Robots will cover the Olympics for The Washington Post

Robots will cover the Olympics for The Washington Post

The Washington Post announced today that it will use artificial intelligence to report key information about the Olympics.

The software will contribute The Post’s coverage of Rio 2016 by posting raw data and short updates, while a team of human reporters will provide readers with analysis and more in-depth articles.

Heliograf, as the team calls its robot reporter, will take information from sports data company and turn it into short narratives.

Starting tomorrow morning, these multi-sentence updates will appear in the Post’s live blog, on Twitter at @WPOlympicsbot and via the Post’s bot for Facebook Messenger. An audio version will be available on Amazon Echo.

A look at how the Twitter updates will appear, using 2012 Olympics data. (Source: The Washington Post)

A look at how the Twitter updates will appear, using 2012 Olympics data. (Source: The Washington Post)

The goal is to post more than 300 stories on the live blog and 600 updates on Twitter, Echo and Messenger during the Olympics, said Jeremy Gilbert, director of strategic initiatives at The Washington Post. The live blog will feature updates not only from Heliograf, but also from the Post’s correspondents in Rio and the sports team in DC.

“The goal of Heliograph is not in any way to eliminate even a single journalism job,” said Gilbert. “We’ve been hiring like crazy.”

The newsroom overall has added 140 journalists since Jeff Bezos bought the Post in 2013, according to the communications department.

“Finding amazing sources, discovering interesting stories, analyzing things are the things we want great reporters to focus on,” Gilbert added. “We want humans to tell stories that only humans can tell.”

Tomorrow, Heliograf’s first task will be telling the story of the Olympics medals in the form of one- to three-sentence updates. During the games, the service will keep readers posted about the schedule of the competitions, medal results and medals rankings by country, among other things.

As for the editing part of the process, Gilbert explained: “There won’t be stories that are going up, either written by humans or written by Heliograf, that won’t be edited by human editors. That said, we’re going to publish into the live blog and then we’ll be reviewing.”

Heliograf has a safety mechanism to check the data, explained Sam Han, engineering director of data science at the Post. The systems analyzes the data automatically; if any potential error or suspicious results are identified, Heliograf reports them to the editorial staff.

The software was developed in-house starting six months ago by using data from primary elections during the testing phase.

It’s not the first time a media outlet has experimented with automated storytelling. In July, AP Sports announced they had started using “robot” reporters to cover Minor League Baseball.

Heliograf is also going to be part of The Washington Post’s coverage of the upcoming presidential election.

Featured Image: David Ramos/Getty Images
Source: TechCrunch

Online linguistic search engine Ludwig helps get your English on

Online linguistic search engine Ludwig helps get your English on


f you’ve ever tried to write in a language that isn’t your own, you are probably well aware of at least two things: first, writing requires much more time than usual and, second, even online translation services are often wrong.

Italian researcher Antonio Rotolo faced these issues early in his academic endeavors. To pursue an international career, he was required to publish his papers in English. After six months at MIT, he came up with the idea of a new kind of online translator — one that could not be wrong (unless The New York Times, BBC or other generally reliable sources made a grammatical error).

Online since February 2016, Ludwig is a linguistic search engine designed to help people write correct English sentences. The company, headquartered in Catania, Italy, was started by a group of researchers and engineers from Sicily who have worked in a number of universities in the U.S., Norway, Germany and Spain. In July 2014, Ludwig received a €25,000 ($27,880) grant from Telecom Italia, a $15.29 billion telecommunications company.

The first thing to know about Ludwig is that users must take an active role. “Our final goal is making people independent,” said co-founder Federico Papa, who has a PhD in Public Management. “We firmly think that learning a language is an active process.”

  1. First, users type the sentence they want to check. Then, Ludwig shows correct examples.

  2. Users can also let Ludwig fill a blank in an English sentence, to see a list of possible meanings that match.

  3. Idioms are included in the Ludwig database.

  4. Ludwig can work as a dictionary as well.

  5. The website also features a blog to discuss English language.

To use Ludwig, people should type into the Ludwig bar not the sentence they want to translate (as they would do on Google Translate), but their best guess of the English translation they need. Then, an algorithm compares this sentence with a database of contextualized examples, all coming from reliable sources, such as The New York Times, PLOS ONE, BBC and scientific publications. Ludwig then shows a list of results, allowing users to check their sentences and learn the correct one.

