News Roundup: May 8

AR goes to school, Norwegian game shows and Congress, more legal and logistic challenges for ride-hailing services lead some to question Uber and Lyft ‘s futures, Apple Watch eclipses Fitbit, Fortem raises funds to hunt drones, Brexit potentially imperils the U.K.’s medical technology development and more in this week’s roundup.

Autonomous and connected vehicles

Uber agrees to pay $40K and will stop sending unsolicited text messages in Washington (Geekwire)
Uber will stop sending unsolicited texts and pay the Washington Attorney General’s Office $40,000. Beginning in 2014, the office received complaints from consumers about receiving texts (ranging from messages recruiting new drivers to messages intended for Uber drivers) from the company with no way to opt-out of receiving them, in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the Commercial Electronic Mail Act and the state’s Consumer Protection Act. This is not the end of legal challenges for Uber in the state, as Washington’s landmark legislation allowing Uber and Lyft drivers unionize continues to make its way through the court system.

One year after fleeing Austin, Uber and Lyft prepare a fresh invasion (Wired)
Though Austin voted for fingerprinting and other regulations that made Uber and Lyft pull out of the city , the two companies have been pushing legislation to remove fingerprinting requirements that recently passed the Texas House that could supersede Austin’s regulations. Though Austin’s DWI hit a five-year low in the six months following the vote and other services playing by its rules have filled the void, “the twin titans of the ridehailing world are on the verge of a comeback—not because Austin needs them, but because it may not be able to fend them off.”

Uber’s self-driving car ambitions live another day (USA Today)
In the initial court hearing on whether ex-Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski stole LiDAR technology and provided it to Uber, U.S. District Judge William Alsup did not issue a temporary injunction against Uber that would forced the company to stop testing its autonomous cars. The day ended without a decision from Alsup, but the case could still go to arbitration or go to a jury trial in the fall.

How self-driving cars could end Uber (The Wall Street Journal)
Christopher Mims predicts the technological disruption of autonomous cars could ultimately be the downfall of ride-hailing services. “Uber’s philosophy, both internally and in its pitch to consumers, is that it’s a hassle to own a car. The irony is, for the pay-by-the-ride future of transportation to be realized, someone has to own a lot of cars. Chances are, it won’t be Uber…The transportation-as-a-service revolution will depend on an incredibly costly infrastructure—one that doesn’t yet exist. Someone has to buy and maintain all the autonomous vehicles, enough to replace all of the cars driven (and usually owned) by Uber and Lyft drivers, not to mention many of the cars driven by you, me and countless others, too.”

Why ride-hailing services probably won’t survive as stand-alone businesses (Forbes)
Forbes writer Sam Abuelsamid discusses how cut-rate fares that don’t cover the cost of operations and bonuses used to cultivate driver networks are the main loss areas for ride-hailing services. He predicts that as they try to evolve from having no capital expense and assets to tens of billions of dollars worth in autonomous vehicles, they will be trading one problem for a potentially larger one. Abuelsamid predicts auto makers will build on what they have and begin offering similar services, while ride-hailing organizations will struggle to build autonomous cars from scratch, resulting in further losses and their eventual replacement.


Forget VR, Microsoft is all about 3D and mixed reality (CNET)
Microsoft recently unveiled its View Mixed Reality that lets users view MR displays with their laptop’s camera and display. View Mixed Reality will be included with any PC running Windows 10 S, a new version of Windows designed for classrooms. Microsoft will also be partnering with Pearson Education to bring its 3D and MR devices to the curriculum in 2018 with subjects including commerce, history and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Lenovo exec says VR/MR headset based on HoloLens tech is coming in time for back-to-school (Mobile Syrup)
Lenovo is working on a VR/MR headset set to release in time for the back-to-school shopping season, planning for their headset to be one of the first devices to utilize Windows’ Holographic operating system, similar to Microsoft’s HoloLens. TheHoloLens may also underprice Oculus Rift, with a price point as low as $300.

