These guys made a motorcycle look (and sound!) like a Star Wars Speeder Bike

These guys made a motorcycle look (and sound!) like a Star Wars Speeder Bike

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I’ve never been a big motorcycle guy. I have the hand/eye coordination of a sleepy toddler, and I’m pretty sure I’d hurt myself within about two minutes of firing up the engine.

This bike wants me to give it a try anyway.

Built by Wisconsin-based machining/customization shop Vintage Works, it’s a custom bike modeled after the mostly-impossible ride of every 80’s kids dreams: the Speeder Bike from Return of the Jedi. It’s about as close as you can get to a real Speeder Bike without, you know, defying our current understanding of physics.

Oh, and it doesn’t just look like a Speeder — it sounds like one, too. As demonstrated in the video below, they’ve hidden a speaker array within the bike that recreates the winding whirs of a Speeder zipping around Endor.

The bad news: unless you can convince these guys to build a second one for you and have the cash to make it happen, you won’t be able to get one of your own — it’s a one of a kind creation, for now.

[via io9]

And for good measure, the original scene:

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speeder

Source: TechCrunch

Apple acquires Turi, a machine learning company

Apple acquires Turi, a machine learning company

turi

Word just started going around the rumormill that Apple has acquired Turi, a company that describes itself as a “machine learning platform for developers and data scientists”

In addition to their machine learning products, Turi also runs the Data Science Summit — a two day conference focusing on, as the name implies, data science.

We reached out to Apple for confirmation, and sure enough — we got the standard reply they give when they’re confirming an acquisition but not saying much else:

“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

Apple declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal, but Geekwire suggests that it was upwards of $200 million.

This isn’t the first acquisition Apple has made in the AI/Machine Learning space — for example, they acquired Perceptio, a company that specialized in machine learning and image recognition, back in September of 2015

Turi was previously known as “Dato” (and before that, “GraphLab”), but changed their name in July of this year after a trademark dispute.

Turi began reaching out to its customers to let them know their products would no longer be available at the end of July, the first indication that an acquisition had occurred. Turi’s own blog, meanwhile, no longer loads.

We’re hearing that Turi’s team will remain in Seattle, rather than moving down to Apple’s Cupertino HQ.

Source: TechCrunch

Niantic acknowledges that Pokemon are way too hard to catch now, promises a fix

Niantic acknowledges that Pokemon are way too hard to catch now, promises a fix

pinsir gif

About two days ago, Pokemon Go players noticed a change — and it wasn’t one they’d been hoping for.

All of a sudden Pokemon were much, much harder to catch. They dodged more, hopped over your ball more often, and worse yet: if you did manage to get one inside your Pokéball, odds were seemingly higher than ever that they’d bust out and immediately run away. Even the weakest stuff suddenly seemed painfully cunning; the low-level Weedles that new players once caught for practice suddenly became dastardly Pokeball-eating foes.

It would seem that Niantic is now aware of the issue, and is working on a patch. They acknowledged the bug in a tweet:

Alas, there’s no word on when such a fix might come — but at least we can take some comfort in knowing that it’s not supposed to be like this:

Source: TechCrunch

Burrow wants to bring Casper’s mattress concept to couches

Burrow wants to bring Casper’s mattress concept to couches

burrow

Buying a couch sucks.

Not unlike when buying a mattress, most people find themselves picking one of two* options: heading to a chain couch store and haggling with someone who needs to keep the price up for the sake of commissions, or saying “screw that” and heading for IKEA. Then you’ve gotta deal with getting the thing to — and in — your house.

(* or, of course, option three: finding a free couch on craigslist and forever wondering why it smells like cats despite the post specifically saying “comes from a cat free house”)

Companies like Tuft & Needle and Casper put a dent in this model by focusing on direct-to-consumer, one-size-fits-most mattresses. They ship to your door, compacted as much as possible to fit up narrow stairways, sans showfloor negotiations or reseller markups. Don’t like it? You get your money back.

Burrow, a company in YC’s Summer 2016 class, is trying that same concept with couches. They’ll have one model of couch at first, and it can be customized in a handful of fabics in a two-seater or three-seater design.

Burrow’s couch is modular, and designed to be moved from house to house. The company’s founders tell me they were inspired when they saw peers paying couch cutting/disassembly services to physically cut apart their couches for the sake of getting them up narrow New York apartment stairways. Ross’ troubles are real:

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Like Casper et all, you buy Burrow’s $850 couch straight from them, shipping is included, and you’ve got 100 days to decide whether or not you like it.

That puts it a notch above the big box couch stores, sure — if only because you don’t have to worry about negotiating or whether or not you’d be better off waiting two weeks for some big holiday sale. But how is it better than, say, Ikea?

