Test.ai nabs $11M Series A led by Google to put bots to work testing apps

For developers, the process of determining whether every new update is going to botch some core functionality can take up a lot of time and resources, and things get far more complicated when you’re managing a multitude of apps.

Test.ai is building a comprehensive system for app testing that relies on bots, not human labor, to see whether an app is ready to start raking in the downloads.

The startup has just closed an $11 million Series A round led by Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund. Also participating in the round were e.ventures, Uncork Capital and Zetta Venture Partners. Test.ai, which was founded in 2015, has raised $17.6 million to date.

“Every advancement in training AI systems enables an advancement in user testing, and test.ai is the leader in AI-powered testing technology. We’re excited to help them supercharge their growth as they test every app in the world,” Gradient Ventures founder Anna Patterson said in a statement. “In a couple years, AI testing will be ingrained into every company’s product flow.”

The company’s technology doesn’t just leverage AI to cut down on how long it takes for an app to be tested; there are much lengthier processes it helps eliminate when it comes to developers readying lists of scenarios to be tested. Test.ai has trained their bots on “tens of thousands of apps” to help it understand what an app looks like and what interface patterns they’re typically composed of. From there, they’re able to build their own scenario list and find what works and what doesn’t.

That can mean, in the case of an app like our own, tracking down a bookmark button and then deducing that there are certain process that users would go through to use its functionality.

Right now, the utility is in the fact that bots scale so broadly and so quickly. While a startup working on a single app may have the flexibility to choose amongst a few options, larger enterprises with several aging products having to grapple with updated systems are in a bit more of a bind. Some of Test.ai’s larger unnamed partners that “make app stores” or devices are working at the stratospheric level having to verify tens of thousands of apps to ensure that everything is in working order.

“That’s an easy sell for us, almost too easy, because they don’t have the resources to individually test ten thousand apps every time something like Android gets updated,” CEO Jason Arbon tells TechCrunch.

The startup’s capabilities operate on a much more quantitative scale than human-powered competitors like UserTesting, which tend to emphasize testing for feedback that’s a bit more qualitative in nature. Test.ai’s founders believe that their system will be able to grapple with more nebulous concepts in the future as it analyzes more apps, and that it’s already gaining insights into concepts like whether a product appears “trustworthy,” though there are certainly other areas where bots are trailing the insights that can be delivered by human testers.

The founders say they hope to use this latest funding to scale operations for their growing list of enterprise clients and hire some new people.

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Can Electronauts help make VR more social?

Virtual reality is an isolating experience. You power it up, strap the headset on and just sort of drift off into your own world. But maybe that doesn’t have to be the case. Maybe there’s a way to slip into a virtual world and still interact with your surroundings.

Electronauts presents an interesting example. Survios sees the title as a party game — something akin to what Guitar Hero/Rock Band was at the height of their collective powers, when people would set them up in their living room and invite friends over to play.

The new title has one decided advantage over those older games, however: It’s impossible to hit a wrong note. That’s kind of the whole point, in fact. Unlike the gamification of Guitar Hero/Rock Band, Electronauts is more experiential, designed to create remixes of songs on the fly.

I played a near final version of the title at a private demo in New York the other week, and mostly enjoyed the experience — my own personal hang-ups about doing VR in front of a room full of strangers aside. The experience has a very Daft Punk/Tron vibe to it as you operate a spaceship control while hurtling through psychedelic space.

There are several ways to interact with the basic track in the process, using the Vive or Oculus controller. The more complex tasks take some figuring out — I was lucky and happened to have the game’s creators in the room with me at the time. I suppose not everyone has that luxury, but the good news here is that the title is designed so that, regardless of what you do, you can’t really mess it up.

I can see how that might be tiresome for some. Again, there’s no scoring built into the title, so while it can be collaborative, you don’t actually compete against anyone. The idea is just to, well, make music. Hooked up to a big screen and a home theater speaker system, it’s easy to see how it could add an extra dimension to a home gathering, assuming, of course, the music selection is your cup of tea.

