Stories for Apr. 22, 2014

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In Brief

Cloud storage service Bitcasa is adding Chromecast support for its Android app, the company announced Tuesday. Bitcasa offers an “infinite drive” for an annual price of $999, as well as a free 20 GB plan. The most interesting uses for this new feature should be centered around casting personal content like photos and home videos onto a TV. While the Chromecast can natively cast image file types from a desktop browser, streaming from a cloud app streamlines the process. You can download Bitcasa from Google Play right here.

In Brief

IBM has made another investment out of the $100 million it has set aside to fund companies using the Watson cognitive computing system, this time investing an undisclosed amount of money into a company called Fluid. IBM and Fluid are working on an application, called Expert Shopper, that will let consumers ask complex, natural language questions on retail websites and receive product recommendations in return. Fluid is IBM’s second publicly announced Watson-fund investment, with the first going to a health care startup called Welltok. Both were early partners in IBM’s cloud-based Watson service and API.

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Stories for Apr. 21, 2014
In Brief

Hey, Ma Bell! Your peering policies are so lame, your fiber network is slower than DSL! That’s essentially the insult that Netflix is flinging at AT&T in a shareholder letter accompanying the streaming video service’s first quarter financials. The gist of the accusation is that by refusing to sign an interconnection deal with Netflix, AT&T’s customers are getting a streaming experience that sucks. It’s the same tactic Netflix employed with Comcast, putting the customer in the middle of an esoteric fight about internet interconnection agreements. Absent FCC intervention, we’ll see if the Netflix strategy works a second time around.

On The Web

The New York Times Bits blog reports on the close of InBloom, a database for student data that became a privacy lightning rod. On the one hand, it’s a great idea: there’s a lot that educators and researchers could learn from analyzing this type of data across regions, demographics, etc. On the other hand, it’s probably not a wise idea to connect students’ names with sensitive or personal information. Objectivity is key, too. You’d like to measure attributes in a way that doesn’t lend itself to educators’ biases and reinforcement of stereotypes.

In Brief

Beats Music, the newly-launched music subscription service spearheaded by Jimmy Iovine, is in the midst of raising another $60 million to $100 million in funding, according to a Billboard report that notes that the company spent tens of millions on advertising, including its Super Bowl TV spot. However, a Beats Music spokesperson denied those claims, sending us the following statement via email: “Beats Music is not in any active process of raising more funding.” Billboard also reported that some in the music industry are disappointed by Beats Music’s uptake, while insiders unsurprisingly say that first numbers exceeded expectations.

Updated at 10:48am with a statement from Beats Music.

In Brief

Ecommerce startup Birchbox, which specializes in subscriptions to monthly beauty kits, announced Monday that it raised a $60 million Series B round, led by Viking Global Investors and including existing investors such as First Round Capital and Accel Partners. The company said that it would use the funds “to continue to tell its story through marketing initiatives, refine its mobile application, fortify Birchbox Man and develop its team worldwide.” According to Fortune, the new round gives the company a $485 million valuation, which prompted a “no comment” from Birchbox.

Instead of a paywall around its existing content, Slate is trying to convince its biggest fans to become members of a community — membership that will bring them additional benefits, including preferential access to writers and editors at the site. But will it be enough to move the revenue needle? Read more »

In Brief

Since 2012, people have been 3D printing robotic hands for those in need through projects like e-NABLE and Robohand. Fifty-three-year-old Jose Delgado, Jr. recently swapped out his $42,000 prosthetic arm for a 3D printed one derived from Robohand and found it actually helped him accomplish more. Materials for the hand cost $26.14, but 3D Universe founding partner Jeremy Simon plans to offer kits for $50 to cut down on initial investment costs. He recently posted an interview with Delgado, along with a video of Delgado’s thoughts:

In Brief

First generation Apple TVs have lost their ability to connect to iTunes, according to a 25-page-long thread on Apple’s support forum. Users report they cannot connect to the iTunes store to download or stream movies, TV shows and podcasts, although most internet functions, such as Youtube, are working. The issue appears to be widespread and worldwide, implying an issue on Apple’s backend. Users first noticed the issue last Thursday. Apple has yet to state whether this is a temporary glitch or an intentional change to functionality. The first generation Apple TV was released in 2007 and sold until 2010. The glitch does not affect the second or third generation models.

 

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