All posts in “Microsoft”

Medivis has launched its augmented reality platform for surgical planning

After two years of development, Medivis, a New York-based company developing augmented reality data integration and visualization tools for surgeons, is bringing its first product to market.

The company was founded by Osamah Choudhry and Christopher Morley who met as senior residents at NYU Medical Center.

Initially a side-project, the two residents roped in some engineers to help develop their first prototypes and after a stint in NYU’s Summer Launchpad program the two decided to launch the company.

Now, with $2.3 million in financing led by Initialized Capital and partnerships with Dell and Microsoft to supply hardware, the company is launching its first product, called SurgicalAR.

In fact, it was the launch of the HoloLens that really gave Medivis its boost, according to Morley. That technology pointed a way toward what Morley said was one of the dreams for technology in the medical industry.

“The Holy Grail is to be able to holographically render this a,” he said.

For now, Medivis is able to access patient data and represent it visually in a three dimensional model for doctors to refer to as they plan surgeries. That model is mapped back to the patient to give surgeons a plan for how best to approach an operation.

“The interface between medical imaging and surgical utility from it is really where we see a lot of innovation being possible,” says Morley.

So far, Medivis has worked with the University of Pennsylvania and New York University to bring their prototypes into a surgical setting.

The company is integrating some machine learning capabilities to be able to identify the most relevant information from patients’ medical records and diagnostics as they begin to plan the surgical process.

“What we’ve been working on over this time is developing this really disrupt 3D pipeline,” says Morley. “What we have seen is that there is a distinct lack of 3D pipelines to allow people to directly interface… very quickly try to automate the entire rendering process.”

For now, Medivis is elling a touchscreen monitor, display and a headset. The device plugs into a hospital network and extracts medical imaging to display from their servers in about 30 seconds, according to Choudhry.

“That’s where we see this immediately being useful in that pre-surgical planning stage,” Choudhry says. “The use in surgical planning and being able to extend this through surgical navigation.. Streamline the process that requires a large amount of pieces and components and setups so you only need an AR headset to localize pathology and make decisions off of that.”

Already the company has performed 15 surgeries in consultation with the company’s technology.

“When we first met Osamah and Chris, we immediately understood the magnitude of the problem they were out to solve. Medical imaging as it relates to surgical procedures has largely been neglected, leaving patients open to all sorts of complications and general safety issues,” said Eric Woersching, General Partner, Initialized Capital, in a statement. “We took one look at Medivis platform and knew they were poised to transform the operating room. Not only was their hands-free approach to visualization meeting a real need for greater surgical accuracy, but the team has the passion and expertise in the medical field to bring it all to fruition. We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Medivis to the Initialized family.”

Microsoft teases HoloLens 2 in new video

This might be the chip that goes into the new HoloLens.
This might be the chip that goes into the new HoloLens.

Image: Alex Kipman/Youtube

Microsoft might announce the new generation of its mixed reality headset, the HoloLens, at an event later this month. 

On Monday, Microsoft’s Technical Fellow for AI Perception and Mixed Reality in the Cloud (you gotta love Microsoft’s job titles), Alex Kipman, published a teaser video for the event, and it sure makes it look like HoloLens 2 is coming. 

[embedded content]

The video, titled “2.24.19 #MWC19” — the date and tagline for the event held one day before the official start of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona — is quite mysterious. Lumps of silicon are turned into chips, ice cubes melt, optical fibre intertwines — it’s all nice to look at but doesn’t really tell us much about the upcoming device. 

So how do we know the video is about the new HoloLens? Firstly, Kipman invented the original HoloLens, and in the video’s description, he says he’s “excited” for the event. Microsoft’ CEO Satya Nadella will be there as well. 

Also, an update is due; the original HoloLens was launched in March 2016 (for developers only) and hasn’t deceived an update yet. And rumors about the new version of the headset have been flying since mid-2018. Note that back in July 2017, Microsoft also said the next version of HoloLens will have AI capabilities. 

It’s hard to imagine the event being about anything else besides the HoloLens 2, though the company might only be showing the new chip that’s going into the device. Mashable will be there at the event in Barcelona, so stay tuned for updates. 

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Microsoft cybersecurity expert: Please, stop using Internet Explorer as a web browser

A Microsoft cybersecurity expert is urging customers to stop using Internet Explorer as a web browser and only default to it as a "compatibility solution."
A Microsoft cybersecurity expert is urging customers to stop using Internet Explorer as a web browser and only default to it as a “compatibility solution.”

Image: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Believe it or not, there are still people using Internet Explorer — and Microsoft would like them to stop.

Microsoft cybersecurity expert Chris Jackson recently published a post on the official Windows IT Pro blog, titled “The perils of using Internet Explorer as your default browser.” Jackson urges users that it’s time to stop using its old web browser, a product Microsoft officially discontinued in 2015.

