Microsoft’s new Cognitive Services APIs include detecting emotion

NEW YORK—Last August 25, Nick Landry, senior technical evangelist at Microsoft, held at demonstration of Microsoft’s Cognitive Services and its 22 APIs (previously called Project Oxford) at Microsoft Reactor at Grand Central Tech.

Imagine an API that could detect the emotion in a person’s face in an image, not to mention tell someone’s age, which became hugely popular when people used the technology from the How Old Do You Look app?, which it is improving; not good news for those who hide their real age.

Now Microsoft is allowing developers to customize the new Cognitive Services. This was highlighted in previous events of Microsoft this year.

The rebranding to Cognitive Services also means that it brings together Bing, Oxford and Translator APIs.

The new Cognitive Services APIs include emotion (comparing facial expressions); entity linking (a textual analysis function); face (facial recognition); linguistic analysis, speaker recognition, speech (speech to text); video (vision analysis); WebLM  (an SDK for the Web Language Model).

Seeing AI shows how these new capabilities can help people who are visually impaired or blind understand who and what is around them. See how it works here https://youtu.be/R2mC-NUAmMk

Landry demonstrated how developers can use all these services at the meetup.

Cognitive Services is reportedly a nod to IBM’s Watson, which has been marketed as a “cognitive computing” product, one that’s based on the way the human brain works.

Future of content remains: good (even live) storytelling

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK–What’s the future of content? That was the topic at the NY Content Meetup last July 28 at Samsung Accelerator in midtown Manhattan. The title seems ominous — but it has to be. After all, there’s just too much content out there for everyone to consume–and for those in the business of providing content, less and less opportunities to monetize their content. One thing that will save content is good storytelling, despite some ugly realities.

“We’re in the midst of an audience rebellion,” Kirk Cheyfitz said as the moderator of an impressive panel of content marketers. He is the CEO and founder of Story Worldwide, a digital-first ad agency, which has integrated journalistic storytelling, with advertising to tell brands’ stories in every media channel. Cheyfitz has extensive experience in journalism and has started and runs various media agencies.

It’s true. No one wants to pay for content. Not only that, people also want control of what they see and hear. “To force people’s attention is over,” he added. It doesn’t help that people don’t get your content directly to your site anymore. Your content gets linked in, say, Twitter. There are fewer people actually going to sites as social networks have become the default place to go to for newsfeeds, even beyond personal cat postings. And if you think people will click on those banner ads, think again. And we haven’t even mentioned ad blockers.

In a panel of creative people in the content business, there’s always a way.

“Give them some value. Be the destination,” Cheyfitz said.

The youngest in the panel, Bailey Richardson, offered the future as “you being the TV network,” as she also points how Pop-Up Magazine is making journalists, even print journalists not used to the camera or radio, to broadcast the news themselves live. She was one of the early employees at Instagram, where she worked on the community team.

With Pop-Up’s “phone stories” (directly to you), the news becomes very personal, introducing emotion to the (experience).”

Richardson was joined by Jeff Gomez, founder at transmedia Starlight Runner, Mike Knowlton, president and founder at Murmur, a next-generation storytelling studio; Joanne Tombrakos, chief storyteller and business development consultant, and Matt Wellschlager, VP Marketing at Cerosdotcom, an interactive content marketing software company.

The free-flowing conversation resulted in some great insights and new terms on how you can push content that people will listen, read and watch.

  • Take on a micro-narrative approach
  • Where is Harry Potter now? (To stay relevant), it’s now in Lego Games  where it’s the gateway drug for young people go before they go to the (Harry Potter) books and movies
  • Content is the totality, what people are perceiving
  • Work on the Plurals — those who grew completely internet native
  • (Address) the different you in different social networks
  • Do superpositioning. (Example) is Black Lives Matter.
  • Make use of agile /lean development. See if you can fail faster (so you can recover faster)
  • The future of content? Check out why people think mobile wallets is the future.
  • “Listen” to your blind spots
  • Difference of actual story and content? Content is a photo, moments–not always the long narrative arc. Some are primed for content but are not stories

How would you like images automatically tagged? Clarifai does it

NEW YORK—Last July 18, HUI Central featured Clarifai, the three-year old artificial intelligence company that focuses on visual recognition and solving real-world problems for businesses and developers in its midtown East office.

