Luminoso brings its text analysis smarts to streaming data

Luminoso, a sentiment analysis startup with DNA from MIT’s Media Lab, says its new product can take consumer feedback from Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and potentially other feeds, and boil it into one stream to provide a near real-time look at how people feel (or at least talk) about a given topic.

Compass was put through its paces for the Sony One Stadium Live event associated with last year’s World’s Cup and is now coming to market broadly, Luminoso co-founder and CEO Catherine Havasi in an interview.

The company’s technology already let companies collect and analyze data from all those feeds but that’s more of a deep dive into static, archived information — Compass , available as a standalone product, is all about near-real-time analysis of streaming text, newswires, social media, Havasi said.

For the World Cup effort, [company]Sony[/company] wanted to see (or hear) what people were talking about and because of the sheer number of games and locations and number of languages, it wanted to do that quickly, without requiring human moderators.

Typically, many sentiment or text analysis solutions require a human “expert” to keep entering and tweaking keywords, Havasi said. “If you’re a news organization following Ukraine, you add keywords manually so you don’t miss anything. That’s a very slow process and the queries get very large.” Compass automates that process.

Big advertisers — customers include REI, [company]Intel[/company], [company]Autodesk[/company] and Scotts — can use Compass to watch how people are reacting to Super Bowl ads as the broadcast unfolds, to gauge the impact of digital marketing campaigns.

As collection of data — including that included in social media feeds — text analytics has become a vibrant field — other players include Lexalytics, Clarabridge and Digital Reasoning and others.

The company, which garnered $6.5 million in venture funding last July, said one thing that differentiates it from other text analytics vendors is that its technology knows, or can quickly learn, the difference between Shell, as in the oil company and a seashell. Or the husk of a peanut or a spent bullet casing. And it can perform similar context-aware analytics in most of the European languages plus Chinese and Japanese. (Oh yes and Emojis.) It also offers an API so companies can connect it up to internal, private data sources.

Pricing is based on the amount of data processed and number of languages screened.


luminoso emoji

Katy Perry’s lawyers demand takedown of 3D printable Left Shark

While the nation identifies with the Super Bowl’s insta-star Left Shark, Katy Perry’s lawyers are apparently more the Right Shark type. They issued a cease and desist letter (see below) to on-demand 3D printing service Shapeways on Tuesday, demanding a 3D model depicting Left Shark be taken down.

Shapeways complied, and Fernando Sosa, the designer behind the model, has now posted it on Thingiverse. Unlike on Shapeways, Thingiverse models are free and must be 3D printed by the downloader.

Left Shark, as it appeared Thursday on Thingiverse.

Left Shark, as it appeared Thursday on Thingiverse.

Shapeways confirmed the letter and takedown, stating:

It’s a shame because we love our community and always want to be able to support their designs. That’s part of the reason why our work with Hasbro is so fun! It’s allowing fans to create products truly inspired by the things they personally enjoy. We know these things can happen when you have a lot of user-generated content, but hopefully more brands (and celebrities!) will take note and want to work together with fans to create amazing products!

NYU law professor Christopher Sprigman tweeted that he believes Left Shark is not copyrightable because it qualifies as a “useful article,” which would mean it is not protected the same way as an artistic work.

Both Thingiverse and Shapeways are home to scores of ostensibly copyrighted models, including memes. While it’s hard to say who has the rights to sad Keanu or doge, Pokemon figurines are a little more black and white. Both sites have received takedown requests in the past, but designs tend to stay up until a letter arrives.

The Joseph Ducreux, AKA "Disregard females, acquire currency", meme, 3D printed by Shapeways.

The Joseph Ducreux, AKA “Disregard females, acquire currency”, meme, 3D printed by Shapeways.

IP law finds itself in an unchartered space with the rise of 3D printing, though new models are beginning to emerge. Shapeways has entered into partnerships with a few companies like Hasbro that allow anyone to model their characters, and then funnel some of the sale proceeds back to the copyright holder.

If you absolutely must get your hands on a 3D printed Left Shark, Sosa is urging people to download it from Thingiverse before the site receives a similar letter.