Here’s the full rundown of songs [deep breath]

  • The Chainsmokers – Roses (ft. ROZES)

  • ODESZA – Say My Name (ft. Zyra)

  • Steve Aoki & Boehm – Back 2 You (ft. WALK THE MOON)

  • Tiesto & John Christian – I Like It Loud (ft. Marshall Masters & The Ultimate MC)

  • ZHU & Tame Impala – My Life

  • ZHU & NERO – Dreams

  • ZHU – Intoxicate

  • 12th Planet – Let Me Help You (ft. Taylr Renee)

  • Netsky – Nobody

  • Dada Life – B Side Boogie, Higher Than The Sun, We Want Your Soul

  • Keys N Krates – Dum Dee Dum [Dim Mak Records]

  • Krewella & Yellow Claw – New World (ft. Vava)

  • Krewella – Alibi

  • Amp Live & Del The Funky Homosapien – Get Some of Dis

  • DJ Shadow – Bergshrund (ft. Nils Frahm)

  • 3LAU – Touch (ft. Carly Paige)

  • Machinedrum – Angel Speak (ft. Melo-X), Do It 4 U (ft. Dawn Richard)

  • People Under The Stairs – Feels Good

  • Tipper – Lattice

  • TOKiMONSTA – Don’t Call Me (ft. Yuna), I Wish I Could (ft. Selah Sue)

  • Reid Speed & Frank Royal – Get Wet

  • AHEE – Liftoff

  • BIJOU – Gotta Shine (ft. Germ) [Dim Mak Records]

  • Anevo – Can’t Stop (ft. Heather Sommer) [Dim Mak Records]

  • KRANE & QUIX – Next World [Dim Mak Records]

  • B-Sides & SWAGE – On The Floor [Dim Mak Records]

  • Gerald Le Funk vs. Subshock & Evangelos – 2BAE [Dim Mak Records]

  • Max Styler – Heartache (Taiki Nulight Remix), All Your Love [Dim Mak Records]

  • Riot Ten & Sirenz – Scream! [Dim Mak Records]

  • Fawks – Say You Like It (ft. Medicienne) [Dim Mak Records]

  • Taiki Nulight – Savvy [Dim Mak Records]

  • Jovian – ERRBODY

  • Madnap – Heat

  • MIKNNA – Trinity Ave, Us

  • 5AM – Peel Back (ft. Wax Future)

  • Jamie Prado & Gregory Doveman – Young (Club Mix)

  • Coral Fusion – Klip [Survios original]

  • GOODHENRY – Wonder Wobble [Survios original]

  • Starbuck – Mist [Survios original]

Can’t say I go in for most of those, but I can pick out a handful I wouldn’t mind sticking in rotation — Del the Funky Homosapien, DJ Shadow and the People Under the Stars, for instance. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see additional music packs arriving, as the company secures more licensing deals.

Meantime, Electronauts will be available on Steam for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, priced at $20. The PlayStation version will run $18. For those who want an even more public experience, it will be arriving in Survios’ 38 VR Arcade Network location.

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Digital therapeutics are just what the doctor ordered for patients — and for global healthcare systems

It would be hard to argue that digital products have a net-positive impact on our health. Most are designed to provide the same dopamine hit as a slot machine. We all know someone who wasted their youth playing games that were designed to be all-consuming, with the World Health Organization recently going so far as to categorize video game addiction as a mental health disorder.

But this habit-forming power of digital products can be used for therapeutic benefit too, often by changing the behavior that causes disease or ill health. This new range of products is being commonly referred to as digital therapeutics. These apps and services offer evidence-based and personalized behavioral therapy, and cater to a broad cross-section of illnesses and conditions — from diabetes to loneliness, and everything in-between.

