InkHunter heads to YC to build a try-and-buy tattoo marketplace

InkHunter, an augmented reality tattoo try-on app that was born out of a 48-hour hackathon back in the altogether gentler days of 2014 has bagged a place in Y Combinator’s summer 2018 batch, scoring itself the seed accelerator’s standard $120,000 deal in exchange for 7% equity.

We first covered InkHunter in April 2016 when it had just launched an MVP on iOS and was toying with building a marketplace for tattoo artists. Several months and 2.5 million downloads later InkHunter launched its Android app, having spent summer 2016 going through the ERA accelerator program in New York.

At that time the team was considering a b2b business model pivot, based on licensing their core AR tech to ecommerce apps and other developers. Though they wanted to keep the tattoo try on app ticking over as a showcase.

Fast forward two years and it’s the SDK idea on ice after InkHunter’s app gained enough traction in the tattoo community for the team to revive their marketplace idea — having passed eight million users — so they’ve relocated to Mountain View and swung back around to the original concept of a try-before-you buy tattoo app, using AR to drive bookings for local tattoo artists.

“We are focusing on iterating from ‘try’ to ‘try and buy’ experience, based on feedback we got from our users. And this is our goal for the YC program, which places a lot of focus on growth and user interactions,” CTO Pavel Razumovskyi tells us.

“Last time we have talked, we did not expect such adoption on the tattoo market. But when we saw really strong usage and feedback from the tattoo community, we decided to double down on that audience.”

The newly added booking option is very much an MVP at this stage — with InkHunter using a Typeform interface to ask users who tap through with a booking request to input their details to be contacted later, via text message, with information about relevant local tattoo artists (starting with the US market).

But the team’s hope for the YC program is help to hone their approach.

Razumovskyi confirms they’ve started with a booking request concierge service in the US without onboarding any tattoo artists into the planned marketplace as yet, and are merely hand picking local tattoo artists to help users with bookings.

“While this approach doesn’t scale, it helps us to figure out problems and quickly iterate solutions,” he adds. “We are almost done with this stage, and close to launch an in-app search for tattoo artist into selected locations, listing only licensed artists with the large portfolio.”

InkHunter says close to half (45%) its users have expressed a desire to get a tattoo within the next few months, while it got more than 500 booking requests in the first week of the concierge feature.

Though you do have to wonder whether users’ desire to experiment with ink on their skin will also extend to a desire to experiment with different tattoo artists too — or whether many regular inkers might not prefer to stick with a tattooist they already know and trust, and whose style they like. (A scenario which may not require an app to sit in the middle to take bookings.)

“We want to help them do this with as little regret as possible,” says CEO Oleksandra Rohachova of InkHunter’s tattoo hungry users — so presumably the team will also be carefully vetting the tattoo artists they list on their marketplace.

The main function of the app lets users browse thousands of tattoo designs and virtually try them on using its core AR feature — which requires people spill a little real-world ink to anchor the virtual design by making a few pen marks on their skin where they want the tattoo to live. As use-cases for AR go it’s a pretty pleasing one.

InkHunter also supports taking and sharing photos — to loop friends’ opinions into your skin-augmenting decision, and help the app’s fame spread.

The team’s hope for the next stage of building an app business is once an InkHunter user has settled on the design and placement of their next tat, they’ll get comfortable about relying on the app to find and book an artist. And the next time, for their next tattoo too.


Source: Tech Crunch

The best Amazon Prime Day deals you can still grab

Editor’s note: This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch may earn affiliate commissions. Read Wirecutter’s continuously updated list of deals here.

Amazon Prime Day this year, despite its slow start, broke records and boosted the fortunes of its competitors. And now that it’s over, we found some deals you can still take advantage of.

Asus ROG Swift PG279Q 27 Inch

Street Price: $740; Deal Price: $690

A new low price on our gaming monitor pick for Nvidia graphics card users. While it only beats our previous low by a few bucks, this monitor has been stubborn about sticking to $740.