What problems? Imagine having hundreds of images but tagging each one of them on your site? That would be too much of a chore. Clarifai does the tagging for you when you upload them—automatically.

Presenter Cassidy Williams showed Clarifai’s powerful image and video recognition technology, built on machine learning systems and made available to developers via a clean API. Williams showed how the technology works using “convolution neural networks.” It reportedly improves its image recognition capability with consistent use.

Williams compared convolution to adjacent by saying the former is fast to train and can find multiple items whereas the latter offers no recognition of special structure but is good for finding a single item. Both, she said, creates a multilayer neural network.

What are convolution neutral networks? Deeplearning.net defines it “as biologically-inspired variants of MLPs. From Hubel and Wiesel’s early work on the cat’s visual cortex, the visual cortex contains a complex arrangement of cells. These cells are sensitive to small sub-regions of the visual field, called a receptive field. The sub-regions are tiled to cover the entire visual field. These cells act as local filters over the input space and are well-suited to exploit the strong spatially local correlation present in natural images.

“Additionally, two basic cell types have been identified: Simple cells respond maximally to specific edge-like patterns within their receptive field. Complex cells have larger receptive fields and are locally invariant to the exact position of the pattern.

The animal visual cortex being the most powerful visual processing system in existence, it seems natural to emulate its behavior. Hence, many neurally-inspired models can be found in the literature.”

Today, big companies are confident how deep learning can handle large data sets plus have greater computing power. It’s a game changer for AI prototyping. Not only that, it can serve as a boon for advertisers trying to pinpoint better use and even best timing for any use of photo or videos.

Clarifai has both a REST API that could be integrated with your preferred language along with a Python, Java and Node.js API. For more info, visit developer.clarifai.com or github.com/clarifai

Culture hack for startups: Understand your values

NEW YORK–To be guided by values is to be successful, but what if you could not see or articulate it clearly? Last June 16, Columbia Professor Paul Ingram conducted a values workshop to willing participants at Alley which, under Culture Hacks, teamed up to hold the special workshop with Columbia Business School.

Culture Hacks is an exercise designed to help startups understand, develop and strengthen organizational culture.

“I know who I am, I manage people better,” a quote read on Ingram’s slide as the workshop tackled the importance of knowing one’s self.

As we know, values can be abstract or concrete. It can mean happiness, respect, integrity, accomplishment and efficiency. You can have a hierarchy on feelings and decisions. For one person, relationships can be more important than trust, integrity and honesty, while another person could place higher value on honesty.  The importance and meaning of values can change with the context.

Context, he said, affects values.  Ask yourself, “What is most important to you?”

One last reflection he asked the participants is to think of a great moment they experienced at work. Identifying the most important values is important but having access to your value lead to your best self

After his brief introduction, Ingram conducted the exercise by asking the participants to do build their own values hierarchy. Having a value at the bottom doesn’t mean it’s unimportant; it could just be a foundation necessary for reaching a higher value. However, he also emphasized how starting with your CEO value (the peak value) is crucial.

Look for means-end relationships (e.g. does openness lead to learning?), he said.

And when you have a working version of your hierarchy, describe it yourself. If it sounds ok, describe it to your neighbor-participant. Ingram said blurting it out loud helps you refine your hierarchy and realize that you can revise it if it doesn’t work for you.”

