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Startups target employment with AI and engagement tools – TechCrunch

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If you have a job today, there’s a good chance you personally reached out to your employer and interviewed with other humans to get it. Now that you’ve been there a while, it’s also likely the workday feels more like a long slog than the fulfilling career move you had envisioned.

But if today’s early-stage startups have their way, your next employment experience could be quite different.

First, forget the networking and interview gauntlet. Instead, let an AI-enabled screening program reach out about a job you don’t seem obviously qualified to do. Or, rather than talk to a company’s employees, wait for them to play some online games instead. If you play similarly, they may decide to hire you.

Once you have the job, software will also make you more efficient and happier at your work.

An AI-driven software platform will deliver regular “nudges,” offering customized suggestions to make you a more effective worker. If you’re feeling burned out, head online to text or video chat with a coach or therapist. Or perhaps you’ll just be happier in your job now that your employer is delivering regular tokens of appreciation.

Those are a few of the ways early-stage startups are looking to change the status quo of job-seeking and employment. While employment is a broad category, an analysis of Crunchbase funding data for the space shows a high concentration of activity in two key areas: AI-driven hiring software and tools to improve employee engagement.

Below, we look at where the money’s going and how today’s early-stage startups could play a role in transforming the work experience of tomorrow.

Artificial intelligence

To begin, let us reflect that we are at a strange inflection point for AI and employment. Our artificially intelligent overlords are not smart enough to actually do our jobs. Nonetheless, they have strong opinions about whether we’re qualified to do them ourselves.

It is at this peculiar point that the alchemic mix of AI software, recruiting-based business models and venture capital are coming together to build startups.

In 2018, at least 43 companies applying AI or machine learning to some facet of employment have raised seed or early-stage funding, according to Crunchbase data. In the chart below, we look at a few startups that have secured rounds, along with their backers and respective business models:

At present, even AI boosters don’t tout the technology as a cure-all for troubles plaguing the talent recruitment space. While it’s true humans are biased and flawed when it comes to evaluating job candidates, artificially intelligent software suffers from many of the same bugs. For instance, Amazon scrapped its AI recruiting tool developed in-house because it exhibited bias against women.

That said, it’s still early innings. Over the next few years, startups will be actively tweaking their software to improve performance and reduce bias.

Happiness and engagement

Once the goal of recruiting the best people is achieved, the next step is ensuring they stay and thrive.

Usually, a paycheck goes a long way to accomplishing the goal of staying. But in case that’s not enough, startups are busily devising a host of tools for employers to boost engagement and fight the scourge of burnout.

In the chart below, we look at a few of the companies that received early-stage funding this year to build out software platforms and services aimed at making people happier and more effective at work:

The most heavily funded of the early-stage crop looks to be Peakon, which offers a software platform for measuring employee engagement and collecting feedback. The Danish firm has raised $33 million to date to fund its expansion.

London-based BioBeats is another up-and-comer aimed at the “corporate wellness” market, with digital tools to help employees track stress levels and other health-related metrics. The company has raised $7 million to date to help keep those stress levels in check.

Early-stage indicators

Early-stage funding activity tends to be an indicator of areas with somewhat low adoption rates today that are poised to take off dramatically. For employment, that means we can likely expect to see AI-based recruitment and software-driven engagement tools become more widespread in the coming years.

What does that mean for job seekers and paycheck toilers? Expect to spend more of your time interfacing with intelligent software. Apparently, it’ll make you more employable, and happier, too.

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Apple urges WatchOS update after “actively exploited” flaw

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Apple has released watchOS version 7.6.1, an update the company says is important as it addresses a potential security problem. The update is available for the Apple Watch 3 and later models, with the patch arriving only days after the big 7.6 update was released to the public. Users should update their watches as soon as possible.

READ: Apple Watch Series 6 Review: Six months of Pandemic Intervention

According to Apple, the update addresses “a memory corruption issue” by introducing “improved memory handling.” The problem, the watchOS update notes, could potentially allow an app to “execute arbitrary code with kernel privileges.”

The patch notes go on to explain, “Apple is aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited.”

Overall, this is a minor update for watchOS 7, which first hit Apple Watch devices back in September. If you own a supported Apple Watch model, you can update it by launching the Apple Watch app on iOS and heading into the Software Update menu. You’ll need to charge your watch’s battery before the update will start.

A few days ago, Apple released the macOS Big Sur 11.5.1 update for Mac computers that addresses the same IOMobileFrameBuffer issue. If you own a Mac that runs Big Sur, be sure to intall this update, as well, to help ensure your device’s security.

