TechSummit Rewind 129

This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Apple launches iOS 10.2

iOS10-Hero

Apple has launched iOS 10.2, which brings a few nifty features.

Perhaps most important is the very creatively named TV app, which is Apple’s all-in-one hub for streaming content. Instead of searching through several apps to find something to watch, you can simply glance at a single guide. There’s also a new Single Sign-On feature that lets you access content from select services without having to type your password in for every provider.

Finally, there are several new emoji, including the shruggie, David Bowie, face palm, bacon, and crosissant.

It’s a free download that should be rolling out now as an over-the-air update.

Instagram brings live video broadcasts to all U.S. users

Instagram

Over the next few days, Instagram users in the U.S. will begin seeing Live Video functionality pop up in their app.

Bill Gates to lead $1B, 20-year fund to fight climate change

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Bill Gates is leading a billion-dollar fund focused on fighting climate change by investing in clean energy innovation.

Gates and his all-star line-up of fellow investors plan to announce the Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund, which will begin making investments next year. The fund, which will go on for 20 years, aims to invest in the commercialization of new technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in areas like electricity generation and storage, transportation, industrial processes, agriculture, and energy-system efficiency.

“Anything that leads to cheap, clean, reliable energy we’re open-minded to.”

-Bill Gates, Breakthrough Energy Ventures chairman

BEV directors include Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Reliance Industries chairman Mukeseh Ambani, venture capitalists John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, former energy hedge fund manager John Arnold, and SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner. According to net worth estimates from Bloomberg and Forbes, the directors’ combined net worth is nearly $170 billion.

Gates is “surprised” that technology isn’t discussed more as a solution to climate change, since clean-energy advances could limit any economic trade-offs from switching off carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

“All of that takes place just as a normal market mechanism as you replace energy sources with other ways to do it.

“People think you can just put $50 million in and wait two years and then you know what you got. In this energy space, that’s not true at all.

“It’s such a big market that the value if you’re really providing a big portion of the world’s energy, the value of that will be super, super big.”

-Bill Gates

BEV estimates the global energy market at a valuation of $6 trillion, with energy demand increasing by a third by 2040.

Uber employees secretly tracked public figures: lawsuit

Uber_NY_request-screenshot

According to a declaration in a lawsuit filed against Uber by its former forensic investigator, the company’s employees used its lax tracking system to monitor the location of “high profile politicians, celebrities, and even personal acquaintances.”

The lawsuit was filed by Ward Spanenberg, who worked on security systems at Uber from March 2015 to February 2016. According to the suit, the 45-year-old dealt with age discrimination, as well as retaliation for blowing the whistle on alleged security lapses and other problems in the company. He was later fired.

According to the declaration, Uber would shut down office connectivity during law enforcement raids to stifle investigators, and improperly destroyed documents related to pending litigation.

If true, this could potentially run afoul of a settlement made in January on its “God View” tool with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. As part of the settlement, Uber agreed to “designate employees with a legitimate business purpose,” and conduct regular assessments of the effectiveness of that program.  A representative for Schneiderman has confirmed that the office is “looking into it.”

“Uber continues to increase our security investments and many of these efforts, like our multi-factor authentication checks and bug bounty program, have been widely reported. We have hundreds of security and privacy experts working around the clock to protect our data. This includes enforcing to authorized employees solely for purposes of their job responsibilities, and all potential violations are quickly and thoroughly investigated.”

-Uber, in a statement

According to the company, approval “by managers and the legal team” is required for employees to access data and, although some employees do get legitimate access to data, that access is compartmentalized to what employees need for their jobs.

NVIDIA gets go-ahead to test self-driving cars in California

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Nvidia has been granted a permit by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to start testing self-driving vehicle technology on the state’s public roads.

JetSmarter raises $105M Series C for private jet business

jetsmarter

JetSmarter has raised $105 million in Series C funding, at a $1.5 billion valuation, to build its marketplace for private jet services.

According to company CEO Sergey Petrossov, the round will be used for global expansion into Asia and Latin America, as well as increasing the number of routes and flights available to JetSmarter members in the U.S.

