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Streaming sports service fuboTV raises $75 million from AMC and others

Days after Disney-owned ESPN launched its new streaming service, ESPN+, a three-year old streaming TV service for sports fans, fuboTV, is announcing the close of $75 million in Series D funding. The round included new investor AMC Networks, and existing investors 21st Century Fox, Luminari Capital, Northzone, Sky, and the former Scripps Networks Interactive, which was recently acquired by Discovery, Inc.

FuboTV has been working to carve out a niche for itself in the streaming TV market, where a number of competitors are delivering television programming to cord cutters by way of the internet.

In terms of subscribers, that space today is led by Dish’s Sling TV and AT&T’s newer DirecTV Now. But the market has also seen a lot of newcomers over the past year or so, with launches from Hulu’s Live TV, YouTube TV, and Philo. PlayStation Vue is a competitor as well, while CBS runs its own over-the-top streaming TV service with just its content, CBS All Access.

While many streaming TV services offer some sports content in their base packages, or sell additional access through add-ons, fuboTV’s core focus has been on serving the sports fan.

The service provides access to live games from the NBA, NHL, UFC, and more soccer than other streaming providers –
including matches from Bundesliga, EPL and La Liga to Liga MX, MLS, FIFA World Cup qualifiers, UEFA
Champions League matches and more.

That access doesn’t come cheap, however. FuboTV’s basic package with 70-plus channels, Fubo Premier, is $19.99 for the first month, which then becomes $44.99 per month after.

Customers can then customize their package with other options, like a “Sports Plus,” “Adventure Plus,” or “International Sports Plus” upgrade; a DVR with 500 hours of storage instead of just 30; or the option to add a third stream.

Even though the entry-level package is more than a full subscription to a mainstream service like Sling TV or YouTube TV, fuboTV managed to reach over 100,000 paid subscribers as of September 2017, and is continuing to see double-digit growth, it says.

Since the last funding round ten months ago, the company has streamed its first MLB All Star Game, Playoffs and World Series; Tour de France; NFL regular season, playoffs and Super Bowl; college football; and the Winter Olympic Games. And it has exited beta on Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, iOS and Android; revamped its user interface; and debuted new features like “Lookback” and “Startover.”

The lineup it offers has begun to broaden beyond sports in recent months, as well.

While it has added several new sports additions in the last ten months, it has added entertainment networks, too  – including those from its strategic investors. These include AMC, BBC AMERICA, CBS, CBS Sports Network, CBSN, Food Network, FUSION TV, HGTV, IFC, MSG, MSG+, NESN, NFL Network, Pac-12 Network, Pop, SNY, SundanceTV, The Olympic Channel, Travel Channel and WE tv.

Combined, fuboTV offers viewers over 30,000 sporting events per year, 10,000+ titles in its video-on-demand library.

In addition, fuboTV has been adding broadcast affiliates and now offers Fox in 87 percent of U.S. households, and NBC and CBS in 72 percent and 68 percent, respectively. In total, it has 257 local broadcast affiliates and owned-and-operated stations on the service.

FuboTV doesn’t just generate revenue from subscriptions, however – it also sells advertising.

The company tells TechCrunch it’s forecasting a revenue run rate of over $100 million by this time next year.

“We are very bullish from an ad perspective, even though we only launched server-side ad insertion in January,” notes fuboTV co-founder and CEO David Gandler. “One quarter in, advertising represents low single-digit percentage of our overall revenue, but it is growing quickly. As a benchmark, we are already experiencing ad revenue per subscriber above Spotify’s recently published ad revenue per user data,” he says.

With the new investment, fuboTV plans to double its office space and engineers and product team, and open a second headquarters. The funding will also be used to develop new products and content offerings, and for marketing.

 

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

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Artificial Intelligence

Nvidia’s researchers teach a robot to perform simple tasks by observing a human

Industrial robots are typically all about repeating a well-defined task over and over again. Usually, that means performing those tasks a safe distance away from the fragile humans that programmed them. More and more, however, researchers are now thinking about how robots and humans can work in close proximity to humans and even learn from them. In part, that’s what Nvidia’s new robotics lab in Seattle focuses on and the company’s research team today presented some of its most recent work around teaching robots by observing humans at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), in Brisbane, Australia.

Nvidia’s director of robotics research Dieter Fox.

As Dieter Fox, the senior director of robotics research at Nvidia (and a professor at the University of Washington), told me, the team wants to enable this next generation of robots that can safely work in close proximity to humans. But to do that, those robots need to be able to detect people, tracker their activities and learn how they can help people. That may be in small-scale industrial setting or in somebody’s home.

