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Your Robot Pal Is On Its Way

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

That's set to change in the next decade. While the service droids will stick around, toiling in their niches, the robots we bring home will be more versatile. They won't be vacuums--they'll use our vacuum cleaners, plus all our other appliances and tools, says Ian Bernstein, co-inventor of the popular Sphero toy robot ball and founder of a startup called Misty Robotics. "Eventually, we should go home and there should be a robot that's already prepared dinner and folded our laundry," Mr. Bernstein says. When we ask what a robot can do, we're really thinking, Can it climb stairs?


Renault-Nissan Starts Up $1 Billion Venture Fund for Car Technology

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LAS VEGAS--The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is creating one of the largest venture-capital funds dedicated to automotive technologies, escalating an already feverish pursuit by global auto makers to reinvent personal transportation. The company said it will commit $200 million annually over five years--for a total of $1 billion--to invest in a variety of startup technologies, including battery and self-driving vehicle advances. The new corporate venture fund is part of a push by Renault-Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn to speed development of technologies that the alliance's three auto makers don't have in-house. The message to tech startups, Mr. Ghosn said at an event tied to the CES show happening here: "Please come see us." The spending comes on top of the 8.5 billion euros ($10.1 billion) annually that Renault SA, RNO 1.23%


Watch Out! That Suitcase Drives Itself

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All the bags use different technology to enable their auto-follow features, but the concepts are similar. You can wirelessly connect the rolling bag to a remote control, smartphone or smartwatch and the bag will follow that device while you hold a Venti iced latte in each hand. China-based 90Fun's Puppy 1 bag even uses Segway's balancing technology to cruise around on two wheels. I quickly learned this luggage of tomorrow needs more time in driver's ed class today. As you will see in the video, the Puppy 1 struggled to keep a connection with its remote, often landing on its face or going in reverse.


Driverless-Car Companies Try to Rev Their Engines on Commercial Prospects

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This year, the chief technical officer of Aptiv APTV 1.21% PLC wants to demonstrate how the technology might actually be deployed in real life. Aptiv, the automotive-technology company formerly known as Delphi Automotive, is partnering with ride-hailing startup Lyft Inc. at this week's show to give free rides in self-driven cars between the convention center and most of the big hotels. The goal is to show how its technology could be deployed in a self-driving car service. "This year is kind of pivoting away from technology demonstrations to really showing the applications," Mr. DeVos said. The convergence of Silicon Valley and the Motor City has helped propel CES, held here every January, into an automotive industry event that rivals the North American International Auto Show, taking place next week in Detroit.


Tech Knocks on the Bathroom Door

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At first blush, the bathroom is the most boring possible spot smart-home technology could be applied, except maybe a closet. But consider a mirror that turns on motion-activated lights when you get up in the middle of the night, or tells you the weather in the morning. Consider setting the shower on to the perfect temperature just by asking, before you climb in. There are even "intelligent" toilets in the works though how intelligent they'll be remains to be seen. At an opening press event for CES Sunday, Kohler debuted a voice-enabled lighted mirror with dual-microphones and Amazon.com


High-Tech Hedge Fund Hits Limits of Robot Stock Picking

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BERKELEY, Calif.--For Michael Kharitonov, building a hedge fund based on machine learning has been a rule of threes: It was three times as hard, and it took three times as long, as anticipated. "Most of the things we've tried have failed," said the co-founder of a little-known firm called Voleon Group. Machine learning, a set of techniques that empowers computers to find patterns in data without using rules prescribed by humans, has been producing advances in a range of fields, from robotics to weather forecasting to language translation. The technique is at the heart of efforts to build self-driving cars. Why not use it to crack financial markets?


Is the 'Pour-Over' Over? Baristas Say Machines Have Their Perks

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A mile away, at an Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea shop, a cup of coffee is delivered in less than 30 seconds, without any banter between barista and customer. The shop recently reintroduced large-batch coffee makers after shelving them years ago. The practice of making coffee by the cup--known as a pour-over--has been an essential skill for gourmet baristas for nearly a decade. The purposefully slow, personal nature of the ritual is an icon of the artisanal movement. Now, uttering words like "efficiency" and "consistency," some coffee shops are embracing the perks of machines.


Dating Apps Are Awful---Here's How to Make Them Work for You

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No, it wasn't for a Christmas card: Mom wanted to nail the perfect dating profile pic. She has been on Match.com, Revenue from dating services was projected to hit $2.7 billion in 2017, according to market research firm IBISWorld. And going forward, the ones geared toward baby boomers are expected to see the most growth. I met Lauryn at a bar while chatting up strangers about online dating.


China's Didi Chuxing Raises $4 Billion in New Funding

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Investors in Didi's new funding include Japanese mega-fund-manager SoftBank Group Corp. and Mubadala Development Co., an Abu Dhabi state fund, people familiar with the matter said Thursday. The company announced the funding without naming the investors. The injection gives Beijing-based Didi $12 billion cash reserves and a valuation of $56 billion, these people said. It also means that added together Didi has raised about $19 billion, the most venture capital ever raised by a startup, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. While Uber's valuation was roughly $68 billion based on its last funding round in June 2016, a current SoftBank offer to purchase a sizeable stake at a large discount would lower the U.S. ride-sharing firm's valuation in the range of about $50 billion.


Google Seeks Path Back to China With AI Lab

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"We need to recognize the opportunity and leadership that China has already displayed in the area of technology and AI," said Google Cloud executive and co-head of the new lab Fei-Fei Li. "By opening a lab here, we come here to extend our hand out, and show this part of the world we would like to listen to them, work with them." Google has already hired "a handful" of top researchers in deep learning and natural-language processing, and plans to hire others focusing on computer vision, said Ms. Li, who is also director of Stanford University's Artificial Intelligence Lab. Google declined to comment on how big the Center would be in future. It is the latest in a series of moves by Google that some see as a sign the company is pushing its case to re-enter China's massive, yet elusive, consumer market. Google's search engine has been blocked in China since 2010, when it refused to submit to government censorship.