SpaceX gets FCC approval to add 7,518 more satellites to its Starlink constellation

SpaceX’s application to add thousands of satellites to its proposed Starlink communications constellation has been approved by the FCC, though it will be some time before the company actually puts those birds in the air.

Starlink is just one of many companies that the FCC gave the green light to today at its monthly meeting. Kepler, Telesat, and LeoSat also got approval for various services, though with 140, 117, and 78 satellites proposed respectively, they aren’t nearly as ambitious in scale. Several others were approved as well with smaller proposals. SpaceX officially applied to put these 7,518 satellites into orbit — alongside the already approved 4,409 — back in March of 2017. Last month the FCC indicated it planned to approve the request by circulating a draft order (PDF) to that effect, which it today made official. These satellites would orbit at the extremely low (for satellites) altitude of around
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These Bluetooth earbuds double as a charging cord

As I write this, I’m somewhere in Asia, with a bag full of assorted cables and devices. I’ve gotten better at packing light, but I’ve still got a ways to go. Certainly there’s something to be said for those products that can pull double duty — take the new Huawei phone or most recent iPad Pro update, all of which double as device chargers.

The Changer looks to be a clever take on the concept for the perpetually low on battery. The $89 yolked Bluetooth earbuds double as a charging cable. Snap the headphone bits off and you’ll find USB-C, microUSB and Lightning connectors.

The headphones sport a 12-hour battery, according to the company, and can be plugged directly into the wall. The cable can also be used to plug a mobile device into a battery pack or plugged into two different devices to share a charge.

I’ll admit I’m

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Roku’s voice-powered wireless speakers and tabletop remote start shipping

In July, Roku unveiled its entry into the voice-powered speaker market, with a pair of Roku TV Wireless Speakers designed to work with the company’s lineup of partner-built smart TVs. Those speakers will now begin to ship to customers starting on Friday, November 16. They’ll also go on sale in advance of Black Friday at a discounted price, Roku says.

The speakers were previously available for pre-order and will normally retail for $199.99. However, Roku will sell them starting on Sunday, November 18 through “Cyber Monday,” November 26, for $149.99. The company had earlier said the speakers would begin shipping in late October, so this is a bit of delay on its part. But they’re still here before the holidays and in time for Black Friday, which is what’s most important. The company’s goal with its voice-powered speakers is not really one of trying to compete with Amazon Echo
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Standard Cognition raises $40M to replace retailers’ cashiers with cameras

The Amazon Go store requires hundreds of cameras to detect who’s picking up what items. Standard Cognition needs just 27 to go after the $27 trillion market of equipping regular shops with autonomous retail technology.

Walk into one of its partners’ stores and overhead cameras identify you by shape and movement, not facial recognition. Open up its iOS or Android app and a special light pattern flashes, allowing the cameras to tie you to your account and payment method. Grab whatever you want, and just walk out. Standard Cognition will bill you. It even works without an app. Shop like normal and then walk up to kiosk screen, the cameras tell it what items you nabbed, and you can pay with cash or credit card. That means Standard Cognition stores never exclude anyone, unlike Amazon Go. “Our tagline has been ‘rehumanizing retail'” co-founder Michael Suswal tells me. “We’re removing the
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Dolby releases branded wireless headphones

Dolby’s been making a bigger push for consumer recognition in the last few years, so it was really just a matter of time before it released a branded product. As far as those things go, headphones make as much sense as anything.

Even so, the over-ear bluetooth headphone market is a tough on to crack, between quality sets from Bose and Sony, along with the flashiness of Beats and its ilk. Dolby Dimension are working a pretty interesting angle here, however, as the “first wireless headphones perfected for home entertainment,” rather than going after the same frequent flier demo as most of the competition.

Reviews so far are pretty positive on both sound and comfort, which is nice, given the fairly astronomical $599 asking price. It’s a lot to ask for a pair of headphones catering to a relative niche in the overall market — after all, most of us

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Gift Guide: 10 suitcase-friendly gifts for frequent flyers

Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2018 Holiday Gift Guide! Need more gift ideas? Check out our Gift Guide Hub.

