Foxconn is making Sirin Labs’ $1,000 blockchain phone for cryptocurrency geeks

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Sirin Labs made the news last September when it unveiled a blockchain-powered phone and PC that would act as secure wallets for your cryptocurrency fortune. It’s now found a manufacturer in Foxconn, the Taiwanese firm that builds iPhones for Apple. The $ 999 Finney phone will let you store and shop with virtual currencies like Bitcoin, and allow you to earn tokens by sharing your mobile data connection with people around you; it also promises enhanced security thanks to its open-source Android-based Sirin OS. Bloomberg reports that a physical switch will activate coin-related services, and that users will eventually be able…

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Snapchat is making a bid for your parents, missing the entire point of Snapchat

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Snapchat aired its first-ever TV ad this past weekend during the NCAA’s Final Four, and it appears to have set its sights on a new audience: your parents. The ad bills Snapchat as “a camera, where how you feel matters more than how you look,” while painting it as an easy way to take photos of messy babies and put dog ears on grandma.

But by framing itself as another milquetoast social app designed for flaunting idyllic vacations and family reunions, the ad completely ignores what makes Snapchat appealing in the first place. Those highly curated shots are already going up on Instagram Stories. Snapchat is the place where you trade dumb jokes with your friends, non-essential thoughts, or show off the trashy nights you don’t want preserved…

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Menlo Ventures is making its first real bet on crypto as Bitpay raises $40 million

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Not all investors or companies believe bitcoin will ultimately be used for day-to-day transactions. Menlo and Bitpay beg to differ.

Venture capital firms over the last year or so have wrestled with how forcefully to lean into investing in startups linked to cryptocurrencies:

  • Is blockchain technology so consequential that we should reorient our entire investment strategy?
  • Is it a fad that we can avoid as our competitors get distracted?
  • Or should we gingerly — maybe even reluctantly — make a few investments just to minimize our downside until it’s clearer whether there is indeed money to be made here?

Now an older-line venture firm — Menlo Ventures — is making its first investment in the world of blockchain, the tech that undergirds virtual currencies. Menlo is part of a new $ 40 million financing round at Bitpay, a startup that allows merchants to accept and store bitcoin paid by customers.

Not all venture capitalists are excited about businesses that rely on normal people using bitcoin for everyday transactions. Investors and startups increasingly see cryptocurrencies as an asset to be traded like gold, not as something to be used at a shopping mall like a dollar bill. And so several top-tier venture capitalists who invest in crypto told Recode they passed on Bitpay amid concerns about how the company’s business model fits into the trends in the industry.

Bitpay CEO Stephen Pair disputed that the company had any trouble fundraising, saying that it had to “expand” the round from a planned $ 30 million to the final $ 40 million total due to high demand.

The company did something unusual during fundraising, too: It announced in December its intention to raise a fundraising round that was not yet closed, unveiling the in-progress $ 30 million round led by a fund managed by Aquiline Capital Partners. Menlo’s investment is part of the same round.

“We wanted to make sure that anybody who wanted to participate could, and announcing it serves that purpose,” Pair said.

That might not be read as a sign of strength, but Bitpay says that in 2017 it processed more than $ 1 billion in bitcoin payments. Pair says the company has been profitable for a year and a half and therefore hasn’t needed to raise much money — it last raised about $ 30 million in 2014.

And even if there are some investors and industry veterans who are pessimistic on bitcoin payments in the United States, cryptocurrencies are potentially quite attractive overseas for buying and selling goods. In countries with a large unbanked population or where currency values gyrate wildly, bitcoin can be a stabler form of payment and make commerce easier, especially for the poor.

So it’s no surprise that Bitpay is thinking about using this money to fuel its international expansion, particularly into Asia. Pair said Bitpay could expand open an office on the continent this year in either Hong Kong or Singapore. Several of the investors in this round are Asia-based.

But what’s most interesting about this round is what it says about how Menlo, founded in 1976, will deal with this new sphere of startup innovation. Tyler Sosin, who is leading Menlo’s work in crypto, said his firm had been evaluating startups using blockchain for the last 18 months but had yet to find something that they loved.

Sosin said that Menlo feels blockchain will be integral to the future of payments — and that they are attracted to payments platforms because it doesn’t require them to bet on the success of any individual cryptocurrency.

Menlo has yet to participate in an initial coin offering, or ICO, Sosin said, nor has it purchased cryptocurrencies outright with firm dollars. While the fund has been slower to engage than some of its rivals, Sosin insisted that the industry is still evolving and that Menlo was eager to dive more fully into this set of startups.

“It’s early, early days,” he said. “We imagine there will be some very big companies.”

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Amazing Songmaker Kit has everything you need for making music on the go

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Roli’s modular Songmaker Kit combines a keyboard, a drum pad, and a looper into one super-portable package.

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

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I Kill Giants director Anders Walter on making a likable fantasy with a hateful protagonist

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Originally, it seemed like any film adaptation of Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura’s 2009 graphic novel I Kill Giants would have to be animated. The book follows a troubled fifth-grader named Barbara who wears animal ears, engages in strange rituals, and dubs herself a giant-hunter. Her strange behavior makes her a pariah at her school, and especially draws the attention of some vicious bullies. But readers can see what the bullies can’t: that Barbara is surrounded by fairies and strange creatures, and that there’s a weird and threatening magic to her world. When she forges an awkward friendship with another young girl, Sophia, she slowly starts to drop her guard. But that proves dangerous to her equilibrium, given what she’s fighting.

