Technology

Technology

Ziro’s robotics kit for kids now works with Alexa

[embedded content] Ziro is a nifty programmable robotics kit for kids that had a successful Indiegogo campaign last year. And the company behind it, ZeroUI, is still adding new features. By default, Ziro kits come with a smart glove to control your robots. You can use the mobile app to configure gestures based on hand movements. For instance, if you tilt your hand forward, it can make a car go forward. Ziro now also works with Alexa. You can configure voice actions to control your robot. For instance, you can ask your robot to wave at you and the robot will wave its arm. If ZeroUI manages to sell enough Ziro kits, a community of builders could pop up and share robot designs. It would be nice if you could follow a guide on an online forum to build a dinosaur or a dancing robot using cardboa...

Coinbase hires a new VP of Operations to lead its customer service effort

Coinbase just announced they’re hiring Tina Bhatnagar as VP of Operations and Technology to lead all operational teams at Coinbase and GDAX. But perhaps most relevant right now is the fact that her responsibilities will include overseeing the fast growing startup’s customer service division. It’s no secret that Coinbase is in need of some help with it comes to support and customer service. The company has struggled to handle both technical and customer support operations during the massive spikes in price, new users, and transactions over the last few months. Tina Bhatnagar But Coinbase isn’t blind to these shortfalls, and about six months ago unveiled a plan to revamp their customer service experience and roll out phone support and shorter response times. They also recently hired Asiff Hi...

YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV now have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, says report

Hulu and YouTube are battling for subscribers for their respective live TV streaming services, according to a CNBC report out this morning, which says that Hulu Live has grown to 450,000 paying subscribers and YouTube TV has just over 300,000. Both are still trailing competitors including Dish’s Sling TV, which has more than 2 million estimated subscribers, and AT&T’s DirecTV Now, which just hit 1 million. Of course, DirecTV Now has benefitted from AT&T promotions that allowed customers tack on the streaming TV service to their mobile plan for $10 per month, as well as those where it doled out free HBO. That’s given it an edge in growing its base. Meanwhile, Dish’s Sling TV has been around longer than the others – it opened up to users back in early 2015. YouTube TV and Hulu Live T...

Letgo takes on Craigslist with addition of housing listings

Everyone wants to be the Craigslist killer. In November, Facebook expanded its Marketplace section to include partners’ housing rentals alongside secondhand merchandise, and today the number three shopping app letgo is doing the same. The company says that, starting today, its tens of millions of users can now quickly snap a few photos and add a description to list a housing rental or sale on its app. The app, which has over 75 million downloads to date, is one of the top apps in its category, today only falling behind Amazon and Wish in the iOS App Store’s Top Free Shopping section. ComScore also recently pegged the app as the second fastest-growing in the U.S., in its 2017 Mobile App Report, putting it ahead of Lyft, Venmo and others based on monthly traffic growth. Letgo competes not on...

Photos purportedly showcase the Xbox Watch that never was

It probably goes without saying that Microsoft, along with the rest of the tech world, was working on a smartwatch. And while, by some accounts, the category is finally having its moment, the software giant’s efforts didn’t appear to make it to far beyond the prototype stage. New photos posted by a Twitter user and spotted by Windows Central purport to show the company’s abandoned effort. Similar images popped up late last year, but these actually show the thing powered on, betraying the same fitness focus that dominated the company’s abandoned Band wearables line. The device appears to be in line with the one the company was said to be testing internally a few years back. Designed by part of the Xbox hardware team, the hardware has a 1.5-inch display and support for heart rate monitoring....

Uber rival Cabify has raised another $160M at a $1.4B valuation

Cabify, the Madrid-based startup that competes with the likes of Uber and 99 in Latin America as well as the Iberian peninsula, has closed out another round of funding as competition continues to heat up in the on-demand transportation sector. Cabify’s parent company Maxi Mobility has raised $160 million at a valuation of $1.4 billion, the company confirmed to TechCrunch today. The Series E comes from a mix of previous and new investors including Rakuten Capital, TheVentureCity, Endeavor Catalyst, GAT Investments, Liil Ventures, WTI as well as prominent local investors form Spain and Latin America.  It’s not clear how the valuation in this round compares to Maxi’s previous valuation. In May last year, Maxi Mobility, which also includes the Brazil-HQ’d Easy Taxi business acquired from Rocke...

