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Google Puts Boston Dynamics Up for Sale in Robotics Retreat

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A logo is pictured at Google's European Engineering Center in Zurich

The video, published to YouTube on Feb. 23, was awe-inspiring and scary. A two-legged humanoid robot trudges through the snow, somehow maintaining its balance. Another robot with two arms and pads for hands crouches down and lifts a brown box and delicately places it on a shelf — then somehow stays upright while a human tries to push it over with a hockey stick. A third robot topples over and clambers back to its feet with ease.

Tens of millions of people viewed the video over the next few weeks. Google and the division responsible for the video, Boston Dynamics, were seemingly pushing the frontier in robot technology.

But behind the scenes a more pedestrian drama was playing out. Executives at Google parent Alphabet Inc., absorbed with making sure all the various companies under its corporate umbrella have plans to generate real revenue, concluded that Boston Dynamics isn’t likely to produce a marketable product in the next few years and have put the unit up for sale, according to two people familiar with the company’s plans.

Possible acquirers include the Toyota Research Institute, a division of Toyota Motor Corp., and Amazon.com Inc., which makes robots for its fulfillment centers, according to one person. Google and Toyota declined to comment, and Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Robotics Push

Google acquired Boston Dynamics in late 2013 as part of a spree of acquisitions in the field of robotics. The deals were spearheaded by Andy Rubin, former chief of the Android division, and brought about 300 robotics engineers into Google. Rubin left the company in October 2014. Over the following year, the robot initiative, dubbed Replicant, was plagued by leadership changes, failures to collaborate between companies and an unsuccessful effort to recruit a new leader.

At the heart of Replicant’s trouble, said a person familiar with the group, was a reluctance by Boston Dynamics executives to work with Google’s other robot engineers in California and Tokyo and the unit’s failure to come up with products that could be released in the near term.

Tensions between Boston Dynamics and the rest of the Replicant group spilled into open view within Google, when written minutes of a Nov. 11 meeting and several subsequent e-mails were inadvertently published to an online forum that was accessible to other Google workers. These documents were made available to Bloomberg News by a Google employee who spotted them.

The November meeting was run by Jonathan Rosenberg, an adviser to Alphabet Chief Executive Officer Larry Page and former Google senior vice president, who was temporarily in charge of the Replicant group. In the meeting, Rosenberg said, “we as a startup of our size cannot spend 30-plus percent of our resources on things that take ten years,” and that “there’s some time frame that we need to be generating an amount of revenue that covers expenses and (that) needs to be a few years.”

‘Brick Wall’

Aaron Edsinger, director of robotics at Google in San Francisco, said that he had been trying to work with Boston Dynamics to create a low-cost electric quadruped robot and felt “a bit of a brick wall” around the division, according to the minutes of the meeting.

Marc Raibert, a former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and the founder of Boston Dynamics, said that “I firmly believe the only way to get to a product is through the work we are doing in Boston. (I) don’t think we are the pie in the sky guys as much as everyone thinks we are,” the minutes show.

Raibert didn’t respond to multiple messages seeking comment for this story.
Part of the challenge was that Alphabet, created in 2015, was geared toward making Google inviting to startup founders and entrepreneurial executives who wanted to join companies driving toward products and revenue, which could increase shareholder value for those subsidiaries. Page wanted to invite top-tier engineers to join the companies within Alphabet and entice them with equity.

In December, Google announced that Replicant had been folded into Google’s advanced research group, Google X. In a private all-hands meeting around that time, Astro Teller, the head of Google X, told Replicant employees that if robotics aren’t the practical solution to problems that Google was trying to solve, they would be reassigned to work on other things, according to a person who was at that meeting.

Distancing Google

Boston Dynamics, though, was never folded into Google X and was instead put up for sale. After the division’s latest robot video was posted to YouTube, in February, Google’s public-relations team expressed discomfort that Alphabet would be associated with a push into humanoid robotics. Their subsequent e-mails were also published to the internal online forum and became visible to all Google employees.

“There’s excitement from the tech press, but we’re also starting to see some negative threads about it being terrifying, ready to take humans’ jobs,” wrote Courtney Hohne, a director of communications at Google and the spokeswoman for Google X.

Hohne went on to ask her colleagues to “distance X from this video,” and wrote, “we don’t want to trigger a whole separate media cycle about where BD really is at Google.”

“We’re not going to comment on this video because there’s really not a lot we can add, and we don’t want to answer most of the Qs it triggers,” she wrote.

Bloomberg

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Fintech

15-Month-Old P2P Credit Fintech, P2vest Celebrates 100,000 Users

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P2vest, a peer-to-peer lending platform by P2vest Technology Limited, has commemorated gaining 100,000 users on its platform since its launch in 2020.

With a mission to transform the way people access credit and lend money by bringing borrowers and lenders together, the platform states that it allows for quick loan disbursement and a flexible payback plan, safer than offers received from loan sharks.

Cash-strapped borrowers for a while now in Nigeria, have been at the mercy of lenders who use unscrupulous means to recover loans. These lenders who conduct their businesses unprofessionally go as far as marring the integrity and characters of the borrowers and their innocent guarantors.

Promising to provide a better approach to lending and borrowing within peers through the utilization of artificial intelligence, the Founder and CEO of P2vest Technology, Mr Austin Abolusoro says that, ”Our goal at P2vest is to build a platform that delivers on ease of access to credit while also building a credit history. Our approach is different, we are using Artificial Intelligence to ensure credit-worthy Nigerians have access to quick loans.”