I’ve been traveling a lot this year — more than any year in the past. It’s been both a blessing and a curse, so thanks, TechCrunch, for that. Honestly, I should probably be packing for Asia instead of writing this, but I’m looking out for you instead.

Rather than writing the standard Travel Guide or Holiday Gift Guide, we’ve opted to combine them into one. Because if there’s one key to making the most out of your time on the road, it’s efficiency. Technology can play an important role in helping streamline the packing process and generally making the most out of your trip.

Of course, as with everything, too much tech can also be a bad thing. I know I’ve found myself packing too many gadgets or jamming a messy rat king

TechCrunch Gift Guide 2018 banner
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MacBook Pro with updated GPU is now available

Apple recently unveiled a bunch of new products during a press event in New York. But the company also quietly shared a press release with new configurations for the 15-inch MacBook Pro. Customers can now get a MacBook Pro with an AMD Radeon Pro Vega 16 or Vega 20 graphics processing unit.

Before this update, users could only get Radeon Pro 555X or 560X GPUs. Those options are still available, but you can now pay a bit more money to get much better GPUs. As the name suggests, Vega is a new generation of graphics processors. The iMac Pro comes with desktop-class Vega processors — the Vega 56 and Vega 64. The Vega 16 or Vega 20 are less powerful than the iMac Pro GPUs. But they also fit in a laptop and consume much less power. In particular, Radeon Pro GPUs use GDDR5 memory just like the PlayStation 4
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Mozilla ranks dozens of popular ‘smart’ gift ideas on creepiness and security

If you’re planning on picking up some cool new smart device for a loved one this holiday season, it might be worth your while to check whether it’s one of the good ones or not. Not just in the quality of the camera or step tracking, but the security and privacy practices of the companies that will collect (and sell) the data it produces. Mozilla has produced a handy resource ranking 70 of the latest items, from Amazon Echos to smart teddy bears.

Each of the dozens of toys and devices is graded on a number of measures: what data does it collect? Is that data encrypted when it is transmitted? Who is it shared with? Are you required to change the default password? And what’s the worst case scenario if something went wrong? Some of the security risks are inherent to the product — for example, security cameras
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Self-flying camera drone Hover 2 hits Kickstarter

Two years after launching the original Hover, Zero Zero Robotics has returned for the sequel. In spite of landing a $25 million Series A back in 2016, the startup is going to the crowdfunding well on this one, launching a $100K Kickstarter campaign to launch the latest version of the self-flying drone.

Hover 2, which the company expects to arrive in April 2019, will feature updated obstacle avoidance, improved visual tracking and some updated internals, including a new Snapdragon processor on-board.

There’s a two-axis gimbal with electronic image stabilization for smoother shots that houses a camera capable of capturing 4K video and 12-megapixel photos. There are a number of different shot models on-board as well, including movie-inspired filters and music and a battery that’s capable of going 23 minutes on a charge.

Of course, Hover’s chief competition, the DJI Mavic line, has made some pretty massive leaps and bounds

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Wynd announces a new air purifier and desktop monitor

As far as goals for hardware startups go, you could do worse than ridding the air of allergens, pollutants and the like. Launched in 2016 as a Kickstarter project, Wynd is going back to the crowdfunding well this week for two new hardware products.

Wind Halo is a pretty nice-looking (from the press material) desktop air monitor featuring a set of 10 sensors. In fact, the design language on the thing really brings to mind the Echo Spot — still arguably the nicest-looking of Amazon’s Alexa devices.

The system relies on a technology Wynd calls Air ID, which “blends raw hardware sensor data with machine learning and cloud contextual information,” according to the company. That’s all buzzword-speak for the fact that the hardware utilizes readings to provide both metrics and a breakdown of what’s in the air, including pollen, smoke and smog.