Left Shark rose to fame during the Super Bowl halftime show Sunday. Katy Perry sang “Teenage Dream” among dancing beach balls, trees and two sharks. While Right Shark had the dance down, Left Shark had to improvise a bit. But that didn’t stop him from dancing with everything his little shark heart had to give.

3D print like lawyers aren’t watching, dance like Left Shark.

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This story was updated at 2:15 p.m. PT with more details on copyright and Left Shark.

Real-time brand tweeting is an art, not a science

As everyone knows, there’s a second kind of competition going on during the Super Bowl, and it has nothing to do with football, commercials, or puppies: The Twitter Bowl. Which brand can win the pithy, real-time Twitter conversation?

Oreo famously slam-dunked this in 2013 with its “dunk in the dark” tweet after the Super Bowl power went out. It received thousands of retweets and favorites and became a textbook case on real-time Twitter marketing.

This year, it looks like McDonalds and Buzzfeed were two such winners, according to social analytics company Social Radar. Among other things, Social Radar tracks the spikes and dips in Twitter activity around the Interbrand 100 Best Global Brands and Techmeme tech media leaderboard, analyzing the number of favorites, retweets, and replies to companies like eBay and The Washington Post.

During the 2015 Super Bowl, McDonalds was the cause of several big spikes which raised the engagement average for the entire Interbrand 100. It did so by tweeting live to other brands’ commercials, complimenting them and giving away the products free (even a car) to some of the people who retweeted them according to an AdAge story. Its own Super Bowl commercial wasn’t the most shared across social media sites — that honor went to Budweiser — but it claimed its crown in Twitter conversing.

Social Radar’s Tech Media Index includes top 95 tech media companies ranging from Bloomberg to Gigaom, as listed in the Techmeme leader board. Buzzfeed took the prize for top Twitter Super Bowl game. Not surprising given the company’s mastery of viral content and its substantial audience. Its peak tweets made fun of Katy Perry’s halftime show.

Buzzfeed and McDonalds didn’t necessarily have the most creative real-time tweets of the game. There were plenty of others who clearly planned in advance, like Cheerios, which tweeted a picture of a cheerio to represent people’s shocked open mouths during the final minutes of the game.

Despite perfect timing and creative marketing, Cheerios’ tweet didn’t quite take off like those of McDonalds and Buzzfeed. It received hundreds of retweets and favorites instead of thousands.

Looks like real-time brand tweeting is an art, not a science.

How scientists are racing to diagnose brain injuries in football

By the time retired Chicago Bears star Dave Duerson took his own life in February of 2011, he’d spent months complaining about headaches, blurred vision, and deteriorating memory. The last line of his suicide note read, “Please, see that my brain is given to the NFL’s brain bank.” He then shot himself in the chest, presumably to keep his brain sufficiently in tact for future study.

A few months later, researchers at Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy confirmed what Duerson had suspected – that he had the telltale signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease that at that point a handful of retired NFL players had also been diagnosed with.

Fast forward four years and while significant off-the-field coverage of pro football revolves around domestic violence, countless studies of deceased and retired NFL players – as well as current and former players of several high contact sports, including soccer and hockey – continue to pile up showing that the continuous hits to the head many athletes take have a serious compound effect. In the week prior to Sunday’s Super Bowl, Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett was not shy about calling out NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about the way the league has treated players who have dealt with health issues as the result of CTE and other injuries.

“The consensus is that getting hit in the head over and over again or really hard is bad for your brain, and with new types of tests we find new types of abnormalities that we didn’t know existed,” Chris Nowinski, a former wrestler and cofounder of the Sports Legacy Institute in Boston, told me. “The research is exploding. There’s been more money dedicated to concussion research in the last two or three years than in the history of time. There is a new study every week.”

In both sets of photographs, above, the brain tissue has been immunostained for tau protein, which appears as a dark brown color. Tau immunostained sections of medial temporal lobe from 3 individuals.

In both sets of photographs, above, the brain tissue has been immunostained for tau protein, which appears as a dark brown color. Tau immunostained sections of medial temporal lobe from 3 individuals.

