Day: June 6, 2019

June 6, 2019 Off

How Amazon’s delivery robots will navigate your sidewalk

By Jill T Frey

Earlier this year, Amazon announced its Scout sidewalk delivery robot. At the time, details were sparse, except for the fact that the company had started to make deliveries in a neighborhood in Washington State. Today, at Amazon’s re:Mars conference, I sat down with Sean Scott, the VP in charge of Scout, to talk about how his team built the robot, how it finds its way around and what its future looks like.

These relatively small blue robots could be roaming a sidewalk near you soon, though as of now, Amazon isn’t quite ready to talk about when and where it will expand its network from its single neighborhood to other areas.

“For the last decade, we’ve invested billions of dollars in cargo planes and delivery vans, fulfillment center robots, and last holiday period, we shipped over a billion products with Prime free shipping,” Scott told me. “So it’s my … Read the rest

June 6, 2019 Off

Original Content podcast: Director Grant Sputore explains how ‘I Am Mother’ draws from real-world robots

By Jill T Frey

When I first watched the new Netflix Original film “I Am Mother,” I assumed that the robotic Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne) was a CG creation. How else could you create a robot that looked so inhuman, and that could also run around the film’s post-apocalyptic environments so gracefully?

But in a bonus interview for the Original Content podcast, director Grant Sputore estimated that 99 percent of the shots of Mother are completely practical, consisting of nothing more than a person wearing “a fancy bit of costume.”

“It’s both a budgetary thing, because we knew how we were planning to make the film — but also, we’re children of ‘80s and ‘90s cinema,” Sputore said. “So we worship at the altar of ‘Robocop’ and ‘Predator’ and the first ‘Terminator’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ and all of Stan Winston’s work, which is most of those movies … It’s for our own … Read the rest

June 6, 2019 Off

A backdoor in Optergy tech could remotely shut down a smart building ‘with one click’

By Jill T Frey

Homeland Security has given the maximum severity score for a vulnerability in a popular smart building automation system.

Optergy’s Proton allows building owners and managers to remotely monitor energy consumption and manage who can access the premises. The box is web-connected, and connects to other devices — like air conditioning and heating — in the building for real-time monitoring through a web interface.

CISA, the government’s dedicated cybersecurity unit, said the device had serious vulnerabilities.

An advisory said an attacker could gain “full system access” through an “undocumented backdoor script.” This, the advisory said, could allow the attacker to run commands on a vulnerable device with the highest privileges. Backdoors typically grant hidden or undocumented access to a system, and can be used for tech support to remotely login and troubleshoot issues. But if found by an attacker, backdoors can also be used maliciously.

The vulnerability required a “low level” … Read the rest

June 6, 2019 Off

The Ticket Fairy is tech’s best hope against Ticketmaster

By Jill T Frey

Ticketmaster’s dominance has led to ridiculous service fees, scalpers galore and exclusive contracts that exploit venues and artists. The moronic approval of venue operator and artist management giant Live Nation’s merger with Ticketmaster in 2010 produced an anti-competitive juggernaut. It pressures venues to sign ticketing contracts under veiled threat that artists would otherwise be routed to different concert halls. Now it’s become difficult for venues, artists and fans to avoid Ticketmaster, which charges fees as high as 50% that many see as a ripoff.

The Ticket Fairy wants to wrestle away from Ticketmaster control of venues while giving fans ways to earn tickets for referring their friends. The startup is doing that by offering the most technologically advanced ticketing platform that not only handles sales and check-ins, but acts as a full-stack Salesforce for concerts that can analyze buyers and run ad campaigns while thwarting scalpers. Co-founder Ritesh Patel says … Read the rest

June 6, 2019 Off

Zoom outperforms in first-ever earnings report

By Jill T Frey

2019 is a great year for Zoom (Nasdaq: ZM). The company outperformed analyst expectations with the release of its first earnings report on Thursday.

The profitable video communications business, which went public this April in one of the year’s most successful initial public offerings, posted revenues of $122 million for the three months ended April 30, 2019, representing a year-over-year increase of 109%.

