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Inside AI (Jan 6th, 2020)

1. The U.S. Commerce Department has issued new restrictions, effective today, on exports of AI software related to geospatial imagery. The measures, announced on Friday, require U.S. companies to obtain licenses to export software that utilizes neural networks to find “points of interest” in the imagery taken with drones and satellites. According to the Bureau of Industry and Security, the rule only applies to software with graphical user interfaces. It's also the first requirement to take effect under the 2018 Export Control Reform Act, or ECRA, which focuses on AI and other emerging technologies that the U.S. government believes are essential to national security.

A bigger look: James Lewis, a tech expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says the AI industry expected a wider crackdown and has thus welcomed the new rule. The goal is to "keep American companies from helping the Chinese make better AI products that can help their military," he says. - REUTERS

2. Snap quietly acquired a Ukraine-based company called AI Factory, which was responsible for Snapchat's new Cameos featureAccording to a report by TechCrunch, Snap acquired the firm for around $166 million, and it is a company that's being run by Snap's former director of engineering, Victor Shaburov. Shaburov came to Snap with the earlier acquisition of Looksery in 2015 — another Ukrainian company that brought with it unique AR technology for Snapchat's selfie lenses — and he left to found AI Factory in May 2018. The company has an office in San Francisco, but most of its approximately 70-person team is based in Ukraine. The Cameos feature, while whimsical on the surface, is based on the phenomenon of deepfakes. It allows users to easily swap their own animated face onto a slate of 150 GIFs and videos, to create their own personalized memes. - TECHCRUNCH

A version of this story first appeared in Inside Social.

3. A school district in upstate New York has started using facial recognition software to search for potential threats, including guns, on school grounds, drawing concerns from civil rights and privacy advocates. On the website of the Lockport Central School District's, superintendent Michelle Bradley says the $1.4 million Aegis system is designed to seek out guns, sex offenders, suspended staff, and people flagged by police. While the district has agreed to meet conditions set by state education officials (including not programming any students into the database), the New York Civil Liberties Union argues that facial recognition infringes on students' rights and is seeking to stop its use. - WNBC

4. Clearcover, a startup that uses AI to match car owners with insurance policies, has raised $50 million in a Series C round, bringing its total funding to $104 million. The Chicago-based company also uses AI to speed up the claims-filing process, according to VentureBeat. Its products are in Arizona, California, Illinois, Ohio, and Utah, although it plans to use the capital to expand into more states, as well as hire more employees and build on its AI technology. The round was led by Omers Ventures, with participation from previous investors Cox Enterprises, American Family Ventures, and IA Capital Group. Michael Yang, a managing partner at OMERS, will join Clearcover’s board. - VENTURE BEAT

5. An AI research center is coming to Hyderabad, a city in southern India. Under a deal signed between the state government and various companies and institutions, the hub will include a Center for Research in Applied Artificial Intelligence, along with an R&D Park and a Center of Excellence. According to local officials, NVIDIA partnered with the government to build a High-Performance AI Computing Center, as well as promote startup incubation and host AI training sessions geared toward women and minority groups. Intel will work with the Public Health Foundation of India and IIIT- Hyderabad to set up a research center focused on applied AI in smart mobility and health-care. - THE ECONOMIC TIMES

6. International Data Corp. predicts that companies will spend 31 percent more on AI systems this year compared to 2019, according to The Wall Street Journal. The spending, which is forecasted to reach $49.2 billion this year, comes as technology regulators are expected to craft new mandates on AI that target corporations worldwide, The Journal reports. In 2020, the U.S. is expected to roll out more AI regulations, while the European Union's Ursula von der Leyen will continue to work on local AI legislation and funding. - WSJ (paywall)

7. ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, has developed a feature that uses deepfake technology to insert faces into other people's videos. Using the Face Swap feature, people scan their faces from multiple angles and choose from different videos. The company's AI tech automatically transfers the scanned image to the videos. On the heels of last year's Zao app, some experts are worried about how ByteDance could potentially use that biometric data. - ENGADGET

8. Germany continues to lag behind the U.S. and China in implementing AI applications as German lawmakers remain divided over the technology, Deutsche Welle reports. A parliamentary committee tasked with investigating AI's impacts is skeptical about issues like data privacy, although German lawmakers such as Ronja Kemmer are concerned that it could leave the country lagging behind others. If Germany allows "every potential risk or mistake of an AI system to become an obstacle, there will be no innovation," Kemmer argues. Meanwhile, the U.S. and China continue to surpass European countries in areas such as AI strategies, innovation, and regulation. - DEUTSCHE WELLE

10. Brooklyn-based TypingDNA has closed on a Series A funding round that CEO Raul Popa says will help advance its AI technology. The startup says its AI can recognize people based on how they type. The technology -  which combines pattern recognition with anomaly detection and "one-shot" learning techniques - has a reported accuracy rate of 99 percent to 99.9 percent. The $7 million raised will go toward building out TypingDNA’s developer support network as well as "tools to integrate its services with popular web development tools," according to TechCrunch. The round was led by Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-related venture group, with participation from Techstars Ventures and the Europe-based fund GapMinder. - TECHCRUNCH

Written and curated by Beth Duckett, a former reporter for The Arizona Republic who wrote a book about the solar industry and frequently covers hobby and commercial drones. You can follow her tweets about the latest news in artificial intelligence here.

Edited by Sheena Vasani, Inside Dev editor.

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