All posts in “AI”

coParenter helps divorced parents settle disputes using A.I. and human mediation

A former judge and family law educator has teamed up with tech entrepreneurs to launch an app they hope will help divorced parents better manage their co-parenting disputes, communications, shared calendar, and other decisions within a single platform. The app, called coParenter, aims to be more comprehensive than its competitors, while also leveraging a combination of A.I. technology and on-demand human interaction to help co-parents navigate high-conflict situations.

The idea for coParenter emerged from co-founder Hon. Sherrill A. Ellsworth’s personal experience and entrepreneur Jonathan Verk, who had been through a divorce himself.

Ellsworth had been a presiding judge of the Superior Court in Riverside County, California for 20 years and a family law educator for ten. During this time, she saw firsthand how families were destroyed by today’s legal system.

“I witnessed countless families torn apart as they slogged through the family law system. I saw how families would battle over the simplest of disagreements like where their child will go to school, what doctor they should see and what their diet should be — all matters that belong at home, not in a courtroom,” she says.

Ellsworth also notes that 80 percent of the disagreements presented in the courtroom didn’t even require legal intervention – but most of the cases she presided over involved parents asking the judge to make the co-parenting decision.

As she came to the end of her career, she began to realize the legal system just wasn’t built for these sorts of situations.

She then met Jonathan Verk, previously EVP Strategic Partnerships at Shazam and now coParenter CEO. Verk had just divorced himself and had an idea about how technology could help make the co-parenting process easier. He already had on board his longtime friend and serial entrepreneur Eric Weiss, now COO, to help build the system. But he needed someone with legal expertise.

That’s how coParenter was born.

The app, also built by CTO Niels Hansen, today exists alongside a whole host of other tools built for different aspects of the coparenting process.

That includes those apps designed to document communication like OurFamilyWizard, Talking Parents, AppClose, and Divvito Messenger; those for sharing calendars, like Custody Connection, Custody X Exchange, Alimentor; and even those that offer a combination of features like WeParent, 2houses, SmartCoparent, and Fayr, among others.

But the team at coParenter argues that their app covers all aspects of coparenting, including communication, documentation, calendar and schedule sharing, location-based tools for pickup and dropoff logging, expense tracking and reimbursements, schedule change requests, tools for making decisions on day-to-day parenting choices like haircuts, diet, allowance, use of media, etc., and more.

Notably, coParenter also offers a “solo mode” – meaning you can use the app even if the other co-parent refuses to do the same. This is a key feature that many rival apps lack.

However, the biggest differentiator is how coParenter puts a mediator of sorts in your pocket.

The app begins by using A.I., machine learning, and sentiment analysis technology to keep conversations civil. The tech will jump in to flag curse words, inflammatory phrases and offense names to keep a heated conversation from escalating – much like a human mediator would do when trying to calm two warring parties.

When conversations take a bad turn, the app will pop up a warning message that asks the parent if they’re sure they want to use that term, allowing them time to pause and think. (If only social media platforms had built features like this!)

When parents need more assistance, they can opt to use the app instead of turning to lawyers.

The company offers on-demand access to professionals as both monthly ($12.99/mo – 20 credits, or enough for 2 mediations) or yearly ($119.99/year – 240 credits) subscriptions. Both parents can subscribe for $199.99/year, each receiving 240 credits.

“Comparatively, an average hour with a lawyer costs between $250 and upwards of $200, just to file a single motion,” Ellsworth says.

These professionals are not mediators, but are licensed in their respective fields – typically family law attorneys, therapists, social workers, or other retired bench officers with strong conflict resolution backgrounds. Ellsworth oversees the professionals to ensure they have the proper guidance.

All communication between the parent and the professional is considered confidential and not subject to admission as evidence, as the goal is to stay out of the courts. However, all the history and documentation elsewhere in the app can be used in court, if the parents do end up there.

The app has been in beta for nearly a year, and officially launched this January. To date, coParenter claims it’s already helped to resolve over 4,000 disputes and over 2,000 co-parents have used it for scheduling. 81 percent of the disputing parents resolved all their issues in the app, without needed a professional mediator or legal professional, the company says.

CoParenter is available on both iOS and Android.

Automation Hero picks up $14.5 million led by Atomico

Automation Hero, formerly SalesHero, has secured $14.5 million in new funding led by Atomico, with participation by Baidu Ventures and Cherry Ventures. As part of the deal, Atomico principle Ben Blume will join the company’s board of directors.