Have a “functional test of your values hierarchy” when you go over the exercise. Here are some tips:

  1. List your values with “1” being the CEO and move down the hierarchy. Then for the first scenario, point out satisfaction with your current job.
  2. Staring at the bottom of your value list, score for each value how well/poorly it was satisfied (1= violated; 7 = completely satisfied)
  3. Ask yourself for each value in each situation what you could do, or have done, to achieve higher satisfaction for this value
  4. Ask yourself if the values analysis is in line with your overall feeling about the situation (e.g., if you love your job, but feel all of your values are violated, this suggests something is missing from your hierarchy);
  5. Repeat with the second scenario, “Situation Where You Were Hurt or Angry.” The question here is to what extent you see your values are being satisfied.
  6. Make changes to your hierarchy that capture your key work values

What early stage CleanTech startups can expect from incubator

NEW YORK–CleanTech was the big topic at the Japan NYC Startups meetup last June 6 at Pivotal Labs. Jiro Otsuka, program manager at Urban Future Lab/ACRE at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, talked about how the cleantech business incubator and how it supports early stage companies in the industry.

http://www.meetup.com/Japan-NYC-Startups/events/230361244/?rv=ea1&_af=event&_af_eid=230361244&https=off

NYC ACRE is a cleantech, smart grid and sustainable, smart cities incubator that supports early stage business ventures with innovative technologies and new business models for a greener, smarter and more connected world.

NYC ACRE offers an extensive community of cleantech industry stakeholders as well as exclusive access to professional services. The incubator grows its member startups from prototypes and pilots phases to fully commercialized entities.

Companies that are accepted into the incubator program get a shared office space in Brooklyn on top of mentors and advisors to guide them. They are also introduced to an extensive network of industry contacts, and customized support services.

If you have a cleantech idea, one can count on the fact that New York City is positioning itself as the future of energy innovation in the US and NYC ACRE it throwing its support in various ways, including the way it positions itself on climate change. Otsuka said there is a need to need to reduce fossil fuel use.

ACRE hopes to grow an ecosystem of entrepreneurs, international companies, and innovative local businesses that provide solutions to climate and energy issues in NYC. Marketing, design, art, engineering, and data science will all be required in this effort.

How does one apply?

Otsuka said applicant companies undergo a VC style due diligence process. As a result, less than 10 percent of companies have been accepted. However, once you’re in, you’ll receive comprehensive services and benefits—from direction, consultation with and introduction to market channel partners, decision makers, investors and many more.

Plus, there’s no equity cost and a very low monthly membership rate.

Mentors provide counsel, pitching and pitching practice as well as researchers and seasoned entrepreneurs for product development. Professional services include access to financial, accounting, legal, sales, marketing, and design services.

Among the companies it has helped and/or supported include the following: Keen HomeEnertivAgrilystHonest BuildingsEnerKnolRadiator LabsVoyage Control,EcoLogic SolutionsVoltaiqREGEN EnergyBandwagonSealedHEVO PowerSistine Solar,RentricityEcologicalBlocPowerMJ BeckDG Energy PartnersAnellotech, Inc.Lumiode,ClearGrid EnergyCleanCapitalEV-BoxThinkEcoSmarter Grid SolutionsProjectEconomics,Sollega and Smart Data Science.

Words recreated into 3D scenes, homes more connected than ever

NEW YORK – How do you create 3D scenes by simply describing them in words? How about conjuring some magical UX for IoT? Or having your home products connect with any device? These and more were tackled at the Hardwired NY meetup last June 8 at WeWork in Chelsea.

http://www.meetup.com/Hardwired-NYC/events/231216344/

Bob Coyne, founder and CTO of WordsEye, showed the packed audience how to create 3D scenes simply by describing them in words. Users can reportedly make artwork, express visual opinion or simply play with it. They make good conversation pieces for social networks.

Those concerned about their privacy? Users have the option to keep their input text private even when sharing a scene itself. Any scene that is posted to the gallery or made public via a permalink can be copied by other users if the original scene’s text is disclosed.

When a scene is copied from another scene and then posted to the gallery, the new scene will display a small thumbnail in the bottom right hand corner, showing where it was derived from. This way, it claims, users can riff on each other’s scenes while still crediting the original artist. Only make use of personal and non-commercial use of their scenes.

How can you take it further? You can comment on existing scenes by opening and modifying them, if not responding with a new scene. If you want to play around with it more, you can change effects with illustrations, even add thought balloons, among others.