Given the difficulty developing traditional therapeutics, the likelihood of the next blockbuster treatment or cure emerging from digital therapeutics is ever-increasing. And thanks to their low cost, adaptability and speed-of-deployment, they could have a transformative impact on millions of lives, and on ailing healthcare systems.

I live and work in the U.K., so I will be using the NHS as a recurring reference point in this article — however, fee-for-service, or value-based healthcare systems equally stand to benefit.

Digital therapeutics work for patients…

A range of startups are leading the charge in digital therapeutics, tackling some of the biggest problems facing patients and our healthcare system today. And the evidence proves that these treatments work.

Type 2 diabetes, the type determined mostly by diet and lifestyle, has been called the “scourge of the 21st century” by the Royal College of Physicians. And rightly so: the NHS spends around £12 billion annually, or 10 percent of its budget, treating the condition. However, in many cases, lifestyle change alone is enough to prevent, or even cure it. OurPath has developed a digital program that does exactly that, with a recent study showing a mean 7.5kg weight loss in participants, which is enough to put type 2 diabetes sufferers into remission.

Another leader is QuitGenius, whose app helps 36 percent of its users to quit smoking completely — versus just 3 percent of smokers who are able to quit on their own. Smoking is a massive burden on our collective health, and global healthcare systems. In the U.K. alone, smoking cigarettes led to an estimated 16 percent of all deaths.

While one in four of us suffer from a mental health condition, we can all benefit from looking after our mental well-being.

For those suffering from a mental health condition, Ieso has been a leader in delivering psychological therapies digitally, and has shown that standard treatments (like cognitive behavioral therapy) are more effective when delivered digitally (e.g. via messaging app) than in person.

However, while one in four of us suffer from a mental health condition, we can all benefit from looking after our mental well-being. Newer entrants like HelloSelf are helping all of us be our best selves, initially by providing digital access to therapists, and by building an AI life coach that helps us deeply understand what makes us happy, and what we can do to improve our mental well-being.

Other players, like Soma Analytics, Unmind and SilverCloud, are helping users look after our mental well-being where most feel most stressed: at work. The data behind these products demonstrates a triple win: a reduction in stress levels for employees, boosted productivity for employers and reduced burden on our public healthcare system.

Digital therapeutics are also a great fit for notoriously complex conditions like IBS, a condition affecting 800 million people, 60 percent of whom go on to develop depression or anxiety, hitherto only treated imperfectly by a range of measures from restricted diet to antidepressants. Companies like Bold Health are using data to personalize treatments and improve outcomes, and pioneering the use of hypnotherapy to treat IBS.

… and our healthcare systems need digital therapeutics to work!

Bringing traditional therapeutics to market is becoming exponentially more expensive. The full explanation of this is Eroom’s law; however, in short: the cost to develop a new drug has doubled every nine years since 1950. And even after a lengthy testing and approval process, drugs may have unintended consequences. Or, quite simply, they might not work at all.

It now takes on average 14 years and $2.5 billion to develop a market-ready drug.

Additionally, healthcare systems are under pressure from aging populations and tightening purse strings. This is, of course, particularly true in the U.K.

Against this backdrop, digital therapeutics are a great solution. They are relatively cheap to develop — all the companies I have mentioned raised less than $5 million to develop their products. This is particularly true in contrast to traditional therapeutics — it now takes on average 14 years and $2.5 billion to develop a market-ready drug.

The digital delivery method means it is much easier to collect data, iterate and refine the treatment and evidence efficacy, allowing treatments to change with the needs of the population. Quantifying the resulting cost savings is tricky, but healthcare consultancy IQVIA recently released a report estimating the NHS would save £170 million if it adopted currently available digital therapeutics in five disease areas (with £131 million saved in diabetes alone).

Digital therapeutics companies have so far found success in selling direct to consumers, even in the U.K., where healthcare is theoretically free at the point of service for all. However, helped by the evidence that they work, the NHS is “learning” how to purchase and prescribe digital therapeutics. The NHS recently launched App Library (still in beta), showcasing trusted digital apps to consumers; and AppScript, a platform for doctors to discover, prescribe and track the best digital health apps, is being rolled out across GP surgeries in the U.K.