While anyone can download and evaluate its app, before flying JetSmarter members go through a light background check and pay $15,000 for a “core membership” in the first year they join. Members then get a free seat on a wide selection of flights, but have to pay for companion tickets if they want to bring a non-member along or pay to charter whole planes.

Members of the Saudi royal family, and hip hop icon Jay-Z, earlier backers of JetSmarter, increased their investments in the round.

New investors include an Abu Dhabi-based equity fund, private aviation company JetEdge, KZ Capital, and a Qatar-based private equity fund.

XOJET president and CEO Bradley Stewart also joined JetSmarter’s board, after an earlier partnership between the companies to allow JetSmarter to expand its North America flight offering.

As of today, JetSmarter connects travelers to flights in 50 markets around the world including New York, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Atlanta, London, Paris, Moscow, Dubai, and Milan. According to Petrossov, he wants to expand that to 80-100 markets by the end of 2017.

Possible destinations include more American cities, including connecting Florida destinations to Boston, New York, and Washington and from San Francisco to Seattle.

Microsoft Ventures launches AI startup fund, backs Element AI

Microsoft Ventures

Microsoft Ventures is now pursuing investments in AI startups through a special fund dedicated to AI startups that focus on “inclusive growth and positive impact on society.” Secondly, it became the first backer for Element AI, a new Montreal-based incubator co-founded by “the godfather of machine learning” Yoshua Bengio, which is dedicated to the space.

According to Microsoft Ventures head Nagraj Kashyap, the fund is “focused on inclusive growth and positive impact on society.”

“AI holds great promise to augment human capabilities and improve society. Microsoft is committed to democratizing AI with guiding principles to drive positive impact. Element AI shares our approach and philosophy.”

-Nagraj Kashyap, Microsoft Ventures head

Dropbox comes to Xbox One

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Dropbox has launched an Xbox One app.

“We wanted to solve an issue that we all have: making it easy to access and share your content from the biggest screen in your house. That meant giving users the ability to access files without the need to plug in an HDMI cord or connect to their laptop.”

-Rudy Huyn, Dropbox staff engineer

Once logged in, you can upload screenshots or pictures taken with Kinect straight to your Dropbox. You can also stream any video files in your Dropbox to the Xbox One. You can also upload files from USB drives connected to the Xbox One or upload files from USB drives connected to the Xbox One or upload files from other universal Windows 10 apps you may be running on your console. And other applications (VLC, etc.) can see files in your account and access them.

The project was born at Dropbox’s annual hack week, when the entire company takes five days to build and show off a variety of projects.

“At this year’s event, one of our engineers decided to prototype the app, and demo’d it to other Dropboxers, showing how we can bring a new Dropbox user interface within Xbox that is optimized for TV screens and for gamepad navigation.

“Given what we heard from our users, we knew that there was demand for this app, and so we decided to make it available to everyone as a full blown offering.”

-Rudy Huyn

The development process was fairly simple thanks to the universal nature of Windows 10.

“The simplicity of building this app is part of why we decided to transform the prototype into a real product. A big reason that it was so easy to build is that Microsoft makes it easy to develop applications for Windows 10.”

-Rudy Huyn

However, some changes had to be made to best deal with a Xbox controller and a TV roughly 10 feet away. Specifically, Huyn noted the difference in how TVs display colors compared to monitors needed a new, darker theme with more contrast “to make the app easier on our users’ eyes.”

Facebook rolls out lightweight web version of Moments

Facebook Moments

Facebook is giving Moments, its mobile photo-sharing service, a more prominent role on desktop.

Users can now access a web version of the service on Facebook’s site through the left-side navigation, which takes you to a collection of your private photo albums.

Essentially, you can only view shared photos here. If you want to add photos to an album, leave likes or comments, or create slideshows, you’ll need to download the mobile app for iOS or Android.

Netflix launches standalone Google Daydream app

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Netflix has launched its app on Google’s Daydream VR platform.

It looks very similar to its Gear VR app, placing you in a simulated cabin with a big screen TV for watching Netflix.

 

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