Gadgets – TechCrunch
Apple’s new Mac ads show that even Grimes uses dongles
Apple has launched a new advertising campaign for the Mac called “behind the Mac”. In this campaign, the company is sharing user stories of people using Mac for work, creative projects and accessibility reasons.
The Mac is a versatile platform. People use it for boring tasks, such as checking emails and browsing the web. But you can also use it for countless of other things. Apple wants to show you what you can do with a Mac beyond Word and Excel.
Apple has shared 4 videos today. The first is a 60-second recap of the three other videos. Each standalone video is a portrait of someone who is using a Mac every day. There will be 12 portraits in total on Apple’s website.
Peter Kariuki is a developer who created an iPhone app to improve road safety in Rwanda. Bruce Hall is a photographer who is legally blind and uses photography to see more details of the outside world. And Grimes is one of the most interesting music artists out there.
There are a few interesting things to note. All three are using laptops. It’s clear that MacBooks have become the most popular computers from Apple. It doesn’t mean that Apple should abandon the iMac, iMac Pro, Mac Mini and Mac Pro. But only a fraction of Apple’s customers will buy them.
It’s also interesting to see that none of the Macs have been updated in the last twelve months. Apple has nothing new to sell on the Mac front. And it’s a bit worrying that the company is starting a new advertising campaign right now. Maybe there won’t be any Mac update for at least a few months.
And if you’re currently using a recent MacBook or MacBook Pro, you might be using stupid dongles right now to plug accessories to USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports. The good news is that, yes, even Grimes has to use dongles.
Purdue’s PHADE technology lets cameras ‘talk’ to you
It’s become almost second nature to accept that cameras everywhere — from streets, to museums and shops — are watching you, but now they may be able to communicate with you, as well. New technology from Purdue University computer science researchers has made this dystopian prospect a reality in a new paper published today. But, they argue, it’s safer than you might think.
The system is called PHADE, which allows for something called “private human addressing,” where camera systems and individual cell phones can communicate without transmitting any personal data, like an IP or Mac address. Instead of using an IP or Mac address, the technology relies on motion patterns for the address code. That way, even if a hacker intercepts it, they won’t be able to access the person’s physical location.
Imagine you’re strolling through a museum and an unfamiliar painting catches your eye. The docents are busy with a tour group far across the gallery and you didn’t pay extra for the clunky recorder and headphones for an audio tour. While pondering the brushwork you feel your phone buzz, and suddenly a detailed description of the artwork and its painter is in the palm of your hand.
To achieve this effect, researchers use an approach similar to the kind of directional audio experience you might find at theme parks. Through processing the live video data, the technology is able to identify the individual motion patterns of pedestrians and when they are within a pertinent range — say, in front of a painting. From there they can broadcast a packet of information linked to the motion address of the pedestrian. When the user’s phone identifies that the motion address matches their own, the message is received.
While this tech can be used to better inform the casual museum-goer, the researchers also believe it has a role in protecting pedestrians from crime in their area.
“Our system serves as a bridge to connect surveillance cameras and people,” He Wang, a co-creator of the technology and assistant professor of computer science, said in a statement. “[It can] be used by government agencies to enhance public safety [by deploying] cameras in high-crime or high-accident areas and warn[ing] specific users about potential threats, such as suspicious followers.”
While the benefits of an increasingly interconnected world are still being debated and critiqued daily, there might just be an upside to knowing a camera’s got its eye on you.
Samsung announces a push for renewable energy
Samsung has announced that it will use 100 percent renewable energy for all its factories and offices in the U.S., Europe and China. This is the first time Samsung has announced a public commitment for renewable energy.
Greenpeace and environmental activists have been calling out Samsung for months as many tech companies have already started switching to renewable energy.
Samsung is starting by the parts of its organization that it can control more easily — its own buildings, factories and offices. According to Greenpeace’s press release, 17 of its 38 buildings are based in the U.S., Europe and China.
“Samsung Electronics is the first electronics manufacturing company in Asia to set a renewable energy target. This commitment could have an enormous impact in reducing the company’s massive global manufacturing footprint, and shows how critical industry participation is in reducing emissions and accelerating the transition to renewable energy. More companies should follow suit and set renewable energy targets, and governments should promote policies that enable companies to procure renewable energy easily,” Greenpeace campaigner Insung Lee said in the press release.
It won’t happen overnight. But these buildings will run on renewable energy by 2020. Samsung says that it could increase its use of renewable energy in other countries. In addition to that, Samsung is going to install solar panels in Gyeonggi province in South Korea.
Like many tech companies, Samsung also works with thousands of suppliers. So it’s not enough to use renewable energy for your own facilities. Samsung is starting small on this front and partnering with the Carbon Disclosure Project Supply Chain Program.
First, the company wants to identify the energy needs of its top 100 suppliers and help them move to renewable energy. This is a multi-year project, and it’s going to be important to regularly track Samsung’s progress on this front.
But it’s also good to see one of the biggest consumer electronics company in the world making strong commitments.
Juul tightens up social media to focus on former smokers switching to e-cigs
This comes in the midst of Juul’s effort to get FDA approval, which has been made more arduous by the fact that the FDA has cracked down on Juul after learning how popular the device is with underage users.
As part of the new policy, Juul will no longer feature models in pictures posted on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. FWIW, Juul doesn’t even have a Snapchat. Instead of using models to market the e-cig, Juul Labs will now use real former smokers who switched from combustible cigarette to Juul.