Because no two concussions are exactly alike, and many neurological effects are difficult to see right after a hit, there’s no one diagnostic tool that catches all concussions – though one eye-tracking technique may catch up to 90 percent. “An immediate, 100 percent accurate concussion test is elusive and will be very, very difficult,” Nowinski said.

Instead, much of the cutting-edge imaging research focuses on finding biomarkers in the brain that reveal abnormalities, and then sorting out what those abnormalities will likely mean functionally for an individual down the road. One key here is being able to do this in vivo, while people are still alive and treatment is still possible, as CTE is currently only diagnosed post mortem. (The National Institutes of Health is funding a big study out of Boston University, DETECT, to do just that.)

Shock waves

“I would argue that there is never going to be a single tool that will be effective across all concussions, because each concussion has a different trajectory based on the risk factors of the individual, the kind of hit taken, etc.,” Dr. Anthony Kontos, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh’s Sports Medicine Concussion Program, said.

“The field right now from a neuroimaging perspective is driven by a couple things. One is that we want to see if we can match up what we see clinically and functionally with what we see in neuroimaging. And number two is can we do this in a cost-effective, accurate, and potentially portable way.”

While fMRI and PET scans tend to be the go-to imaging tools in concussion research, Kontos and colleagues have been taking a different approach, something called functional near-infrared spectroscopy. Because the technique involves shining light that penetrates 5 to 8 millimeters into the cortical area of the brain to look at blood flow, it’s noninvasive, less expensive than big scanners like MRI, and portable.

“What we found is the concussed folks will be essentially less efficient,” Kontos said. “They were worse on the performance of the cognitive tests, with slower reaction times and processing speeds, worse on memory recall, and in addition their brain activation wasn’t the same as controls. Those individuals who were concussed weren’t activating the same parts of the brain in the same way.”

The findings sit atop a huge heap of results reaching similar conclusions. In the past year alone, researchers have reported on:

The damage already done

Beyond imaging advances and neurological discoveries, researchers are finding signs of CTE in many former athletes. In one recent study, 76 of 79 deceased NFL players had the brain disease, according to Frontline’s Concussion Watch. Meanwhile, significant cognitive deficits are being found in still living retired NFL players, who may or may not benefit from a class-action lawsuit that would offer medical exams for retired NFL players, monetary awards when certain brain diseases are diagnosed, and greater education around safety.

Football players go on the offense

Given football is not the only high-contact sport where former athletes have been found to have CTE (think wrestling, hockey, and soccer), I asked Nowinski whether he thought the sport is being unfairly singled out.

“Football is not getting a bad rap – it’s getting a well-deserved rap,” he said. “It’s the only sport that encourages hitting kids in the head before 10 years old on purpose. And in the US you’ve got 1 in 8 boys playing, so it’s a huge issue and it’s facing an existential crisis because the world has moved past football in the sense that we all agree it’s a bad idea to hit kids on the head on purpose.”

From a practical standpoint, many contact sport governing bodies – at all levels of play – are being forced to grapple with the question of when to take someone who’s been hit in the head out and when to let that person back in again. “Return to play will be partially controlled by how much we feel people can lose before people feel comfortable,” Nowinski said.

While he plans to watch the Super Bowl, Nowinski clarifies that it’s mainly for research: “I’m OK with grown men playing a risky game as a job if they’re compensated appropriately and have a full understanding of the risks. I’m never going to tell a fireman he can’t go into a burning building. So I can enjoy watching it, but I don’t enjoy watching a bad sideline test and a guy getting put back in, and I don’t like the fact that to get there these guys all played as children for 10 years for free.”

“I think we do a lot better job of that today than we did 5 or 10 years ago,” added Kontos, who has played soccer his whole life and loves to watch pretty much all sports, including football’s main event. “But there’s always room for improvement.”

A model that can predict the unpredictable New England Patriots

It’s said that familiarity breeds contempt in personal relationships. In the NFL, it might also breed predictability. Although the New England Patriots and their coach Bill Belichick are often called unpredictable, it turns out that machine learning models are actually pretty good at guessing what they’ll do.