Representatives form VR/AR Caucus to boost budding technology (Wireless Week)
Members of the 115th Congress have formed the Congressional Caucus on Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality Technologies to learn more about and support emerging technologies. The caucus will be co-chaired by U.S. Representatives Bill Flores (R-Texas), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.).

How Mixed Reality is transforming the TV game show (Upload)
The new Norwegian game show Lost in Time is using VR, MR and green screens to imbue new life into game shows, with contestants interacting with props and virtual reality while viewers see the contestants completely immersed in the rendered worlds.

Avegant’s light-field tech gives hope to a mixed-reality future (Engadget)
Avegant has come up with a new way of generating light fields while using existing manufacturing techniques and supply chains, allowing the production of headsets that can better display multiple focal points at the same time (imitating the way people see the world) while not drastically increasing production costs.

Smart Living

Popular smart thermostat manufacturer Ecobee is bringing Alexa to its devices (Business Insider)
Ecobee introduced a new smart thermostat and smart light switch that will have Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant built in. These are eligible for pre-order, with the thermostat being released later this month and the light switch coming later in 2017.

Third parties have always been the key to Amazon’s smart home domination plans (Tech Crunch)
Evolving from its using hardware as a means to an end, Amazon has begun actively embracing and engage third-party hardware makers, recently joining with Conexant to announce the release of the AudioSmart Development Kit for Alexa Voice Service. It’s the second dev kit aimed at streamlining the process of bringing Alexa voice functionality to their devices. “The more the functionality is baked into third-party products, the less need users will have for their own standalone Echo devices. And that’s perfectly fine for Amazon…Amazon has done the hard work of getting Alexa out into the world. The next couple of years, the burden of follow through will be on the many hardware partners looking to the cash in on Alexa’s success.And on Apple and Google, who have a lot of catching up to do.”

C by GE Sol, a futuristic lamp with Alexa, will arrive in September (Slash Gear)
General Electric has announced that its C by GE smart lamp will be released in September for $199.99. It will be the the first light to come with Amazon Alexa. The circular lamp has a mild, soft light on its exterior that adjusts based on time of day as well as a blue interior light that can act as an indicator.

Robotics & drones

Abundant Robotics rakes in $10 million for apple harvesting robots (Tech Crunch)
GV is leading a $10 million investment in Abundant Robotics’ effort to hone its apple-picking robots and adapt them to harvest other fruit. BayWa AG, Tellus Partners and earlier backers Yamaha Motor Company, KPCB Edge and Comet Labs will also be providing funding support.

The tech giants of Silicon Valley are starting to rely on crime-fighting robots for security (Business Insider)
Knightscope robots have expanded their presence, patrolling parking lots, office buildings and malls with 19 clients across five US states, with varying results. One was attacked by a man, one was accused of rolling over a toddler’s foot, one helped identify and arrest a vandalism suspect and another has been reporting when someone is abusing a parking spot reserved for expectant mothers. Knightscope is eyeing an expansion to a college campus, a movie studio, and a law enforcement office later this year.

Govt mulls ways to spot bona fide or rogue drones (Business Standard India)
A year after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued rules for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs), the civil aviation and the home ministries are still discussing ways to put in a robust framework to regulate drones. According to the DGCA’s 2016 draft regulations, drone users need to have a permit and a unique identification number to use Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Fortem raises $5.5 million to hunt and take down unwanted drones (Tech Crunch)
Utah-based Fortem Technologies Inc. has raised $5.5 million in a new round of seed funding to keep the skies and people below safe from unwanted drones. The company says its compact radar makes its stand out from the crowd, enabling drones to detect fast-moving aircraft up to 3,000 meters away, ensuring that drones entering airspace stay well-clear from one another and manned aircraft (even traveling at 100 miles per hour). It also makes its own DroneHunter UAV which tracks the movement of aircrafts approaching, classifies what kind of vehicles they are and in the case of smaller drones, can net and tow them away or drop them with a parachute so they don’t land on anyone’s head. The demonstration video of them taking out other drones is well-worth the watch.


