SpaceX reveals more Starlink info after launch of first 60 satellites


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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Last night’s successful Starlink launch was a big one for SpaceX — its heaviest payload ever, weighed down by 60 communications satellites that will eventually be part of a single constellation providing internet to the globe. That’s the plan, anyway — and the company pulled the curtain back a bit more after launch, revealing a few more details about the birds it just put in the air.

SpaceX and CEO Elon Musk have been extremely tight-lipped about the Starlink satellites, only dropping a few hints here and there before the launch. We know, for instance, that each satellite weighs about 500 pounds, and are a flat-panel design that maximized the amount that can fit in each payload. The launch media kit also described a “Startracker” navigation system that would allow the satellites to locate themselves and orbital debris with precision.

MacBook Pro teardown reveals subtle changes to keyboard mechanism


This post is by Brian Heater from TechCrunch


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The shift to a new butterfly keyboard mechanism is Apple’s least popular design decision in recent memory. After a flood of negative feedback over stuck and malfunctioning keys, the company, has continued to upgrade the technology with subtle fixes.

Just two days ago Apple issued yet another update — one it believes will address many of the system’s on-going woes. Today iFixit broke open the new model, identifying some of the changes underneath. The tweaks appear to be small, and the iFixit folks are still on the fence about precisely what’s new here, but things do appear to line up with what we were told by the company.

Here’s Matthew,

The MacBook Pro keyboard mechanism has had a materials change in the mechanism. Apple says that this new keyboard mechanism composition will substantially reduce the double-type/no-type issue.

There have been some material changes to various elements, including the membrane

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Best Buy cancels Samsung Galaxy Fold preorders


This post is by Brian Heater from TechCrunch


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Samsung is taking its time bringing the Galaxy Fold back to market. And frankly, that’s probably for the best. The Note debacle from a few years back was an important lesson about what happens when you rush a product back to market. That one resulted in a second recall — PR nightmae upon PR nightmare.

With a release date still very much in limbo, Best Buy has sent notes to those who pre-ordered the Fold. Spotted by The Verge, the letter has since been posted to Best Buy’s support forum. It cites “a plethora of unforeseen hiccups,” (fair enough) adding, “Because we put our customers first and want to ensure they are taken care of in the best possible manner, Best Buy has decided to cancel all current pre-orders for the Samsung Galaxy Fold.

The letter goes on to assure customers that the big box retailer is “working closely

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Roland’s tiny R-07 recorder is better than your phone’s recorder app


This post is by Matt Burns from TechCrunch


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In an era when the smartphone can do everything, why do you need a standalone audio recorder? Roland, makers of music gear, might have an answer.

Their R-07 voice recorder is about as big as an original iPod and is designed for music recording, practice and playback. It features two microphones on top as well as an auxiliary microphone input. It also includes a headphone jack and supports Bluetooth.

As a recorder, the R-07 is a single-touch marvel. You record by turning it on and pressing the center button. It records to MicroSD card and can create up to 96 kHz 24-bit WAVs and 320 kbps MP3s. It runs on USB power or two AA batteries.

A Scene mode makes the R-07 a bit more interesting. It has built-in limiters and low cut, essentially features that will make voices crisper. Further, you can set it to “Music Long” to record

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You can do it, robot! Watch the beefy, 4-legged HyQReal pull a plane


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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It’s not really clear just yet exactly what all these powerful, agile quadrupedal robots people are working on are going to do, exactly, but even so it never gets old watching them do their thing. The latest is an Italian model called HyQReal, which demonstrates its aspiration to winning strongman competitions, among other things, by pulling an airplane behind it.

The video is the debut for HyQReal, which is the successor to HyQ, a much smaller model created years ago by the Italian Institute of Technology, and its close relations. Clearly the market, such as it is, has advanced since then, and discerning customers now want the robot equivalent of a corn-fed linebacker.

