Архив рубрики: Augmented Reality

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Microsoft’s Seeing AI founder Saqib Shaikh is speaking at Sight Tech Global

When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella introduced Saqib Shaikh on stage at BUILD in 2016, he was obviously moved by the engineer’s “passion and empathy,” which Nadella said, “is going to change the world.”
That assessment was on the mark because Shaikh went on to co-found the mobile app Seeing AI, which is a showcase for the power of AI applied to the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired. Using the camera on a phone, the Seeing AI app can describe a physical scene, identify persons and their demeanor, read documents (including handwritten ones), read currency values and tell colors. The latest version uses haptic technology to help the user discover the position of objects and people in an image. The app has been used 20 million times since launch nearly three years ago, and today it works in eight languages.
It’s exciting to announce that Shaikh will be speaking at Sight Tech Global, a virtual, global event that addresses how rapid advances in technology, many of them AI-related, will influence the development of accessibility and assistive technology for people who are blind or visually impaired. The show, which is a project for the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired Silicon Valley, launched recently on TechCrunch. The virtual event is Dec. 2-3 and free to the public. Pre-register here. 
Shaikh lost his vision at the age of 7, and attended a school for blind students, where he was intrigued by computers that could “talk” to students. He went on to study computer science at the U.K.’s University of Sussex. “One of the things I had always dreamt of since university,” he says, “was something that could tell you at any moment who and what’s going on around you.”  That dream turned into his destiny.
After he joined Microsoft in 2006, Shaikh participated in Microsoft’s annual, week-long hackathons in 2014 and 2015 to develop the idea of applying AI in ways that could help people who are blind or visually impaired. Not long after, Seeing AI became an official project and Shaikh’s full-time job at Microsoft. The company’s Cognitive Services APIs have been critical to his work, and he now leads a team of engineers who are leveraging emerging technology to empower people who are blind.
“When it comes to AI,” says Shaikh, “I consider disabled people to be really good early adopters. We can point to history where  blind people have been using talking books for decades and so on, all the way through to OCR text-to-speech, which is early AI. Today, this idea that a computer can look at an image and turn it into a sentence has many use-cases but probably the most compelling is to describe that image to a blind person. For blind people this is incredibly empowering.” Below is a video Microsoft released in 2016 about Shaikh and the Seeing AI project. 

The Seeing AI project is an early example of a tool that taps various AI technologies in ways that produce an almost “intelligent” experience. Seeing AI doesn’t just read the text, for example, it also tells the user how to move the phone so the document is in the viewfinder. It doesn’t just tell you there are people in front of you, it tells you something about them, including who they are (if you have named them in the past) and their general appearance.
At Sight Tech Global, Shaikh will speak about the future of Seeing AI and his views on how accessibility will unfold in a world more richly enabled by cloud compute, low latency networks and ever more sophisticated AI algorithms and data sets. 
To pre-register for a free pass, please visit Sight Tech Global.
Please follow the event on Twitter @Globalsight.
Sponsors are welcome, and there are opportunities available ranging from branding support to content integration. Please email sponsor@sighttechglobal.com for more information.

Microsoft’s Seeing AI founder Saqib Shaikh is speaking at Sight Tech Global

Snapchat hits 218M users but big Q4 losses sink share price

Snapchat still isn’t profitable nearly two years after its IPO. In Q4 2019, Snap lost $241 million on 560.8 million in revenue that’s up 44% year-over-year and an EPS of $0.03. That comes from adding 8 million daily users to reach a total of 218, up 3.8% this quarter from 210 million and 17% year-over-year.
The big problem was a one-time $100 million legal settlement that pushed it to lose $49 million more in Q4 2019 than Q4 2018. That comes from a shareholders lawsuit claiming Snap didn’t adequately disclose the impact of competition from Facebook on its business. The IPO was soured by weak user growth as people shifted from Snapchat Stories to Instagram Stories.

A rough Q4
Snapchat had a mixed quarter compared to estimates, exceeding the EPS predicitions but falling short on revenue. FactSet’s consensus predicted $563 million in revenue and a loss of $0.12 EPS. Estimize’s consensus came in at $568 million in revenue and an EPS gain of $0.02.
Snapchat shares plunged over 10% in after-hours trading following the announcement. Shares had closed up 4.17% at $18.99 today. That’s up from a low of $4.99 in December 2018 when its user count was shrinking under competition from Instagram Stories. It’s now hovering around its $17 IPO price but it’s still under its post-IPO pop to $27.09.
Snap gave stronger than expected revenue guidance for Q1 2020 of $450 million to $470 million, and 224 million to 225 million users. The company’s CFO Derek Anderson says that “Q4 marked our first quarter of Adjusted EBITDA profitability at $42 million for the quarter, an improvement of $93 million over the prior year.” Still, he predicts an Adjusted EBITDA in Q1 of negative $90 million to negative $70 million. That’s manageable for Snap without raising more money, since it now has $2.1 billion in cash and marketable securities, down $148 million quarter-after-quarter.

Snapchat 2020
“Throughout the course of 2019, we added 31 million daily active users, largely driven by investments in our core product and improvements to our Android application “said Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel . “We’ve recently completed our 2020 strategic planning process and have aligned our teams and resources around our goals of supporting real friendships on Snapchat, expanding our service to a broader global community, investing in our AR and content platforms, and scaling revenue while achieving profitability in order to self-fund our investments in the future.”
Some other highlights:
1.3 trillion Snaps were created in 2019
The average Snapchat user engages for 30 minutes per day,
Snapchat reaches 90% of US 13 to 24 year-olds and over 75% of 13 to 34 year-olds
Total daily time spent by Snapchatters watching Discover increased by 35% year-over-year, and its up 60% for users over the age of 25
Over 50 Snapchat shows reached a monthly audience of 10 million viewers or more
75% of users engage with augmented reality per day
20% of Snaps sent with an AR lens were made with commununity-developed lenses
5X more users open the Lens Explorer now versus a year ago, and 10% of users open it every day
Snapchat’s user growth has been on tear thanks to international penetration, especially in India, after it re-engineered its Android app for developing markets. It gained users in all markets. Crucially, it raised its average revenue per user 23% from $2.09 in Q4 2018 to $2.58, though only from $1.24 to $1.35 in the Rest Of World region where it’s growing user count the fastest. Snap will need to figure out how to squeeze more cash out of the international market to offset the costs of streaming tons of video to these users.

