May 20, 2019 Off

This clever transforming robot flies and rolls on its rotating arms

By Jill T Frey

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 … Read the rest

May 20, 2019 Off

Ford CTO Ken Washington at TC Sessions: Mobility on July 10

By Jill T Frey

A conference dedicated to transportation and mobility wouldn’t be complete without hearing from Ford, the U.S. automaker with a storied 116-year history.

We’re excited to announce that Ford CTO Ken Washington will participate in TechCrunch’s inaugural TC Sessions: Mobility, a one-day event on July 10, 2019 in San Jose, Calif., that’s bringing the best and brightest minds — founders, investors and technologists — who are determined to invent a future Henry Ford might never have imagined. Or maybe he did.

If there’s a person at Ford who can provide insight into where the company is headed, it’s Washington.

As CTO and vice president of Research and Advanced Engineering, Washington leads Ford’s worldwide research organization, oversees the development and implementation of the company’s technology strategy and plans and plays a key role in its expansion into emerging mobility opportunities.

Prior to joining Ford, he was vice president of the Advanced … Read the rest

May 20, 2019 Off

Millions of Instagram influencers had their private contact data scraped and exposed

By Jill T Frey

A massive database containing contact information of millions of Instagram influencers, celebrities and brand accounts has been found online.

The database, hosted by Amazon Web Services, was left exposed and without a password allowing anyone to look inside. At the time of writing, the database had over 49 million records — but was growing by the hour.

From a brief review of the data, each record contained public data scraped from influencer Instagram accounts, including their bio, profile picture, the number of followers they have, if they’re verified and their location by city and country, but also contained their private contact information, such as the Instagram account owner’s email address and phone number.

Security researcher Anurag Sen discovered the database and alerted TechCrunch in an effort to find the owner and get the database secured. We traced the database back to Mumbai-based social media marketing firm Chtrbox, which pays influencers … Read the rest

May 20, 2019 Off

Daily Crunch: Huawei faces Android ban

By Jill T Frey

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Huawei responds to Android ban with service and security guarantees, but its future is unclear

Google is complying with a federal directive that placed Huawei and 70 of its affiliates on an “entity list,” meaning that any U.S. company needs government approval before doing business with the Chinese tech company.

In response, Huawei said today that it will continue to provide security updates and after-sales support to its existing lineup of Android smartphones. Still, what the company didn’t say will probably spark concerns.

2. TikTok owner ByteDance’s long-awaited chat app is here

The new app is called Feiliao, or Flipchat in English, a hybrid of an instant messenger plus interest-based forums, and it’s currently available … Read the rest

May 20, 2019 Off

Apply for a free Startup Alley Exhibitor spot at Disrupt SF 2019

By Jill T Frey

Do you love the word “free?” Of course, you do — what early-stage startup founder doesn’t? Consider this your personal invitation for a chance to exhibit your pre-Series A startup for free in Startup Alley at Disrupt San Francisco 2019 on October 2-4.

We’re searching for exceptional startups to apply for our TC Top Picks program. Our cadre of Top Picks will receive the VIP treatment and invaluable exposure to potential customers, investors and media. Fill out the application today; it’s quick and easy and it doesn’t cost a thing.

Applying may be easy, but our selection process is competitive. TechCrunch editors vet each application, and they’ll choose up to five startups in these categories: AI/Machine Learning, Biotech/Healthtech, Blockchain, Fintech, Mobility, Privacy/Security, Retail/E-commerce, Robotics/IoT/Hardware, SaaS and Social Impact & Education.

If you’re selected, you’ll get a free Startup Alley Exhibition Package good for one full day of exhibiting in … Read the rest

May 20, 2019 Off

China overtakes US in smart speaker market share

By Jill T Frey

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 place behind Amazon’s 4.6 million and … Read the rest

May 20, 2019 Off

Glass graduates from Alphabet’s X as it scores new hardware update

By Jill T Frey

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 … Read the rest

May 20, 2019 Off

Y Combinator promotes Geoff Ralston to president, while Sam Altman shifts to advisor role

By Jill T Frey

Two months ago, when Sam Altman surprised the industry by stepping away from his post as the president of Y Combinator to become the CEO of OpenAI, an artificial intelligence-focused company, TechCrunch was told there were no plans to replace Altman.

Apparently, there were no immediate plans. This morning, the popular accelerator program and investment firm is announcing that it has promoted longtime partner Geoff Ralston to president.

It’s an unsurprising choice for YC, an organization that employs roughly 60 people, many of whom have been affiliated with it in one way or another for years. When its founders, Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston, first looked for someone to lead the rocket ship they had built, they quickly identified Altman, who was part of the first class of Y Combinator and who later helped them advise YC startups.

Similarly, Graham has known Ralston for 20 years; they met at … Read the rest

May 20, 2019 Off

MIT and US Air Force team up to launch AI accelerator

By Jill T Frey

The Pentagon is one of the largest technology customers in the world, purchasing everything from F-35 planes (roughly $90 million each) to cloud services (the JEDI contract was $10 billion). Despite outlaying hundreds of billions of dollars for acquisitions though, the Defense Department has struggled to push nascent technologies from startups through its punishing procurement process.

The department launched the Defense Innovation Unit a few years back as a way to connect startups into the defense world. Now, the military has decided to work even earlier to ensure that the next generation of startups can equip the military with the latest technology.

Cambridge, Mass.-based MIT and the U.S. Air Force announced today they are teaming up to launch a new accelerator focused on artificial intelligence applications, with the Air Force committed to investing $15 million into roughly 10 MIT research projects per year. The accelerator will be called … Read the rest

May 20, 2019 Off

Why startups need to be careful about export licenses and the Huawei ban

By Jill T Frey

America is the land of free trade … precisely until it is not. Through a thicket of laws and regulations, the U.S. government has broad control over what can get exported to whom, particularly in areas with sensitive technology or national security concerns. In general, those restrictions are loose, which is why startups mostly haven’t had to think about export laws.

That open world is rapidly closing though, and startups could well be the most harmed given that they have limited resources to handle these sorts of bureaucratic processes and the potential large penalty fines.

Last week, President Trump signed an executive order requiring that the Department of Commerce initiate a review of regulations and enforcement practices to ensure that U.S. entities (people and companies) don’t provide “information and communications technology or services” to a “foreign adversary.” That term was read as describing China, although nothing in the order … Read the rest