Fitbit ‘golden era’ is over as Apple Watch regains top spot in wearables after near two-year absence (CNBC)
Apple became the largest wearable vendor in the first quarter of 2017, overtaking struggling fitness tracker maker Fitbit, according to new research. Apple shipped 3.5 million Apple Watches, up from 2.2 million the year before, capturing 15.9 percent of the entire wearable market. The U.S. technology giant clinched the top spot for the first time since the third quarter of 2015.

Fitbit plans a new mobile payments-capable wearable device (Payment Week)
Fitbit is planning an upcoming wearable device that will come out with mobile payments capability, a first-of-its-kind advance for the company. The device is reported to be similar to the Blaze and is set to launch this fall for around $300. It will enable users to swipe the wristband in the direction of a payment terminal to make purchases once setup is complete.

Wearable Angels: Six stories of lifesaving wearable tech (Wearable)
Wearable offers six stories of wearable devices that helped save their user’s lives or otherwise protect them.

IoT & Big Data

Even Apple can’t make the Internet of Things tolerable (The Verge)
Internet of Shit discusses how IoT is being used by Apple to lock adapters into its operating system for the long-haul through Apple Home: “Voice is where the takes from Amazon and Google on the smart home really shine: you can control your home devices without being dependent on a smartphone. Apple can’t (but does) expect every man, woman, and child to have an iPhone or iPad with them at all times in the family home…Soon you’ll be choosing your smart home — like I did — based on the platform underneath, locking you to a bunch of devices that one filthy-rich company chose. And if you’re placing your bet on HomeKit, then you’ll be stuck with it and it alone for the long term, in a marketplace that’s evolving faster than Apple. Apple’s consumer lock-in is a smart play for its profit margin, but not for you or your home.”

Micron and Microsoft team up to harden Internet of Things security (Silicon Angle)
Micron Technology has joined forces with Microsoft to launch a new product called Micron Authenta to address cybersecurity challenges in IoT devices and sensors, integrating a “root of trust” into IoT hardware including Micron’s flash memory products built inside devices and sensors to establish trusted links between devices and Microsoft’s Azure IoT Cloud.

Walmart files patent for Amazon Dash rival (Fortune)
Walmart has applied for a patent to compete with Amazon Dash, according to data provider CB Insights. Filed in October, the patent would be the first of Walmart’s more than 800 patents and applications to focus on IoT and branches into shoppers’ homes.


Tempow turns your dumb Bluetooth speakers into a connected sound system (Tech Crunch)
French startup Tempow has been working on a new implementation of the Bluetooth protocol in order to let users play music from their phone on multiple speakers and headphones at once, making them more versatile.

Live concerts are music tech’s next frontier (Venture Beat)
Jaja Liao states that live concert streaming is a natural progression for audio streaming services (offering large untapped revenue, with live music generating $9.3 billion in revenue in 2015 in the U.S.) and the development of live streaming video and VR technology has further facilitated it as a natural next step.

Medical Technology

New report: Brexit threatens billion pound UK medical technology sector (Institution of Mechanical Engineers)
The U.K. needs to harmonize with EU regulation on medical devices and address the country’s research funding short-fall post Brexit or risk losing billions of pounds worth of export opportunities and thousands of jobs, according to a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

TuringSense adds another $3M for smart wearables with sports medicine applications (Mobihealthnews)
TuringSense, which is developing interactive wearables for sports and physical therapy, has raised $3 million in a new round of funding. Its devices track and record motion and then use that data to advise users on areas including technique. The company has also already begun to pilot its healthcare applications, working with Irish orthopedic hospital Sports Surgery Clinic. SSC is using the technology to work with players on the road rather than having to send them to their motion capture facility in Dublin.

Healthcare Startups Getting Hyped (Fortune)
Fortune held a conference on the confluence of medicine and technology. Venture capitalist speaker Ted Maidenberg said he sees parallels between medical technology and alternative energy technology, with both fields not totally economically sound, benefiting from government subsidies, suffering from a surplus of hype and tending toward the experimental rather than the commercial.

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