Alex Tellez, who works for machine learning startup H2O, built a model he says can predict with about 75 percent accuracy whether the Patriots will run the ball or pass it on any given play. He used 13 years of data — all available on — that includes 194 games and 14,547 plays. He considered a dozen variables for each play, including things such as time, score and opposing team.

Tellez thinks it might be possible to build a model that predicts plays with even more accuracy. He noted, while slyly touting his company’s software, that this one was created with just a few clicks using the H2O platform. Spending more time and tweaking some of the features might improve accuracy, and he suggested that feeding data into a recurrent neural network (which would have some ability to remember some results from one play to the next) might help account for the emergence of players like running back Legarrette Blount, who can skew play-calling in the short term.


Tellez’s model works, in part, because of how long Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have been together — 15 seasons now. That’s a lot of time to amass data about what types of plays the team will call in any given situation, with at least two constant — and important — variables in the coach and the quarterback.

“Realistically, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, those are like the only dynamic duo,” explained Tellez. “You couldn’t do it with the Raiders,” he added, alluding to that team’s revolving door of coaches and quarterbacks.

Or even the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl competitor, the Seattle Seahawks, who are working with a fifth-year coach and third-year quarterback.

Last year, I wrote about Brian Burke, the founder of Advanced NFL Analytics and the guy whose models power the New York Times 4th Down Bot. “The number of variables, it explodes geometrically,” he said about the challenges of predicting football plays.


Still, even if predicting the likelihood of a run or a pass remains an unsolvable challenge for most of the NFL, the proliferation of data has already and likely will continue to change the face of football — and sports overall — in some very significant ways. Some obvious ones are the advanced metrics used by Major League Baseball teams to rate players beyond just their batting averages or earned-run averages, the now-trite “moneyball” method building rosters, and the remarkable success of expert statisticians such as Burke and FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver.

At our Structure Data conference in March, data executives from ESPN and real-time player-tracking specialist STATS will discuss how access to so much data is changing the fan experience, as well, and even the on-court decision-making in sports such as professional basketball.

Depending on whether anyone can build accurate-enough models, Tellez actually suggested we could see live sports broadcasts include predictions of the next play similar to how ESPN predicts outcomes in its World Series of Poker broadcasts. While his Patriots model took about 30 seconds to run, live-broadcast models would have the benefit of being able to pre-load data for the specific game situation and only run against that data, he said.

Richard Sherman

Richard Sherman

He also has another idea for applying advanced data analysis the NFL — predicting rookie performance in the NFL combine. That’s where draft prospects go to show off to NFL scouts how big, fast and strong they are. However, not all prospects participate in all the events, which can give teams an incomplete view of their athletic prowess.

Tellez built a special type of neural network, called a self-organizing map, to analyze all combine performance for cornerbacks, specifically, and then fill in the blanks when players opt to skip a particular exercise. Think about it like Google’s Auto-Fill feature, which predicts missing values in spreadsheets. He says he discovered that good 40-yard dash, shuttle run and 3-cone times tend to correlate with high draft picks and future success, so being able to predict those times even if a prospect doesn’t do them could be valuable.

Of course, Tellez noted, stats don’t always tell us the truth. His model, as well as NFL scouts, predicted Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman as a mid-round draft pick. The Seahawks drafted him in the fifth round. He’s now considered one of the league’s most-dominant cornerbacks and most-recognizable players.

Where to watch the 2015 Super Bowl live online

You may watch it because you’re a football fan. Or for the ads. Or simply because it’s tradition. Regardless of the reason, when the Super Bowl begins on Sunday, you’re going to want to be watching — even if you don’t have cable, or maybe not even a TV.

That’s because just like last year, the event is going to be live streamed online. Super Bowl XLIX is being broadcast by NBC, and the network decided to do away with its usual requirement to sign in with your cable subscription and instead it plans to let everyone watch; cord cutters included.