Of course, knowing what’s in the air isn’t

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We tried Amazon’s bizarre Alexa microwave and weren’t convinced

I’m a fan of Alexa and of voice computing in general. But when Amazon said it was putting Alexa into a microwave, I wasn’t so sure. The value in voice computing is being able to get to news, information, music hands-free, as well as perform simple tasks, including those for the smart home – like changing the thermostat from downstairs, or taking a peek at your security camera video from your Echo Show. But a microwave? Really?

Microwaves, after all, are one of the most common kitchen appliances. And, unlike conventional ovens, they’re dead simple to use. Amazon, however, would disagree. The company believes consumers aren’t taking full advantage of their microwave’s more advanced settings, which are overly complicated. That’s where Alexa could help, the company says. “Most people don’t use them for all the features that they’re able to do – like presets and ways you can do
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Withings launches a fitness tracker for some reason

Withings is back with, of all things, a fitness tracker. It’s a bit of an odd addition, two months after the company re-launched, post-Nokia. The company’s first product, the Steel HR Sport, picked up where it left off with another sport-focused hybrid smartwatch. The Pulse HR, meanwhile, finds it looking back at wrist-worn fitness trackers.

It’s a strange addition, really. After all, smartwatches represent a rare bright spot in the world of wearables — fitness trackers, not so much. Heck, even Fitbit has been making a major push into the watch world.

Withings, for its part, is, “Reviving the classic design of Withings Pulse, the first tracker that Withings ever launched in 2013,” according to the press material. At $130, it’s not exactly cheap, as far as these things go. Companies like Xiaomi have completely undercut much of the market with wearables running $100 less than that.

As for what

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These antique phones are precious, private Alexa vessels

Amazon’s Alexa may be in ten thousand different devices now, but they all have one other thing in common: they’re new. So for those of us that prefer old things but still want to be able to set timers and do metric-imperial conversions without pulling out our phones, Grain Design is retrofitting these fabulous old telephones to provide Alexa access with no other hints of modernity. There’s even a privacy angle!

The phones themselves (spotted by a BoingBoing tipster) are genuine antiques, and not even the mass-produced Bell sets you see so often. I personally love the copper-plated model, though I certainly wouldn’t say no to the candlestick. Dick Whitney, who runs the company, modifies the hardware to make room for an Echo Dot inside. Pick up the phone and speak, and Alexa answers, just like the operators of yore! Except you can ask Alexa anything and it won’t
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Facebook Portal needs more. At least it just added YouTube

To offset the creepiness of having Facebook’s camera and microphone in your house, its new Portal video chat gadget needs best-in-class software.  Its hardware is remarkably well done, plus Messenger and the photo frame feature work great. But its third-party app platform was pretty skimpy when the device launched this week.

Facebook is increasingly relying on its smart display competitors to boost Portal’s capabilities. It already comes with Amazon Alexa inside. And now, Google’s YouTube is part of the Portal app platform. “Yes, YouTube.com is available through an optional install in the ‘Portal Apps’ catalog” a Facebook spokesperson tells me. You can open it with a “Hey Portal” command, but there currently seems to be no way to queue up specific videos or control playback via voice.

The addition gives Portal much greater flexibility when it comes to video. Previously it could only play videos from Facebook Watch,
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Sony’s PlayStation Classic uses an open-source emulator to play its games

The worm has turned, it seems. Emulators, which let people run old console games on their computers, were once the scourge of the gaming industry. Now Sony is using one of the very pieces of software the industry decried as the basis for its PlayStation Classic retro console.

In the licenses list for the console can be found PCSX ReArmed, as Kotaku noticed in its review yesterday. That’s the ARM port of PCSX Reloaded, itself an offshoot of the original PCSX emulator, which ceased development in 2003. Don’t worry, it’s not a crime or anything: Sony is well within its rights to do this. It’s just ironic, and indicative the hard work emulator developers have done for over two decades, that a tool most famously (though by no means exclusively) used for piracy is being deployed officially like this. PCSX and its derivatives are open source under GPL. It’s a
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Burgerbot startup Creator hires inventor of Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog

Disney Imagineering animatronics wizard Dr. Martin Buehler is a legend in the robotics world. His work leading development of the galloping Big Dog quadruped at Boston Dynamics both inspired and terrified a new generation of makers. But after playing in the worlds of fantasy and science fiction that consumers can’t buy, Buehler has been poached to work on something much more tangible. In fact, it’s edible. He’s joining burger-making robot startup Creator as VP of engineering.