Coyne also shared what he and his team have learned.
•    New features/content fuel engagement
•    Users riff on each other’s scenes (visual banter)
•    Shared scenes attract new uers
•    Users like a token system
•    Giving a title is an important part of creativity
•    User requests: storyboarding/comic’ new 3D content choices; user 3D uploads; VR output; animated output

Chris Allen, founder and CEO of iDevices, has a growing line of HomeKit-enable products sold at Lowe’s stores. The company builds products that are compatible across platforms with focus on Siri, Google and Amazon.

iDevices’ products include the Socket, Wall Switch, Dimmer Switch and Wall Outlet. These build upon iDevices’ first three Homekit-enabled products: the iDevices Switch, an indoor connected plug; Outdoor Switch, a rain-tight, dual outlet connected plug and Thermostat.

Through the use of Apple HomeKit technology, iDevices is able to provide different ways for its users to control their home’s lights, outlets, thermostats, and more from their Apple’s iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and with Siri voice commands.

The iDevices Connected app provides users with ultimate convenience, comfort and security allowing them to control their home using their iOS 8.1+ mobile phone or tablet from anywhere.

Allen shared a few points about the direction of the market for 2016:

HomeKit: It’s early days for Apple HomeKit but there are lots of promising signs
Expenditure: Growth in smart home product and service spend continues to grow, estimated to reach 128 million households by 2018
Intent: 43 percent of consumers are most likely to purchase connected home products when renovating or upgrading their home

Next speaker was Josh Clark, founder of Big Medium, a company that specializes in designing multi-device experiences that blend function and inspiration. The challenge for him is how to create great individual experiences and create experiences across all of these devices.

Martin Broen, VP of Global Product Design at Pepsi, talked about how his design team uses prototyping to lead development of ideas. He cited the importance of not waiting too long to finish products, not skipping steps and not spending too much to test them.

Shop while watching a movie

NEW YORK—Last May 26 at the HBO offices, the NY Video meetup featured ConvertMedia, Teleport, TVRunway and Snakt.

http://www.meetup.com/nyvideo/events/230373849/

ConvertMedia‘s proprietary platform and broad range of video formats allows publishers to strike a balance between revenue goals, the exposure they afford advertisers and how they engage consumers.

Publishers reportedly use ConvertMedia’s video gallery to expand their supply of quality video ad inventory. These outstream video ad units are served through its dedicated programmatic monetization platform, which maximizes fill rates. The platform manages outstream video inventory, with controls for audio, viewability and frequency.

As partner with DSPs, CEO and founder Yoav Naveh said ConvertMedia offers access to exclusive video inventory on premium publishers for desktop and mobile that is brand-safe and viewable. It reportedly delivers over 100B display impressions every month.

TVRunway finds the clothes from your favorite shows with a single click while you watch online. Just by inserting 3 lines of code, retailers can have access to a new revenue stream, increased engagement and verifiable viewer data.

Now you can find your favorite clothes from your favorite shows with just one click at TVRunwayit.com. It turns all existing OTT content into an additional revenue stream. With its API, you connect directly inside the online video player, allowing a site’s users to click on clothes worn in the video and buy while watching.

“We don’t pin, tag, collect metadata,” Terena Bells and that means “no plugins, downloads, video editing or tagging.”

TVRunwayit.com makes use of machine learning and comparative algorithms to identify items, then displays the top three, real-time matches from about retailers’ available inventories. This approach reportedly makes TVRunway instantly deployable and 100% scalable across all videos, no matter when they were made.

“You just need 3 lines of code to connect to your website. It will never take more than 13 seconds,” she said, stressing it’s a “search engine.”

Everytime you hit buy, we share our money with the distributor. “About 75 percent hit the buy button with 72% user engagement,” she said.

Teleport’s Gavrilo Bozovic presented his interactive online video platform from Sweden. The startup developed a platform which allows distributing scrollable, media-enriched video, through web browsers.

“It’s about giving context to your videos,” he said.

Last presenter was Snakt’s COO and Co-Founder, Tristan Snell.

“Snakt is an invite-only iOS app for video that lets you create ‘video legos’ of 7-second-or-less clips for infinite remixing and compilations,” he said.