The Asus ROG Swift PG279Q 27 Inch is our G-Sync pick in our guide to the best gaming monitors. David Murphy wrote, “Our pick had the best contrast ratio and lowest measured black levels among our finalists, which helps bring out detail in movies and games; it has all the input connections you need, as well as a built-in USB 3.0 hub; and it’s incredibly adjustable.”

AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable (15 foot)

Street Price: $11; Deal Price: $7

At $7 for a 15 foot cable, this is a new low price. We haven’t seen any discount for this particular size since 2017 and the street price typically sticks to $11.

The AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable is the top pick in our guide to cheap, great HDMI cables. “The AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable is a no-frills HDMI cable, but with HDMI, frills aren’t necessary,” Geoffrey Morrison wrote. “The cable is sturdily built and works with any video signal of today (and probably ones into the near future). Both the 3- and 15-foot lengths passed all our tests, including HDR tests.”

DJI Spark Fly More Combo

Street Price: $550; Deal Price: $500

Down to $500 in all available colors, this is a solid drop from a typical price of $550 for the DJI Spark Fly More Combo, a bundle that includes the Spark, controller, extra battery and other accessories.

The DJI Spark is our entry-level pick for drone photography in our guide to the best drones. “If all you want is something to capture aerial footage on occasion for personal use and social-media sharing, you can save several hundred dollars by getting the DJI Spark,” Mike Perlman wrote. “Despite weighing half as much as the Mavic and folding up to about the size of your hand, it has all the important features you need from a video drone: 1080p video recording, image and flight stabilization, collision-avoidance technology and an included controller, and smart-flight modes like ActiveTrack (tracks and follows a subject) and gesture controls all come standard.”

Lutron Caséta (2 of our top in-wall wireless light switch and dimmer pick + control hub + 2 remotes)

Street Price: $160; Deal Price: $120

If you’re looking for a Lutron Caséta starter kit this is a good deal on one that includes two switches, one bridge and two remotes. Usually priced at $160, the price drops to $120 at checkout, this matches the lowest price we’ve seen.

The Lutron Caséta Wireless In-Wall Dimmer and the Lutron Caséta Smart Bridge are the top picks in our guide to the best in-wall wireless light switch and dimmer. Rachel Cericola wrote, “After spending more than 30 hours swapping out switches, flipping switches, programming timers, and talking to experts, we’ve decided that the Lutron Caséta Wireless In-Wall Dimmer is the best wireless in-wall dimmer switch for most people. It’s phase-adaptive, so it can work with any lighting load; it’s the easiest to physically install; and like the other eight units we tested, it features straightforward remote control and scheduling.”

Philips Hue White A19 4-Pack 60W

Street Price: $50; Deal Price: $40

For those of you who want a set of smart LED light bulbs but don’t want or need the added price for color, a 4-pack of 60W Philips Hue bulbs is an excellent deal matching the previous lowest price on the white variant of our top pick for best smart LED light bulbs.

“Setting up Hue lights requires a few simple steps, much like any other smart-home device. The gateway connects to your home router or network switch via a wired Ethernet port,” Grant Clauser wrote. “This connects the system to your network and allows you to control the lights with a smartphone or tablet connected wirelessly to the same network.”

Q Acoustics 3020

Street Price: $270; Deal Price: $243

At $243 from a street price of $270, this is the lowest price we’ve seen for a pair of Q Acoustics 3020 in either the American Walnut finish or graphite color. These colors are typically priced lower than the black and white colors, but if you absolutely must have either of those, they are also down to the lowest price we’ve seen at $289 from $320.

The Q Acoustics 3020 is the top pick in our guide to the best bookshelf speakers for most stereos. “The Q Acoustics 3020 pair reproduces music of all genres with great detail and clarity on a wide soundstage. Despite each speaker’s compact size, the set delivers both strong bass and accurate vocals,” Chris Heinonen wrote. “These speakers are efficient, too, which means they can play louder with less-powerful receivers and amplifiers. The compact, rounded-corner design comes in four finishes to help this set fit in with a wider variety of decors.”

