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Google brings Launchpad Accelerator to Africa

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Google has announced two major new developments, which will provide a major boost to African entrepreneurs and app developers respectively.

In line with the commitment Google CEO Sundar Pichai made to support African entrepreneurs earlier this year, the company has announced Google Developers Launchpad Africa, a new hands-on comprehensive mentorship program tailored exclusively to startups based in Africa.

Building on the success of Google’s global Launchpad Accelerator programme, this initiative will operate from a new Google Launchpad Space in Lagos (the first onsite location for the programme outside the US).

It will provide African startups with over $3-million in equity-free support, working space, and access to expert advisers from Google, Silicon Valley, and Africa over the next three years. Participants will also receive travel and PR support during the three-month programme.

The first application period is now open through December 11, 9am PST and the first class will start in early 2018. More classes will be hosted in 2018 and beyond.

All startups must:

  • Be a technology startup.
  • Be based in Sub-Saharan Africa and target the African market.
  • Have already raised seed funding

Google will additionally consider:

  • The problem you are trying to solve. How does it create value for users? How are you addressing a real challenge for your home city, country or Africa broadly?
  • Will you share what you learn in Silicon Valley for the benefit of other startups in your local ecosystem?

“Anyone who spends time in the African technology space knows that the continent is home to some exciting innovations,” says Andy Volk, Sub-Saharan Africa Ecosystem Regional Manager. “Over the years, Google has worked with some incredible startups across Africa, tackling everything from healthcare, education, streamlining e-commerce to improving the food supply chain. We very much look forward to welcoming the first cohort of innovators for Launchpad Africa and continue to work together to drive innovation in the African market.”

At the same time, Google says it is making life easier for South African-based developers within the Google Play ecosystem.

Starting today, developers in South Africa can sell paid applications, in-app products, and subscriptions in Google Play, with monthly payouts to their local bank accounts. They can take advantage of all of the tools offered by Google Play to monetise their products in the best way for their businesses, and they can target their products to the paid ecosystem of hundreds of millions of users in South Africa and across the world.

Android developers based in South Africa can get started right away by signing in to their Developer Console and setting up a Google merchant account. If their apps are already published as free, they can monetise them by adding in-app products or subscriptions.

New apps can be published as paid, in addition to selling in-app products or subscriptions.

“While there have been plenty of amazing apps built in South Africa, the process of monetising them was never as smooth as we knew it could be,” says Luke McKend, Google South Africa’s Country Director. “By allowing local developers to monetise their products on the Play Store, we’re underscoring how serious we are about digitally empowering South Africans.

Once a developer has prepared their apps and in-app products, they can price them in any available currencies, publish, and then receive payouts and financial data in South African Rand. Visit the developer help centre for more details.

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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