And if they were to develop their own digital therapeutic solutions, national health systems like the NHS would be at a tremendous advantage, thanks to the huge amounts of longitudinal health data they own (data relating to how patients, and their health, fare over time).

Consumers are discovering digital therapeutics, and the treatments are already transforming lives. Now that the body of evidence shows they work, it is my hope that healthcare systems, particularly the U.K.’s NHS, begin to reap the benefits offered by this new treatment mode.

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A 'Queer Eye' book is coming to gift you joy before the holidays

Image: Courtesy of Netflix

Happy early holidays to you and yours, who will be exclusively gifting and receiving Queer Eye books this winter. 

Yup, an official book based on the hit Netflix series and authored by its five stars is heading to stores.

QUEER EYE: Love Yourself, Love Your Life, published by Clarkson Potter, is “at once a behind-the-scenes exclusive, a practical guide to living and celebrating your best life, and a symbol of hope,” according to a press release. It will touch on the Fab Five’s main areas of expertise but also branch out beyond that with behind-the-scenes tidbits and personal anecdotes.

Queer Eye is the right book at exactly the right time. At a cultural moment when we are all craving people to admire, it offers hope and acceptance,” says Amanda Englander, Clarkson Potter’s Executive Editor. 

“The way the Fab Five interact on the show makes you laugh and cry—all in a one-hour episode—and I knew we had to capture that on the page. What I love most is that the advice here isn’t meant to change you into someone different but, rather, enhance who you already are.”

QUEER EYE: Love Yourself, Love Your Life hits bookshelves Nov. 13.

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Today only, you can save up to $145 when you buy an Amazon Cloud Cam + compatible smart lock

Just to let you know, if you buy something featured here, Mashable might earn an affiliate commission.

Image: kwikset

For today only, Amazon is dishing some great bundle deals on Amazon Key Home Kits. Right now, you can save $145 when you buy an Amazon Cloud Cam (Key Edition) and an Amazon Key-Compatible smart lock. 

Forget about making extra keys, or worse, coordinating your day around a delivery or key-less visitor. Those days are over—if you get yourself an Amazon Key Kit. 

Image: Yale security

With a Key Kit, you can monitor and control the locks on your door at home without actually having to be home yourself. All you have to do is install a compatible smart lock (which replaces your existing deadbolt, so the exterior stays the same and you can keep your keys), install the Amazon Cloud Cam and download the Amazon Key App. 

Once you’re all set up, you’re in full control. The dog-walker is arriving at 3pm while you’re at work? The kids forgot their key and need to get in after school? Instead of worrying (or having to leave a spare key under the doormat), just open the Key App and unlock the door when you need. You can even grant different levels of access, like continuous access for members of the household, or one-time access for the plumber. Oh, and what kind of world would it be if the Key Kit wasn’t also compatible with Alexa? Yes, you can ask Alexa to unlock your front door for you, and even monitor the front door situation via the Cloud Cam on your Amazon Fire TV or Echo Show.

Image: yale security

The smart lock will, of course, lock your home as well —so no panic attacks about whether or not you remembered to lock the door are necessary.

Key Kits are an awesome home addition to begin with, and even better when you’re saving over $140 on them—so make sure you snag one of these Key Kits by the end of the day.

Save up to $145 off one of these Amazon Key Kit Bundle Deals:

Kwikset Convert Smart Lock Conversion Kit in Nickel + Amazon Cloud Cam

Image: kwikset

Yale Assure YRD226 Touchscreen Deadbolt in Oil Rubbed Bronze + Amazon Cloud Cam

Image: Yale Security

Kwikset SmartCode 914 Keypad Smart Lock in Nickel + Amazon Cloud Cam

Image: kwikset

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