Microsoft Acquires AI Specialist Bonsai

Bonsai expanded access to its services last year in a bid to woe customers to jointly develop AI models for individual use cases.

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AI services startup Bonsai has been acquired by early investor Microsoft, giving the software giant another automation tool dubbed machine teaching that abstracts machine learning steps so subject experts can train autonomous systems to accomplish specific tasks.

The acquisition would combine Bonsai’s proprietary “deep reinforcement” learning platform with Microsoft Azure cloud tools along with an open source simulator based on Microsoft Research’s AirSim framework. The partners noted that Bonsai’s approach is based on model training in a simulated environment.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) said Wednesday (June 20) Bonsai’s platform would be integrated with its simulation tools and reinforcement learning technology to develop an “AI toolchain” for building autonomous systems for industrial control and calibration tasks.

The toolchain would work with Microsoft’s Azure machine learning framework running on Azure cloud with GPUs and Microsoft’s Project Brainwave. The resulting models are to be deployed on the Azure Internet of Things offering, creating what Microsoft claims is a platform for building and operating “brains” for autonomous systems.

Bonsai, Berkeley, Calif., was founded in 2014 by CEO Mark Hammond and Keen Browne with the goal of adding intelligence to hardware and software applications.

AI platform developers argue that many industrial enterprises lack the tools required to move from generic AI platforms to application-specific models that combine advanced machine learning libraries and algorithms to meet specific industry requirements.

In response, Bonsai expanded access to its services last year in a bid to woe customers to jointly develop AI models for individual use cases.

The startup’s platform abstracts the complexity of libraries like TensorFlow, making the programming and management of AI models more accessible to developers and enterprises.

The startup claims large industrial companies as early customers, including those seeking to improve operations via “dynamic control systems” spanning robotics, wind turbines and machine tuning.

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Echolight’s CEO Sergio Casciaro explained the benefits of his technology

Most of the victims have fractures without even knowing they suffer from this disease.

What role does tailored financing have in driving innovation? Business Planet looked into the world of medical devices, an industry booming with new solutions to help healthcare professionals and patients.

The medical devices industry employs around 650,000 people across Europe. It’s an important sector for Europeans, aiding them in finding the right treatments and diagnosis.

One example of an SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) driving the sector is Echolight. Echolight has created a non-invasive technology to scan people at risk of developing osteoporosis. It can determine if people are in the early stages of developing the disease through a scan of around a minute which builds up a clear picture of the spine and femur. With Europe’s ageing population increasing (by 2016 almost 20% of the EU’s residents will be aged 65 or over) new technologies like Echolight are changing lives.

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Echolight’s CEO and cofounder Sergio Casciaro explained the benefits of his technology: “In Europe, for example, we have between 3 million to 300 thousand people suffering from bone fractures due to osteoporosis each year. Only 3% of them had done tests to assess their bone health. Most of the victims have fractures without even knowing they suffer from this disease.”

He went on to say: “This technology is one of a kind and allows us to give a diagnosis when people are still young. We can intervene not only through pharmacology but also by changing lifestyles, diet, sun exposure and physical activities.”

The success of the technology is such that it’s now being used in several European medical centres. For Echolight this means their turnover has increased fivefold between 2017 and 2016 and they’ve tripled their staff numbers from 10 to 30 people.

Echolight might not be the success story it is today were it not for the equity financing it received from a venture capital investor which helped fund its main clinical studies. The funder, Panakès Partners, was backed by the EU COSME programme.

http://bit.ly/2MKnt5Q

Leanplum’s goal of making conversations a central feature for maintaining brand relationships

The next step forward in transforming the relationship between brands and their customers

Mobile marketing firm Leanplum is all about creating relationships between brands and their customers, using in-app messaging, push notifications, email marketing and web push notifications.

This week, the San Francisco-based firm added another capability for improving those relationships, announcing that it has acquired AI-powered conversational marketing firm Connecto.

Based in Bulgaria, Connecto has developed a chatbot builder for such platforms as Facebook Messenger and Viber. Its intention, the company says on its website, is to support 24/7, cost-efficient customer service for frequently asked questions, marketing and re-engagement, with more complicated queries bounced to humans.

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This isn’t a unique goal, given the many other chatbot platforms out there for handling routine queries. But the acquisition — propelled by $47 million in Series D funding raised by Leanplum last November — is another capability in the mobile marketing platform’s quest for a “next generation marketing cloud,” where mobile is employed to build “personalization at scale.”

Leanplum co-founder and CEO Momchil Kyurkchiev told me that this purchase will help his company take “the next step forward in transforming the relationship between brands and their customers.”

A key interest, he indicated, is leveraging Connecto’s intellectual property for Natural Language Processing to add the layer of sentiment analysis in automated conversations.

Leanplum can now better help marketers “move from 1-way to 2-way conversations,” conduct conversations across multiple channels and “automate lifecycle campaigns that are not linear but follow different paths on different channels,” he said.

http://bit.ly/2M5boHa

Tesla’s mobile app can turn on top speed limits from anywhere

According to the update, this speed limiter feature will let you “limit vehicle speed and acceleration with speed limit mode” and that the maximum vehicle speed can be set between 50 to 90 mph.

If you’re a little worried about handing over the keys to your Tesla to a valet, then you might be tempted to engage the car’s “Valet Mode,” which limits the speed of the car to 70MPH and tops out the power and acceleration to just 25 percent. But that also locks out the glove compartment and the trunk, and access to certain vehicle settings will be disabled. Now, however, Tesla’s latest software update will now let you adjust the top speed of your car with a specific speed limiter feature, and directly from your mobile app.