Juul has always said that its product was meant to serve as an alternative to combustible cigarettes, which are considered far more harmful to your health.
Juul has also initiated an internal team focused on flagging and reporting social media content that is inappropriate or targeted to underage users.
The company mentioned that it has worked to report and remove more than 10,000 illegal online sales since February from various online marketplaces.
We reached out to Juul to see if any changes have been made to the way that Juul targets ads on social media and elsewhere. We’ll update the post if/when we hear back.
Here’s what Juul Labs CEO Kevin Burns had to say in a prepared statement:
While JUUL already has a strict marketing code, we want to take it one step further by implementing an industry-leading policy eliminating all social media posts featuring models and instead focus our social media on sharing stories about adult smokers who have successfully switched to JUUL. We also are having success in proactively working with social media platforms to remove posts, pages and unauthorized offers to sell product targeted at underage accounts. We believe we can both serve the 38 million smokers in the U.S. and work together to combat underage use – these are not mutually exclusive missions.
In April, the FDA sent a request for information to Juul Labs as part of a new Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan, which is aimed at keeping tobacco products of any kind out of the hands of minors. The information request was meant to help the FDA understand why teens are so interested in e-cigs (particularly Juul) and whether or not Juul Labs was marketing the product intentionally to minors.
In response, Juul announced a new strategy to combat underage use, with an investment of $30 million over the next three years going towards independent research, youth and parent education and community engagement efforts.
Since August 2017, Juul has required that people be 21+ to purchase products on its own website, but online and offline third-party retailers have not been so diligent.
AssistENT offers an anti-snoring device you stick in your nose
If you sleep next to someone who snores you know that the endless horking and honking isn’t very fun… and it makes the snorer’s life even worse. Some students and doctors in Baltimore, Maryland, however, have created something that acts like an internal breathing strip to help you breathe better and snore less.
Called assistENT, the company uses small, reusable rings that fit into the nostril and open the septum. You insert and remove them yourself with a little pair of forceps and they can survive sneezing and, one would assume, a good, hard midnight snoooorrrrrk. Patrick Byrne and Clayton Andrews created the product and it recently won the $10,000 “Use it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for best product. Other members of the team include Melissa Austin, Talia Kirschbaum, Harrison Nguyen, Theo Lee, and Eric Cao.
The team will be running a Kickstarter soon and is looking into a seed round for manufacture. The product, called N-Stent, costs 15 cents to make and will sell for about $4 a pair.
“The design is inspired by the typical cartilage grafts used in functional rhinoplasty to improve nasal breathing. In essence, the device is a tapered silicone stent consisting of two flexible beams bridging two soft pads whose shape closely follows the complex internal nasal anatomy,” said Byrne. “When deployed, one pad grips the nasal septum and the other presses against the lateral nasal wall to dilate the passage and stent it open. This dilation force comes from the two flexible beams, which bend to provide a gentle spring force while forming a lumen to accommodate airflow.”
The product fits into the nasal vestibule and to get it in and out you can either use the simple applicator or just stick it up there with your finger.
The team is excited about the possibilities, especially since this can help people without forcing them to get surgery.
“Although the mechanism for reversing nasal obstruction is straightforward, there is no viable alternative to surgery for those who struggle with nasal breathing throughout the day. Breathe Right strips lead this nighttime nasal dilator market with annual revenues of $145M, amounting to an 80% market share. However, experts estimate a $250M market opportunity for less-invasive nasal obstruction treatment,” said Byrne.
“We have heard stories from dozens who have had surgery to correct nasal obstruction – with limited success and great expense – and hundreds who are reluctant to undergo surgery in the first place and feel they have no alternative for breathing better throughout the day, at night, or during exercise. This invention has potential to radically change the standard of care for nasal obstruction and provide a convenient, sensible solution to this widespread problem,” he said.
Look for this anti-snort-hork-honnnnnking device in the next few months.
Back Market raises $48 million for its refurbished device marketplace
If you’ve tried selling your old smartphone on a refurbishment website, chances are you ended up with a dozen browser tabs comparing prices. French startup Back Market is taking advantage of this fragmented industry to create a marketplace and aggregate all refurbishers on a single online platform.
The startup just raised $48 million (€41 million). Groupe Arnault, Eurazeo, Aglaé Ventures and Daphni participated in today’s funding round.
Back in May, the company told me that it was working with over 270 factories. Back Market has generated over $110 million in gross merchandise volume over the past three years. The service is now live in France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Italy. The company just expanded to the U.S.
“Before, refurbishment was just a thing for tech savvy people and tech bloggers,” co-founder and chief creative officer Vianney Vaute told me. “With Back Market, it becomes a mainstream alternative.”
Working with multiple factories is also a competitive advantage when it comes to pricing, fail rate and quality assurance. Back Market has an overview on the industry and can choose to work with some partners and leave underperforming ones behind. The startup needs to build a brand that consumers can trust.
While smartphones and laptops are the most prominent products on the homepage, Back Market also accepts game consoles, TVs, headphones, coffee machines and more. Back Market also sells Apple products refurbished by Apple itself.
Now that smartphones have become a mature market, many customers aren’t looking for new and shiny devices. Some customers can be perfectly happy with a phone that was released last year or two years ago. It represents an opportunity for Back Market and the refurbishment industry as a whole.