“We don’t think of us as a competitor of Google Translate,” said CEO Rotolo. “People can get their translations on Google Translate, and then check on Ludwig whether or not their translations are correct.”

The startup was named after one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century, Ludwig Wittgenstein, who focused on philosophy of language, among many other things. “Wittgenstein came to a conclusion: the meaning is determined by context,” explained Roberta Pellegrino, Ludwig co-founder and a cognitive scientist doing a PhD in Business at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “Context is exactly what only Ludwig provides, by searching a database of millions reliable sources.”

Another free online translation tool, Reverso, has a huge database of examples from multilingual texts. “To be included in Reverso, each text must have a twin text in another language,” said Rotolo. “Ludwig works differently: We check any sentence written in English with reliable English texts.”

In at least one case, Ludwig might lead users to reach an impasse. Let’s say, for example, that I need to check if “data” is singular or plural. Ludwig shows examples for both forms, “data are” and “data is.” In this case, engineers Francesco Aronica and Salvatore Monello explained, users can verify which form has more results, but also do additional research on the web.

The team of Ludwig is composed by eight people: Antonio Rotolo (CEO and co-founder), Roberta Pellegrino (design manager and co-founder), Federico Papa (legal expert and co-founder), Francesco Giacalone (designer and designer and developer), Daniele Tagliavia (communication manager), Antonino Randazzo (head software developer), Francesco Aronica (database expert) and Salvatore Monello (algorithm expert).

The team of Ludwig is composed of eight people. From left to right: Francesco Aronica (database expert), Salvatore Monello (algorithm expert), Francesco Giacalone (designer and developer), Antonio Rotolo (CEO and co-founder), Roberta Pellegrino (design manager and co-founder) and Federico Papa (legal expert and co-founder). Not pictured: Daniele Tagliavia (communication manager) and Antonino Randazzo (head software developer). Photo credits: Ludwig.

According to the company, Ludwig has an average of 10,000 page views a day and 75,000 users on a daily basis from 168 countries.

International students are some of Ludwig’s target users. Nearly 1 million foreign students studied at U.S. colleges and universities in 2014/2015, according to the Institute for International Education, and a large part of them (44 percent) enrolled in a STEM program, creating a pipeline of talent for jobs related to science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

The online version of Ludwig is now free to use, but the company is working on four ways to generate revenue. Adding ads to the online version is the first. The second revenue stream is an API version of Ludwig that could be integrated in the online platforms of language schools. Also, the company will launch an ads-free desktop app in the fall. Lastly, the company would like to sign partnerships with reliable sources by offering them the opportunity to drive traffic to their online archives.

For the future, the company hopes to find an angel investor who is also a mentor. As for leaving Sicily for the Silicon Valley, Pellegrino said: “We are open to the option, but our dream is living and working in Sicily with an international team.”

Full disclosure: This article was written using Ludwig to check several sentences and, sometimes, prepositions. The author of this post is a non-native speaker of English.

Featured Image: Ludwig

Zynga plummets 9% in after-hours trading

Zynga plummets 9% in after-hours trading

Social game developer Zynga tumbled 9 percent in after-hours trading following the second quarter 2016 earnings announcement after the bell today. The company reported a net loss of $4.4 million, while still beating analysts’ expectations in terms of revenue.

For the second quarter ended June 30, the San Francisco-based maker of FarmVille and Words with Friends posted revenue of $181.7 million and non-GAAP net earnings came in at $0.00.

Wall Street expected EPS of $0.00 on revenue of $169.4 million, according to Thomson Reuters. The stock hit 9 percent down in late afternoon, after having closed less than 1 percent up at $2.97.

“We are tightening our operating model and improving our cost management as we do more with less, particularly in marketing,” said Frank Gibeau, CEO of Zynga, in a statement.

In a conference call with analysts, Gibeau commented on the viral success of Pokémon Go: “What was really inspiring to us is how social Pokémon Go is and how much it enables group play, communications and conversations.”

Gibeau added that Zynga games such as Words with Friends and Zynga Poker delivered strong results during the last quarter. At the end of the call, he refused to share the margins of the advertising revenue stream.