The automation startup launched in 2017 as SalesHero, giving sales orgs a simple way to automate back office processes like filing an expense report or updating the CRM. It does this through an AI assistant called Robin — “Batman and Robin, it worked with the superhero theme, and it’s gender neutral,” cofounder and CEO Stefan Groschupf explained — that can be configured to go through the regular workflow and take care of repetitive tasks.

“We brought computers into the workplace because we believed they could make us more productive,” said Groschupf. “But in many companies, people spend a lot of time entering data and doing painful manual processes to make these machines happy.”

The idea was to give salespeople more time to actually do their job, which is selling to clients. If all the administrative and repetitive ‘paperwork’ is done by a computer, human employees can become more productive and efficient at skilled tasks.

By weaving together click robots, Automation Hero users can build out their own workflows through a no-code interface, tying together a wide variety of both structured and unstructured data sources. Those workflows are then presented in the inbox each morning by Robin, the AI assistant, and are executed as soon as the user gives the go ahead.

After launch, the team realized that other types of organizations, beyond sales departments, were building out automations. Insurance firms, in particular, were using the software to automate some of the repetitive tasks involved with filing and assessing claims.

This led to today’s rebrand to Automation Hero.

Groschupf said that by automating the process of filling out a single closing form, it saved one insurance firm’s 430 sales reps 18.46 years per year.

Automation Hero has now raised a total of $19 million.

“We’re really excited with Atomico to bring on a great VC and good people,” said Groschupf. “I’ve raised capital before and I’ve worked with some of the more questionable VCs, as it turns out. We’re super excited we’ve found an investor that really bakes important things, like a diversity policy and a family leave policy, right into the company’s investment agreement.”

Though he didn’t confirm, it’s likely that Groschupf is referring to KPCB, which has run into its fair share of controversy over the past few years and was an investor in Groschupf’s previous startup, Datameer.

This website uses AI to generate faces of people who don’t exist

These people are not real.
These people are not real.

Image: thispersondoesnotexist.com

With the help of artificial intelligence, you can manipulate video of public figures to say whatever you like — or now, create images of people’s faces that don’t even exist.

You can see this in action on a website called thispersondoesnotexist.com. It uses an algorithm to spit out a single image of a person’s face, and for the most part, they look frighteningly real.

Hit refresh in your browser, and the algorithm will generate a new face. Again, these people do not exist.

Not real.

Also not real.

The website is the creation of software engineer Phillip Wang, and uses a new AI algorithm called StyleGAN, which was developed by researchers at Nvidia. 

GAN, or Generative Adversarial Networks, is a concept within machine learning which aims to generate images that are indistinguishable from real ones. 

You can train GANs to remember human faces, as well bedrooms, cars, and cats, and of course, generate images of them. 

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Wang told Mashable he created the site to create awareness for the algorithm, and chose faces “because our brains are sensitive to that kind of image.” 

He added that it costs $150 a month to hire out the server, as he needs a good amount of graphical power to run the website. 

“It also started off as a personal agenda mainly because none of my friends seem to believe this AI phenomenon, and I wanted to convince them,” Wang said. 

“This was the most shocking presentation I could send them. I then posted it on Facebook and it went viral from there.”

As for the societal impact of this technology, Wang said the more people are aware of it, the better they can be prepared for these images. 

A powerful enough GAN could be used to create an image of a loved one, which could be used for manipulation, he said. Or a big enough dataset could be used to create all sorts of realistic images, from scratch.

“I think eventually, given enough data, a big enough neural [network] can be teased into dreaming up many different kinds of scenarios,” Wang added.

“We just don’t have very good control over the dreams, but I actually have a small side project where I’m going to see if I can control the StyleGAN dreams with a paragraph (I want to see an old man with sunglasses and a beard wearing a blue shirt).”

By the way, it’s not just images and video that AI can fool you. Text too, can be generated by artificial intelligence, and it’s also just as believable.

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Biotech AI startup Sight Diagnostics gets $27.8M to speed up blood tests

Sight Diagnostics, an Israeli medical devices startup that’s using AI technology to speed up blood testing, has closed a  $27.8 million Series C funding round.

The company has built a desktop machine, called OLO, that analyzes cartridges manually loaded with drops of the patient’s blood — performing blood counts in situ.

The new funding is led by VC firm Longliv Ventures, also based in Israel, and a member of the multinational conglomerate CK Hutchison Group.