That’s certainly how HyQReal seems to be positioned; in its video, the camera lingers lovingly on its bulky titanium haunches and thick camera cage. Its low slung body recalls a bulldog rather than a cheetah or

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Amazon is reportedly working on an emotion-tracking Alexa wearable


This post is by Brian Heater from TechCrunch


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Amazon probably knows everything else about you at this point, so why not let it track your emotions, too? The company is said to be working on a wearable wellness device said to be able able to determine a user’s emotional state. Word arrives from a Bloomberg story based on “internal documents.”

This comes on the heels of a patent issued for the company designed to let Alexa determine a speaker’s mood and respond accordingly based on how they’re feeling. That filing highlighted relevant emotions like “happiness, joy, anger, sorrow, sadness, fear, disgust, boredom [and] stress.” That’s a pretty wide range of reactions for a smart assistant.

The smartphone-connected, wrist-worn device is said to be the product of the Alexa and Lab126 hardware team. It’s currently being tested, internally, under the codename “Dylan.” It’s worth noting that Amazon has recently been encouraging a lot of experimentation among

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Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader returns with a larger screen


This post is by Brian Heater from TechCrunch


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I’ve always had a soft spot for the Nook. Barnes & Noble’s e-reader was more than just a rare competitor to Amazon’s steamrolling Kindle, it was a nice device with an interesting design — and one of the first in its class to now standard technologies like front lighting.

But good readers never really die, they just go into extended hibernation and people forget all of about them. And also they sometimes die. Anyway, it’s clear that the Nook division ultimately wasn’t the sort of exit strategy Barnes & Noble was hoping for (no one, it seemed, could predict Amazon), but it continues to release products here and there, including the bigger, better Nook GlowLight Plus.

The new reader maintains the classic Nook soft touch style, coupled with a considerably larger 7.8 inch screen featuring the titular front lighting. Bulkiness has always been a bit of an issue with

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Panic’s Playmate is a pint-sized gaming machine with a ‘season’ of 12 intriguing titles


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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Tired of your smartphone games, and don’t want to take the Switch with you on the train today? Panic, renowned creator of useful Mac apps and more recently publisher of interesting games, has created a tiny handheld console that goes anywhere and receives a regular trickle of new games. It’s called Playdate.

One has to admire the gumption of jumping into a space that has been so thoroughly dominated by Nintendo and smartphones over the last decade that hardly anyone has even attempted to break in. But Panic isn’t trying to build an empire — just do something interesting and new.

“Nothing’s surprising anymore and surprises are great!” reads the Playdate’s FAQ. “Panic saw an opportunity for something truly different in the world of video games. Something small-scale that could deliver a dose of fun and delight to video game players who have otherwise seen it all.”

It’s

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Nectar’s sonar bottle caps could save $50B in stolen booze


This post is by Josh Constine from TechCrunch


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Bars lose 20 percent of their alcohol to overpours and “free” drinks for friends. That amounts to $50 billion per year in booze that mysteriously disappears, making life tough for every pub and restaurant. Nectar wants to solve that mystery with its ultrasound depth sensing bottle caps that measure how much liquid is left in a bottle by measuring how long it takes a sonar pulse to bounce back. And now it’s bringing real-time pour tracking to beer with its gyroscopic taps. The result is that bar managers can find out who’s pouring too much or giving away drink, which promotions are working, when to reorder bottles without keeping too much stock on hand, and avoid wasting hours weighing or eyeballing the liquor level of their inventory.

Nectar’s solution to alcohol shrinkage has now attracted a $10 million Series A led by DragonCapital.vc and joined by former Campari chairman

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Amazon has turned warehouse tasks into a (literal) game


This post is by Brian Heater from TechCrunch


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Working at an Amazon fulfillment center is tough and tedious. Stories of problematic working conditions have plagued the company for years now, and pressure has likely only increased as the retail giant is pushing to get packages out even faster.

To give the company some credit, it has worked to improve conditions, including the addition of a $15 minimum wage and automating certain tasks with the help of its growing robotics offering. Turns out the company has also been, quite literally, gamifying certain tasks.

WaPo (which, incidentally, is also own by Mr. Bezos) has a writeup of an “experimental” video game designed to motivator workers to fill orders. The games, which is apparently optional for employees, live on workstation screens, awarding points for fulfilling orders and pitting teams against one another in the process.