D…

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Ascape Audio and the economics of making headphones in America

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Ascape Audio's home page proudly proclaims "Designed in Detroit," but at this point it's not helping business. "It hasn't made any goddamn impact," marketing director Dean Clancy said. "I want to put that in as many places as possible, because regar…
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This puking robot has a purpose: making rocket fuel safely

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You won’t be surprised to hear it, but rocket fuel is dangerous stuff. It’s potent and volatile, meaning it can explode before it even gets into the rocket. That makes manufacturing it tricky, as you need to mix together certain materials, but fling them around too hard and they’ll start doing their job early. The solution? Well, scientists from Japan suggest puking robots.

In the video above (spotted by IEEE Spectrum) you can see prototype apparatus designed by engineers from Chuo University and Japan’s national aerospace agency (JAXA) to mix solid rocket fuel. It’s basically a series of connected segments of tube that compress back and forth like a worm. This motion mimics how our intestines and esophagus move food around our body — a…

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Facebook is making it easier to see all the personal data it collects about you

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These are cosmetic changes, but might help Facebook appease regulators.

One of the issues with the way that tech companies like Facebook collect personal data from people is that they often make it hard for those people to understand what they’re collecting, and how to control it.

So in the wake of the company’s recent Cambridge Analytica privacy debacle, Facebook is trying to make that experience less confusing.

The social giant rolled out a new settings page for its mobile app on Wednesday, and also added a new dashboard called “Access Your Information” where users can find all the stuff they’ve handed over to Facebook, like photos and comments and messages, in one place.

The changes are cosmetic — Facebook isn’t the changing the way it collects your data. And all of this information was available to users before, it was just scattered and buried in different pages that made it tougher to collect.

“The last week showed how much more work we need to do to enforce our policies, and to help people understand how Facebook works and the choices they have over their data,” the company wrote in a blog post published Wednesday morning.

So while this update may seem rather trivial — the dashboard that shows you how much we know about you looks prettier! — the changes could also help Facebook appease regulators in Europe and potential regulators in the U.S.

New privacy laws from the E.U. will soon require data companies make it easy and clear for consumers to understand what the companies are collecting and how to delete it. You could argue that Facebook’s previous settings and policies weren’t doing that. It’ll be harder to argue that now.

This won’t be the last change Facebook makes thanks to Cambridge Analytica. Facebook also wrote on its blog that it plans to simplify the language for its terms of service, and will “also update our data policy to better spell out what data we collect and how we use it.”

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Amazon Is Really Serious About Making Healthcare a Part of Its Future

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Unlike some other Twitter-loving tech CEOs we know, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos likes to keep his company’s plans fairly quiet. Some even call Amazon “secretive.”

Bezos disagrees with that label, though. In 2014, he told shareholders he thinks “quiet” is more accurate: “Our primary approach is, we talk when we have something to say.”

As recent whisperings about Amazon’s involvement in the healthcare industry have risen to a crescendo, Amazon may be just about there.

Bezos first alluded to Amazon’s healthcare plans at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in October 2016. “I think healthcare is going to be one of those industries that is elevated and made better by machine learning and artificial intelligence. And I actually think Echo and Alexa do have a role to play in that,” he told attendees.

Clearly, he wasn’t just riffing. Amazon has spent the last year slowing inching its way deeper into the healthcare industry.

In July 2017, Amazon set up 1492, a secret lab dedicated to healthcare innovation. Since then, they’ve hired a number of healthcare experts to join the project, including Seattle doctor Martin Levine and Taha Kass-Hout, former chief health informatics officer for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In February, the company even teamed up with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway to form a company dedicated to reducing healthcare costs for employees.

It’s not yet clear how these pieces will come together, or how Amazon will stake its claim in the healthcare industry as a whole. But there are more signs that when the company’s efforts come to the fore, they could be in a position to dominate the industry.

The latest sign that Amazon is really serious about getting into healthcare is the sheer number of healthcare experts on the guest list for Bezos’ third annual MARS conference, an invite-only event that draws its name from the topics under discussion: machine learning, home automation, robotics, and space exploration.

At the meeting, Sonde Health presented its technology: AI that can diagnose mental and physical conditions based on recordings of a patient’s voice. Rich Mahoney, head of clothing startup Seismic, demonstrated his company’s “powered” garments, which could help the elderly and disabled people cope with mobility issue. And neuroscientist David Eagleman showed off his company’s vest that uses “sensory substitution” to help the deaf communicate.

It’s still anyone’s guess how these technologies could tie in with Amazon’s healthcare plans. But it’s worth noting this was the first year Bezos invited reporters to join in on his “summer camp for geeks.” For someone who typically likes to keep Amazon’s future plans under wraps and carefully controlled, that fact alone could be a sign the company’s healthcare ambitions won’t be a secret much longer.

The post Amazon Is Really Serious About Making Healthcare a Part of Its Future appeared first on Futurism.

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Making The Grade: What’s lacking in Apple’s Deployment Model for iPads?

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Making The Grade is a new weekly series from Bradley Chambers covering Apple in education. Bradley has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 100s of Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for students.


I’ve been deploying and managing iPads since the fall of 2010, so I’ve truly been managing them from the beginning. Even before the iPad, we had deployed 80 or so iPod touches around our school. Things have changed a lot since then. Back in the early days, we were syncing apps via iTunes. If you think iTunes is slow now, try updating iOS on 15 iPod touches at one time!

Fast forward to 2018, and iOS deployment is a solved problem. Thanks to tools like JAMF and Apple’s Device Enrollment Program, I can deploy hundreds of iPads with much the same effort I can ten. For me, unboxing them takes as long as it does to get them configured. For all the great ways Apple has improved this process, however, there are still two things they have yet to address:

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