Sight Diagnostics said it was after strategic investment for the Series C — specifically investors that could contribute to its technological and commercial expansion. And on that front CK Hutchison Group’s portfolio includes more than 14,500 health and beauty stores across Europe and Asia, providing a clear go-to-market route for the company’s OLO blood testing device.

Other strategic investors in the round include Jack Nicklaus II, a healthcare philanthropist and board member of the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation; Steven Esrick, a healthcare impact investor; and a “major medical equipment manufacturer” — which they’re not naming.

Sight Diagnostics also notes that it’s seeking additional strategic partners who can help it get its device to “major markets throughout the world”.

Commenting in a statement, Yossi Pollak, co-founder and CEO, said: “We sought out groups and individuals who genuinely believe in our mission to improve health for everyone with next-generation diagnostics, and most importantly, who can add significant value beyond financial support. We are already seeing positive traction across Europe and seeking additional strategic partners who can help us deploy OLO to major markets throughout the world.”

The company says it expects that customers across “multiple countries in Europe” will have deployed OLO in actual use this year.

Existing investors OurCrowd, Go Capital, and New Alliance Capital also participated in the Series C. The medtech startup, which was founded back in 2011, has raised more than $50M to date, only disclosing its Series A and B raises last year.

The new funding will be used to further efforts to sell what it bills as its “lab-grade” point-of-care blood diagnostics system, OLO, around the world. Although its initial go-to-market push has focused on Europe — where it has obtained CE Mark registration for OLO (necessary for commercial sale within certain European countries) following a 287-person clinical trial, and went on to launch the device last summer. It’s since signed a distribution agreement for OLO in Italy.

“We have pursued several pilots with potential customers in Europe, specifically in the UK and Italy,” co-founder Danny Levner tells TechCrunch. “In Europe, it is typical for market adoption to begin with pilot studies: Small clinical evaluations that each major customers run at their own facilities, under real-world conditions. This allows users to experience the specific benefits of the technology in their own context. In typical progress, pilot studies are then followed by modest initial orders, and then by broad deployment.”

The funding will also support ongoing regulatory efforts in the U.S., where it’s been conducting a series of trials as part of FDA testing in the hopes of gaining regulatory clearance for OLO. Levner tells us it has now submitted data to the regulator and is waiting for it to be reviewed.

“In December 2018, we completed US clinical trials at three US clinical sites and we are submitting them later this month to the FDA. We are seeking 510(k) FDA clearance for use in US CLIA compliant laboratories, to be followed by a CLIA waiver application that will allow for use at any doctor’s office. We are very pleased with the results of our US trial and we hope to obtain the FDA’s 510(k) clearance within a year’s time,” he says.

“With the current funding, we’re focusing on commercialization in the European market, starting in the UK, Italy and the Nordics,” he adds. “In the US, we’re working to identify new opportunities in oncology and pediatrics.”

Funds will also go on R&D to expand the menu of diagnostic tests the company is able to offer via OLO.

The startup previously told us it envisages developing the device into a platform capable of running a portfolio of blood tests, saying each additional test would be added individually and only after “independent clinical validation”.

The initial test OLO offers is a complete blood count (CBC), with Sight Diagnostics applying machine learning and computer vision technology to digitize and analyze a high resolution photograph of a finger prick’s worth of the patient’s blood on device.

The idea is to offer an alternative to having venous blood drawn and sent away to a lab for analysis — with an OLO-based CBC billed as taking “minutes” to perform, with the startup also claiming it’s simple enough for non-professional to carry out, whereas it says a lab-based blood count can take several days to process and return a result.

On the R&D front, Levner says it sees “enormous potential” for OLO to be used to diagnose blood diseases such as leukemia and sickle cell anemia.

“Also, given the small amount of blood required and the minimally-invasive nature of the test when using finger-prick blood samples, there is an opportunity to use OLO in neonatal screening,” he says. “Accordingly, one of the most important immediate next steps is to tailor the test procedures and algorithms for neonate screening.”

Levner also told us that some of its pilot studies have looked at evaluating “improvements in operator and patient satisfaction”. “Clearly standing out in these studies is the preference for finger-prick-based testing, which OLO provides,” he claims. 

One key point to note: Sight Diagnostics has still yet to publish peer reviewed results of its clinical trials for OLO. Last July it told us it has a publication pending in a peer-reviewed journal.

“With regards to the peer-reviewed publication, we’ve decided to combine the results from the Israel clinical trials with those that we just completed in the US for a more robust publication,” the company says now. “We expect to focus on that publication after we receive FDA approval in the US.”