The Zoom stock is rising in after-hours trading following the news. Zoom closed up 2% Thursday at just over $79 per share. The stock has been trading at more than double its initial offering price in the two months following its IPO.

“In our first quarter as a public company, strong execution and expanding adoption of Zoom’s video-first unified communications platform drove total revenue growth of 103% year-over-year,” Zoom founder and chief executive officer Eric Yuan said in a statement. “Delivering happiness to our customers is our … Read the rest

June 6, 2019 Off

AT&T’s WarnerMedia might be punting on its original streaming service plans

By Jill T Frey

WarnerMedia’s plans for a three-tiered streaming service appear to be in flux. The AT&T-owned company is reportedly scrapping that idea and opting instead to offer HBO, Cinemax and the library of Warner Bros. content in a single subscription service that would cost between $16 and $17 a month, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources.

The service would first be offered as a beta product later this year and could be offered broadly as early as next March.

TechCrunch will update the article if WarnerMedia responds to a request for comment.

This latest development follows a number of changes over at WarnerMedia, including the departure of HBO CEO Richard Pleper and Turner president David Levy.

Former NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt has joined as chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer, putting him in charge of HBO, TBS, truTV and the WarnerMedia streaming service.

AT&T first opened up Read the rest

June 6, 2019 Off

Zoox co-founder Jesse Levinson is coming to TC Sessions: Mobility

By Jill T Frey

Autonomous vehicle startup Zoox has a history of keeping its progressive plans to itself. But that’s starting to change.

The venture-backed company that is creating ground-up fully autonomous electric vehicles is ready to share a bit more about its tech, strategy and plans. And who better to talk to than co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson, the person who oversees the company’s software, artificial intelligence, computing and sensing platforms.

We’re excited to announce that Levinson will join us onstage at TC Sessions: Mobility on July 10 in San Jose. TechCrunch will discuss with Levinson the tech that is driving the company’s autonomous vehicles, recent changes at Zoox — including its new CEO Aicha Evans, challenges facing the company and its deployment plans.

Levinson is among a group of insiders who participated in early government-backed competitions aimed at pushing the development of autonomous vehicles. While completing a computer science PhD … Read the rest

June 6, 2019 Off

Is there potential for blockchain in copyright and licensing applications?

By Jill T Frey

By all accounts, we appear to be in the early stages of a classic “hype cycle” about the potential for uses of blockchain technology. Careful analysts need to filter out that noise, but, as with all technology bubbles, there are blockchain skeptics, and blockchain enthusiasts.

I am somewhere in the middle — currency speculation, in my opinion, is nothing but a big distraction; it is improving information services that I am interested in. And I’m most interested in technologies that show … Read the rest

June 6, 2019 Off

Voatz has raised $7 million in Series A funding for its mobile voting technology

By Jill T Frey

Voatz, the four-year-old, Boston, Mass.-based voting and citizen engagement platform that has been at the center of debate over the merits and dangers of mobile voting, has raised $7 million in Series A funding. The round was co-led by Medici Ventures and Techstars, with participation from Urban Innovation Fund and Oakhouse Partners.

Voatz, which currently employs 17 people, is modeled after other software-as-a-service companies but geared toward election jurisdictions, working with state and local governments to conduct elections and provide related election management and cybersecurity services.

As we reported back in March, the city of Denver agreed to implement a mobile voting pilot in its May municipal election using Voatz’s technology, an opportunity that was offered exclusively to active-duty military, their eligible dependents and overseas voters using their smartphones.

The company hasn’t yet shared how many people wound up using the platform. As Voatz co-founder and CEO Nimit Sawhney … Read the rest

June 6, 2019 Off

The 10 benefits and policies any modern workplace should have

By Jill T Frey

Want to attract (and retain) top talent, making your company’s workforce more competitive and cutting down on turnover costs to boot? The simplest way to do so starts with the benefits and policies you offer to employees.

We already know that benefits play a major hand in how candidates evaluate a job offer. One recent survey conducted by Fairygodboss, the largest career community for women, in partnership with Extend Fertility, found that 87% of professional women say a benefits package is important or very … Read the rest