In his post, Jackson explains how Microsoft customers still ask him Internet Explorer related questions for their business. The fact of the matter is that while most average internet users have moved on to Google Chrome, Firefox, or Microsoft’s Edge, some businesses are still working with older web apps or sites that were designed for Internet Explorer. Instead of updating its tech, many companies have chosen to just keep using the various enterprise compatibility modes of Microsoft’s old web browser.

But, Jackson says “enough is enough.” It’s time to event stop calling Internet Explorer a web browser.

“Internet Explorer is a compatibility solution,” writes Jackson. “We’re not supporting new web standards for it and, while many sites work fine, developers by and large just aren’t testing for Internet Explorer these days.” 

Jackson clarifies that it’s fine to use Internet Explorer where necessary, for example certain enterprise solutions, but even those companies should not be using IE as its default web browser.

The Verge points out that Microsoft helped exacerbate the problem by coupling its current web browser, Edge, with Windows 10, limiting its ability to be used on older versions of Windows. However, to be fair to Jackson, he never pushes for any specific web browser to replace Internet Explorer.  

Also, Microsoft will soon solve its Edge issue with its upcoming Chromium-based version of the browser, which will be compatible with Windows 7, Windows 8, and even Mac.

“If we continued our previous approach, you would end up in a scenario where, by optimizing for the things you have, you end up not being able to use new apps as they come out,” Jackson says.
“As new apps are coming out with greater frequency, what we want to help you do is avoid having to miss out on a progressively larger portion of the web!”

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Someone could scoop up Slack before it IPOs

Earlier this week, Slack announced that it has filed the paperwork to go public at some point later this year. The big question is, will the company exit into the public markets as expected, or will one of the technology giants swoop in at the last minute with buckets of cash and take them off the market?

Slack, which raised more than $1 billion on an other-worldly $7 billion valuation, is an interesting property. It has managed to grow and be successful while competing with some of the world’s largest tech companies — Microsoft, Cisco, Facebook, Google and Salesforce. Not coincidentally, these deep-pocketed companies could be the ones that come knock, knock, knocking at Slack’s door.

Slack has managed to hold its own against these giants by doing something in this space that hadn’t been done effectively before. It made it easy to plug in other services, effectively making Slack a work hub where you could spend your day because your work could get pushed to you there from other enterprise apps.

As I’ve discussed before, this centralized hub has been a dream of communications tools for most of the 21st century. It began with enterprise IM tools in the early 2000s, and progressed to Enterprise 2.0 tools in the 2007 time frame. That period culminated in 2012 when Microsoft bought Yammer for $1.2 billion, the only billion-dollar exit for that generation of tools.

I remember hearing complaints about Enterprise 2.0 tools. While they had utility, in many ways they were just one more thing employees had to check for information beyond email. The talk was these tools would replace email, but a decade later email’s still standing and that generation of tools has been absorbed.

In 2013, Slack came along, perhaps sensing that Enterprise 2.0 never really got mobile and the cloud, and it recreated the notion in a more modern guise. By taking all of that a step further and making the tool a kind of workplace hub, it has been tremendously successful, growing to 8 million daily users in roughly 4 years, around 3 million of which were the paying variety, at last count.

Slack’s growth numbers as of May 2018

All of this leads us back to the exit question. While the company has obviously filed for IPO paperwork, it might not be the way it ultimately exits. Just the other day CNBC’s Jay Yarrow posited this questions on Twitter:

Not sure where he pulled that number from, but if you figure 3x valuation, that could be the value for a company of this ilk. There would be symmetry in Microsoft buying Slack six years after it plucked Yammer off the market, and it would remove a major competitive piece from the board, while allowing Microsoft access to Slack’s growing customer base.

Nobody can see into the future, and maybe Slack does IPO and takes its turn as a public company, but it surely wouldn’t be a surprise if someone came along with an offer it couldn’t refuse, whatever that figure might be.

Africa Roundup: Zimbabwe’s net blackout, Partech’s $143M fund, Andela’s $100M raise, Flutterwave’s pivot

A high court in Zimbabwe ended the government’s restrictions on internet and social media last month.

After days of intermittent blackouts at the order of the country’s Minister of State for National Security, ISPs restored connectivity per a January 21 judicial order.

Similar to net shutdowns around the continent, politics and protests were the catalyst. Shortly after the government announced a dramatic increase in fuel prices on January 12, Zimbabwe’s Congress of Trade Unions called for a national strike.

Web and app blackouts in the southern African country followed demonstrations that broke out in several cities. A government crackdown ensued, with deaths reported.

On January 15, Zimbabwe’s largest mobile carrier, Econet Wireless, confirmed that it had complied with a directive from the Minister of State for National Security to shutdown internet.

