Here is your summary of the latest news in technology, innovation and finance.
💎 Artificial intelligence
Fake people are starting to appear on the Internet. The New York Times has created its own AI system to understand how easy it is to create fake faces. It is also a beautifully animated interactive medium.
DataRobot, a Boston-based startup developing an AI development platform designed for corporate clients, has raised $ 270 million. The round table values the company at over $ 2.7 billion.
The DataRobot Suite is a portable architecture that runs on cloud platforms, on-premises data centers, or as a fully managed service. It enables clients to prepare data and create and validate machine learning models, including classification, advanced regression, time series, and deep learning algorithms. Once deployed, customers can monitor models from a single dashboard and test, run and maintain them to optimize results that inform decision making.
Autodesk has acquired Spacemaker, an Oslo-based company that uses AI to help with city planning, for $ 240 million. Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost said he believes the startup’s underlying technology will help catalyze the development of AI in his business. Michiel Kotting invested in Spacemaker last year and explained the investment in this thread on Twitter.
.@spacemaker_ai just acquired by @autodesk for $ 240 million. Last year we invested in their Series A and Hårvard and their team turned this product-driven company into world-class software for architects. Construction is software that eats. Or the opposite. A wire. https://t.co/BjTQCuqdWu
– Michiel Kotting (@mkotting) November 17, 2020
The construction industry has made relatively little use of computerization and automation, but that is starting to change. Canvas is a company that is making its way on construction sites with its drywall installation robot.
Canvas is part of a construction technology boom, says Alex Schreyer, director of the building and construction technology program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He says some of the biggest advancements are being made in prefabrication of buildings, using robotic processes to construct large parts of buildings which are then assembled on site. But increasingly, he says, robots and AI are also finding their way into conventional work sites.
A pick-and-pack robot must plan its movements before taking any action. New software using deep learning increased this speed of motion planning in laboratory robots by a factor of 350, from 29 seconds to 80 milliseconds (see article).
“A radical change in the speed of operational response, as identified in this article, will make a major difference for warehouse operators,” says Andrew Lahy of Cardiff University, UK, and Director of Design solutions from the logistics company DSV.
“We think it’s practical and can be applied in the relatively short term,” Goldberg says.
Forbes is talking about a 2-acre vertical farm that apparently outperforms a 720-acre flat farm. The startup featured in the story, Plenty, has raised more than $ 500 million from investors including SoftBank, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and former Google chairman Eric Schmidt.
According to Nate Storey, the future of farms is vertical. It’s also indoors, can be placed anywhere on the planet, is heavily integrated with robots and AI, and produces better fruits and vegetables while using 95% less water and 99% less of land.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University have shown that CRISPR / Cas9 is very effective in treating metastatic cancers, although so far it is only in laboratory mice (see article).
“This is the first study in the world to prove that the CRISPR genome editing system can be used to effectively treat cancer in a living animal,” said Professor Peer. “It should be noted that this is not chemotherapy. There are no side effects and a cancer cell treated in this way will never become active again. Cas9’s molecular scissors cut the DNA of the cancer cell, thus neutralizing it and permanently preventing replication. “
The researchers used computer tools to develop a molecule that could potentially fight the coronavirus at least as well as an antibody (see article).
To develop a less capricious alternative, members of the Baker lab, led by biochemist Longxing Cao, took a computational approach. The researchers modeled how millions of hypothetical lab-designed proteins would interact with the peak. After sequentially eliminating the bad results, the team selected the best from the group and synthesized them in the lab. They spent weeks switching between the computer and the bench, tinkering with designs to match simulation and reality as closely as possible.
💻 Chips and computing
Ansys claims to have for the first time fully simulated an RFIC with a high level of precision. (RFICs are radio frequency integrated circuits.)
Until now, this type of simulation was not possible. It’s not like we’re saying, “Look, now we can run this normal simulation 25% faster.” Companies had to do approximations with their simulation technology or only look at subsections of an RFIC. But now, thanks to advancements in HFSS mesh and breakthroughs in the ease of cloud computing through Azure, it is possible to envision full-wave electromagnetic activity, and extract the coupled models, for an entire RFIC.