“It was a great experience working on experimental validation [at Boston Dynamics]” Buehler tells me, “But one of the things I really value at Creator is the immediacy of real impact to real people. With burgers being such a big segment of the food market, we have the potential to touch millions of people.” Creator opened its first restaurant to the public in September, selling San Franciscans gourmet hamburgers at a surprisingly low $6
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SpaceX’s Starlink aims to put over a thousand of its communications satellites in super-low orbit

SpaceX’s planned communication satellite constellation, known as Starlink, will now be targeting a much lower orbit than originally planned, at least for over a thousand of the satellites, the company revealed in an FCC filing. The move should help mitigate orbital debris and provide better signal for the company’s terrestrial users as well.

Starlink plans to put 1,584 satellites — about a third of the 4,409 the company aims to launch — in an orbit just 550 kilometers about the surface of the Earth. For comparison, many communications satellites are in orbits over twice as high, and geosynchronous orbits are more than 20 times further out (around 36,000 miles). At that distance orbits decay quickly, falling into the atmosphere and burning up after a handful of years. But SpaceX isn’t daunted; in fact, it writes in its application, lower orbits offer “several attractive features both during nominal operation and in
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Gift Guide: 11 picture perfect gifts for your photographer friends

Photographers are tricky to get gifts for because every one of them has preferences they may already have spent years indulging. But we have blind spots, we photographers. We will spend thousands on lenses but never buy a proper camera bag, or properly back up our shots, or splurge for a gadget that makes certain shots ten times easier. Scroll on for gift recommendations that any photographer can appreciate.

Gnarbox or Western Digital backup drive

Okay, these are definitely expensive, so keep scrolling if you’re on a budget, but they can also totally change how someone shoots. If your photographer/loved one tends to travel or go out into the wilderness when they shoot, a backup solution is a must. These drives act as self-contained rugged backup solutions, letting you offload your SD card at the end of a shoot and preview the contents, no laptop required. They’ve been around for
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Facebook Portal isn’t listening to your calls, but may track data

When the initial buzz of Portal finally dies down, it’s the timing that will be remembered most. There’s never a great time for a company like Facebook to launch a product like Portal, but as far as optics go, the whole of 2018 probably should have been a write-off.

Our followup headline, “Facebook, are you kidding?” seems to sum up the fallout nicely. But the company soldiered on, intent to launch its in-house hardware product, and insofar as its intentions can be regarded as pure, there are certainly worse motives than the goal of connecting loved ones. That’s a promise video chat technology brings, and Facebook’s technology stack delivers it in a compelling way. Any praise the company might have received for the product’s execution, however, quickly took a backseat to another PR dustup. Here’s Recode with another fairly straightforward headline. “It turns out that Facebook could in fact
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So I sent my mom that newfangled Facebook Portal

“Who am I going to be worried about? Oh Facebook seeing? No, I’m not worried about Facebook seeing. They’re going to look at my great art collection and say they want to come steal it? No, I never really thought about it.” That’s my 72-year-old mother Sally Constine’s response to whether she’s worried about her privacy now that she has a Facebook Portal video chat device. The gadget goes on sale and starts shipping today at $349 for the 15.6-inch swiveling screen Portal+, $199 for the 10-inch Portal, and $100 off for buying any two.

The sticking point for most technology reporters — that it’s creepy or scary to have a Facebook camera and microphone in your house — didn’t even register as a concern with a normal tech novice like my Mom. “I don’t really think of it any different from a phone call” she says. “It’s not

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