Net access was restored, taken down again, then restored, but social media sites remained blocked through January 21.

Throughout the restrictions, many of Zimbabwe’s citizens and techies resorted to VPNs and workarounds to access net and social media, as reported in this TechCrunch feature.

Global internet rights group Access Now sprung to action, attaching its #KeepItOn hashtag to calls for the country’s government to reopen cyberspace soon after digital interference began.

The cyber-affair adds Zimbabwe to a growing list of African countries — including Cameroon, Congo and Ethiopia — whose governments have restricted internet expression in recent years.

It also provides another case study for techies and ISPs regaining their cyber rights. Internet and social media are back up in Zimbabwe — at least for now.

Further attempts to restrict net and app access in Zimbabwe will likely revive what’s become a somewhat ironic cycle for cyber shutdowns. When governments cut off internet and social media access, citizens still find ways to use internet and social media to stop them.

Partech doubled its Africa VC fund to $143 million and opened a Nairobi office to complement its Dakar practice.

The Partech Africa Fund plans to make 20 to 25 investments across roughly 10 countries over the next several years, according to general partner Tidjane Deme. The fund has added Ceasar Nyagha as investment officer for the Kenya office to expand its East Africa reach.

Partech Africa will primarily target Series A and B investments and some pre-series rounds at higher dollar amounts. “We will consider seed-funding — what we call seed-plus — tickets in the $500,000 range,” Deme told TechCrunch for this story on the new fund. Partech is open to all sectors “with a strong appetite for people who are tapping into Africa’s informal economies,” he said.

Partech Africa joined several Africa-focused funds over the last few years to mark a surge in VC for the continent’s startups. Partech announced its first raise of $70 million in early 2018 next to TLcom Capital’s $40 million, and TPG Growth’s $2 billion.

Africa-focused VC firms, including those locally run and managed, have grown to 51 globally, according to recent Crunchbase research.

Andela, the company that connects Africa’s top software developers with technology companies from the U.S. and around the world, raised $100 million in a new round of funding.

The new financing from Generation Investment Management (an investment fund co-founded by former VP Al Gore) puts the valuation of the company at somewhere between $600 million and $700 million—based on data available from PitchBook on the company’s valuation.

The company now has more than 200 customers paying for access to the roughly 1,100 developers Andela has trained and manages.

With the new cash in hand, Andela says it will double in size, hiring another thousand developers, and invest in new product development and its own engineering and data resources. More on Andela’s recent raise and focus here at TechCrunch.

Fintech startup Flutterwave announced a new consumer payment product for Africa called GetBarter, in partnership with Visa.

The app-based offering is aimed at facilitating personal and small merchant payments within and across African countries. Existing Visa  cardholders can send and receive funds at home or internationally on GetBarter.

The product also lets non-cardholders (those with accounts or mobile wallets on other platforms) create a virtual Visa card to link to the app.  A Visa spokesperson confirmed the product partnership.

GetBarter allows Flutterwave  — which has scaled as a payment gateway for big companies through its Rave product — to pivot to African consumers and traders.

The app also creates a network for clients on multiple financial platforms to make transfers across payment products and national borders, and to shop online.

“The target market is pretty much everyone who has a payment need in Africa. That includes the entire customer base of M-Pesa,  the entire bank customer base in Nigeria, mobile money and bank customers in Ghana — pretty much the entire continent,” Flutterwave CEO Olugbenga Agboola told TechCrunch in this exclusive.

Flutterwave and Visa will focus on building a GetBarter user base across mobile money and bank clients in Kenya, Ghana, and South Africa, with plans to grow across the continent and reach those off the financial grid.

Founded in 2016, Flutterwave has positioned itself as a global B2B payments solutions platform for companies in Africa to pay other companies on the continent and abroad. It allows clients to tap its APIs and work with Flutterwave developers to customize payments applications. Existing customers include Uber, Facebook,  Booking.com and African e-commerce unicorn Jumia.com.

Flutterwave added operations in Uganda in June and raised a $10 million Series A round in October The company also plugged into ledger activity in 2018, becoming a payment processing partner to the Ripple and Stellar blockchain networks.

Headquartered in San Francisco, with its largest operations center in Nigeria, the startup plans to add operations centers in South Africa and Cameroon, which will also become new markets for GetBarter.

And sadly, Africa’s tech community mourned losses in January. A terrorist attack on Nairobi’s 14 Riverside complex claimed the lives of six employees of fintech startup Cellulant and I-Dev CEO Jason Spindler. Both organizations had been engaged with TechCrunch’s Africa work over the last 24 months. Condolences to  family, friends and colleagues of those lost.

More Africa Related Stories @TechCrunch

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