One of Elon Musk’s stealthier endeavors is set to become a lot less stealthy tonight, with a presentation set for 8 PM PT (11 PM ET) streaming live from its website in which we’ll learn a lot more about Neuralink, the company Musk founded in 2017 to work on brain control interfaces (BCIs) and essentially part of his larger strategy to help mitigate the risks of AI and enhance its potential benefits.
Here’s what we do know about Neuralink already: Its initial goal, at least as of two years ago, was to figure out how brain interfaces could be helpful in alleviating the symptoms of chronic medical conditions, including epilepsy. This goal will involve the development of “ultra high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers,” which is the only formal description Neuralink provides of its overall mission on its own website.
In a post on Wait Buy Why back when the company first broke cover, we got a lot more in-depth background about what problem Musk wants to solve and why. Summarized, Neuralink’s mission is very much on trend with Musk’s other ventures, in that it hopes to help humans avoid something he perceives as an existential threat in order that we may survive, thrive and I guess come up with other potential existential threats for him to also then solve.
Ultimately, Neuralink seems to be aiming well beyond its initial exploration of medical technology, which was really just a way to potentially get testing faster with a practical application that’s easier to work with in terms of rules and regulators. Musk’s goal, per the Wait But Why explainer, is actually to eliminate the “compression” that happens when we translate our thoughts into language, and then into input via keyboard, mouse, etc. before actually transmitting it to a …Read More
Arm today launched Flexible Access, a new licensing scheme in addition to its existing model, that will make it easier for startups to gain access to a wide range of Arm’s intellectual property (IP) without any upfront licensing costs.
Intellectual property licensing schemes for chips may not strike you as the most exciting thing. But as the number of companies that are building their own silicon, often for very specialized use cases, having access to the IP from companies like Arm is something that more companies than ever a looking to have. Until now, the only way to get access to Arm’s IP was to select the products you wanted to license upfront. That works for large companies that know exactly what they want, but for smaller companies, that’s a bit of a barrier, given that they are likely still trying to figure out what exactly they need.
Under the Flexible Access terms, partners get access to the IP and only pay a per-unit royalty fee once they go into production. Under the existing scheme, license fees were due before partners could access the IP.
“The reason we’re doing this is because we see that the industry is evolving quite significantly — lots of transformation that’s happening, new companies coming into doing custom silicon,” Dipti Vachani, Arm’s SVP and GM of its automotive and IoT business, told me. “We believe that enabling this is easy access to IP and experimentation allows for the growth and the usage of our IP across the trillion connected devices.”
Vachani stressed that the company believes that this move will allow a whole range of new companies to use Arm’s IP portfolio since it significantly lowers the barrier of entry.
“This allows for a lower barrier to entry for for anyone. It’s very straightforward. …Read More
Jeff Ubersax knows yeast.
The chief executive officer of Demetrix studied yeast genetics and biochemistry in school and was an early employee at Amyris Biotechnologies, a technology company that was using fermentation to make biofuels back in the early days of the first clean technology boom back in 2008.
Now, the same technology that Ubersax and Jay Keasling, the celebrated professor from the University of California at Berkeley who co-founded Amyris and Demetrix, used to make biofuels is being applied to the production of cannabis.
The company launched with an $11 million seed round led by Horizons Ventures, a Hong Kong-based investment fund backed by the multi-billionaire real estate mogul Li Ka-shing, to begin commercializing the technology that Keasling had been researching in his lab.
The goal was to refine a process that would enable yeasts to make a range of cannabinoids that are found in the marijuana plant which could be used to develop new pharmaceuticals, additives and supplements for use in clinical and consumer applications. The technology works much the same way as brewing beer. Except instead of fermenting to produce alcohol, the fermentation process produces cannabinoids from genetically modified yeast cells.
While the technology holds promise, it’s still got a long way to go before it becomes competitive with extracts from the marijuana plant, but given new capital infusions the tide is turning.
Demetrix, for instance, has raised another $50 million from Horizons Ventures and Tuatara Capital, an investment firm focused on the legal cannabis industry, to significantly expand its production while simultaneously pursuing initial tests on the efficacy of rare strains of cannabinoids as treatments for certain illnesses.
“Natural cannabinoids have been used for a really long time,” says Ubersax. And last June the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first pharmaceutical derived from cannabis…Read More
Here’s a thing that should have never been a thing: Bluetooth-connected hair straighteners.
Glamoriser, a U.K. firm that bills itself as the maker of the “world’s first Bluetooth hair straighteners,” allows users to link the device to an app, which lets the owner set certain heat and style settings. The app can also be used to remotely switch off the straighteners within Bluetooth range.
Big problem, though. These straighteners can be hacked.