Roku Streaming Stick

Street Price: $45; Deal Price: $35

Recently we’ve been seeing a lot of price fluctuations between $40 and $50, so it’s nice to see this media streaming device down to a new low price of $35. Prior to this deal the best price we’ve seen is $39.

The Roku Streaming Stick is the runner-up pick (if you don’t need 4K) in our guide to the best media streaming devices. Chris Heinonen wrote, “If you don’t need to stream UltraHD 4K content, the Roku Streaming Stick is the best option available today. It is almost identical to the Streaming Stick+, but supports only 1080p resolution and doesn’t have the external Wi-Fi antenna. If you know you aren’t going to get a 4K TV in the future, or are just looking to upgrade an existing 1080p TV or projector, it offers the same content selection, search, and performance of our main pick.”

Fujifilm X-T2

Street Price: $1500; Deal Price: $1,100

The high-end Fujifilm camera we recommend is down to a new low price of $1,100 from a street price of $1,500. The deal is for the black color and only the body without a lens. Prior to this sale the lowest price we’ve seen is $1,400, although there were some deals around Black Friday for the camera with a lens.

The Fujifilm X-T2 is the top pick for experienced shooters and pros in our guide to the best Fujifilm cameras. Amadou Diallo wrote, “The Fujifilm X-T2 represents a significant investment into your photography, and that’s before you even consider adding any of Fujifilm’s well-regarded lenses. But its sensor outperforms what you get in many DSLRs, providing impressively detailed images in even very dark lighting conditions.”

ChargeTech Portable Power Outlet

Street Price: $190; Deal Price: $130 w/ code AMUZISNW

Use the code AMUZISNW to get this price. It’s the lowest price we’ve seen so far, and only $8 more than our top pick, but with 30 percent more mAh/charge.

The ChargeTech Portable Power Outlet is our runner-up pick for laptop charging in our guide to the best portable AC battery pack. “If our top pick is unavailable or you need a little more power to keep a larger laptop going, get the ChargeTech Portable Power Outlet,” Mark Smirniotis wrote. “It has the same 85 W output as the Jackery PowerBar, so it can power the same types of laptops and electronics, but with an extra 25 percent capacity, this ChargeTech model will last a bit longer—handy if you’re frequently on long-haul flights or working in the field.”

littleBits Rule Your Room Kit

Street Price: $80; Deal Price: $40

Down to $40 when typically it’s priced around $85, this is an all-time low price for this electronics kit. Prior to this deal the lowest price we’ve seen is $56. We doubt this deal will last more than a few days, at most, so don’t wait — grab it at this low price if you know a would-be inventor.

The littleBits Rule Your Room Kit is the upgrade pick in our guide to the best electronics kits for kids and beginners. “Kids can create a piggy-bank alarm, a catapult, or an invention of their own using modular pieces that snap together magnetically. Each project takes more time and produces a more satisfying, practical device than those in the other kits we tested,” Signe Brewster wrote. “The Rule Your Room Kit comes with the fewest pieces and sample projects among our field of competitors, but because littleBits encourages the incorporation of everyday items into the projects, the kit feels like it offers more possibilities than other kits of similar size.”

Acton Blink Lite

Street Price: $225; Deal Price: $200

Back down to $200, this is a nice deal on this recommended electric skateboard. The Acton Blink Lite is our budget pick for lighter riders in our guide to the best electric skateboard. If you’re a sub-180-pound rider who isn’t looking to spend a ton, this is a good opportunity to save some cash. While the street price has dropped in recent months, it’s still a solid discount.

“The Acton Blink Lite may not be the most powerful board around, but it’s a phenomenal value considering its price, and it would be a good gift for the young skater in your life,” Jack Smith wrote. “But despite the lack in power, we found riding the Blink Lite to be a blast, largely due to its nimble mini-cruiser design and small size. It’s also significantly cheaper than most other boards available.”

