Business

Silicon Valley Giants Pledge $1 Billion For Artificial Intelligence Research

Several big-name Silicon Valley figures have pledged $1 billion to support a non-profit firm that on Friday said it would focus on the “positive human impact” of artificial intelligence.

Backers of the OpenAI research group include Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur Elon Musk, Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel.

“It’s hard to fathom how much human-level AI could benefit society, and it’s equally hard to imagine how much it could damage society if built or used incorrectly,” read the inaugural message posted on the OpenAI website.

“Our goal is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return,” the statement read.

The OpenAI funders “have committed $1 billion, although we expect to only spend a tiny fraction of this in the next few years.”

Artificial intelligence is a red-hot field of research and investment for many tech companies and entrepreneurs.

However leading scientists and tech investors, including Musk, have publicly expressed concern over the risks that artificial intelligence could pose to humanity if mismanaged, such as the potential emergence of “Terminator”-type killer robots.

“We believe AI should be an extension of individual human wills and, in the spirit of liberty, as broadly and evenly distributed as is possible safely,” read the statement, co-signed by the group’s research director Ilya Sutskever.

“The outcome of this venture is uncertain and the work is difficult, but we believe the goal and the structure are right.”

Because of the “surprising history” of artificial intelligence, “it’s hard to predict when human-level AI might come within reach.

“When it does, it’ll be important to have a leading research institution which can prioritize a good outcome for all over its own self-interest.”

Read More...

Business, Life Hack

US Broadband Service Will Become Tax-free Forever

The US House of Representative will vote on this Friday to permanently ban new taxes on internet access by states and local governments. The voting for the same customs and trade enforcement legislation will take place on Monday in the Senate. US broadband subscribers can be assured that there won’t be anymore jacking up of internet/broadband subscription bills if the congress votes as expected in the coming days.

The state and local governments will prevented from imposing any new taxes as well on Internet access and broadband service.

There are some states which levy addition taxes on internet and broadband service. This legislation if passed successfully would also phase out existing taxes over the next four years in seven states — Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin. These states imposed taxes in internet access before 1998 when the federal moratorium was passed.

Read More...

Business

In A $44M Deal TransUnion Buys Out Trustev

TransUnion in a move to beef up its E-Commerce fraud protection has bought Trustev in a $44 million deal.  Trustev recently disclosed investments of just under $8 million, the previous primary backers of Trustev are Mangrove and Greycroft. Despite a mere $8 million prior investment, TransUnion was willing to pay a Whooping $44 million, because it considers E-commerce fraud protection as a key area.

“As fraud grows in volume and sophistication, TransUnion continues to invest in building our global capabilities to help companies manage their risk,” said Jim Peck, TransUnion’s president and chief executive officer in a statement. “Holistic information is a powerful tool to help our customers approve good transactions and prevent fraud, and Trustev’s innovative capabilities are at the forefront of technology in this increasingly critical field.”

“Together, TransUnion and Trustev create a very powerful combination of software intelligence and rich data to stop online fraud. We will be able to help companies across many industries better spot bad actors online, and block their efforts, while letting good customers through. With TransUnion’s large global reach and Trustev’s online technology, this is a very positive move for all of our customers,” said Pat Phelan, co-founder and chief executive officer of Trustev, in a statement.

Financial pundits consider this as a master stroke, as TransUnion until recently was just considered as a credit report provider, however with this acquisition of online technology and its global reach TransUnion will project itself as a provider of backend solutions for enterprises to reduce online fraud.

Read More...

Business, News

#Samsung Will Pay #Apple $548 Million For Infringing Patents

Samsung has finally accepted to pay the $548 Million fine for infringing the patents owned by Apple. However Samsung did not give up before without offering a tough fight. It tried its best to avoid paying Apple, but Samsung now says it will hand over the $548 Million it owes to Apple for infringing the patents and designs.

Samsung filed the papers in the Federal Court in San Jose, California on Thursday, saying that it will make the payment by December 14 2015, if Apple sends them an invoice.

Asked if it had done so, Apple declined to comment on Friday.

The final amount accepted is much less the amount stated in the original verdict, as the US appeals court last May decreased the amount by $382 Million.

Samsung has not given up hope even after agreeing to pay the amount, it has told the San Jose court that it expects to be reimbursed if it succeeds in the forthcoming appeal.

“We are disappointed that the court has agreed to proceed with Apple’s grossly exaggerated damages claims regardless of whether the patents are valid,” a Samsung spokeswoman said in a statement.

Read More...

Business, Events

iPhone Sales Hit 17 Million

Apple has sold a total of 17 million iPhones — including sales of both the original iPhone and iPhone 3G — since launch, according to the company’s vice president of iPod and iPhone product marketing.