Security researchers at Pen Test Partners bought a pair and tested them out. They found that it was easy to send malicious Bluetooth commands within range to remotely control an owner’s straighteners.
The researchers demonstrated that they could send one of several commands over Bluetooth, such as the upper and lower temperature limit of the device — 122°F and 455°F respectively — as well as the shut-down time. Because the straighteners have no authentication, an attacker can remotely alter and override the temperature of the straighteners and how long they stay on — up to a limit of 20 minutes.
“As there is no pairing or bonding established over [Bluetooth] when connecting a phone, anyone in range with the app can take control of the straighteners,” said Stuart Kennedy in his blog post, shared first with TechCrunch.
There is a caveat, said Kennedy. The straighteners only allow one concurrent connection. If the owner hasn’t connected their phone or they go out of range, only then can an attacker target the device.
Here at TechCrunch we’re all for setting things on fire “for journalism,” but in this case the numbers speak for themselves. If, per the researchers’ findings, the straighteners could be overridden to the maximum temperature of 455°F at the timeout of 20 minutes, that’s setting up a prime condition for a fire — or …Read More
Apple has disabled the Apple Watch Walkie Talkie app due to an unspecified vulnerability that could allow a person to listen to another customer’s iPhone without consent, the company told TechCrunch this evening.
Apple has apologized for the bug and for the inconvenience of being unable to use the feature while a fix is made.
The Walkie Talkie app on Apple Watch allows two users who have accepted an invite from each other to receive audio chats via a ‘push to talk’ interface reminiscent of the PTT buttons on older cell phones.
A statement from Apple reads:
We were just made aware of a vulnerability related to the Walkie-Talkie app on the Apple Watch and have disabled the function as we quickly fix the issue. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and will restore the functionality as soon as possible. Although we are not aware of any use of the vulnerability against a customer and specific conditions and sequences of events are required to exploit it, we take the security and privacy of our customers extremely seriously. We concluded that disabling the app was the right course of action as this bug could allow someone to listen through another customer’s iPhone without consent. We apologize again for this issue and the inconvenience.
Apple was alerted to the bug via its report a vulnerability portal directly and says that there is no current evidence that it was exploited in the wild.
The company is temporarily disabling the feature entirely until a fix can be made and rolled out to devices. The Walkie Talkie App will remain installed on devices, but will not function until it has been updated with the fix.
Earlier this year a bug was discovered in the group calling feature of FaceTime that allowed people to …Read More
Zoox CTO and co-founder Jesse Levinson revealed a few more details today about the company’s autonomous vehicle hardware, which it’s designing along with its software stack from the ground up. Levinson told us onstage at TC Sessions: Mobility that Zoox’s vehicle will have fully independent active four-wheel suspension — a design detail that will translate to a much smoother ride for passengers.
Levinson took us through the Zoox vehicle design at a high level, including covering some of the information he and the company have disclosed previously. The car will have four seats, with sets of two front and back facing inward toward each other. To help accommodate this unique seating arrangement, airbags used in the car will essentially “envelop” passengers, and the absence of both steering wheel and dashboard will actually mean that it’s one of the safest vehicles on the road, in the company’s opinion, because it prioritizes the safety of all passengers in the car equally, rather than weighting the features for driver or front seat passengers like traditional cars.
Levinson also told us after the onstage interview that the vehicle will be just a bit taller than a BMW i3, but slightly shorter front to back than that electric compact car. That’s a small footprint for a four-passenger vehicle, but inside there will presumably be considerable space savings from the lack of dash, steering wheel and gas and brake pedals. On the subject of the independent, four-corner active steering, Levinson explained that while it incurs an additional cost, that will ultimately be insignificant on a per-trip basis, and the benefits for consumes will be huge.
“If you think about it, you know, when you drive a car, people like to feel connected to the road and feel the bumps, and it’s exciting,” Levinson said. “But if …Read More
Autonomous delivery company Udelv has signed yet another partner to launch a new pilot of its self-driving goods delivery service: Texas-based supermarket chain H-E-B. The pilot will provide service to customers in Olmos Park, just outside of downtown San Antonio where the grocery retailer is based.
California-based Udelv will provide H-E-B with one of its Newton second-generation autonomous delivery vehicles, which are already in service in trials in the Bay Area, Arizona and Houston, providing deliveries on behalf of some of Udelv’s other clients, which include Walmart, among others.
Udelv CEO and founder Daniel Laury explained in an interview that they’re very excited to be partnering with H-E-B because of the company’s reach in Texas, where it’s the largest grocery chain with approximately 400 stores. This initial phase only covers one car and one store, and during this part of the pilot the vehicle will have a safety driver on board. But the plan includes the option to expand the partnership to cover more vehicles and eventually achieve full driverless operation.
