June 25, 2019
Category archive


OrCam’s MyMe uses facial recognition to remember everyone you meet

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Meet the Orcam MyMe, a tiny device that you clip on your T-shirt to help you remember faces. The OrCam MyMe features a small smartphone-like camera and a proprietary facial-recognition algorithm so that you can associate names with faces. It can be a useful device at business conferences, or to learn more about how you spend a typical day.

This isn’t OrCam’s first device. The company has been selling the MyEye for a few years. It’s a wearable device for visually impaired people that you clip to your glasses. Thanks to its camera and speaker, you can point your finger at some text and get some audio version of the test near your ear. It can also tell you if there’s somebody familiar in front of you.

OrCam is expanding beyond this market with a mass market product. It features the same technological foundation, but with a different use case. OrCam’s secret sauce is that it can handle face recognition and optical character recognition on a tiny device with a small battery — images are not processed in the cloud.

It’s also important to note that the OrCam MyMe doesn’t record video or audio. When the device detects a face, it creates a signature and tries to match it with existing signatures. While it’s not a spy camera, it still feels a bit awkward when you realize that there’s a camera pointed at you.

When there’s someone in front of you, the device sends a notification to your phone and smart watch. You can then enter the name of this person on your phone so that the next notification shows the name of the person you’re talking with.

If somebody gives you a business card, you can also hold it in front of you. The device then automatically matches the face with the information on the business card.

After that, you can tag people in different categories. For instance, you can create a tag for family members, another one for colleagues and another one for friends.

The app shows you insightful graphs representing your work-life balance over the past few weeks and months. If you want to quantify everything in your life, this could be an effective way of knowing that you should spend more time with your family for instance.

While the device isn’t available just yet, the company already sold hundreds of early units on Kickstarter. Eventually, OrCam wants to create a community of enthusiasts and figure out new use cases.

I saw the device at CES last week and it’s much smaller than you’d think based on photos. You don’t notice it unless you’re looking for the device. It’s not as intrusive as Google Glass for instance. You can optionally use a magnet if the clip doesn’t work with what you’re wearing.

OrCam expects to ship the MyMe in January 2020 for $399. It’s an impressive little device, but the company also faces one challenge — I’m not sure everyone feels comfortable about always-on facial recognition just yet.

Hulu redesign will drop the confusing home screen called ‘Lineup,’ simplify navigation

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Hulu is preparing to update its streaming app in order to make its simpler to navigate to and discover content you want to watch. Some of the changes coming in the weeks ahead are smaller, but worthwhile tweaks – like adding buttons or re-arranging where menus sit. But the more notable change is that Hulu is testing doing away with the app’s existing home page – currently known as “Lineup” – and replacing it with a new experience.

That’s a change that could have a significant impact, as the Hulu home page is the place everyone first lands when they launch the app. The page today sees the most engagement and is biggest driver of content discovery for the streaming service.

Hulu found that users have short attention spans when hitting this page, however – in 30 to 60 seconds’ time, they’ve lost interest. Plus, when users decide to play a piece of content from this landing page, they’re doing so after five actions or less. That means Hulu has only a small window to connect viewers to content they’ll like, before they click away to elsewhere in the app – or close it altogether because they can’t find something to watch.

What Hulu now wants to learn is what sort of content makes the most sense for this landing page. “Lineup,” after all, is a vague term. It sounds like it’s something highly personalized to the viewer – and it’s clearly not, as any Hulu user can tell you, the suggestions here are often hit-or-miss.

“Lineup is confusing,” Hulu’s new VP of Product, Jim Denney, admitted, in a discussion with TechCrunch at CES about the new features. “Lineup, the way it is today, is a combination of editorial picks and recommendations…that combination of things is not as effective as we’d like it to be,” he said.

In its place, Hulu will trial two different variations: a “Hulu Picks” collection, which is curated by staff, and an “Unwatched in My Stuff” option that will show you things you have on your list, but haven’t yet watched.

The former, “Hulu Picks,” would allow the company to have more control over what sort of content suggestions you see first. While the latter option would showcase content you’ve explicitly indicated interest in viewing.

The company says it will test both options with a portion of Hulu’s user base in order to determine which one sees the best response. This will roll out in the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, other changes to the Hulu app will be focused on helping you view more content while searching for something to watch, as well as helping you to more easily navigate, and start watching with less confusion and fewer steps.

For example, Hulu will soon have more content appear on the screen as you scroll down in the user interface, so you can scan the thumbnails and make a decision more quickly.

It’s also adding a larger, more prominent “Details” button on content within its various collections – like the Lineup (or whatever replaces it), as well as sections like “Kids,” “News” or “Sports,” for example. This button will take you to the details page for that show or movie you’re interested in.


It’s adding more metadata next to the content, too, including things like the genre, rating, and the year which will help users make a choice more quickly.

On the content’s Details page, there will be a stacked list of quick actions for things like playing the next episodes, adding items to “My Stuff,” or managing your relationship with the show.

This latter option is a small but useful tweak that takes you to an area where you can adjust your suggestions and watch history – meaning you can mark something as watched or unwatched. This will be particularly beneficial for those times when you’ve begun watching a program on another streaming service, and now want to pick it up again on Hulu. Today, Hulu wouldn’t have any way of knowing if you’ve viewed those episodes outside its app – but now you’ll be able to explicitly say so.

You’ll also be able to mark content as unwatched, which could help if you’ve fallen asleep while watching TV, for example, or someone else watched the show while logged into your profile.

New visual templates will make finding news, sports and kids content easier with things like matchup artwork for games and movies identified by their poster, for instance.

On the Live TV side, subscribers will be able to view a full two weeks out on the programming guide, instead of just what’s airing now and next. The navigation here – like Recent Channels, My Channels, All Channels, etc. – has also moved from the top to the left side for easier access.