Now on open beta in the Apple app store, it is reportedly coming to The Onion while it also continues talking with sports networks.  “You can create private group and make videos on Snakt.”

Some affiliate marketing will be added as well. “You can add your reaction to movie or TV shows,” he said.

‘Globalization is where you can get everything wherever you are’

NEW YORK—What is lifestyle in the internet age? If the speakers and attendees at the Racked meetup last May 17 were any indication of how the world of tech and publishing could learn more from each other, this is that meetup. But unfortunately, not many tech people, especially those targeting millennial consumers, come to this type of meetup.
http://bit.ly/1TA2OiP

The panel consisted of young journalists: Julia Rubin, Racked features editor and moderator; Helen Rosner, executive editor at Eater; Kyle Chayka, writer and contributor to Racked, The Guardian and The New Yorkers; Alanna Okun, senior editor at BuzzFeed; Rachel Miller, senior lifestyle editor at Buzzfeed and Mark Lotto, co-founder at Matter Studios.

The millennial panel defined lifestyle in many ways:

Rosner: It’s consumer identity as a force. It’s something that allows advertisers to reach readers.

Chayka: It’s so abstract. It means nothing and everything you do. It’s the things you most consume or identify with. Lifestyle is composed of objects you identify yourself with

Miller: Everything you do that is not work. Some are essential like food and shelter

Okun: It’s the choices (we put) in or around the body.

Lotto: It’s brands that (give) a distinct voice

From there, the panel’s discussed flowed freely– with almost no moderation.

On how social media impacts lifestyle, Rosner said it allows us to “show the best version of ourselves. Lifestyle is curation. Lifestyle covers you. It’s this reflecting game.”

But she is also quick to point out how the individual product has become less important. “The barriers are not money anymore.”

For her, lifestyle provides excitement: “Lifestyle is when readers need to hang their excitement on something. Everybody is so tired of their jobs.”

And what do bored people tired of their jobs do? “They travel,” she said. “Everything you want to be is a secret (but they have to be) balanced with (good lifestyle advice).

And where do people get these tips and advice if not the magazine. “The format of a magazine is suited for lifestyle.”

Similar to a magazine these days is Pinterest, where Okun said she just spent the whole day figuring out the people Buzzfeed responds to.  Lifestyle is also about learning who your readers are. And based on the chuckles from the crowd when Rubin said, “very cerulean” when echoing some of the thoughts by the panel, you know the audience has seen “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Beyond Pinterest, Rosner said Instagram has taught people the secrets of magazine photography. With Instagram, everyone seems to have her own magazine online.

“They don’t need to pay us a hundred dollars to take their photos. It’s richly democratizing,” she said.

“Things can make them happy..What is unattainable is now attainable,” she added.

Not only that, she said “you are communicating massive multi-consumption about yourself with just one coat.”

What is social media if not a lifestyle magazine, it seems. Said Lotto, “We’re carrying it in our pocket. It’s beautiful, immersive, rich.”

What is the future of social media?

Rosner addressed this question seriously, “For PR, it’s not always best way to do pitch traditional printing.”

What’s the next big thing? The panel had some fun answering this question.

Rosner said, “Our parents’ parties.”

Chayka: “Ugliness is going to be back. Aggressively ugly things”

Miller: Analog note-taking”

Rosner gave some serious thought on the question of globalization of lifestyle because she thought her answer can be a scary thought. “Globalization is where you can get everything here (New York),” she said.

If that is the case, the panelists nodded as if in agreement, because what would be the point of discovery if you can find everything easily, if everything is within reach.

Delivering great search and predictive marketing intelligence

NEW YORK–Nicholas Dessaigne, founder and CEO of Algolia kicked off the monthly Data-Driven meetup last May 19 at AXA Center by talking about the journey of his company in delivering a great search experience for apps and websites with its hosted search API.

http://www.meetup.com/DataDrivenNYC/events/230320649/

Today, Algolia has 1,500 enterprise customers with 36 data centers in 15 regions, serving billions of queries weekly in under 50 ms for more than 1300 customers, including many Fortune 500 companies.