Because great deals don’t just happen on Prime Day, sign up for our daily deals email and we’ll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go here.


Source: Tech Crunch

Russian indictments show that the U.S. needs federal oversight of election security

President Trump’s Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin, on the heels of twelve Russian intelligence officials indicted for hacking the 2016 election, made it clear that this administration has zero commitment to protect our elections from future Russian attacks.

These events should remind us of an alarming fact we can no longer afford to ignore: our elections are not secure.

As a nation, we underfund and neglect election security. So, much like our aging infrastructure, our election infrastructure is severely outdated and crumbling before our eyes.

Unfortunately, in today’s hyper-partisan environment, even concerns over election security are divided along party lines. Case in point: after his trip to Russia last week, Republican Senator Ron Johnson declared “It’s very difficult to really meddle in our elections. It just is.”

To effectively safeguard our elections, we need to consider yet another conservative taboo: the federal government should have more power in setting election security standards. Our current decentralized, disjointed state-based system is no longer adequate for protecting our elections against foreign interference in the 21st century.

TechCrunch/Bryce Durbin

Right now, the federal government plays a very limited role in the oversight of election security. The Election Assistance Commission and Department of Homeland Security offer optional resources and issue non-binding guidelines for best practices, and states are free to come up with their own standards as they please. The results, unsurprisingly, are abysmal.

In 2016, for example, over two-thirds of all counties in the U.S. used voting machines that were over a decade old. Many machine used outdated softwares and ran in absurdly old operating systems such as Windows 2000. Thirteen states still use machines that are completely electronic, which makes themprone to glitches, and with no paper trails, the results cannot be audited.

Many experts have pointed out that our current machines could be hacked in a matter of minutes. Recently, a 14 year-old participant at DefCon breached a voting machine in 90 minutes, and was able to change the vote tally in the machine remotely, from anywhere.

Besides the machines, there are other major vulnerabilities in many states’ election security standards that would make hacking our elections a breeze for the Russians. Our voter registration databases are outdated and prone to infiltration. Many states have no post-election auditing requirements at all, and those that do are often insufficient, severely undermining our ability to identify and correct an attack.

While federalizing election security has long been castigated as an infringement of state rights, politicians are beginning to acknowledge its necessity. Senator Ron Wyden, for instance, recently introduced The Protecting American Votes and Elections Act of 2018, whichwould require every state to use election machines with paper ballots and mandate risk-limiting post-election audits (the “gold standard” of election auditing).

As Wyden argues: “Americans don’t expect states, much less county officials, to fight America’s wars. The Russians have attacked our election infrastructure and leaving our defenses to states and local entities, in my view, is not an adequate response. Our country needs baseline, mandatory, federal election security standards.”

TechCrunch/Bryce Durbin

Rather than providing concrete solutions, this Republican Congress continues to pretend that all of our election security problems can be solved by tiny, poorly designed federal grant programs alone. In this year’s omnibus spending bill, a bipartisan compromise provided a meager, but much needed $380 million federal grant to states for strengthening election security ahead of the 2018 election. However, the effectiveness of this grant is questionable, given it was earmarked for broad purposes and allocated by a formula that is not competitive or need-based.

Worse still, since states are not required to spend the federal grant allocated to them, some stateshave not even applied to collect their shares. Several state governments are impeding the use of this grant through a combination of delayed action and inaction. For example, Florida’s Republican-led state legislature has refused to authorize their election officials to use the grant before the 2018 election, even when the state is in desperate need for more election security funding.

While inadequate funding is a serious concern that needs to be addressed — House Democrats estimated that we will need $1.4 billion over the next decade to bring our entire election system in line with best practices — increasing federal grants alone would not be enough to secure elections in every state. The Secure Elections Act, a bill currently with the most broad-based, bipartisan support, will provide much needed federal funding to make up for the current shortfall, but as with this year’s federal grant, there is no guarantee states would use the funding in a timely and effective fashion — or at all — given state participation will remain voluntary under this bill.