“They’re really at the forefront of technology, in the areas where they need to be,” Laury said. “It’s a very impressive company.”
For its part, H-E-B has been in discussion with a number of potential partners for autonomous delivery trials, and, according to Paul Tepfenhart, SVP of Omnichannel and Emerging Technologies at H-E-B, it liked Udelv specifically because of their safety record, and because they didn’t just come in with a set plan and a fully formed off-the-shelf offering — they truly partnered with HEB on what the final deployment of the pilot would look like.
Both Tepfenhart and Laury emphasized the importance of customer experience in providing autonomous solutions, and Laury noted that he thinks Udelv’s unique advantage in the increasingly competitive autonomous curbside delivery business is its …Read More
It’s nice when people can come together and work through their differences to make it easier to watch stuff. That’s exactly what happened today, when the long-standing detente between Google and Amazon over streaming video services came to an end, with YouTube arriving on Fire TV and Prime Video making its way to Chromecast and Android TV.
Amazon’s second-generation Fire TV Stick, their Fire TV Stick 4K, the Fire TV Cube, Fire TV Stick Basic Edition and Fire TV Edition smart TVs made by partner OEMs will all get support for the official YouTube app globally starting today, and Amazon intends to extend support to even more of its hardware in the future. YouTube TV and YouTube Kids will also come to Amazon Fire TV devices later this year.
On the Google side, both its own Chromecast devices, as well as partner TVs and hardware that support Chromecast built-in, or that run Android TV, will gain support broadly for Prime Video. Plus, any Chromecast Ultra owners will also get access to Prime Video’s 4,000-title library normally reserved for Prime members, at no additional cost, as part of the new tie-up between the two companies.
Prime has been available on some Android TV devices to date, but it’s expanding to a much broader selection of those smart TVs and streaming boxes from today.
This has been a long time coming — several years in fact, with the most recent spat between the two coming as a result of Amazon’s implementation of YouTube on the Echo Show. Then, in May, the companies announced they’d reached an agreement to put the feud behind them in the interest of consumers, which is what resulted in this cross-platform launch today.
Let the streams flow!Read More
Wireless charging has been a wonderful addition to mainstream flagship smartphones including the iPhone, Samsung’s Galaxy lineup and Google’s Pixel phones. But there hasn’t been a really great option for bringing the benefits of wireless charging with you on the road, while keeping your desktop setup tidy until now, with TwelveSouth’s recently released HiRise Wireless.
The HiRise Wireless builds on the good reputation of the existing HiRise line from TwelveSouth, which includes the Duet, a great combo charger for both iPhone and Apple Watch. The Wireless version, as implied by the name, includes wireless charging of up to 10W, which means you get the fastest cable-free charging rate available for devices that support Qi charging, including the iPhone X, XR and XS, as well as the Pixel 3 and Samsung Galaxy S10.
The HiRise is unique in that it provides a charging puck that can both mount in the frame (which has a nice weighted base to stay rock solid on your desk) and pop out to either provide a lie-flat wireless charger (which will work with the new wireless AirPods charging case, for instance) or pack away in a bag.
The upright angle the wireless charger provides when mounted in the frame is perfect for registering Face ID unlocks when used with an iPhone X or later, and positioned on your desk. That’s a great way to give yourself access to phone notifications without distracting too much from your desktop work. And the puck itself is a lot smaller than most wireless chargers, which isn’t idea for typical at-home charging, but which is terrific for stowing it in a gadget pouch.
The puck also has a rubberized ring bordering the charging pad to prevent your device from slipping around, and it works with a detachable USB-C to USB-A …Read More
Back in 2017, Tesla introduced an automated emergency breaking (AEB) system for all its vehicles that’s powered by its Autopilot technology, which is available even for vehicles with haven’t purchased the actual Autopilot cruise-assist upgrade. Now, the automaker is showing off some of the more advanced features coming in its next-generation AEB update.
These include automatically engaging the brakes on a vehicle when the Autopilot-based system detects a pedestrian crossing the car’s path, and doing the same for a cyclist. Below, you can see those features reportedly working in real-life situations, according to Tesls’a official Twitter account.
These kinds of features aren’t new, and in fact have been present in some form since inclusion in a version of Volvo’s automated braking system in 2009. Safety organizations and regulators like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have been testing and advocating for these systems for years, as well.
Not all AEB and driver-assist features are built equally, however, and in theory the versions of these systems based on vehicles with more advanced sensors and on-board computation should be more effective at actually avoiding or preventing collisions in practice. Tesla has made bold claims about the capabilities of its own system, especially when paired with its in-house AI processor technology, which will serve as the ‘brain’ on its future autonomous driving technology in Tesla cars.Read More