New study predicts Atlanta has best shot at becoming Amazon’s HQ2

A demographic and place data firm has ranked Amazon’s HQ2 top 20 picks across a number of factors to predict which city the tech giant will choose for its new headquarters. The firm, Sperling BestPlaces, has had a fairly good track record with its prior picks – 15 of its top 20 picks made Amazon’s short list, including its top 11. This time around, it’s putting Atlanta, Georgia at the top of its list, followed by other areas in the Eastern U.S. 238 cities across North America had submitted proposals to Amazon in an attempt to lure the company to their area. Amazon’s $5 billion second headquarters will bring 50,000 jobs averaging more than $100,000 to the winning market over the next 10 to 15 years. The decision will likely have a trickle-down effect on the area, too, as Amazon employees ex...

DJI’s latest drone leaks ahead of launch

DJI is supposed to announce a new drone tomorrow but this appears to be it. Called the Mavic Air, the small drone looks to be a combo of foldable Mavic Pro and the affordable Spark. I’m interested. According to DroneDJ, the small drone will have four foldable legs, a 4k camera, 3-way gimbal and a obstacle-avoidance system. But what about the price and range? DJI will likely reveal those details at the event tomorrow morning. This product seems to be what most people would want out of a small drone. The Spark, while one of the best inexpensive drones on the market, leaves a lot to be desired and this drone, the Mavic Air, seems to address most of them with foldable wings and 3-axis gimbal. Hopefully the Mavic Air is not a new product but a replacement for the Spark as the DJI product line i...

GM launches a new dedicated tech center in Canada

GM has opened a new Canadian Technical Centre (CTC) in Markham, Ontario just outside of Toronto, in a brand new building capable of supporting 1,000 employees at its full target capacity, including 700 dedicated engineers. The facility will support work done on GM’s advanced driver assistance features, its fully autonomous vehicle program, and infotainment center design and improvements – but the real story of this and other CTC facilities that GM is building is how it reflects the changing values and identity of the century-old automaker. This is just the latest of GM’s tech-focused facilities in Canada, which also include a tech center in nearby Oshawa; an innovation lab in Kitchener-Waterloo, with easy access to the University of Waterloo and its world-renowned engineering grads; and an...

Facebook expands ‘Community Boost’ digital skills training program to Europe

Facebook has announced it’s expanding a free training program that teaches Internet-skills, media literacy and online safety to Europe. It says its “ambition” is to train 300,000 people across six EU countries by 2020 — specifically in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Poland. It also says it will be opening “digital learning centers” in three of the countries — Spain, Italy, and Poland — as part of the program (though it’s not yet clear where exactly the three centers will be located). The company says the training will generally be offered to “underrepresented groups”. It’s not entirely clear what that means but Facebook points to a Berlin school it set up last year, in partnership with the ReDI School of Digital Integration, which teaches classes ­such as coding and professional...

Anorak scores £4M funding to make life insurance more accessible

VCs continue to pump money into startups attempting to inject life into the legacy and lucrative insurance industry. The latest ‘insurtech’ company to pick up funding in the U.K. is Anorak Technologies, which is on a self-described mission to “build the world’s smartest independent insurance adviser,” starting with life insurance. The London-based startup has raised £4 million in seed funding from Kamet Ventures, the €100 million-backed incubator set up by insurance giant AXA. Anorak says it will use the new capital to invest in the platform, including taking advantage of Open Banking, and for business development, such as forging partnerships with banks, wealth managers, and online brokers. Like almost every other insurance startup, Anorak is talking up its use of data science and machine...

D-ID nabs $4M to protect images from being read by facial recognition algorithms

As people become more aware of how their data is used — and abused — in our digital world; and regulations (like GDPR in Europe) are leading more organizations to implement better data protection policies, a startup that is hoping to protect that data found in images — by making it impossible for algorithms to read it — has raised a seed round to help it bring its services to market. D-ID, a startup based out of Tel Aviv that has built tools to block facial recognition algorithms from  “reading” photos and videos, has closed out a seed round of $4 million. Its investors include Pitango Venture Capital (which led), Foundation Capital, Fenox Venture Capital, Maverick Ventures, and two angels. Y Combinator, where D-ID was in a cohort earlier this year, also participated. D-ID taps into what i...