In Nasdaq after-hours trading, the stock was still down 28 cents, or 9.43 percent, at $2.69. On February 27, 2012, two months after the IPO, the company hit an all-time high closing price at $14.69.

Featured Image: Mike Mozart/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE
Source: TechCrunch

Tableau Software’s Q2 earnings fall short of estimates

Tableau Software’s Q2 earnings fall short of estimates

Data analytics provider Tableau Software reported second quarter earnings after the bell today. The Seattle-based company posted a loss due to higher than expected expenses for the quarter, while still beating analyst’s expectations in terms of revenue.

For the three months ended June 30, Tableau posted total revenue of $198.5 million and non-GAAP net earnings came in at $0.00.

Analysts surveyed by Yahoo! Finance expected revenue at $193.75 million and EPS at $0.05. In after-hours trading, the stock was down 5 percent but then recovered later.

As for GAAP measures, net loss was $47.5 million, or $0.64 per diluted common share, compared to a net loss of $19.0 million, or $0.27 per diluted common share, for the second quarter of 2015.

“In quarter two, our expenses came in higher than planned,” said Tom Walker, Tableau’s CFO, during a conference call with analysts.

Sales and marketing expenses, for example, grew 41 percent, to $119.9 million from $85.1 million in the year-ago quarter. In addition, Walker mentioned that the company incurred higher than expected costs related to the company-wide meeting in Seattle, held during last quarter.

“During the meeting, we made some extra investments in training, particularly around the launch of Tableau 10,” Walker explained. “These expenses will not be recurrent in the second part of the year.”

During the conference call, CEO and co-founder of Tableau Christian Chabot said that more than 3,900 new customer accounts chose Tableau during the second quarter. Among these new customers are the California Department of Public Health, Bank of California and the City of New Orleans.

Tableau Software went public in May 2013 at an initial public offering price of $31 per share. At the New York Stock Exchange trading Tuesday, the company’s shares closed down 4 cents, or less than one percent, at $56.40.

A couple of hours after the announcement, the stock was down 65 cents, or 1.15 percent, at $55.75.

Featured Image: Tableau
Source: TechCrunch

SurveyMonkey study finds social media apps ruled mobile in first half of 2016

SurveyMonkey study finds social media apps ruled mobile in first half of 2016

A new study from SurveyMonkey Intelligence revealed the 30 most-downloaded, and most-used apps in the American iOS and Android app stores so far this year.

Social media apps like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram ruled over mobile games in the first six months of 2016.

Because Pokémon Go was released in the US on July 6, that wildly popular new title didn’t even show in the rankings. Only one game cracked the top 10 most downloaded list, And no game titles appeared under the top 30 most-used apps in the U.S.

Music apps made a strong showing ranging from expected entrants like Pandora and Spotify to newer entrants,

As well-intentioned as their developers may be, health and fitness apps didn’t crack the top 30 in either most-downloaded or most-used rankings.

The report found that, as is typical, the most downloaded apps are not the most used.

The top five most-downloaded apps were Messenger, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Color Switch, whereas the top five most-used apps were Facebook, YouTube, Messenger, Google Maps and Play Store.

To find something that isn’t owned by either Facebook, Apple or Google on the most-used app list, you need to down to the 13th slot where Snapchat is ranked.

“Fully 40 percent of the most-used apps come pre-loaded on the operating system, highlighting the importance of Android and iOS to Google and Apple, and giving some insight into Facebook’s ongoing desire to control this deeper layer of the stack,” the report said.

Here are the full charts:

Image Credit: Survey Monkey

Image Credit: Survey Monkey

Image Credit: Survey Monkey

Image Credit: Survey Monkey

Featured Image: Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE
Source: TechCrunch

Grubhub announces more investments following strong 2Q

Grubhub announces more investments following strong 2Q

Takeout food delivery platform Grubhub stock soared 26 percent following a way-better-than-expected second quarter earnings release. The online marketplace connecting restaurants and takeout diners beat analysts expectations, both for revenue and adjusted EPS.

For the second quarter ended June 30, the company posted $120.2 million in revenue, whereas Wall Street was expecting $114.2 million. Non-GAAP net income per diluted share was 23 cents, or four cents above adjusted EPS expectations of 19 cents.

In a phone interview, co-founder and CEO Matt Maloney said that the company did so well during the quarter because of investments in product improvement and, specifically, in the ratings and reviews of restaurants.

