Technology

Technology

Mario Bear has come to save 2017

It’s been a long year – it feels like it actually spanned about 50, in fact. But now, at the end, some relief: Mario Bear. Yes, it’s just a bear from Build-A-Bear Workshop. And a ‘brand collaboration,’ that horrific thing that usually just means some executives get a larger Christmas bonus and more people are convinced to part with their hard-earned money for something they don’t need. But this is a Mario Bear. There’s also a Yoshi. And a Bowser. And a Toad. And a Luigi costume in case you want your bear to represent one of Nintendo’s slightly less appreciated protagonists. And a Princess Peach costume so you can prep your bear for far-flung adventuring (play Super Mario Odyssey if you don’t get this reference). 25632x 25633x 25663x 25655x Nintendo also licensed BAB (do people call it that...

Lily raises $2M from NEA and others for a personal stylist service that considers feelings, not just fit

One of the reasons recently IPO’d Stitch Fix became so popular among female shoppers is because of how it pairs the convenience of home try-on for clothing and accessories with a personal styling service that adapts to your tastes over time. But often, personal stylists bring their own subjective takes on fashion to their customers. A new startup called Lily aims to offer a more personalized service that takes into account not just what’s on trend or what looks good, but also how women feel about their bodies and how the right clothing can impact those perceptions. The company has now closed on $2 million in seed funding from NEA and other investors to further develop its technology, which today involves an iOS application, web app and API platform that retailers can integrate with their o...

Fanchest raises $4M in seed funding to become the best gift for sports fans

Here’s a great present for a sports fan this holiday season: Fanchest is a Brooklyn-based startup that curates and sends team-themed gift boxes as gift. The boxes start at $59 and include about $80 worth of apparel and gear from whatever pro or college team you choose. Today the startup has announced $4M in seed funding with a diverse group of investors like New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, Founder and CEO of the Drone Racing League Nick Horbaczeswki and more traditional VC funds like GoAhead Ventures and Connected VC. This brings them to $5.4M in total funding since starting the company in 2015. While you won’t know what exactly is in each chest before you buy it, boxes typically include a few pieces of apparel and other themed items like Te...

Aurora Flight Sciences demonstrates a fully autonomous helicopter in action

Aurora Flight Sciences is a company working on making full-scale autonomous combat craft a reality, and now some of its work is ready for prime time. The company showed off an autonomous helicopter created to demonstrate its Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System contribution for the Office of Naval Research’s ongoing work in the field, and it successfully navigated a UH-1H helicopter from start to finish through a mission in which it’s loaded up by Marines and then navigates through the air to another who makes the request for supplies on a tablet – kind of like ordering an Uber. The autonomous piloting system is deigned to be aircraft-agnostic (for vertical take-off and landing vehicles, specifically), meaning it’ll work with vehicles other than the UH-1H light transport helicopter used ...

Why content crowdfunder Patreon is halting its hated fee change

Overhauling the creative economy turns out to be quite tricky. Following massive backlash, Patreon is at least temporarily pausing its plan to change its payment processing fee structure on December 18th from charging creators 2%-10% on the first of the next month to charging patrons 2.9% plus $0.35 per transaction up front and on the monthly anniversary of their first pledge beyond the 5% Patreon takes. “We messed up. We’re sorry, and we’re not rolling out the fees change” CEO Jack Conte writes. He tells me “We got in the way of the creators and their fans.” The subscription content crowdfunding company’s goal was to prevent patrons from being able to sign up and get access to exclusive content and then cancel their subscription before paying on the first of the next month, and to avoid u...

Google Assistant is coming to older Android phones and tablets

The Google Assistant, Google’s take on Siri, Cortana and Alexa without the approachable name, has long been available on most modern phones and tablets. But given the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem, many older devices will never get the newer versions of Android that actually feature built-in support for the Assistant. Now, however, Google is bringing support for its voice-activated helper to phones running Android 5.0 Lollipop and tablets running Android 7.0 Nougat and 6.0 Marshmallow. Lollipop launched back in 2014, so we’re talking about a rather old phone operating system here (Android 8.1 is now standard on Google’s own Pixel phones), but according to Google, over 26 percent of all Android devices still run some version of Android 5.0 Lollipop. Just over 30 percent run Android...

