery stores, assisting in warehouse work, delivering our room service and even hunting for underwater treasure.

As robotics begins to leave controlled environments and navigate the real world alongside humans, the question remains: How will this affect the way we interact, work and talk to not only robots, but one another?

Our interactions with machines

It’s already becoming commonplace to see drones, survey robots and autonomous vehicles with drivers on autopilot. These aren’t just visions of grandeur in a Sci-Fi novel; they’re our reality now. And one of the most surprising results of the rise of robotics in our daily lives is that most people don’t seem to notice them at all.

As robots used for autonomous delivery, for example, become more prevalent, you can expect that your walk to work will be accompanied not only by other people with places to be, but also by robots of different shapes and sizes, intermingling with the crowd seamlessly on their way to deliver.

As you’re grocery shopping, drones will be flying overhead, on their way to check inventory while your automated shopping cart rolls itself alongside you. Meanwhile, in the back warehouse, robots will be busy retrieving items and moving goods from one spot to another for order fulfillment.

It can already be seen at Stanford Shopping Center and in Uber’s inspection lot in San Francisco. Our offices, malls and retail stores will be protected by security guards of the machine kind, accompanying human patrollers.

There will be robots like the OceanOne, a mermaid-like robot that works alongside divers for deep-sea missions and treasure hunting to retrieve items and data at deeper depths than any diver can go. In fact, there will likely be an array of robots that work with us to go where humans haven’t yet dared to go.

How will the presence of robots change local laws and regulations?

Robots will set new precedents for who and what are allowed to travel in public spaces. Currently, the policies of local governments on autonomous sidewalk vehicles varies from city to city and country to country. But one thing is for sure. As robots become more of a norm, legislatures will have to pay attention and define regulations and protections for the robots and companies using them.

European Parliament drafted a motion this May calling on the European Commission to consider “that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons with specific rights and obligations.” This would saddle corporations with the responsibility of paying social security for their robots, just as they would human workers.

It’s already becoming commonplace to see drones, survey robots and autonomous vehicles with drivers on autopilot.

The draft bill also proposes a register that would equate autonomous bots to funds established to cover its legal liabilities or that organizations should have to declare savings they make in social security contributions by using robotics instead of people, for tax purposes. The motion has seen huge push back from organizations like Germany’s VDMA and will need to win a lot of political backing in Parliament to pass. Regardless of the outcome, the motion has brought to light important questions about robot rights and human responsibilities to them.

While there are many places in the U.S. where robots are already specifically allowed to operate, other states have not yet needed to specifically address regulations. Washington, D.C. recently lead the way in U.S. robot regulations when it passed a law called the “Personal Delivery Device Act of 2016” outlining the rules and regulations for delivery robots and, in turn, specifically allowing these kinds of robots to operate in the nation’s capital. This law will serve as an example as more cities and states realize the importance of addressing this new technology.

The Federal Aviation Administration, after a significant amount of pressure from manufacturers and political figures, in June published final operational rules for the commercial use of small drones, those weighing less than 55 pounds. The rules turned out to be stricter than many had hoped, requiring pilots to be certified and within eyesight of the drone at all times. Pilots also can’t be in a moving vehicle and will have to be vetted by the TSA.

Amongst other regulations, the drones can only fly at a maximum altitude of 400 feet. While reaction to the rules have been reportedly positive, the impact did drive Amazon to partner with the U.K. Government to begin drone delivery testing in more rural and suburban areas. The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority gave Amazon the delivery testing permissions that it was denied through the FAA regulations.

There’s no doubt that the rise of autonomous robots will change the way we perceive many daily tasks. It will alter the way we interact with service providers and couriers. Our perception of robots will continue to evolve as they become commonplace on the road, in our shopping centers and in our homes. On our daily commute, in our jobs and during our leisure time, robot-human interaction will become the norm.

Featured Image: Kannah/AFP/Getty Images

Nextail raises $1.6M to help retailers optimize stock levels

Nextail, a Spanish startup that has developed technology to help retailers better manage inventory levels and, ultimately, sell at higher margins, has closed $1.6 million in new funding. The round was led by Nauta Capital, with participation from existing backer Realiza. It brings total raised to $2 million, while I’m told the new financing will be used by Nextail to accelerate product development, and expand its sales and marketing efforts.

Founded by Joaquín Villalba and Carlos Miragall in 2014, Nextail has developed a Software-as-a-Service that claims to bring artificial intelligence to physical retail inventory management. Its technology attempts to optimize the daily allocation and replenishment decisions that retailers have to make in order to ensure they hold the correct amount of stock at any point in time and can sell it at full price.

“The problem is retail’s billions of dollars in unsold inventory and markdowns because the goods were not in the right place at the right time,” explains Nextail’s Villalba. “In fashion, given the proliferation of styles, colors, and sizes, this problem is quite hard to crack”.

“Our product helps retailers extract the highest return from their stock investment, by placing the product in the stores where it will sell the fastest. To do so, we use fast fashion principles… coupled with the most advanced tech, such as machine learning or AI algorithms for image recognition”.

Furthermore, Villalba says Nextail’s product is proving to have a strong impact on a retailer’s bottom line. That’s because in fashion retail, profitability is driven by the percentage of goods that can be sold at full price rather through discounting, which is typically used shift unwanted stock.

“Thanks to our fast fashion optimization algorithms that leverage machine learning, massive computation in the cloud, and collaborative decision-making, we are able to solve this, resulting in increased amounts sold at full price and reduced inventories at the same time. Our clients love our product because it basically enables them to sell more, at better prices, using less stock,” he adds.

Nextail’s typical customers are fashion retailers with 100-1000 stores, with buy-in coming from CEOs, heads of retail, store managers, and area managers, to the teams on the ground actually dealing with inventory allocation and replenishment. The SaaS is currently operating in Spain, Italy, France and Russia, but the plan is to expand to the UK next year.