Thursday, March 22, 2018

Marc Raibert, Melonee Wise and more will be speaking at TC Sessions: Robotics May 11 at UC Berkeley

We’re gearing up for our big upcoming TC Sessions: Robotics event May 11 on the UC Berkeley campus, and we’ve got a lot to talk about. We’ve already announced Berkeley professors Pieter Abbeel and Robert Full, Android/Playground Global founder Andy Rubin and VCs Chrissy Meyer, Renata Quintini and Rob Coneybeer.

Here are a few more names we’re excited to tell you about.

Behind the big dog

Boston Dynamics may well be the buzziest robotics company of the last decade, courtesy of some viral videos and truly amazing machines. The MIT spin-off is best known for BigDog, the DARPA-funded robotic pack mule that captured the internet’s imagination with its ability to traverse rocky terrain and avoid being kicked over by even the most tenacious roboticist.

Marc Raibert, the company’s founder and president, will join us to talk about the company’s impressive army of ‘bots, including the bipedal Atlas, the agile Cheetah and the company’s most recent breakthrough, SpotMini, a lightweight electric robot capable of opening doors.

Raibert will be on-hand to demo one of the company’s ‘bots and discuss the creation of the company’s iconic robots.

Operating systems and agriculture

Of course, hardware is nothing without a good piece of software. Fetch Robotics CEO Melonee Wise will be sitting with Brian Gerkey and Morgan Quigley of Open Robotics to discuss their company’s work to build an open-source operating system for robotics.

We’ve also got a great panel featuring some of the biggest names the world of robotic agriculture. Dan Steere of Abundant, John Binney of Iron Ox, Sebastian Boyer of Farmwise and Willy Pell of Blue River will join us to discuss the ways in which robotics will transform the global food system.

We want to hear from your robotics company

And don’t forget, if you’ve got a robotics company, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to showcase it on our stage. If you’d like to be one of four early-stage robotics companies competing in our pitch-off, let us know here. We’re also looking for some cool robots for demos and some upcoming TechCrunch videos. If that sounds like a good fit, fill out this form here.

Early-bird tickets are on sale now. (Special 90 percent discount for students when you book here!)

If you’re interested in a sponsorship, contact us.

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Google Assistant can now help you transfer money to friends - CNET

The new ability is available on Android and iOS for Google Pay users. It will roll out to Google's smart speakers in the coming months.

GitLab adds support for GitHub

Here is an interesting twist: GitLab, which in many ways competes with GitHub as a shared code repository service for teams, is bringing its continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) features to GitHub.

The new service is launching today as part of GitLab’s hosted service. It will remain free to developers until March 22, 2019. After that, it’s moving to’s paid Silver tier.

GitHub itself offers some basic project and task management services on top of its core tools, but for the most part, it leaves the rest of the DevOps lifecycle to partners. GitLab offers a more complete CI/CD solution with integrated code repositories, but while GitLab has grown in popularity, GitHub is surely better known among developers and businesses. With this move, GitLab hopes to gain new users — and especially enterprise users — who are currently storing their code on GitHub but are looking for a CI/CD solution.

The new GitHub integration allows developers to set up their projects in GitLab and connect them to a GitHub repository. So whenever developers push code to their GitHub repository, GitLab will kick off that project’s CI/CD pipeline with automated builds, tests and deployments.

“Continuous integration and deployment form the backbone of modern DevOps,” said Sid Sijbrandij, CEO and co-founder of GitLab. “With this new offering, businesses and open source projects that use GitHub as a code repository will have access to GitLab’s industry leading CI/CD capabilities.”

It’s worth noting that GitLab offers a very similar integration with Atlassian’s BitBucket, too.

Instagram will show more recent posts due to algorithm backlash

Instagram isn’t quite bringing back the chronological feed but it will show more new posts and stop suddenly bumping you to the top of the feed while you’re scrolling. “With these changes, your feed will feel more fresh, and you won’t miss the moments you care about” Instagram writes. It should be more coherent to browse the app now that you won’t get bumped to to the top of your feed and lose your place because your feed randomly refreshes, and there shouldn’t be as many disparate time stamps to juggle. Instead, you’ll be able to manually push a “New Posts” button when you want to purposefully refresh the feed.

Instagram switched from a reverse chronological feed to a relevancy-sorted feed in June 2016, leading to lots of grumbling from hardcore users. While it made sure you wouldn’t miss the most popular posts from your close friends, showing days-old posts made Instagram feel stale. And for certain types of professional content creators and merchants, cutting their less likeable posts out of the feed — like their calls to buy their products or follow their other social accounts — was detrimental to their business.


We’ll have more commentary soon

Internet Association wants in on the lawsuit challenging Net Neutrality repeal

The Internet Association has filed to intervene in the on-going lawsuit against the FCC challenging the repeal of net neutrality protections.

The Internet Association is a trade association that represents some of the world’s biggest internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Dropbox, and Netflix. The IA’s motion focuses primarily on why the IA, and the companies it represents, should be able to participate in the lawsuit.

But let’s take a step back.

In December, the FCC voted 3-2 in favor of gutting Obama Administration-era protections against data throttling and blocking by ISPs. In other words, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon employee, and others at the FCC, believed that ISPs should be allowed to charge extra for a fast lane, which would stifle competition.

The order became official in February of this year, opening the door for the fight against the repeal to begin.

Between the vote and the official order, a lawsuit was filed by 22 state attorney generals, seeking to block the net neutrality repeal.

In March, the 9th Circuit consolidated these various challenges (15, in total) to the FCC’s repeal. The IA said earlier this year that it wouldn’t file a lawsuit as a plaintiff, but did plan to participate in the lawsuit.