Our representative democracy cannot survive if we fail to preserve the fairness and integrity of our elections. While it’s too late to implement binding federal guidelines to secure the 2018 midterm, we should accept nothing less for the 2020 presidential election, as we can be certain the Russians will hack that election in order to help their preferred candidate, yet again.

Too many states have proven they are unwilling to take election security seriously. It’s time for the federal government to step in.


Source: Tech Crunch

Apple releases third iOS 12 beta to everyone

Apple just released the third version of the iOS 12 beta as part of the public beta program. It means that everyone can now install a development build of iOS 12, the next major version of the operating system for iPhone and iPad.

Don’t forget this is still a beta version. Things will crash, things won’t work. Don’t be surprised if you lose data in your Photos, Notes or Messages apps for instance.

But if you have an iPhone or iPad that you don’t use every day, you can get a glimpse of the future of iOS right now. While the final version of iOS 12 should be released near the end of September, Apple is going to release beta versions every few weeks over the summer.

Before installing the beta, don’t forget to back up your device to iCloud and/or your computer using iTunes. You can then head over to Apple’s beta website, sign up with your Apple ID and download the beta profile.

The profile is just a tiny file that tells your iPhone to check for public betas. After restarting your device, you can open the Settings app and install the iOS update just like any normal software update. If you already installed a previous beta, it’s time to update.

In September, your device should automatically update to the final version of iOS 12 and you’ll be able to delete the configuration profile.

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s new in iOS 12. The main feature of iOS 12 is a performance improvement, especially for older devices. If you have an iPhone 6 or an iPad Air for instance, you should see a big improvement when it comes to launching apps, triggering the camera and entering text.

The other big theme of the year is new features to help you spend less time using your phone. There’s a new Screen Time feature to see and control how much time you spend using each app. Notifications are now grouped and you can silence them from the lock screen. You also can turn on Do Not Disturb when you’re in a meeting, for a few hours or for longer.

Apple didn’t stop there, and added new power features as well. Developers will be able to take advantage of a new file format for augmented reality and new features in ARKit 2.0. Apple is releasing the Workflow app as a new Siri Shortcuts app. Developers will be able to add information to Siri, as well, so that you can add a boarding pass or a music playlist to Siri.

The Photos, News and Stocks apps have been improved, as well as Apple Books (the app formerly known as iBooks). Apple is introducing Memoji on the iPhone X. It’s a customized avatar that you can use in iMessage and FaceTime to represent you.

If you want to learn more, read my iOS 12 preview to get my thoughts on this update.


Source: Tech Crunch

Comic sales are down as readers abandon print

Comic book and graphic novel sales fell 6.5% in 2017 from a 2016 high of $1.015 billion. Graphic novels brought in $570 million while comic books brought in about $350 million.

A report posted to Comichron notes that comic stores are still the biggest source for revenue while $90 million is attributable to digital downloads.

“After a multiyear growth run, the comics shop market gave back some of its gains in 2017, with lackluster response to new periodical offerings and, consequently, graphic novel sales,” wrote Comichron’s John Jackson Miller. “The third quarter of 2017 saw the worst of the year-over-year declines, leading into what has turned out to be a stronger spring for stores in 2018.”

In a pattern that is now familiar in publishing, kids comics and graphic novels helped buoy the market. The same thing is happening regularly in the book market with kids titles selling briskly in print while adults abandon softcovers and hardcovers for digital downloads. While the “floppy” comic book is still clearly popular, the digital download is outpacing subscription sales but it still minuscule in comparison to print.

Interestingly, Comichron breaks up sales into comics, graphics novels, and digital downloads and it would be enlightening to compare digital sales broken up by book style. That said, it’s fascinating to see the medium change as consumption models shift to devices.