According to the founders: it’s all about the assembly process. They’ve designed this thing to come together in “under 10 minutes without tools”. (I actually put together Ikea’s Norsborg sofa just a few months back, and was surprised at how damned long it took. It wasn’t hard, just tedious.)

While I like the idea of fixing the couch buying process, I worry that the one-size-fits-most model doesn’t translate as directly as it may initially seem. Unlike mattresses, which generally go covered/unseen for most of their lifespan, the couch is often the biggest, most visible thing in one’s living room. Last time I bought a couch, it took me and my wife a half dozen trips to every couch store around to find one we were both happy with. Mattresses just need to be comfortable – couches need to fit your style, your room, and your life.

At this point, Burrow is focusing on one couch design. You can tweak the color/fabric, add a third seat, and options like different legs and arms are coming down the road — but if you don’t like the overall look and shape, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Meanwhile, recommending the company to your friends means they’ll end up having the same core couch. A different color, perhaps; different legs, even. But it’s the same couch, and these are things plenty of people care about.

With all that said, they’ve put a touch on this couch I truly appreciate: built-in power outlets and USB ports. I’ve seen this in some big-box couches (and immediately went home and busted out a drill and added a hub to my own couch), but I hope this becomes standard industry wide. And while it’s about as subjective as things come, the design they have now is something I could see in my living room. And little touches like reversible pillows that are tufted on one side but not on the other for on-the-fly customization show they’ve put a good amount of thought into this design.

Burrow is still in its early days — they’ve shipped couches, but only in limited numbers. They’re working on durability testing now, bringing in an outside firm to bust out robots to quickly simulate year-after-year of plopping down onto the couch at the end of the day.

If you want to be one of the earlier adopters, they’re taking reservations for October now.

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Source: TechCrunch

With 10,000 smartscooters sold, Gogogo powers up a rental service with Bosch in Berlin

With 10,000 smartscooters sold, Gogogo powers up a rental service with Bosch in Berlin

gogoro

Gogoro’s electric smartscooter is pretty snazzy… but unless you live in Taiwan, chances are you haven’t actually seen one in person. The scooters require a network of battery-swapping terminals to work as intended, so they’re shipping out one country at a time — and so far, “one country at a time” means “one country”: Taiwan.

That changes starting today: Gogoro’s scooters are rolling out in Berlin immediately, albeit as part of a scooter rental service.

Gogoro is partnering with Bosch, supplying the German mega-company with 200 scooters for an on-demand rental service they’re calling “Coup”. Gogoro CEO Horace Luke tells me that Bosch will own the scooters, but declined to comment on the financials of the deal beyond that.

The scooters will rent for 3 euros for 30 minutes, or 20 euros per day. To rent one, you’ll open the Coup app and rent the nearest available scooter; when done, you just park it in the nearest legal parking spot for someone else to grab. Helmets will be included in the rental price, stowed in the scooter’s trunk.

“But wait! Doesn’t the Gogoro need battery swapping stations to work right?”

Indeed! And such stations aren’t widely available yet in Berlin. As such, Coup is going to handle battery swapping during this initial phase — they’ll determine when a scooter’s battery is running low, and will swap it out with a fresh one while the scooter is parked.

This isn’t the first scooter sharing service in Berlin — or even the first electric scooter sharing service in the city. For example, a sharing service called eMio has been around since March of last year.

For the most part, these scooters are the same ones Gogoro is selling in Taipei — with one catch: they’re limited to 45 kilometers per hour (roughly 28mph), whereas the purchased version caps out at 95 kilometers per hour (~59mph). Why? Drivers licenses. By keeping it limited, Gogoro says, they’re able to rent to people with standard drivers licenses as opposed to Motorcycle-specific licenses. They’re also getting a new look for the sake of branding:

coup

Gogoro’s scooter initially launched in Taiwan at a price equivalent to roughly $4,100 USD. That price was quickly dropped to around $3,000 USD. A little over a year after launch, Gogoro says they’ve sold 10,000 scooters.

Alas, Berliners hoping to actually own one of Gogoro’s scooters are still going to have to wait a bit — it’s strictly a rental arrangement, for now. Meanwhile, the company says they’re planning on selling their scooters in Amsterdam later this summer.

You can check out our initial write-up of Gogoro’s launch right here.

Source: TechCrunch

Here’s whats new in the latest Pokémon Go update

Here’s whats new in the latest Pokémon Go update

Word started spreading early this morning of an update rolling out to Pokemon Go — version 0.31.0, if you’re keeping track.

The update is reportedly rolling out now, but it’s only gone out to a handful of Android users thus far. I’d imagine that a comparable iOS update is right around the corner, just making its way through Apple’s approval process. Don’t have it yet? Don’t worry: most people don’t.

While players are still digging around to figure out what’s new, a number of changes have already been spotted — some of them welcome, some a bit more questionable.

