Category: United States

June 10, 2019 Off

Vuzix smart glasses get automatic facial recognition designed for law enforcement

By Jill T Frey

This is one of those “I’m not surprised but I am slightly terrified” moments in tech development: Enterprise smart glasses company Vuzix announced Monday that it has developed new “fully autonomous” face recognition software in partnership with software developer NNTC.

The new solution will work with Vuzix’s Blade smart glasses, which debuted at CES earlier this year and are positioned as both an enterprise and a consumer product. It’s called iFalcon Face Control Mobile, which is a mouthful, and it’s billed as an “AI-powered” solution that promises local matching against a database stored on-device on a wearable computer that pairs with a headset.

It’s intended to be used with set databases, and is ideal for “law enforcement and security guards on patrol,” according to a press release detailing the news. It can find up to 15 faces per frame in less than one second, according to the spec sheet, and … Read the rest

June 10, 2019 Off

Google Assistant comes to Waze navigation app

By Jill T Frey

Ever since Google acquired Waze back in 2013, features from each have been slowly making their way back and forth between it and Google Maps — and today Waze gets a big upgrade with Google Assistant integration, which means you can use the smart voice companion within the app.

Google Assistant in Waze will provide access to your usual Assistant features, like playback of music and podcasts, but it’ll also offer access to many Waze-specific abilities, including letting you ask it to report traffic conditions, or specifying that you want to avoid tolls when routing to your destination.

Google has done a good job of rolling out support for Assistant in its own Android Auto in-car software, and even brought it to Google Maps on Apple’s competing CarPlay system earlier this year. The benefits of having Assistant work natively within Waze are many, but the number one might be … Read the rest

June 7, 2019 Off

On the road to self-driving trucks, Starsky Robotics built a traditional trucking business

By Jill T Frey

More than three years ago, self-driving trucks startup Starsky Robotics was founded to solve a fundamental issue with freight — a solution that CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher believes hinges on getting the human driver out from behind the wheel.

But a funny thing happened along the way. Starsky Robotics started a regular ol’ trucking company. Now, nearly half of the employees at this self-driving truck startup help run a business that uses the traditional model of employing human drivers to haul loads for customers, TechCrunch has learned.

Starsky’s trucking business, which has been operating in secret for nearly two years alongside the company’s more public pursuit of developing autonomous vehicle technology, has hauled 2,200 loads for customers. The company has 36 regular trucks that only use human drivers to haul freight. It has three autonomous trucks that are driven and supported by a handful of test drivers. Starsky also employs a … Read the rest

June 7, 2019 Off

Fintech platform Synapse raises $33M to build ‘the AWS of banking’

By Jill T Frey

Synapse, a San Francisco-based startup that operates a platform enabling banks and fintech companies to easily develop financial services, has closed a $33 million Series B to develop new products and go after international expansion.

The investment was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from existing backers Trinity Ventures and Core Innovation Capital . Synapse — which recently rebranded (slightly) from “SynapseFi” — announced a $17 million Series A back in September 2018, so this deal takes it to $50 million raised to date.

The startup was founded in 2014 by Bryan Keltner and India-born CEO Sankaet Pathak, who came to the U.S. to study but grew frustrated at the difficulty of opening a bank account without U.S. social security history. Inspired by his struggles, Synapse, which operated under the radar prior to that Series A deal, is focused on democratizing financial services.

Its approach to doing that is … Read the rest

June 7, 2019 Off

NASA declares International Space Station ‘open for business,’ including private astronaut visits

By Jill T Frey

At an event on Friday, NASA laid out its plans for making the International Space Station a hub for commercial activity in low Earth orbit. The agency has long planned to make the ISS a key anchor point for helping private business operate in space.

“We’re here because the International Space Station is now open for business,” NASA lead spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz said at the conference outset. Twenty companies joined NASA officials onstage to launch this new commercial ability and discuss the opportunities and plan.

Part of the plan includes allowing private astronauts to visit and stay on the ISS, traveling on U.S. vehicles. It also includes allowing private business activities to take place on the ISS, including “in-space manufacturing,” marketing activities, healthcare research “and more,” NASA says.

NASA articulated a five-part plan that it says “doesn’t conflict” with government and public sector use of the ISS, but that stands … Read the rest

June 6, 2019 Off

Protecting the integrity of US elections will require a massive regulatory overhaul, academics say

By Jill T Frey

Ahead of the 2020 elections, former Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos and his colleagues at Stanford University have unveiled a sweeping new plan to secure U.S. electoral infrastructure and combat foreign campaigns seeking to interfere in U.S. politics.

As the Mueller investigation into electoral interference made clear, foreign agents from Russia (and elsewhere) engaged in a strategic campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. elections. As the chief security officer of Facebook at the time, Stamos was both a witness to the influence campaign on social media and a key architect of the efforts to combat its spread.

Along with Michael McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia, and a host of other academics from Stanford, Stamos lays out a multi-pronged plan that incorporates securing U.S. voting systems, providing clearer guidelines for advertising and the operations of foreign media in the U.S. and integrating government action more closely with media and … Read the rest

June 5, 2019 Off

The Stanford connections behind Latin America’s multibillion-dollar startup renaissance

By Jill T Frey

The houses along the tree-lined blocks of Josina Avenue in Palo Alto, with their big back yards, swimming pools and driveways are about as far removed from the snarls of traffic, sputtering diesel engines, and smoggy air of South America’s major metropolises as one can get.

But it was in one of those houses, about a twelve-minute bicycle ride from Stanford University, that the seed was planted for what has become a renaissance in technology entrepreneurship in Latin America.

Back in 2010, when Adeyemi Ajao, Carlo Dapuzzo, and Juan de Antonio were students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business they could not predict that they would be counted among the vanguard of investors and entrepreneurs transforming Latin America’s startup economy.

At the time, Ajao was negotiating the sale of his first business, the Spanish social networking company, Tuenti, to Telefonica (in what would be a $100 million exit). Carlo Dapuzzo … Read the rest

June 4, 2019 Off

Tinder adds sexual orientation and gender identity to its profiles

By Jill T Frey

Tinder is adding to its profiles information about sexual orientation and gender identity.

The company worked with the LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD on changes to its dating app to make it more inclusive.

Users who want to edit or add more information about their sexual orientation can now simply edit their profile. When a Tinder user taps on the “orientation” selection they can choose up to three terms that describe their sexual orientation. Those descriptions can either be private or public, but will likely be used to inform matches on the app.

Tinder also updated the onboarding experience for new users so they can include their sexual orientation as soon as they sign up for the dating app.

Tinder is also giving users more control over how they order matches. In the “Discovery Preferences” field Tinderers can choose to first see people of the same orientation.

The company said … 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

June 3, 2019 Off

PropTech startup Kodit.io raises $13M to automate house buying and selling

By Jill T Frey

As anyone who has ever tried to buy or sell a home knows, the entire process can be the most stressful of one’s life. Traditional real estate agents rarely make the process any less stressful, leaving the industry ripe for disruption by tech companies which can automate many of the existing processes.

Startups like Offerpad in the US have done just this by becoming an on-demand, tech-enabled direct home buyer and seller, and raising as much as $155M in VC to achieve this. The market in Europe is less well developed, which is why it’s clearly interesting that Kodit.io, a Finnish Proptech company that gives homeowners a “stress-free way to quickly sell their homes for a fair price”, has announced the close of a €12M ($13.4M) venture round to fund expansion in Europe.

Investors include New York-based FJ Labs, Austrian Speedinvest and Spanish All Iron Ventures, as well as … Read the rest