Category: MIT

June 5, 2019 Off

MIT’s robot boats can self-assemble to build bridges, stages or even markets

By Jill T Frey

MIT researchers have created a new autonomous robot boat prototype — which they have named “roboats” to my everlasting glee — that can target and combine with one another Voltron-style to create new structures. Said structures could be bigger boats, but MIT is thinking a bit more creatively — it envisions a fleet of these being able to join up to form on-demand urban infrastructure, including stages for concerts, walking bridges or even entire outdoor markets.

The roboats would of course be able to act as autonomous water taxis and ferries, which could be particularly useful in a setting like Amsterdam, which is why MIT teamed up with Amsterdam’s Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions on this. Equipped with sensors, sub-aquatic thrusters, GPS, cameras and tiny computer brains, the roboats can currently follow a pre-determined path, but testing on newer 3D-printed prototypes introduced a level of autonomy that can accomplish a … Read the rest

June 4, 2019 Off

Ori Living partners with IKEA to bring robotic furniture to customers by 2020

By Jill T Frey

Welcome to the robotic bedroom of the future, coming in 2020 to tiny apartments beginning in Hong Kong and Japan, but expanding around the world.

IKEA is now selling robotic furniture that can convert from a storage and seating unit into a bed and closet — and back again.

The new line of furniture, based on the company’s PLATSA storage unit, is called ROGNAN and is designed to use space inside the home more efficiently, especially as housing units become smaller to accommodate the 1.5 million people who move to a city somewhere in the world every week, IKEA said in a statement.

“We have been working with developing small space living solutions for a long time, and we know that some of the biggest challenges in peoples’ homes are storage and finding the place to do all the activities that you’d want to do in your home,” said Seana … Read the rest

May 31, 2019 Off

Diving deep into Africa’s blossoming tech scene

By Jill T Frey

Jumia may be the first startup you’ve heard of from Africa. But the e-commerce venture that recently listed on the NYSE is definitely not the first or last word in African tech.

The continent has an expansive digital innovation scene, the components of which are intersecting rapidly across Africa’s 54 countries and 1.2 billion people.

When measured by monetary values, Africa’s tech ecosystem is tiny by Shenzen or Silicon Valley standards.

But when you look at volumes and year over year expansion in VC, startup formation, and tech hubs, it’s one of the fastest growing tech markets in the world. In 2017, the continent also saw the largest global increase in internet users—20 percent.

If you’re a VC or founder in London, Bangalore, or San Francisco, you’ll likely interact with some part of Africa’s tech landscape for the first time—or more—in the near future.

That’s why TechCrunch put together … Read the rest

May 28, 2019 Off

Aptiv’s Karl Iagnemma at TC Sessions: Mobility July 10 in San Jose

By Jill T Frey

Before automakers and giant tech companies kicked off their own autonomous vehicle pilots, a startup called nuTonomy launched a self-driving taxi service in Singapore for the public, not just its test engineers.

The AV industry took notice, and by October 2017 it was snapped up for $450 million by Aptiv, a U.S. auto supplier and self-driving software company formerly known as Delphi.

We’re excited to announce that Karl Iagnemma, co-founder of nuTonomy and now president of Aptiv Autonomous Mobility, will participate in TechCrunch’s inaugural TC Sessions: Mobility, a one-day event on July 10, 2019 in San Jose, Calif. centered around the future of mobility and transportation.

Iagnemma, who earned his MS and PhD degrees from MIT, co-founded nuTonomy in 2013. The former director of the Robotic Mobility Group at MIT has filed for, or been issued, 50 patents and published more than 150 technical publications and edited volumes … 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 19, 2019 Off

These Johns Hopkins students are slashing breast cancer biopsy costs

By Jill T Frey

Over 2 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. And while the diagnosis doesn’t have to be a death sentence for women in countries like the United States, in developing countries three times as many women die from the disease.