According to the filing, the IA is focusing on three major areas: the removal of rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization distort competition and places the burden on consumers, the removal of well-established, bright line net neutrality rules harms internet companies’ ability to reach customers across the country, and the new rules harm future growth in the internet ecosystem as a whole.

Here’s what Internet Association President and CEO Michael Beckerman had to say in a prepared statement:

The internet industry will continue to fight for net neutrality protections that help consumers, foster innovation, and promote competition for the entire online ecosystem. The entire sector is committed to preserving an open internet and will continue to defend these protections in every venue available. This is also an issue that unites Republicans and Democrats in all 50 states.

On the other side of the coin, some industry groups that support the FCC’s repeal of Net Neutrality have also filed to intervene.

Bell & Ross creates a transparent tourbillon

It’s Spring and that means it’s time for Basel, the definitive international watch show. Around this time every year all of your favorite brands – and brands you’ve never heard of – launch unique timepieces that cost more than a few dozen Honda Accords and look like something made by a Doctor Manhattan during one of his less melancholy moments.

Today’s wild timepiece comes to use from Bell & Ross, makers of big square watches that look like aircraft dials. This new piece, called the BR-X1-Skeleton-Tourbillon-Sapphire, maintains the traditional B&R shape but is almost completely clear with a case made of sapphire and held together by pins and screws. The movement, which comes in three colors, is a complete hand-wound tourbillon system and is beautifully visible from all angles.

A tourbillon, for the uninitiated, is a system for rotating the watch’s balance wheel 360 degrees. This system, originally created by Breguet, ensured that a watch didn’t slow down when subjected to odd gravitational forces. Now, however, it’s a wildly expensive conversation starter.

This is a beautiful update to B&R’s original see-through watch and, while the vast majority of us will never own something like this, it’s nice to know that someone still cares about horological complexity paired with wild design. How much does it cost to own the watch equivalent of Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet? About $500,000. The piece, for those interested in picking one up, will be available online.

Google Assistant on phones now lets you send and receive money

“Hey Google, send Brian $15 for breakfast today.” Starting today, you can use this command to tell the Google Assistant on your phone to send money to people with Google Pay, the re-branded version of what you may still think of as Android Pay. And if Brian, as usual, forgets to pay you back, you can also say: “Hey Google, request $20 from Brian for breakfast today.”

For now, this feature is only available on phones, but Google tells us that it plans to offer the same functionality through its Google Home speakers in the coming months. One of the reasons for this is probably the fact that the phone offers a more secure process for authenticating who you are. On the phone, Google will ask for either a password or a fingerprint to make sure who are who you say you are. Google Home can already recognize different speakers, but for now, it’s unclear how Google will securely authenticate users there.

Since quite a few people probably don’t have Google Pay set up yet, the Assistant will walk you through the setup process when you first try this feature. Sending and receiving money through Google Pay is free.

Oculus Go: get up close with these 11 photos - CNET

It's our first real-world look at Facebook's $199 headset.

Lego 'Tron Legacy' set lets you build neon light cycle battles - CNET

Don't get derezzed, assemble your own piece of the "Tron" grid instead.

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Samsung's creepy TV ad hypnotizes you to forget a TV show - CNET

If you have 23 minutes and an open mind, Samsung promises a fresh binge-watch.

Twitch’s extensions come to mobile

Twitch’s extensions – the tools that allows streamers to customize their channel pages with interactive experiences, including leaderboards, polls, schedules, and more – are now available on mobile. The game streaming company announced this highly-requested feature at the Game Developers Conference this week, along with the launch of a web app for developers that will allow them to test extensions against production APIs across a variety of views – like the broadcaster’s live view, for example.

Extensions were first introduced to Twitch in August 2017 as a means of adding more excitement and interest to channel pages to keep fans engaged and, in some cases, to help streamers make more money. For instance, there’s an extension call “Gear on Amazon” that allow creators to point fans to their favorite products on the retailer’s website. When the viewer clicks through and purchases, the creator earns a commission.

That extension, not surprisingly, is today in the top five. The other top extensions include leaderboards from Streamlabs and Muxy, Streamlabs’ Stream Schedule and Countdown, and Twitch’s own Prime Subscription and Loot Reminder, which reminds viewers to use their free Channel Subscriptions on their pages to claim their loot.

However, not all extensions are immediately mobile-friendly, notes Twitch.

Instead, only a small handful have made the jump to mobile at this time.

This includes the all-in-one extension Streamlabs Loyalty, Music, Polls, and GamesSchedule (by LayerOne) which tells viewers when a channel is live; and World of Warcraft Armory (by Altoar), which shares World of Warcraft game and character progression with viewers.

Viewers can visit the Twitch feedback forums to request extensions’ mobile compatibility – something that’s up to the developer, not Twitch, as extensions are generally a third-party effort.

Since the launch last summer, the number of available extensions has grown to well over 100 – but Twitch thinks more developers would build if the process wasn’t so difficult.

On that front, Twitch also announced a new tool for developers building extensions with the launch of its developer rig. The company said it heard from developers that it was hard to get started building extensions, and extensions were difficult to test. The developer rig is essentially a web app that lets developers test extensions locally. The rig includes the new “Hello World” sample code, with a basic backend in place, so developers can focus on building out their unique experience instead.

A thriving developer community that can help make Twitch’s experience better for streamers and fans alike is one of Twitch’s competitive advantages versus rivals like YouTube Gaming and Microsoft Mixer. Though YouTube’s streamer base has been growing, any Twitch rival has a long way to go to catch up.

The mobile-friendly extensions are available across both iOS and Android, in the Twitch mobile app, version 6.0 or higher. The developer rig is open sourced on Github.