According to Abolusoro, the 15-month old financial technology company bridged the gap of loan access by connecting authorised lenders with borrowers, while helping them take control of their debt, grow their businesses, and invest for the future.

“Since we launched (in 2020), we have provided access to quick loans to over 105,000 Nigerians. This is a big achievement for us as we have availed people the chance to access loans for their different needs like setting up of businesses, house renovations, Car loans, paying rent, school loan, medical bills on the platform faster and without delay. While also creating an opportunity for people to borrow more as long as they continue to pay back,” he said.

Speaking on its mode of operation, the company states that it uses the Sharing Economy Technology. The sharing economy technology is a new model of consumption, sharing, collaboration between individuals of goods, services, resources, with or without monetary exchanges via dedicated platforms.

The adoption of the sharing economy technology and its model has allowed the fintech credit world to develop over the years. Its growth now creates room for P2P economy to thrive as they cut out the role of third parties.

On the P2vest platform, users are encouraged to grow their money by “becoming a lender on our easy-to-use platform. Give out loans tailored to you and your income, and earn attractive returns.” Borrowers on the other hand are to provide their accurate info, including bank details, where payments of loan, when due are automatically withdrawn from the accounts.

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Angel Investors Plans to List Africa-Focused SPAC Targeting Tech Startup

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Start-up - Investors King

Angel Investors, Vishal Agarwal an investment banker, and Raj Kulasingam, a corporate lawyer have stated plans to list Africa-focused SPAC targeting only tech startups in the continent.

A report from Bloomberg said the two early-stage investors have been funding African startups since 2017, invested in over 50 startups, and so far made fivefold returns on their investment. They were also part of Acuity Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund with stakes in Flutterwave Inc. and Paystack before the firms attained unicorn status.

Vishal and Raj saw the successful investment strategy of Swvl Inc. a Dubai-based ridesharing company merging with Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital, a blank-check company. The two investors believed that listing an African-focused SPAC will provide funds for startups needing capital to expand operations in the continent.

Vishal affirmed that investors have developed a keen interest in Africa, he said, “as there is more interest in Africa, we want to give founders a route to market. A SPAC gives acceleration to our founders and is overall a good thing for the ecosystem.”

The growing interest in African startups has been asserted by Briter Bridges in the 2021 African Investment Report, which released data showing that African startups secured $4.69 billion in estimated funding in 2021, where the tech companies dominated the space by gulping $2.9 billion or 62 percent of the total funding.

However, data from SPAC research revealed that less than 1 percent of the 600 New York-listed SPACs are African-focused.

The biggest investment success recorded by Vishal and raj was with Kuda Bank, the African challenger bank, where they invested $600,000 and exited with 14.5 fold gain or $8.7 million in 20 months. Kuda Bank, a unicorn startup is valued at $500 million and has so far raised $91.6 million in funding.

Vishal said, “when we do dealmaking, we are influenced not only by being able to get in at the right price, but being able to come out, We are very conscious about that, and it’s not always straightforward to come out.”

Dario Giuliani, director of Briter Bridges said, “2021 was a year of recognition, where the newly-available resources and the increasing number of international investors shifting mandates to include Africa met hundreds of promising entrepreneurs to support”.

Vishal and Raj just like every investor identified a growing economy in Africa and the increasing tech-savvy youth population, but also the lack of financial infrastructure. The duo plans to fill this gap by investing in about 20 African startups this year.

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Apple iOS 14 Users No Longer Receive Security Updates

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Italy

In a move to push customers to use the iOS 15, the global leading smartphone company, Apple has announced that iOS 14 (iOS and iPad 14.8.1) users will no longer receive security updates.

This announcement comes months after the iPhone and iPad Operating Systems 14 (iOS 14) got its final update in October last year.

Disclosing that they cannot update the iOS 14 version, the users say that they were rather given no option than to use the 15.2.1 version, which the company introduced in June 2021.

According to Apple, the iOS 15 is an update having new features for FaceTime calls, tools to reduce distractions, a new notifications experience, total updates for Safari, Weather, and Maps, and more. iOS 15 also includes new privacy controls in Siri, Mail, and more places across the system to further protect user information.

However, during the launch of iOS 15 in September last year, Apple had assured users who didn’t want to upgrade from iOS 14, that they would still be able to receive critical security updates.

In fact, the iOS 15 is compatible with every iOS 14 device, so there are no hardware conflicts. This gave the impression that both versions, depending on whichever a user chooses, can be used. However, Apple who has been urged to be clear on its security update policy, has directed all users to get the latest OS version, as the former will no longer receive updates.

In a statement to Ars Technica, the smartphone maker noted that allowing both OS to operate was intentional. It also said leaving the previous security updates for iOS 14 was only meant for a temporary grace period, and not a situation where both OS systems could coexist.

Arguing that Apple never mentioned this when it first announced and launched iOS 15, Techspot pointed out that the company still makes available security updates for the previous MacBook operating systems (macOS), alongside its latest one. The two previous macOS versions, Big Sur and Catalina are still allowed to receive updates, alongside Monterey, which is the most recent version of the two. It should be noted that Catalina is a year older than iOS 14.

The company in a space of two months always introduce the latest iPhone, iPad or iPod operating systems. The latest versions, iOS 15.2.1 and 15.beta.3 were released on January 12, 2022. Without updating each versions, it is believed that each iOS can last for a long time. But eventually, apps cannot be used as the iOS isn’t updated. It is also possible that  GPS will stop working. The lack of update can affect WiFi too.

 

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