Maloney added that investments in the delivery systems also led to more orders from diners. The company said it manages 271.000 orders a day and 7.4 million active customers, by creating a network of 44,000 restaurants. The majority of orders come from the largest metropolitan areas: Chicago, where Grubhub headquarters, is responsible for 10 percent of the orders, Maloney reported.

“In the next year, we’re going to keep investing in product and delivery across the country,” Maloney told TechCrunch. “Most people will want to order in local businesses from us.”

Grubhub is not the only option for people who want to order takeout. Other San-Francisco based startups in the delivery business, such as Postmates and DoorDash, have recently announced new features to attract customers. Postmates, for example, launched a 15-minute food delivery service in NYC and lowered the minimum order price for monthly subscription service, while DoorDash added the ability to purchase alcohol through its portal, at least as a pilot service. Adding a “special” feature to the online platform’s services menu – such as, quicker deliveries or alcohol orders – could be the key move for these startups to differentiate from Grubhub and grow.

Now, neither Postmates nor DoorDash have numbers to compete with Grubhub, a $3 billion company.

In the latest quarter, Grubhub posted net income attributable to common stockholders of $12.8 million, up 37 percent from $9.4 million last year. Profits were up considering the last six months and the 2015 comparable period as well. For the first half of 2016, the company posted net income of $22.7 million, up 14 percent from $19.9 million.

In New York Stock Exchange trading today, Grubhub shares were trading up $7.37, or 23.98 percent, at $38.11. On July 27, the day before today’s earnings announcement, the stock closed at $30.74.

Featured Image: Grubhub
Source: TechCrunch

Groupon reports better-than-expected revenue, still not profitable

Groupon reports better-than-expected revenue, still not profitable

Deal site Groupon saw its shares rising today in after-hours trading, following a better-than-expected second quarter earnings report.

Analysts expected the Chicago-based company to report negative earnings per share of $0.02 on revenue on a non-GAAP basis, and $713.8 million in revenue, according to Estimize data.

But Groupon beat Wall Street revenue expectations with second quarter revenue of $756 million. And it posted a better-than-expected net loss of $6.8 million on a non-GAAP basis, or $0.01 loss per share.

In a phone interview, Groupon CEO Rich Williams said that the reasons the company did not make profits in the last quarter are essentially two: Groupon is still investing in marketing and other efforts to attract new customers, and they face other costs associated with company restructuring.

Williams was promoted to CEO last November.

To improve customer experience, Williams said that customer support staff now answers calls faster, because the company improved tools that employees have. The Groupon mobile app also saw changes, by making the notification system more targeted and location-based, Williams said.

In the first half of 2016, Groupon revenue looked better than it did over the same period last year. But the company is not looking quite as strong as it did in the first half of 2015 in terms of profitability.

Last year, through the end of June, Groupon had a net profit on a GAAP-basis of $94.8 million, or 14 cents per share. This year, during the first half of the year, Groupon had a net loss of $104 million, or 18 cents per share.

Groupon revenue in the first half of 2016 reached $1.49 billion.

In Nasdaq trading today, Groupon shares closed at $3.78. In the past year, Groupon stock had been down 71 percent. Last year on November 2, the day before Groupon’s current CEO was appointed, shares in the company were trading at $3.83.

Featured Image: Mike Mozart/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE
Source: TechCrunch reports 2Q loss but beats expectations reports 2Q loss but beats expectations, the Israeli company that helps small business owners build websites, today reported earnings for its second financial quarter of 2016.

For the quarter ending June 30, the Tel Aviv-based software provider posted growing revenue and a loss. Wix posted a net loss of $11.4 million, or 28 cents loss a diluted share, compared to a loss of $12.3 million, or 31 cents loss per share in the year-ago quarter. Losses, adjusted for stock option expenses, came to 9 cents per share.

The apparent imbalance was due to the recent launch of Wix ADI, an automatic website design tool that started rolling out in early June. According to the company, Wix Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) technology can design tailored websites by learning about each person’s or business’ own needs and the company is investing heavily in this area.

Still, the results topped Wall Street expectations. The average estimate was for a loss of 12 cents per share.