Breast cancer survival rates range from 80% or over in North America, Sweden and Japan to around 60% in middle-income countries and below 40% in low-income countries, according to data provided the World Health Organization.

And the WHO blames these low survival rates in less developed countries on the lack of early detection programs, which result in a higher proporation of women presenting with late-stage disease. The problem is exacerbated by a lack of adequate diagnostic technologies and treatment facilities, according to the WHO.

A group of Johns Hopkins University undergraduates believe they have found a solution. The four women, none of whom are over 21-years-old, … Read the rest

May 16, 2019 Off

Part fund, part accelerator, Contrary Capital invests in student entrepreneurs

By Jill T Frey

First Round Capital has both the Dorm Room Fund and the Graduate Fund. General Catalyst has Rough Draft Ventures. And Prototype Capital and a few other micro-funds focus on investing in student founders, but overall, there’s a shortage of capital set aside for entrepreneurs still making their way through school.

Contrary Capital, a soon-to-be San Francisco-based operation led by Eric Tarczynski, is raising $35 million to invest between $50,000 and $200,000 in students and recent college dropouts. The firm, which operates a summer accelerator program for its portfolio companies, closed on $2.2 million for its debut, proof-of-concept fund in 2018.

“We really care about the founders building a great company who don’t have the proverbial rich uncle,” Tarczynski, a former founder and startup employee, told TechCrunch. “We thought, ‘What if there was a fund that could democratize access to both world-class capital and mentorship, and really increase Read the rest

May 16, 2019 Off

Unveiling its latest cohort, Alchemist announces $4 million in funding for its enterprise accelerator

By Jill T Frey

The enterprise software and services-focused accelerator Alchemist has raised $4 million in fresh financing from investors BASF and the Qatar Development Bank, just in time for its latest demo day unveiling 20 new companies.

Qatar and BASF join previous investors, including the venture firms Mayfield, Khosla Ventures, Foundation Capital, DFJ and USVP, and corporate investors like Cisco, Siemens and Juniper Networks.

While the roster of successes from Alchemist’s fund isn’t as lengthy as Y Combinator, the accelerator program has launched the likes of the quantum computing upstart Rigetti, the soft-launch developer tool LaunchDarkly and drone startup Matternet .

Some (personal) highlights of the latest cohort include:

  • Bayware: Helmed by a former head of software-defined networking from Cisco, the company is pitching a tool that makes creating networks in multi-cloud environments as easy as copying and pasting.
  • MotorCortex.AI: Co-founded by a Stanford engineering professor and a Carnegie Mellon roboticist, the company
Read the rest
May 14, 2019 Off

Beyond costs, what else can we do to make housing affordable?

By Jill T Frey

This week on Extra Crunch, I am exploring innovations in inclusive housing, looking at how 200+ companies are creating more access and affordability. Yesterday, I focused on startups trying to lower the costs of housing, from property acquisition to management and operations.

Today, I want to focus on innovations that improve housing inclusion more generally, such as efforts to pair housing with transit, small business creation, and mental rehabilitation. These include social impact-focused interventions, interventions that increase income and mobility, and ecosystem-builders in housing innovation.

Nonprofits and social enterprises lead many … Read the rest

May 3, 2019 Off

Dear Hollywood, here are 5 female founders to showcase instead of Elizabeth Holmes

By Jill T Frey

There’s a seemingly insatiable demand for Theranos content. John Carreyrou’s best-selling book, “Bad Blood,” has already inspired an HBO documentary, The Inventor; an ABC podcast called The Dropout, a prestige limited series starring SNL’s Kate McKinnon, was just announced; and Jennifer Lawrence is reportedly going to star in the feature film version of this tawdry “true crime meets tech” tale. That’s before getting started on the various and sundry cover stories and think pieces about her fraud.

I think it’s fair to say the Theranos story has been sufficiently well-documented, and I’m worried that this negative perception may be reinforced now that … Read the rest