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Last Week In Digital - June 3rd 2016

Facebook add to both their long list of failed apps, Uber declare intent in China

3Jun

Uber pledges to be China’s biggest taxi app within a year

Uber has thrown down the gauntlet in China, with a public prediction that it will trounce native service Didi Chuxing, a merging of two existing competitors which took place in 2015 as a responses to Uber’s arrival. The likes of Alibaba and Tencent back the current incumbent, but Uber is confident it is on the path to dominance in a typically difficult to conquer market.

The US giant has a war chest of $11 billion and a significant amount will be spent on the Chinese invasion project, given the mouthwatering potential of the market. ‘Last year, we were only operating in eight cities and we were [at] about one percent marketshare. A year later, we are about one-third of the marketshare and operating in over sixty cities across China,’ said Zhen Liu, senior vice president of strategy at Uber. ‘There’s lot of competition in the ride-sharing market, that’s true [but] what we are really doing is to focus on what’s in front of us.’

Facebook abandons Notify

The latest in Facebook’s long list of failed projects is notification-based news app Notify. Because smartphone users don’t receive quite enough notifications, Notify launched in November and combined push notifications with live news. The user selects from over 70 publishers who then send short summaries of the latest news in notification form.

Fast forward seven months, Notify has just 63,000 estimated downloads - courtesy of SensorTower - and Facebook is pulling the app to ‘begin integrating Notify functionality into other Facebook products, like Messenger.’ The social media giant has a history of testing functionality in standalone apps before integrating them into its core product, and don’t be surprised to see notification-based news back on Facebook’s agenda at some point in the future.

But continues developing DeepText

In the latest potentially terrifying AI development, Facebook are developing DeepText, a system that will analyze sentences on social media and Messenger and act accordingly. For example, type ‘I need a ride’, and Messenger will present a ‘request a ride button.’ If you post that you’re selling something, Facebook will offer to format the post accordingly. The key, though, is in distinguishing between phrases like ’I’ll get an Uber’ and ‘Just got out of my Uber,’ something nuance, slang and misspellings make more difficult than you might think.

‘To get closer to how humans understand text, we need to teach the computer to understand things like slang and word-sense disambiguation,’ Facebook said. ‘As an example, if someone says, ‘I like blackberry,’ does that mean the fruit or the device?’ Issues of privacy will undoubtedly hold the technology back, but its applications are numerous and, if fears can be allayed, DeepText could be huge.

Nokia completes Withings acquisition

Finnish tech giants Nokia announced that it planned to acquire French fitness wearables company Withings back in April, but the €170 million deal was closed this week. The company is making a phone comeback, but the acquisition will bolster Nokia’s additional offerings, and there is a clear desire to cash in on the rapidly growing wearables market.

We are currently testing Withings’ Activité Steel for review, a watch that pairs with an app on the wearer’s smartphone and offers in-depth activity tracking. It’s stylish, with just an analogue clock face and an activity dial that shows your daily activity progress at a glance, and Withings is clearly looking to marry form and function in a way that some smartwatch developers aren’t. Nokia’s acquisition will see the startup benefit from the giant’s distribution network and financial muscle, as it looks to rival the likes of P

Pebble to embed Amazon Alexa into their Pebble Core

Wearables pioneer Pebble have announced plans to integrate Amazon Alexa into their Pebble Core device, a potentially game-changing move for the wearables industry. The company returned to Kickstarter to raise funds for the project - which already has over $10 million raised of a $1 million target - and you can actually still become a backer.

With Alexa, the wearable becomes not just a functional, connected device, but a personal assistant, and its potential applications are immense. Amazon’s highly-anticipated voice assistant will be the first to be present in a standalone wearable, and will be able to shop for products on Amazon, control smart home devices, give users a weather update and more, all from a voice command. The news is an exciting development for wearable tech, as developers look to build on the success of fitness trackers by adding genuinely useful functionality. 

Sources

Alexey Boldin / Shutterstock.com

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