Source: Tech Crunch

Tax robots and Universal Basic Income

Technological innovation is moving at an ever-accelerating pace, and this comes with vast benefits and inevitable changes to our way of life. One downside is that machine learning and automation are already replacing jobs, and this will increase rapidly. It also has the potential to replace much of that income with Universal Basic Income (UBI), or government cash handouts to all adult citizens, perhaps starting with covering some element of taxes and rising in the range of $100,000/year per citizen within the next 20 years.

Sound ludicrous? Proponents of UBI include well-known figures such as Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson and Elon Musk. Musk stated last year that he believed job loss would be so severe due to automation that some form of UBI will be necessary to support our society. Bill Gates suggested that every time an employee is replaced by a robot, or in most cases software using automation through artificial intelligence or machine learning, that the business owners should have to pay a tax on that, much like the employee would on wages. But to date, most other UBI ideas have involved raising taxes on people with higher earnings. What if the real solution to UBI was through a path of lowering income taxes on all people?

Stanford lecturer and executive director of East Palo Alto-based investment bank Woodside Partners, Kartik Gada believes that continued technology deflation will both lead to the need for UBI and a route to fund it, rather than increased government debt. In his ATOM publication, Gada gives a great deal of data supporting his argument. “In response to technological deflation, the central banks of the world will have to create new money in perpetuity, increasing the stream at an exponentially rising rate much higher than is currently assumed,” says Gada. “This now-permanent need for monetary expansion, if embraced, can fund government spending more directly. This in turn creates a very robust, dynamic, and efficient safety net for citizens, while simultaneously reducing and even eliminating most forms of taxation by 2025.”

Technological deflation is caused by a convergence of rapidly deflating technologies to an ever-rising percentage of the economy. Gada estimates that technology comprises about 2 percent of the world economy currently, and this percentage is on the brink of rising quickly.

For example, in 2007, the iPhone replaced most of the technology in your home, leading to less need for new purchases in that category year to year. The same iPhone 8 that you just bought for $699 will likely cost a quarter of that to buy new in three years, partly due to the release of a newer, faster, more powerful model at the top of the price ladder. Home Internet of Things devices, from Alexa and Ring to Nest, also are replacing and consolidating multiple normal purchases into lower-cost devices.

So while the price of new tools and toys might seem like it is going up on a case by case basis, it’s rapidly decreasing versus capabilities, speed, power, number of purchases required, etc. In addition, artificial intelligence and machine learning are driving use of automation up and use of employees for specific roles and functions down. Amazon reportedly installed 75,000 robots to replace human jobs in 2017. This helps them and other companies drive down costs, which makes it possible to offer lower prices across the board.

Income taxes can be eliminated and an unconditional Universal Basic Income can be funded.

These factors, from continued innovation and efficiencies, paired with automation that reduces jobs and prices, has led to fewer consumer purchases and rapid overall declines in aggregate consumer spending — and could lead to serious problems for employment and the overall economy. If this happens, it may be more far-reaching than many realize and will certainly be scary for some along the way. Gada believes that we are nearing a point in our economy during which deflation is a more serious threat than inflation as the percentage of technological goods we buy increases and the cost and number of those goods decreases.

To make up for this deflationary pressure, the Federal Reserve first lowered the Fed Funds rate to 0 percent. But when deflation proved to be too much for even that, they had to go even further, and generate all new liquidity above that.

To this end, the Federal Reserve embarked on a program known as Quantitative Easing (QE), relying on the purchase of mortgage-backed securities and treasuries.

Other countries followed suit with similar programs. This has staved off deflation for now, but this may not continue to work in the next crisis without alternate methods of dispersing capital in a more direct, cash-oriented manner.

Eventually, central bank actions like QE will have to be permanent and ever-increasing. Enter the notion of funneling the QE money into a form of UBI. As automation and technology efficiencies increase, this also will create great savings for world governments as they can now deliver services for far less cost. While governments may not lower taxes willingly, competitive pressure between states and nations will rise, forcing them to compete for efficiency of governance. It is in this manner that income taxes can be eliminated and an unconditional Universal Basic Income can be funded.