According to the update, this speed limiter feature will let you “limit vehicle speed and acceleration with speed limit mode” and that the maximum vehicle speed can be set between 50 to 90 mph. So if you’re concerned about little Timmy Junior putting the pedal to metal but you don’t want to go full Valet Mode on him, then this might be a good way to control the speeds without locking him out of the rest of the car’s features, for example.

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There are other companies that allow a similar Valet Mode feature. Corvette, for example, has one that locks down your infotainment system, but also has a Performance Data Recorder tech that apparently records what’s going on in your car while someone else is driving it, which is legally problematic in some states. Tesla’s Valet Mode, however, supposedly doesn’t have such a recording feature.

https://engt.co/2tfTlHj

SQL database aimed at real-time processing of Internet of Things

The upgrade also targets SQL developers who previously relied on NoSQL approaches to handle machine data applications.

Startup Crate.io’s strategy of advancing an open source scale-out SQL database as an alternative to complex NoSQL versions for handling fast-moving machine data appears to be paying dividends with the close of an early funding round and the release of an upgraded version of its platform.

Crate.io this week announced the close of a Series A funding round that garnered $11 million. The round was led by Zetta Venture Partners and Deutsche Invest Equity. Among the other investors is Solomon Hykes, founder of application container pioneer Docker. The funds will be used to accelerate development and adoption of commercial and open source versions of the CrateDB machine data platform, the company said Tuesday (June 19).

The San Francisco-based startup also released the third version of it open source database emphasizing time-series storage and analytics for industrial and other users dealing with large volumes of machine-generated data. The upgrade also targets SQL developers who previously relied on NoSQL approaches to handle machine data applications.

The upgrade also targets users seeking to harness data generated by connected factory equipment along with smart buildings and vehicles. “The capability for real-time processing of machine data [was] a key constraint in many Industry 4.0 endeavors,” noted Torsten Kreindl, managing partner at Deutsche Invest Venture Capital.Industry 4.0 refers to factory automation efforts that incorporate data analytics into manufacturing technologies.

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Crate.io said it is addressing the requirements with an upgraded platform that includes faster data ingestion and real-time analytics as well as data visualizations. Along with SQL, it loads JSON and other data points in a variety of structures, including nested objects and arrays.

Meanwhile, data platform administration is based on a cloud-native micro-services approach managed around the Kubernetes cluster orchestrator.

http://bit.ly/2tbdYV8

General Electric’s booted from the blue-chip Dow Jones index

GE’s lackluster performance in recent years has made it an outlier compared with other Dow components.

General Electric’s (GE) 111-year run as one of the Dow Jones industrial average’s 30 components is coming to a close. S&P Dow Jones Indices announced Tuesday that Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) will replace the conglomerate in the blue-chip index on June 26.

GE had been the only remaining original member of the Dow — it joined in 1896 but was booted twice in its early years — and had been a regular in the index since 1907.

“Walgreens is a national retail drugstore chain offering prescription and nonprescription drugs, related health services and general goods,” David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a statement. “Today’s change to the DJIA will make the index a better measure of the economy and the stock market.”

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A better measure indeed. GE’s lackluster performance in recent years has made it an outlier compared with other Dow components, heightening expectations on Wall Street that an exit from the index was likely.

GE has struggled with a turnaround under new CEO John Flannery Jr., who has called the company a “self-help story” and referred to 2018 as a “reset year.” The question is whether he has the capability and determination to achieve the seemingly impossible goal of revamping the venerable company.

https://cbsn.ws/2tmLx5P

Medivir delays start of pivotal study of remetinostat in cutaneous

UV light and radiotherapy and topical chemotherapy—all of which have tolerability issues.

A year ago, Medivir was riding high after reporting midstage data that encouraged it to press ahead with a pivotal trial of its HDAC inhibitor remetinostat in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL). It’s hit a snag though—it can’t agree on a design for the study with the FDA.

The Swedish biotech issued a statement this morning saying it had “decided to continue the discussions” with the agency on the design, and that delay means it won’t be ready to start the study this year as planned.

Its shares went on the slide as investors digested the update and tried to work out the implications, with the stock trading down more than 11% at the time of writing. Medivir bought the rights to remetinostat from TetraLogic Pharma for $12 million upfront in November 2016, and the drug is currently its lead pipeline candidate.

Christine Lind, Medivir’s CEO, said “it is of utmost importance that we design a phase 3 study that meets the expectations of the regulatory agencies. Further discussions with the FDA are needed to ensure that we can initiate a pivotal study that will allow us to bring this drug through approval and to patients.”

Medivir is hoping to open up a new CTCL market in the US for the drug worth an estimated $900 million, based on around 15,000 potential patients. It hopes it could provide an active treatment for early-stage CTCL patients who are currently just monitored until their symptoms progress sufficiently to need treatment with topical steroids, UV light and radiotherapy and topical chemotherapy—all of which have tolerability issues.

Last year all seemed to be on track, with Medivir reporting phase 2 data with remetinostat that showed a 40% response rate in 60 patients with a slow-growing form of CTCL called mycosis fungoides (MF), with the highest responses seen in patients treated with a 1% gel formulation of the drug.

The delay is the second pipeline setback for Medivir in recent months, coming after Johnson & Johnson pulled the plug on a hepatitis C virus program partnered with the Swedish biotech after deciding there was little market opportunity. It also lost former chief medical officer John Öhd who departed the company in March who has yet to be replaced. The company’s share price has been cut in half over the last 12 months.