While these various changes will be rolling out this spring, Hulu plans to continue to iterate on the user interface through the year, says Denney.

“I think you should expect to see the UI continue to evolve,” he said. “We’ll make modifications based on what we’ve learned. We’ll continue to make changes in the UI and make changes to the way we do our recommendations. The mission is to make sure people appreciate the amount of content they have access to without being overwhelming. This home redesign is an ingredient in that,” he added.





Hands-on with Ledger’s Bluetooth crypto hardware wallet

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French startup Ledger unveiled a new hardware wallet at CES this week. While the device isn’t going to ship until March, the company let me play with a prototype version of the device. The Ledger Nano X feels just like using the Nano S, but on mobile.

When the company’s previous hardware wallet first came out, that was before the cryptocurrency boom, before Ledger raised $75 million. And the user experience wasn’t great.

You had to install multiple Chrome apps to manage multiple cryptocurrencies, switch between each app when you wanted to access your balance and manage your crypto assets. But things got much better when the company released Ledger Live on macOS, Windows and Linux.

With this new app, you could finally view your portfolio balance and manage multiple crypto assets from the same desktop app. The logical next step was mobile. And you have to get a new hardware wallet for that.

The Ledger Nano X looks more or less like the Ledger Nano S, but slightly bigger. It’s shaped like a USB key and it has a tiny screen to confirm transactions on the device. There’s a tiny 100 mAh battery in it and a slightly bigger screen. The battery should last a couple of months when you’re not using the wallet, and around 8 hours of active use. The microUSB port has been replaced by a USB-C port. The buttons are now on each side of the screen instead of on the side of the device.

After you pair the device with your phone, you can control everything from your iOS or Android phone. You can install apps on the Ledger Nano X, access your wallets and send cryptocurrencies. On iOS, you can lock the app using a password and optionally Face ID or Touch ID.

When you need to validate a transaction on your Ledger Nano X, your phone will pair with your Ledger device over Bluetooth. You can then view transaction information on your Ledger device and approve the transaction on the device itself.

What makes Ledger so secure is that your private keys never leave your Ledger device. Transactions are signed directly on the device. Your private keys are never sent over Bluetooth and your cryptocurrencies remain safe even if your smartphone is compromised.

Ledger now uses an ST33 secure element, which is slightly more secure than the previous version ST31. Now, there’s only a single chip, connected directly to the screen and buttons, which reduces the risk of having someone compromise the information on your screen.

The screen is now twice as tall, which lets you view full public addresses without a scrolling view. You can now install up to 100 different cryptocurrency apps. You can still plug the device into a computer and use the desktop app, as well. The device costs €120 ($138).

Disclosure: I own small amounts of various cryptocurrencies.

CES 2019 coverage - TechCrunch

Don’t expect a new Nvidia Shield Tablet anytime soon

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The Shield TV, Nvidia’s Android TV streaming box, is still getting regular updates, but the Shield Tablet, which launched in 2014, was last refreshed in 2015 and officially discontinued last year, wasn’t quite the same success. As Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said during a small press gathering at CES in Las Vegas today, the company doesn’t have any plans to resurrect it.

“Shield TV is still unquestionably the best Android TV in the world,” he said. “We have updated the software now over 30 times. People are blown away by how much we continue to enhance it.” And more (unspecified) enhancements are coming, he said.

On the mobile side, though, the days of the Shield Tablet are very much over, especially now that the Nintendo Switch, which uses Nvidia’s Tegra chips, has really captured that market.

“We are really committed to [Shield TV], but on mobile devices, we don’t think it’s necessary,” Huang said. “We would only build things not to gain market share. Nvidia is not a ‘take somebody else’s market share company.’ I think that’s really angry. It’s an angry way to run a business. Creating new markets, expanding the horizon, creating things that the world doesn’t have, that’s a loving way to build a business.”

He added that this is the way to inspire employees, too. Just copying competitors and maybe selling a product cheaper, though, does nothing to motivate employees and is not what Nvidia is interested in.

Of course, Huang left the door open to a future tablet if it made sense — though he clearly doesn’t think it does today. He’d only do so, “if the world needs it. But at the moment, I just don’t see it. I think Nintendo did such a great job.”

Bonus: The outspoken Huang also used his time with the assembled journalists to voice his opinion of AMD’s new Radeon VII graphics cards, which were announced earlier today. “Wow. Underwhelming, huh? I was kind of like saying ‘what?’ Because the performance is lousy and there’s nothing new. There’s no raytracing, no artificial intelligence. It’s a 7nm chip with HBM memory that barely keeps up with a 2080 and when we turn on DLSS, we’ll crush it. When we turn on raytracing, we’ll crush it. And it’s not even available yet.”

CES 2019 coverage - TechCrunch

The world’s first foldable phone is real

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People have been talking about foldable smartphones for years, but it’s finally happening. Chinese company Royole was showing off the FlexPai at CES in Las Vegas, and we got to play with it for a few minutes.

It’s hard to say if it’s a phone or a tablet as you can basically use it as a phone and a small tablet. Arguably, the tablet form factor is the most usable one. It’s a 7.8-inch device that runs Android.

When you fold the AMOLED display, there’s still a small gap between the two halves of the screen. But it’s also much smaller than the unfolded version. It’s a bulky phone, but it’s still much easier to store in a purse compared to a tablet.

You can already buy a developer version of the device if you live in the U.S. for around $1,300. It runs Android with a bunch of custom software features. If you fold the device, all your content moves to one part of the screen. It’s not a fluid experience, but it works.

It’s impressive to see that Royole managed to beat Samsung and other manufacturers to the market with this technology. Now, let’s see if Royole will sell its own devices, partner with other manufacturers or both. We have a video of the device coming up later this week.

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