As the story notes, Amazon’s not alone in the idea. Gig-based companies like Uber and Lyft

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Thousands of vulnerable TP-Link routers at risk of remote hijack


This post is by Zack Whittaker from TechCrunch


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Thousands of TP-Link routers are vulnerable to a bug that can be used to remotely take control of the device, but it took more than a year for the company to publish the patches on its website.

The vulnerability allows any low-skilled attacker to remotely gain full access to an affected router. The exploit relies on the router’s default password to work, which many don’t change.

In the worst-case scenario, an attacker could target vulnerable devices on a massive scale, using a similar mechanism to how botnets like Mirai worked — by scouring the web and hijacking routers using default passwords like “admin” and “pass.”

Andrew Mabbitt, founder of U.K. cybersecurity firm Fidus Information Security, first discovered and disclosed the remote code execution bug to TP-Link in October 2017. TP-Link released a patch a few weeks later for the vulnerable WR940N router, but Mabbitt warned TP-Link again in

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DJI is adding receivers to help drones avoid plane and helicopter collisions


This post is by Brian Heater from TechCrunch


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At an event in Washington, D.C. today, DJI unveiled plans to help avoid potentially life-threatening drone disasters. At the top of the list is the company’s promise to add AirSense technology to all of its models weighing more than 250 grams (~half a pound), which goes into effect January 1 of next year.

The feature senses Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) signals, alerting the drone pilot if the system is within range of a helicopter or airplane. The technology is transmitted from aircrafts, capable of being detected miles away — well before the drone pilot on the ground. DJI says this is the largest deployment of ADS-B to date.

The addition of the ADS-B receiver follows a number of drone-related issues around airports, including January’s Heathrow closure after one was sighted near its runways. The explosion of drone ownership has left many governments scrambling to enact laws aimed at avoiding

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Mid-range flagships like the Honor 20 Pro are giving premium phones a run for their money


This post is by Brian Heater from TechCrunch


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Phone sales have been trending downward for some time now. There are a number of reasons for this — many of which you can read about in this piece I published last week. The creeping cost of premium handsets is pretty high on that list, which flagships now routinely topping $1,000 from many of the big names.

The big smartphone makers have begun to react to this, with budget flagship alternatives like the iPhone XR, Galaxy S10e and Pixel 3a. A new crop of mid-range flagships, however, are giving them a run for their money and serving as an important reminder that a quality handset doesn’t need to be priced in the four digits.

The Honor 20 Pro fits nicely in the latter camp, joining the likes of the recently announced OnePlus 7 Pro and Asus ZenFone 6 in demonstrating that premium specs can still be had for what was

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Select Bose smart speakers get Google Assistant


This post is by Brian Heater from TechCrunch


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A week after Sonos added long-promised Google Assistant integration to a pair of speakers, Bose is following suit. The company’s bringing the popular smart home AI to a trio of existing models, the Home Speaker 500 and Soundbar 500 and 700. The forthcoming, pint-sized Home Speaker 300 will be hitting the market with the feature built in.

Like Sonos, you’ll get your standard array of Assistant queries, including music playback, Chromecast TV control and the ability to control connected home features like smart lighting. All of that will be accessible through the built-in speaker array. Like Sonos, the aforementioned speakers are also compatible with Alexa.

It’s clearly in the best interest of these third party manufacturers not to have to play sides. For Google and Amazon, it means bringing their respective smart home ecosystems to a pair of well-regarded brands. Also like Sonos, setup happens in the company’s music app,

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With foldable phones in limbo, foldable display laptops are on the horizon


This post is by Brian Heater from TechCrunch


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With the Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X currently in limbo for very different reasons, PC makers are apparently jumping at the chance to make their own foldable display ambitions known. It’s been clear, of course, for as long as flexible screens have been a viable technology, that hardware manufacturers would be experimenting with any and all form factors. In just the past week, two key players have talked up their plans for how it might be utilized on the PC front.

Last week, Lenovo showed off a prototype ThinkPad X1. The company’s been no stranger to experimental convertibles, and utilizing a foldable display could further blur the line been tablets and PCs. The technology allows for a large screen in a compact form factor. Here it’s 13.3 inches that can be collapsed into half the size, making it a lot easier to take with you.