Personal catch: I was interviewed by InvestorDaily for this article, “How Perpetual’s Featured Fund Picked COVID Winners”.
Roblox, a game creation platform, has filed for release (see their S-1).
Roblox shares its revenue with its game makers, enabling high school students and young adults to earn money. For the 12 months ended September 30, over 960,000 developers have earned Robux, or virtual money that can be converted into real money, on Roblox. There were 1,050 who earned more than $ 10,000 and almost 250 who earned more than $ 100,000. When users exchange Robux for cash, Roblox takes a 30% share of the transaction.
Wish, a mobile e-commerce startup, has also filed for an IPO (see S-1). The company appears to depend heavily on China for its sourcing, with some estimating that 94% of its 500,000 sellers are from China.
What was the impact of the pandemic on Wish? It seems to have accelerated its growth.
Looking back, Wish saw its revenue growth slow in 2019, before expanding much faster in 2020. From 2017 to 2018, for example, when Wish recorded revenue of $ 1.10 billion and $ 1.73 billion respectively, it increased by 57%. But from 2018 to 2019, its revenue only reached $ 1.90 billion, up 10% much less.
🍔 Alternative foods
Unilever aims to increase annual sales of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives to € 1 billion over five to seven years, from € 200 million this year.
Ms Faber said: “I think we are at the very beginning, for meat and dairy alternatives, of growing their market – they are still tiny compared to the overall meat and dairy markets. In more developed countries, it’s 5 percent meat or dairy – by some forecasts it could reach 50 percent. “
She added, “It’s a very, very crowded market, but we’re ready for it.”
Aleph Farms, an Israeli cultured meat production start-up, believes its lab products will reach cost parity with conventional meat faster than most plant-based meat substitutes.
New Zealand-based Rocket Lab successfully recovered its Electron rocket for the first time after a launch.
After launching one of its rockets into orbit on Thursday, the tiny rocket lab satellite launcher managed to bring the vehicle back to Earth and gently land it in the ocean under a series of parachutes. The maneuver was part of an intricate dress rehearsal, intended to practice almost every step Rocket Lab will take to recover and reuse its rockets in the future.
⚡ Other extracts
NVIDIA’s game streaming service GeForce Now launched on iOS via a browser app, which could see a playable version of Fortnite returning to iOS devices soon.
There is also good news for Fortnite fans here. As Epic Games continues its lawsuit against Apple, Nvidia has worked with Epic to bring a touch-optimized version of Fortnite to GeForce Now. It’s not yet available, however, and Nvidia doesn’t have a timeline for the launch of this special version of the game.
Amazon.com adds a drugstore counter to its online store.
The e-commerce giant’s advance in the pharmacy sector will test its ability to break into a market where national chains and large insurance companies often control the distribution of drugs. Amazon is hoping to use the convenience of its Prime shipping program to convince patients accustomed to visiting the local pharmacist.
Apple has decided to cut its fees from 30% to 15% for small merchants with incomes of less than $ 1 million. Epic Games and Spotify aren’t impressed.
General Motors increases its bet on electric vehicles.
The country’s largest automaker by sales said Thursday it would spend $ 27 billion until 2025 to develop electric and driverless vehicles. That’s up from the $ 20 billion figure set by GM in March, days before the Covid-19 pandemic forced the industry to shut down its North American factories and triggered a cash crunch in industry wide.
“We want to play a leadership role in this space,” GM Product Development Manager Doug Parks said at a press briefing. “Tesla has a good jump and they’ve done great things. There are a lot of startups and everyone is taking over the space. “
Bill Gates believes face-to-face meetings are no longer the “gold standard” and that 50% of business travel will disappear even after the pandemic is over.
“My prediction would be that over 50% of business trips and over 30% of office days will disappear,” Gates said.
Bloomberg Businessweek’s Ashlee Vance took a road trip to visit the California RoboFarmers (22 minutes).