Speaking at the launch of Apple’s iPhone 3.0 software last week, Joswiak said the figure — which includes 13.7 million iPhones sold in 2008 — beat Apple’s target of 10 million by a wide margin.

Including sales of the iPod touch, Apple has sold 30 million devices running the iPhone OS.

Other successes including Apple’s iPhone developer programme, which boasts 50,000 members, while the number of applications available via the company’s App Store now exceeds 25,000. There have been 800 million total downloads on the App Store so far, Apple said.

Read More...

Business, News

Twitter Traffic Grows 1,382% In A Year

Twitter.com continues to grow in popularity and importance in both the consumer and corporate worlds. No longer just a platform for friends to stay connected in real time, it has evolved into an important component of brand marketing. Unique visitors to Twitter increased 1,382 percent year-over-year, from 475,000 unique visitors in February 2008 to 7 million in February 2009, making it the fastest growing site in the Member Communities category for the month.  Zimbio and Facebook followed, growing 240 percent and 228 percent, respectively.

Read the full story here.

Read More...

Business, Events

IBM ‘in talks’ to buy Sun Microsystems

IBM has opened acquisition talks with Sun Microsystems, raising the prospect of a massive consolidation of the software, server and storage markets.

According to the Wall Street Journal IBM has mooted a price of $6.5bn. Sun is currently capitalised at $3.7bn ($4.97/share), but its share price has persistently fallen since the heady days of the dot com boom and has under-performed that of its computer systems competitors over the last few years, making it a much less expensive purchase now that it would have been three or four years ago. Legions of long-term Sun investors who have seen the value of their Sun holdings decline drastically will breathe a huge sigh of relief as they see the potential to make some money at least.

Any deal would likely bring very close scrutiny from regulatory authorities, given both firm’s roles in the server, storage and systems software markets.

The Journal goes on to claim Sun has been hawking itself around the industry recently, looking to be bought, with HP also mentioned as one potential sugar daddy. If true, this confirms the perception that Sun has been impoverished by CEO Jonathan Schwartz’s strategy of moving into open source software and relying for revenue growth on converting Solaris, Java and MySQL developers’ into purchasers of Sun’s servers, storage and services.

Read More...

Business, Events

Mozilla’s Test Pilot: A Global Usability Lab for Firefox

Doing extensive usability studies has always been a problem for open source projects. Mozilla has decided to implement a new way of tackling this problem for its projects and is moving ahead with the Test Pilot project, which was first announced last year.

Test Pilot is currently only a “still-in-concept platform,” but the plan is to build a representative sample of Firefox users that will be recruited to evaluate new interface concepts and features.

As Mozilla points out in its ‘vision’ statement for Test Pilot, it’s not just Firefox that could profit from a usability lab on this scale, but every Mozilla Labs project could benefit from this wide-scale testing of new ideas and interfaces. As Mozilla’s Aza Raskin notes, most of the feedback that Mozilla currently receives is in the form of feedback from early adopters, anecdotes from users, and ad-hoc experiments.

How it Will Work

After the installation, the Test Pilot addon will gather non-personally-identifiable information from its users and then put these users into different demographic buckets. Depending on the tests that need to be run, users will be selected to participate in different experiments and will be asked to provide feedback on a regular basis. All the information gather through this plugin will be made available to the public.

This sounds like a great project, and we are happy to see that Mozilla is moving forward with this. It will probably still be a while before we see the fruits of this idea, however, as Mozilla is only now hiring a full-time developer to create the actual implementation of the Test Pilot program.

Read More...

Business, Events

Wiki Service AboutUs Secures $2.5 million From Voyager Capital

Portland-based AboutUs has secured a $2.5 million round of financing from Voyager Capital with the VC firm’s managing director Erik Bensonjoining its board, reports TechFlash. The company operates a wiki for information primarily about small businesses, organizations, and ‘anything that has a website’. Yes, that includes TechCrunch.

This is different from our own wiki Crunchbase, which featured detailed profiles of companies, products and people even if they don’t have their own websites.

The wiki service attracts a very decent 7 million unique visitors per month to its network of over 12 million pages, and has plans of turning it from a mere resource of information to a full-fledged collaborative work space. In that regard, it’s different from Wikipedia, although both wikis use MediaWiki to power the network.

AboutUs generates revenue from on-site advertising but also sells services like wiki page design and copywriting. According to TechFlash, who spoke with CEO Ray King, AboutUs is already running a profit from its operations, which probably explains why Voyager Capital took the risk of putting more money in the company even in the current economic climate.

We first wrote about the company back in November 2006 when it raised $1 million (the new investment brings its total funding is now about $5 million).

Read the full story here.

Read More...