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Huawei P50 and P50 Pro pack Dual-Matrix cameras for high-end photography

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Following multiple leaks, Huawei has officially unveiled its P50 and P50 Pro smartphones. The new mobile series expands Huawei’s P Series lineup, offering consumers a high-end mobile photography experience in a sleek package. The new P50 offerings include the company’s XD Fusion Pro Image Engine alongside Huawei XD Optics and True-Chrome Shot.

Huawei puts the emphasis on the P50 Series phones’ camera capabilities, noting that the new lineup ushers in its new Dual-Matrix Camera design boasting “true to life” image quality. This is the first P Series model to feature “computational capabilities,” according to Huawei, which work at the software level to fix any optical errors introduced into the images.

Huawei claims this computational system can exceed what is possible from optical design alone, offering up to 25-percent more image detail compared to a similar setup lacking the restoration tech. Beyond that, the P50 models build upon the photo engine introduced with the P40 series, instead offering the XD Fusion Pro Image Engine with new Super HDR tech, a Super Color Filter system, and the True-Chroma Image Engine.

Among other things, Huawei boasts the P50 Pro’s camera offers what it claims is unprecedented zoom capability with a 200x range. The company says that images captured at up to 100x are “incredibly clear,” while images up to 200x still retain ample detail. Users also get ultra-wide-angle shots with a lens equivalent of 13mm, plus a macro photography capability that can focus as close as 2.5cm to an object.

As far as image recording is concerned, the P50 smartphones support up to 4K capture with full focal range support. The phones pack a new AIS Pro image stabilization system that helps keep videos clear, particularly when the user has zoomed in on a subject.

As expected, the new phones feature Huawei’s HarmonyOS 2 software launched in early June. The P50 Pro model, the most notable of the two handsets, features a 6.6-inch OLED display with up to a 120Hz refresh rate, 2700 x 1228 resolution, and 450ppi. Other features include the Snapdragon 888 4G, 8GB of memory, 256GB storage, a 13MP front-facing camera, 4360mAh battery, SuperCharge support, and an IP68 rating.

The P50 series marks Huawei’s first flagship launch featuring its HarmonyOS mobile operating system. Because of US sanctions against the company, the P50 and P50 Pro lack Google services and apps. Likewise, Huawei doesn’t include 5G support for either model, with the company’s CEO Richard Yu citing the US sanctions as the reason for this decision.

Huawei will begin selling the P50 Series in China with a starting price of around $900. It’s unclear whether the company will ever launch the phones in other markets, however.

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New Galaxy Z Flip 3 case leak shows wild, wonderful foldable future

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The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 leaked today in the form of a set of official Samsung protective cases. Normally this would not be a major news event, but the style and color schemes delivered with these bits of hardware have caught our attention in ways that achieve more than the average case. What better way to accentuate the unique nature of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3, with its foldable display panel, than to deliver cases that wouldn’t otherwise function on a device with a more traditional form?

With the cases leaked by 91mobiles today, we see leather, clear, and silicone cases. We see spaces left open for the back or out-facing cameras, LED flash, and touchscreen. We see a keychain style hook, a fabric pull with a euro punch style hook, and we see colors that should match the first wave of Galaxy Z Flip 3 devices very nicely.

Samsung’s not one to shy away from bright colors and deep contrast in device casings or official protective cases for devices. If you’re going to pay hundreds of dollars for a smart device you’ll use every day of your life for the next several years, you’re going to want that device to be distinctive in its outward appearance, yes?

The cases shown in leaks today cover Blue, Purple, Yellow (dark yellow, almost mustard yellow), black, and possibly gold. There’s also the clear (transparent) option – as is generally the case with cases.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is expected to be fitted with a 1.9-inch display on its back (near the back-facing or out-facing camera array). It’s expected to have a 6.7-inch display inside that folds in the middle. The external camera are both tipped to be 12MP, while the inside (front-facing) camera is tipped to be 10MP.

These specifications are very similar to what’s expected of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, with its 3x 12MP cameras on the back side and 10MP front-facing camera (with another 4MP camera inside). Both devices are rumored to be released with IPX8 resistance to water.

These devices and the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 and Galaxy Watch 4 will likely appear at the next Samsung event. The Samsung Unpacked event of which we speak is set to take place on August 11, 2021. The release date for the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 will very likely be mid to late August, 2021.

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