The decline in profit came on a big increase in revenue, which topped Wall Street expectations as well. Second-quarter sales increased 41 percent to $68.7 million compared to $48.6 million for the second quarter 2015. Analysts expected $66.7 million.

In the last three months, Wix invested $25.5 million in research and development and $36 million in selling and marketing. These expenses significantly impacted its bottom line.

“We continue to generate an exceptional blend of higher conversion of registered users to premium subscriptions, improved retention of subscriptions, and increased collections per new subscription,” Avishai Abrahami, Co-founder and CEO of Wix, said in a press release.

For the second quarter, Wix added 183,000 net premium subscriptions to reach 2.12 million.

For the six months ending June 30, Wix posted net loss of $31.3 million, or 77 cents loss per diluted share, compared to a loss of $28.3 million, or 73 cents loss per share in the 2015 comparable period. Revenues increased 40 percent to $130.3 million from $93.1 the year before.

In Nasdaq trading today, Wix shares were up $3.37 at $35.02, or up 10.65 percent.

Featured Image: Gustavo da Cunha Pimenta/Flickr UNDER A CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE
Source: TechCrunch

Apple’s revenue dives 33 percent in Greater China

Apple’s revenue dives 33 percent in Greater China

China impacted Apple’s bottom line quite a lot this quarter — and not in a good way. But the company still plans to invest in the country, Apple CEO Tim Cook said right after the company announced its earnings for Q3 2016.

Let’s dive into the numbers. For this fiscal quarter, Greater China accounted for $8.85 billion in revenue, or a little bit more than 20 percent of the company’s overall revenue. Twenty percent is quite impressive — but remember when people were thinking that China was about to overtake the U.S. as Apple’s first market? Nobody is mentioning that anymore. China revenue is down 33 percent year-over-year, and 29 percent compared to the previous quarter. In other words, Greater China is one of the main reasons why the company’s revenue is declining.

Greater China

Apple Q3 2016 Unaudited Summary Data (revenue in millions).

During a conference call with investors, Cook blamed the current economic environment in China for the disappointing performance. But the company won’t change course. “We will continue to invest in China,” he said.

Cook also reported that, according to China Mobile, there are more iPhones in use in the country than any other smartphone. And yet, as always, investors don’t care about iPhones in use — they’d rather see some big sales numbers. But Apple CFO Luca Maestri also added that Apple expects to grow in Russia, Brazil and Canada in order to reassure investors.

In June, a Beijing court ordered Apple to stop selling the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in the city, having ruled that the phone’s design is too similar to a Chinese brand. Apple said that the order is still pending review, and that the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone SE are still all available for sale today in China.

Featured Image: Lucius Kwok/Flickr UNDER A CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE
Source: TechCrunch

Investors realize Nintendo didn’t develop Pokémon Go and shares plummet

Investors realize Nintendo didn’t develop Pokémon Go and shares plummet

Nintendo’s shares plunged after the company said late Friday that the worldwide success of Pokémon Go will not significantly impact its financial results. Nothing Nintendo disclosed about the ownership of the game was new information, but markets were shocked anyway.

The stock sank 18 percent to 23,220 yen at the close in Tokyo, the maximum one-day move allowed by the exchange, noted Bloomberg. After the drop, Nintendo’s stock remained flat. In morning trading today, the Kyoto-based company’s shares were down $2.36, or 8.14 percent, at $26.64.

(Source: Google Finance)

(Source: Google Finance)

On Friday, Nintendo put out a statement pointing out that it owns only 32 percent of the voting power of The Pokémon Company, an affiliated company that holds the ownership rights to Pokémon. The game itself is developed and distributed by Niantic, the San Francisco-based mobile developer that was spun out of Google last year.

“Because of this accounting scheme, the income reflected on the company’s consolidated business results is limited,” Nintendo wrote in a notice.

Also, Nintendo said that “Pokémon Go Plus,” its peripheral device for use with the application, is scheduled for release and it’s already reflected in the financial forecast.

Following Pokémon Go’s release in the U.S. at the beginning of July, Nintendo’s market valuation soared to more than $40 billion, passing Sony. The game was finally launched in Japan on Thursday, July 21, after having been postponed because of an email leak.

Nintendo is expected to report first-quarter earnings on Wednesday.

Featured Image: Jeff Dlouhy/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE
Source: TechCrunch