Ready to dive in to the changes? Tap that right arrow if you’re on desktop, or just scroll if you’re on mobile. Thanks to the Reddit Pokemon Go community for unearthing these.

Source: TechCrunch

A glimpse inside Tesla’s super secretive Gigafactory

A glimpse inside Tesla’s super secretive Gigafactory

Secret, super secret and top secret

We’ve been invited in for an early look, but that doesn’t mean we have an all-access pass. Even in most of the areas in which we are allowed, cameras generally aren’t (I’d have brought more pictures back if I could, I promise).

For every machine we’re able to see, two are shrouded under tarps. We enter a room with one machine that nearly scrapes the roof 40 feet above us — covered, of course, in 40 feet of tarp.

“Are those tarps there because it’s not finished yet, or because the machine is secret?” I ask.

“A bit of both,” replies someone from Tesla.

“What does that one do?”

“I can’t say.”

“What part of the process is it for?”

“Battery production.” (Essentially everything in this factory is ultimately for battery production.)

“Can you tell me anything else?”

“It’s part of either the cathode or anode process” — essentially a fancier way of saying that it’s for making batteries.

“…”

“Okay! On to the next room.”

The next room has another 40-foot tall machine, still covered. They won’t tell us what this one does, either.

So what’s the reason for the secrecy?

Ultimately, the Gigafactory isn’t just big for the sake of being big. Tesla, in partnership with Panasonic, is putting $5 billion into this place to have a playground on which they can build all the things they can’t build elsewhere. They’re building new stuff here to help them drive down the costs of the batteries they need… and they don’t want anyone to know exactly how it all comes together.

“[This factory] deserves more attention from creative problem solving engineers than the product it makes,” Musk would later tell us in a Q&A. “Over time… the majority of our engineering will actually go into designing the factory as a product itself… If we take a creative engineering person and apply them to designing the factory — this machine that makes the machine — they make 5 to 10 times the headway per hour than if they’re trying to improve the products it makes.”

Source: TechCrunch

You can now control Nest’s Thermostat with your Apple Watch

You can now control Nest’s Thermostat with your Apple Watch

nest

If you own both a Nest thermostat and an Apple Watch, you might’ve figured the two would’ve learned to play friendly by now.

I mean, Apple Watch keeps you from having to pull your phone out of your pocket to see who’s bugging you while you’re trying to finish Stranger Things, Nest’s thermostat keeps you from having to pause Stranger Things just because you’re a little cold… surely, the two would work together in some sort of perfect, shut-up-and-let-me-watch-Stranger-Things harmony?

Before today, no. But now they do! Hurray!

Nest just dropped an update to their iOS app that adds Apple Watch support, allowing you to control your Nest thermostat from your wrist like the 2016 smart-home dwelling spaceman you are.

Okay, but seriously, back to watching Stranger Things.

apple watch nest

Source: TechCrunch

TechShop gets a new CEO

TechShop gets a new CEO

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If you’re into building stuff and making things and live near a major city, you might’ve heard of TechShop. Like a gym for DIY-geeks, the idea is that they buy and maintain all sorts of crazy expensive machinery — laser cutters, CNC mills, 3D printers, etc — and you pay them a monthly fee to access it.

According to an email sent out to members and investors by TechShop Founder Jim Newton, CEO Mark Hatch has resigned to focus on other projects. Hatch had been with TechShop for about 7 years.

Writes Mark in a note in the aforementioned email:

“After considerable thought and consultation, I’ve reached one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. I’ve decided that I can help TechShop and the Maker Movement the most by stepping down from the day-to-day demands of being TechShop’s CEO. I’ve come to the conclusion that I can help grow the movement faster and better by opening up my calendar to more policy, educational, corporate speaking, writing and consulting engagements.”

Dan Woods, who previously helped launch MAKE Magazine and was already a member of TechShop’s Board of Directors, will be taking on the CEO role effectively immediately

Featured Image: Benjamin Tincq/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE
Source: TechCrunch

Rick and Morty is coming to virtual reality

Rick and Morty is coming to virtual reality

morty

GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE! Er, wrong show.

W-w-w-whoa, Morty. Rick and Morty is coming to virtual reality by way of the HTC Vive.

Beyond that, there’s… not a whole lot to know, just yet, except that it’s called “Rick and Morty Simulator: Virtual Rick-ality” and is being built by Owlchemy — the same folks who made the silly but oh-so-wonderful Job Simulator for Vive.

Oh, and they released all of 15 seconds of gameplay footage:
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The company says they’ll be showing the game off at San Diego Comic Con in July — alas, no word on a release beyond that, just yet.

Will Mr. Meeseeks be there to help me along the way? Will we be able to go into a simulation within a simulation within a simulation? We’ll hopefully find out soon.

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My man!

Source: TechCrunch