The key is that as income tax is phased out and technology is monetized to fund government, new jobs are created more quickly, and this offsets the job loss through automation, with the UBI serving as a cushioning mechanism while people transition. Ultimately, Gada believes that the phase-out of income tax combined with UBI will foster a vastly higher degree of entrepreneurship in the economy, and this will be the source of most professional activity in the future.

Under the transition program that Gada has outlined in his publication, the numbers start in the early thousands of dollars each year per citizen, and rise continuously to upwards of $100,000 in the 2030s. That number may seem high, but is not outside of the range of long-term trendlines in world economic growth or the ever-accelerating levels of central bank liquidity actions being done worldwide. Not to be forgotten is the high cost of income tax on productivity and entrepreneurship, and how both will find a greatly enhanced climate when the tax burden on humans is lowered.

Could we be on the brink of an age where a much more advanced version of the #TaxRobots idea that Bill Gates has advocated can indeed be implemented? According to Kartik Gada, this may not be too many years away.


Source: Tech Crunch

This insane fighting robot can be yours now for $1,600

Pilot Labs’ Zeus Battle Robot captured our hearts at CES back in January, because, well, just look at this crazy thing:

Seemingly against all odds, the ‘bot is now available for purchase through Amazon. And the price tag is as insane as the rest of it: $1,600 for the kit and $1,700 for a pre-assembled version. That price includes a wireless controller, battery, charger, case and the robot, naturally. There are also a bunch of design files for further customizing it.

The Zeus stands 14-inches, weighs just under five pounds and sports 22 motors. We were pretty impressed by the demo we got at CES, though that model hit a bit of a snag, after battling it out all day. You can see in the video that it’s got a bit of a wonky arm thing going on. Hopefully the shipping version has those snags worked out.

The battery should get up to 50 minutes of fight time on a charge. Pilot says it’s already working on future versions with AI, computer vision and, potentially, Alexa voice control. It also plans to sponsor “an international fighting Robot contest with big cash prizes,” so maybe you can win back some the arm and leg that you paid for it. 


Source: Tech Crunch

Slack acquires Missions to help users automate work tasks inside chat

As Slack continues to grow its paid business users, the company is looking for ways to help customers build integrations that make sense for the work they do.

Slack announced today that it has acquired Robots and Pencils’ Missions, an app that allows Slack users to build tools to automate simple routines without code. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Paid users are already big fans of Slack integrations.There are currently 1,500 apps available in the Slack app directory. The company says that 94 percent of users in that bracket use apps and integrations, while 65 percent of teams have built their own. Building an integration certainly isn’t an easy process for non-tech teams to handle, Missions is focused on a more visual flow that ditches some of the complexity.

Missions’ technology lets people create workflows for tasks that they might normally have to talk about inside Slack and then carry out the process off-chat. With Missions, Slack hopes that users can help teams boost productivity by making things more simple for a variety of repeatable processes.

Onboarding seems to be an area where Slack sees a lot of potential for this tech, ensuring that new employees know what documents they need to fill out, who in the company they need to meet and other tasks they’ll have to complete. Other potential areas for the app to help users include managing approvals and rejections in the  hiring process as well as internal ticketing.

The company says that they’ll be supporting Missions’ customers for free for the next few months as they begin to build the technology into their platform. When you can start playing with this tech? The company said they’ll have more to share “later this year.”


Source: Tech Crunch

No Man’s Sky Next seeks to right the game’s wrongs

For a certain kind of gamer, the premise of No Man’s Sky, that of an endless procedurally generated space universe teeming with life, was intoxicatingly perfect, almost too good to be true. After overselling that dream to the disappointment of just about everybody, Hello Games is back to make amends with a major new update: No Man’s Sky Next.