Algolia is scalable and reliable, with a 99.99% SLA and both server and provider redundancy.

In his presentation, Dessaignee talked about its journey through the years since it was founded in 2012. He recalled ow in March 2015, the company spread its US clusters across two completely different providers

  • 2 different data center in close locations (24 miles, 1ms latency)
  • 3 different machines
  • 2 completely different autonomous systems

Algolia is designed from the ground up to maximize the speed of search and solve the pain of relevance tuning. It pushes the search experience beyond its traditional limits for better user engagement.

“Building an HA architecture takes time. Design early (but) do not over-engineer,” he said. “Focus on execution.”

“You have to be as upfront as you can. Definitely do a post-mortem and why it should not happen again.

Louis DiModugno, chief data and analytics officer at AXA US (global leader in insurance), talked about how the company is enhancing customer experience and making sure it has the right balance of products to protect them.

DiModugno knows data can’t flow freely, so it maintains data offices in Paris, US and in process of building one in Singapore. “We are a young company,” he said, announcing job openings for engineers in the coming weeks.

6Sense is a B2B predictive intelligence engine for marketing and sales.

Amanda Kahlow, founder and CEO of 6Sense, says it’s “all about timing” as she addressed the number  one thing CMOs and sales both want to know: “when buyers are in market.”

“We accelerate sales by finding buyers at every stage of the funnel,” she said.

Founder and CEO Peter Brodsky said HyperScience (AI for the enterprise) leverages a novel approach to AI to automate work currently performed by human data scientists, solving the pain points across the enterprise.

“We identify subnets.” Subnets can be used in different applications.”

He demonstrated how it works by asking people to upload photos of images he listed on the projector screen where people then tweeted them and HyperScience identified correctly.

“Most databases can only tell you about the past. HyperScience can tell you about the future,” he said.

Requiring no data science or statistics, it seems. It is self-configuring, self-tuning and self-healing. It scales horizontally and supports real time queries.

Challenge for startups? Social media makes everyone a publisher

NEW YORK—Last May 10, Spark Labs packed its Union Square office to overflowing. Social Media has become a hot topic for the many complexities it is adding to the conversation, the way new social networks emerge and require us to consider them.

http://www.meetup.com/sparklabs/events/230490728/

“Everyone is a publisher,” said Aparna Mukherjee of The Paley Center for Media who was joined by four other panelists in the talk at the Spark Labs’ offices near Union Square.

Most startups have indeed become publishers too because of their blog and social media interactions with their customers out there. And many of those who come from a  programming background don’t have the requisite skills and experience to be publishers themselves. This reminds us how Hootsuite knows how hiring an established journalist to manage its content is crucial.

The challenges facing many startups in terms of putting the word out there is certainlly getting harder with people distracted by so many things online. Or as Christian Busch, investor and former Indiegogo SVP puts it, “Social media is becoming more of a communication tool,” adding how people use it even for airing out complaints.

As a publisher, a company or startup has never had so many social tools at their disposal. From Twitter and Facebook to Instagram and Pinterest, to name just a few, everyone is chasing real-time relevance. And talking about real-time, there’s an opportunity to market your product or service out there live using live streaming apps like Periscope and even YouTube, which also offers live streaming now.

Little Things’ Maya Borenstein said, “We found how viral blogging could be huge tool.”  It’s not often you hear someone say what is really happening out there, but she’s spot-on on this one. There’s a way to get attention out there with a blog, only if companies realized they have to spend for it as well.  “Hire good creatives, incentivize them.”

One example of this came from Kristy Sunjaya of Live Person who said companies make use of YouTube for its branded content. Still, she stresses the importance of authenticity.

She admits to going to Alexa every morning. In checking if your social media activities is working, she asks everyone to rely not just on CTR but also engagement and time on site.

The panelists didn’t have all the answers.

“What is prized in social is relevance,” Mukherjee said but she also addressed the crowd and asked them, “How do you repurpose content that was not relevant before?”