While it’s possible to train an algorithm to successfully play a video game by rote repetition and teaching it to learn from its mistakes, Fox argues that the decision space for training robots that way is far too large to do this efficiently. Instead, a team of Nvidia researchers led by Stan Birchfield and Jonathan Tremblay, developed a system that allows them to teach a robot to perform new tasks by simply observing a human.

The tasks in this example are pretty straightforward and involve nothing more than stacking a few colored cubes. But it’s also an important step in this overall journey to enable us to quickly teach a robot new tasks.

The researchers first trained a sequence of neural networks to detect objects, infer the relationship between them and then generate a program to repeat the steps it witnessed the human perform. The researchers say this new system allowed them to train their robot to perform this stacking task with a single demonstration in the real world.

One nifty aspect of this system is that it generates a human-readable description of the steps it’s performing. That way, it’s easier for the researchers to figure out what happened when things go wrong.

Nvidia’s Stan Birchfield tells me that the team aimed to make training the robot easy for a non-expert — and few things are easier to do than to demonstrate a basic task like stacking blocks. In the example the team presented in Brisbane, a camera watches the scene and the human simply walks up, picks up the blocks and stacks them. Then the robot repeats the task. Sounds easy enough, but it’s a massively difficult task for a robot.

To train the core models, the team mostly used synthetic data from a simulated environment. As both Birchfield and Fox stressed, it’s these simulations that allow for quickly training robots. Training in the real world would take far longer, after all, and can also be more far more dangerous. And for most of these tasks, there is no labeled training data available to begin with.

“We think using simulation is a powerful paradigm going forward to train robots do things that weren’t possible before,” Birchfield noted. Fox echoed this and noted that this need for simulations is one of the reasons why Nvidia thinks that its hardware and software is ideally suited for this kind of research. There is a very strong visual aspect to this training process, after all, and Nvidia’s background in graphics hardware surely helps.

Fox admitted that there’s still a lot of research left to do be done here (most of the simulations aren’t photorealistic yet, after all), but that the core foundations for this are now in place.

Going forward, the team plans to expand the range of tasks that the robots can learn and the vocabulary necessary to describe those tasks.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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Delhi

58-year-old NRI masturbates sitting beside woman on board flight, held at Delhi airport

The security control room at the IGI Airport was informed in the early hours today that there was an “unruly passenger” on board a Turkish Airlines flight approaching Delhi.

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Delhi

After tens of thousands of pre-orders, 3D audio headphones startup Ossic disappears

After taking tens of thousands of crowd-funding pre-orders for a high-end pair of “3D sound” headphones, audio startup Ossic announced this weekend that it is shutting down the company and backers will not be receiving refunds.

The company raised $2.7 million on Kickstarter and $3.2 million on Indiegogo for their Ossic X headphones which they pitched as a pair of high-end head-tracking headphones that would be perfect for listening to 3D audio, especially in a VR environment. While the company also raised a “substantial seed investment,” in a letter on the Ossic website, the company blamed the slow adoption of virtual reality alongside their crowdfunding campaign stretch goals which bogged down their R&D team.

“This was obviously not our desired outcome. The team worked exceptionally hard and created a production-ready product that is a technological and performance breakthrough. To fail at the 5 yard-line is a tragedy. We are extremely sorry that we cannot deliver your product and want you to know that the team has done everything possible including investing our own savings and working without salary to exhaust all possibilities.”

We have reached out to the company for additional details.

Through January 2017, the San Diego company had received more than 22,000 pre-orders for their Ossic X headphones. This past January, Ossic announced that they had shipped out the first units to the 80 backers in their $999 developer tier headphones. In that same update, the company said they would enter “mass production” by late spring 2018.

In the end, after tens of thousands of pre-orders, Ossic only built 250 pairs of headphones and only shipped a few dozen to Kickstarter backers.

Crowdfunding campaign failures for hardware products are rarely shocking, but often the collapse comes from the company not being able to acquire additional funding from outside investors. Here, Ossic appears to have been misguided from the start and even with nearly $6 million in crowdfunding and seed funding, which they said nearly matched that number, they were left unable to begin large-scale manufacturing. The company said in their letter, that it would likely take more than $2 million in additional funding to deliver the existing backlog of pre-orders.

Backers are understandably quite upset about not receiving their headphones. A group of over 1,200 Facebook users have joined a recently-created page threatening a class action lawsuit against the team.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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