No Man’s Sky Next will introduce a spate of updates, including long-awaited full multiplayer gameplay, a visual update to improve textures and add detail, first to third-person perspective switching, unlimited base building and command freighters that allow you to create, upgrade and dispatch a fleet of ships from the comfort of your own bridge. You can see a few of those changes implemented in the trailer below.

The update, which will hit on July 24 as a free update to PlayStation and PC, also brings the advent of No Man’s Sky for the Xbox — great news for some console gamers who wanted to check it out without committing to a whole new system.

Whether No Man’s Sky Next will truly flesh out and deepen the innovative exploration game in a satisfying way remains to be seen, but both longtime players and those who followed along with curious hesitation now have something to look forward to. Happily, the wait won’t be long.


Source: Tech Crunch

Sharecuts is creating a community for sharing Siri Shortcuts

With the upcoming release of iOS 12, Apple is introducing a new app called Shortcuts that will allow users to build custom voice commands for Siri that can be used to kick off a variety of actions in apps. While some apps will directly prompt users to add a Shortcut to Siri, the new Shortcuts app will offer more shortcut suggestions to try, plus the ability to create your own shortcuts and workflows. Now, there’s a new resource for shortcut fans, too – Sharecuts, a directory of shortcuts created and shared by the community.

The site is still very much in the early stages.

Plus, iOS 12 is still in beta testing itself, and the Shortcuts app can only be installed by developers who request access via an invite.

But by the time iOS 12 releases to the public later this fall, Sharecuts’ directory will be filled out and a lot more functional.

The premise, explains Sharecuts’ creator Guilherme Rambo, was to make an easily accessible place where people could share their shortcuts with one another, discover those others have shared, and suggest improvements to existing shortcuts.

“I was talking to a friend [Patrick Balestra] about how cool shortcuts are, and how it should be easier for people to share and discover shortcuts,” says Guilherme. “He mentioned he wanted to build a website for that  – he even had the idea for the name Sharecuts – but he was on vacation without a good internet connection so I decided to just build it myself in one day,” he says.

The site is currently a bare bones, black-and-white page with cards for each shortcut, but an update will bring a more colorful style (see below) and features that will allow users to filter the shortcuts by tags, vote on favorites, among other things.

Above: current site

Guilherme says while the backend is being built to support a larger number of users, only a few people have been invited to upload for the time being. But in the upcoming release, the site will offer a “featured” selection of shortcuts chosen by some well-known members of the Apple community who will serve as curators.

The uploads to the site will also be moderated in the future, to prevent malicious shortcuts and spam from being included in the directory.

The site itself isn’t a new business or startup, Guilherme says, just a side project for now.

It’s written in Swift and open-sourced on GitHub so others can contribute. The page already has a list of ideas for improvements to the Sharecuts site, including the new design, plus more ways to refine, sort, and organize the shortcuts.

It remains to be seen how popular Siri Shortcuts will be with the mainstream iPhone user base.

With iOS 12, Apple is turning its iPhone into an “A.I. phone,” but I believe the Shortcuts app and workflows will remain a power user feature for some time. Mainstream users will gradually warm up to the idea of customizing their Siri interactions by getting prompted to create voice commands by their favorite apps. (E.g. Your coffee shop’s mobile ordering app may push you to add a “Coffee time!” shortcut to Siri.)

Over time, that may lead them to iOS 12’s Shortcuts app to do even more.

But in the near-term, power users will be busy taking advantage of the new Shortcuts app and Siri features to test the powers of Shortcuts. And with Sharecuts, all the other shortcuts enthusiasts can benefit from their enthusiasm and activity, too.

If you already have the beta Shortcuts app installed, you can try out some of the shortcuts featured on Sharecuts today. A couple of the interesting picks include the Siri News Reader which will read you headlines from an RSS feed, the Bitcoin Price checkers, and an always useful tip calculator.

Above: The news reader shortcut, from Federico Viticci

Those interested in contributing to Sharecuts in the future can register here for an invite.


Source: Tech Crunch