Commission Impossible, part two: How enemies gathered around net neutrality

One would think that the classification of internet providers as telecoms or not, and which federal agency has authority over them, is about as in the weeds as it gets. But it is a symptom of the times in which we live that no issue, however technical, provincial, or jurisdictional, can escape being swept up in the eternal hurricane of partisan politics. The FCC’s masterstroke in 2015, the lead-up to which formed the first article in this series, made a lot of people very angry. It angered the broadband industry, as you might expect, for several reasons. For one thing, decades of legal maneuvering to keep regulations light (or failing that, to switch regulators) were being nullified. This was a worst case scenario: not only were they being classified as telecoms, with all the headaches tha...

Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso just raised venture funding for her new company

Sophia Amoruso famously founded the retailer Nasty Gal, growing it from an Ebay store that sold vintage items to a darling of the fashion world that was seeing more than $300 million in sales at one point. Somewhere along the way, however, Nasty Gal lost its way. After raising $65 million over its ten years of operation — including from Index Ventures and renowned retail executive Ron Johnson — the company last November filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the Central District of California, in part to address “immediate liquidity issues.” The company was ultimately acquired for $20 million in February. In the meantime, Amoruso, who’d stepped away as CEO of Nasty Gal in January of 2016 but had remained on as executive chairman, is on to a new business, and now it’s venture-backed....

Pepsi one-ups Budweiser brewer by ordering 100 Tesla electric semi trucks

PepsiCo is the latest company to reveal that it’s placed orders for Tesla’s forthcoming electric semi-truck – and also the company with the largest order so far. The beverage company has ordered 100 of the trucks per Reuters, meaning it’s placed at least a $20,000 deposit for each of those since Tesla rose the downpayment amount for its original $5,000 starting point. PepsiCo is actually the second large beverage concern this week to announce its intent to purchase some of Tesla’s all-electric Class 8 heavy duty towing vehicles; Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch revealed earlier that it has put down money for 40 Tesla Semis. Tesla is seeing a lot of pre-order interest already, from major fleet operators including Walmart, Canadian grocery chain Loblaws and many more. The amounts are, however...

Geminids meteor shower could be the year’s best, scientists say

Skywatchers are in for a dazzling show tonight. The annual Geminid meteor shower that will streak across the night sky will be one of the best of the year, scientists say. The Geminid meteors are expected to peak overnight. With good weather conditions, the cosmic display can be seen between 7:30 p.m. and dawn local time. The largest number of meteors will be visible between midnight and 4 a.m. local time, according to NASA. “With August’s Perseids obscured by bright moonlight, the Geminids will be the best shower this year,” said Bill Cooke with NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “The thin, waning crescent Moon won’t spoil the show.” Considered one of the year’s most reliable meteor showers, the Geminids occur every December when Earth pas...

Payments startup iZettle raises $47M at a $950M valuation

iZettle — the payments startup based out of Stockholm that competes against companies like Square, Paypal and SumUp to provide card transactions using smartphones and tablets as well as related accounting services — has raised another €40 million ($47 million), money that CEO and co-founder Jacob de Geer told TechCrunch would be used to expand into more markets beyond the 12 where it currently operates in Europe and Latin America. The company declined to disclose its valuation, which last was at €500 million (about $584 million) in its Series D. “It’s absolutely an upround,” De Geer said in an interview. “We tend to have an internal saying that the valuation of the company is the sum of all the problems that we solved, and we’ve solved millions of those so the valuation should be in line w...

Here’s what people were Googling in 2017

There are few metrics in the world that offer as much insight into our society as Google’s annual “Year in Search.” More than any of the other year-end download and streaming roundups, Google’s offers a clear snapshot of the things that captured our imaginations and baffled us during what felt like a particularly turbulent year. Here in the U.S., the top overall searches cover a pretty wide range of the human experience, running the gamut from natural phenomenon, to sports, to human tragedy, to the sexual misconduct allegations that have been echoing across a wide range of industries in recent months. Hurricanes Irma and Harvey took the first and eighth spots in the Top 10, and August’s much-hyped solar eclipse came in at No. 7. The October shooting in Las Vegas that ended in 59 deaths was...