Q4 saw Snapchat readying several new products that could help boost engagement and therefore ad views. Cameos, first reported by TechCrunch, lets users graft their face onto an actor in an animated GIF like a lightweight Deepfake. Bitmoji TV, which won’t run ads initially but could drive attention to Snapchat Discover, offers zany four-minute cartoons that star your Bitmoji avatar. We could see a bump to engagement from these starting in Q1 2020.
To retain its augmented reality filter creators, Snapchat has pledged $750,000 in payouts in 2020. It’s also expanded the use of product catalog ads, and now lets advertisers buy longer skippable ads.
Outside of the legal settlement, Snapchat is inching closer to profitability but still has a ways to go. It’s managed to develop a strong synergy between its popular chat feature that’s tougher to monetize, and the Stories and Discover content where it can inject ads. The big question is whether Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp will get more serious about ephemeral messaging that’s at the core of Snapchat. If it can hold onto the market and maintain its place as where teens talk, it could ride out its costs and build revenue until it’s sustainable for the long-term.

Snapchat launches Bitmoji TV: zany 4-min cartoons of your avatar

Snapchat hits 218M users but big Q4 losses sink share price

Zuckerberg ditches annual challenges, but needs cynics to fix 2030

Mark Zuckerberg won’t be spending 2020 focused on wearing ties, learning Mandarin or just fixing Facebook. “Rather than having year-to-year challenges, I’ve tried to think about what I hope the world and my life will look in 2030,” he wrote today on Facebook. As you might have guessed, though, Zuckerberg’s vision for an improved planet involves a lot more of Facebook’s family of apps.
His biggest proclamations in today’s notes include that:
AR – Phones will remain the primary computing platform for most of the decade but augmented reality could get devices out from between us so we can be present together — Facebook is building AR glasses
VR – Better virtual reality technology could address the housing crisis by letting people work from anywhere — Facebook is building Oculus
Privacy – The internet has created a global community where people find it hard to establish themselves as unique, so smaller online groups could make people feel special again — Facebook is building more private groups and messaging options
Regulation – The big questions facing technology are too thorny for private companies to address by themselves, and governments must step in around elections, content moderation, data portability and privacy — Facebook is trying to self-regulate on these and everywhere else to deter overly onerous lawmaking

These are all reasonable predictions and suggestions. However, Zuckerberg’s post does little to address how the broadening of Facebook’s services in the 2010s also contributed to a lot of the problems he presents:
Isolation – Constant passive feed scrolling on Facebook and Instagram has created a way to seem like you’re being social without having true back-and-forth interaction with friends
Gentrification – Facebook’s shuttled employees have driven up rents in cities around the world, especially the Bay Area
Envy – Facebook’s algorithms can make anyone without a glamorous, Instagram-worthy life look less important, while hackers can steal accounts and its moderation systems can accidentally suspend profiles with little recourse for most users
Negligence – The growth-first mentality led Facebook’s policies and safety to lag behind its impact, creating the kind of democracy, content, anti-competition and privacy questions it’s now asking the government to answer for it
Noticeably absent from Zuckerberg’s post are explicit mentions of some of Facebook’s more controversial products and initiatives. He writes about “decentralizing opportunity” by giving small businesses commerce tools, but never mentions cryptocurrency, blockchain or Libra directly. Instead he seems to suggest that Instagram store fronts, Messenger customer support and WhatsApp remittance might be sufficient. He also largely leaves out Portal, Facebook’s smart screen that could help distant families stay closer, but that some see as a surveillance and data collection tool.
I’m glad Zuckerberg is taking his role as a public figure and the steward of one of humanity’s fundamental utilities more seriously. His willingness to even think about some of these long-term issues instead of just quarterly profits is important. Optimism is necessary to create what doesn’t exist.
Still, if Zuckerberg wants 2030 to look better for the world, and for the world to look more kindly on Facebook, he may need to hire more skeptics and cynics that see a dystopic future instead — people who understand human impulses toward greed and vanity. Their foresight on where societal problems could arise from Facebook’s products could help temper Zuckerberg’s team of idealists to create a company that balances the potential of the future with the risks to the present.

Every new year of the last decade I set a personal challenge. My goal was to grow in new ways outside my day-to-day work…
Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, January 9, 2020

For more on why Facebook can’t succeed on idealism alone, read:

Zuckerberg asks forgiveness, but Facebook needs change

 

Zuckerberg ditches annual challenges, but needs cynics to fix 2030

Mobile and enterprise are the keys to VR/AR scale

 Though PC and console VR are the sexier formats we’re all excited about, is mobile where VR will really scale in the near term? This is a question I’ve been posing to investors and innovators. Read More

Mobile and enterprise are the keys to VR/AR scale

Like by smiling? Facebook acquires emotion detection startup FacioMetrics

 Facebook could one day build facial gesture controls for its app thanks to the acquisition of a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff company called FacioMetrics. The startup made an app called Intraface that could detect seven different emotions in people’s faces, but it’s been removed from the app stores. The acquisition aligns with a surprising nugget of information Facebook… Read More

Like by smiling? Facebook acquires emotion detection startup FacioMetrics