The basics: Super Bowl XLIX features the New England Patriots facing off against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. The game will be played at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., and kickoff will be at 6:30pm ET (3:30pm PT). is streaming the Super Bowl in its entirety on its website, including NBC’s pre-game coverage, the halftime show featuring Katy Perry, as well as post-game coverage. Streaming will begin at noon ET (9am PT), and continue until 10pm ET (7pm PT).

NBC’s Sports Live Extra apps will also stream the action via their tablet apps for iOS, Android and Windows, but NBC doesn’t have the rights to stream to mobile devices, so streaming to iPhones, Android phones and Windows phones won’t work. The apps may ask you to log in with your cable account if you access live video ahead of time, but NBC has promised that this won’t be the case starting at noon ET Sunday.

Verizon subscribers will also be able to watch the Super Bowl on their phones, thanks to the NFL Mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry. Sorry, subscribers to other carriers need not apply — this one is a Verizon exclusive.

The NFL audio pass offers a live audio feed with commentary for $9.99. The subscription will also allow users to access archived NFL events throughout July.

Foreign-language radio: Audio of the Super Bowl is live streamed with commentary in Spanish, Hungarian, Japanese, French, Portuguese, Mandarin and German. Links to each webcast can be found on the NFL’s website.

Viewers abroad can tune in to a live stream of the Super Bowl via the NFL Game pass, which is available for $54.99 for anyone not residing in the U.S. and Mexico.

Hulu once again has its collection of Super Bowl ads dubbed the Adzone.

YouTube is aggregating and ranking Super Bowl ads as part of its Adblitz.

The Puppy Bowl completes every Super Bowl Sunday like a furry, friendly sidekick. Animal Planet isn’t streaming the cuter bowl live, but it has plenty of videos to tease us already on its website, and visitors of Animal Planet Live can also catch some rare Puppy Bowl training sessions live online.

We have disabled comments on this post to prevent the usual influx of links to fake and less-than-legal streams. Feel free to ping us on Twitter if you have questions or comments!

Facebook takes on Twitter with real-time Super Bowl hub

Looks like Facebook has decided it can do Twitter’s job better.

The social media site has built a live news hub for Sunday’s upcoming Super Bowl. It will feature user posts as they occur in real time, along with Super Bowl attendees’ videos and photos, content from the NFL, players and media companies, and the current score. It’s a shot across the bow to Twitter, the king of real-time content.

Twitter has struggled to build an easy, clear onboarding system for new users, leaving a hole Facebook can easily fill. Even during its Analyst Day, CEO Dick Costolo fielded a complaint from an analyst in the audience who tried to sign up for Twitter during the presentation and couldn’t figure it out.

In contrast, Facebook has more than 152 million users in the United States and Canada alone, many of whom aren’t on Twitter yet. It can parlay them into its own Super Bowl hub for their fix of social connecting while the event unfolds. According to Reuters, Facebook is even selling targeted ad units that it will show to people discussing the Super Bowl on the site.

The experiment could potentially set the precedent for more event-based, real-time hubs down the line. It will also show that Twitter isn’t the only social network that can do live.

Assuming Facebook’s Super Bowl hub is a success, of course. The company doesn’t have a lot of experience with live channels and people on it are used to the algorithmic nature of the newsfeed. The company may not be able to expand its brand to include real-time posting.

A screenshot of Facebook's Superbowl hub on Wednesday, January 28th

A screenshot of Facebook’s Superbowl hub on Wednesday, January 28th

T-Mobile Super Bowl ad entreats us to “Save The Data”

T-Mobile is using a Super Bowl ad to push its new Data Stash program, which lets users rollover unused megabytes from month to month, and last night it gave a sneak peak of the 30-second spot on YouTube.


The tongue-in-cheek commercial plays on the the public service announcement, with Kim Kardashian West alerting viewers that “each month millions of unused gigs are taken back by wireless carriers.” All of that unused data could have been put to use viewing selfies of Kim Kardashian West, she said.

Many of the mobile carriers use the Super Bowl as a way to show off new ad campaigns, so [company]T-Mobile[/company]’s may not be the only new mobile commercial we see. We might even seen competing ads for rollover data programs. [company]AT&T[/company] launched its own data banking program this week to compete with Data Stash.