It’s a

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Why is Facebook doing robotics research?


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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It’s a bit strange to hear that the world’s leading social network is pursuing research in robotics rather than, say, making search useful, but Facebook is a big organization with many competing priorities. And while these robots aren’t directly going to affect your Facebook experience, what the company learns from them could be impactful in surprising ways.

Though robotics is a new area of research for Facebook, its reliance on and bleeding-edge work in AI are well known. Mechanisms that could be called AI (the definition is quite hazy) govern all sorts of things, from camera effects to automated moderation of restricted content.

AI and robotics are naturally overlapping magisteria — it’s why we have an event covering both — and advances in one often do the same, or open new areas of inquiry, in the other. So really it’s no surprise that Facebook, with its strong interest in using

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When will customers start buying all those AI chips?


This post is by Danny Crichton from TechCrunch


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It’s the best and worst time to be in semiconductors right now. Silicon Valley investors are once again owning up to their namesakes and taking a deep interest in next-generation silicon, with leading lights like Graphcore in the United Kingdom hitting unicorn status while weirdly named and stealthy startups like Groq in the Bay Area grow up.

Growth in chips capable of processing artificial intelligence workflows is expected to swell phenomenally over the coming years. As Asa Fitch at the Wall Street Journal noted yesterday, “Demand for chips specialized for AI is growing at such a pace the industry can barely keep up. Sales of such chips are expected to double this year to around $8 billion and reach more than $34 billion by 2023, according to Gartner projections.”

Yet, all those rosy projections don’t suddenly make the financial results of companies like Nvidia any easier to swallow.

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This clever transforming robot flies and rolls on its rotating arms


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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There’s great potential in using both drones and ground-based robots for situations like disaster response, but generally these platforms either fly or creep along the ground. Not the “Flying STAR,” which does both quite well, and through a mechanism so clever and simple you’ll wish you’d thought of it.

Conceived by researchers at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, the “flying sprawl-tuned autonomous robot” is based on the elementary observation that both rotors and wheels spin. So why shouldn’t a vehicle have both?

Well, there are lots of good reasons why it’s difficult to create such a hybrid, but the team, led by David Zarrouk, overcame them with the help of today’s high-powered, lightweight drone components. The result is a robot that can easily fly when it needs to, then land softly and, by tilting the rotor arms downwards, direct that same motive force into four wheels.

Of course you could have

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China overtakes US in smart speaker market share


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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The U.S. no longer leads the smart speaker market, according to new data from Canalys out this morning, which found China’s smart speaker shipments grew by 500% in Q1 2019 to overtake the U.S. and achieve a 51% market share.

The firm said shipments in China reached 10.6 million units, which was driven by “festive promotions.”

More specifically, Baidu had a huge quarter thanks to an exclusive sponsorship deal with China’s national TV channel, CCTV, on its New Year’s Gala on Chinese New Year’s Eve — one of the biggest entertainment shows in terms of viewer numbers. This promotion prompted users to download the Baidu app, which distributed more than 100 million coupons to an audience of 1.2 billion during the show, and drove awareness around the brand’s smart speakers, Canalys says.

In Q1, Baidu shipped 3.3 million speakers — putting it in third

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Glass graduates from Google X as it scores new hardware update


This post is by Lucas Matney from TechCrunch


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Google’s head-worn smart display, Google Glass, is finally ready to move the tassel.

After defining the company’s far-flung connected dreams when it was first announced in 2013, the enterprise-refocused headset is graduating from the X moonshot factory with a new hardware update that aims to make it more approachable for companies.

After a soft consumer tease that was buzz-worthy if not laughably pre-mature, Google Glass Enterprise Edition was announced two years ago and the dedicated group has been plugging along since, courting businesses to hop on board.

The design of Glass Enterprise Edition 2 doesn’t appear to be radically different from its predecessor, but under the hood there are some noteworthy changes, namely the platform now runs on Android and Android Enterprise Mobile Device Management. Those changes alone are probably enough for enterprise customers to move from the non-starter camp

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