Here’s what the Uber Eats delivery drone looks like

Uber has unveiled more details about its plans for Eats delivery via drones. If all goes according to Uber’s plan, it will start flying its first drone model before the end of the year.

Uber’s design, which it unveiled at the Forbes 30 under 30 Summit today, is made to carry up to one meal for two people. Featuring rotating wings with six rotors, the vehicle can vertically take-off and land, and travel a maximum of eight minutes, including loading and unloading. The total flight range is 18 miles, with a round-trip delivery range of 12 miles.

As Uber previously said, the plan is not to use the drones for full delivery, but rather a portion of it. Once a customer orders food, the restaurant will prepare the meal and then load it onto a drone. That drone will then take off, fly and land at a pre-determined drop-off location.

Behind the scenes, Uber’s Elevate Cloud Systems will track and guide the drone, as well as notify an Eats delivery driver when and where to pick up their food. Down the road, Uber envisions landing the drones on top of parked Uber vehicles located near the delivery locations. From there, the Eats delivery driver will complete the last mile to hand-deliver the food to the customer.

Beginning next summer, Uber wants to use this drone for meal deliveries in San Diego. That would come after Uber first tests deliveries in partnership with drone operators and manufacturers.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

This $350,000 Swiss watch looks like an Apple Watch, chimes to tell the time

H. Moser & Cie. Swiss Alps is back with another Apple Watch lookalike. The $ 350,000 Watch Concept Black is a ludicrous take on the classic minute repeater design. And on this version, the wearer can only tell the time by chiming the watch.

These sort of watches have a storied history that predate wristwatches by hundreds of years. Called minute repeaters they allow the wearer to hit a button, and the watch will respond with chimes indicating the time of the day. The movements were developed before artificial illumination made it possible for watchmakers to add glow-in-the-dark markings. But this is far from a working man’s watch. H. Moser worked with Manufactures Hautes Complications SA to develop the custom movement for this watch.

Flip the watch over, and the watch’s cost is explained in the custom movement. This minute repeater has a rectangular-shaped movement. It’s special. To chime two small hammers strike a gong that runs around the outline of the rectangle casing. Despite the odd shape, the watch is capable of producing a chime Hodinkee calls “crisp, clear, and resonant, with none of the dampening you’d expect from a heavy precious metal case.”

To set the time, the wear chimes the watch using the slide on the side of the casing. Then the wearer adjusts the time using markers on the crown. I like it. It’s a simple and clever way to set a watch without hands.

This watchmaker started using the Apple Watch’s design in 2016 and now has a range of timepieces that mimic the rounded square look in its Swiss Alp Watch line.

H. Moser is known for its concept watches. Don’t expect this watch to be in your local Tourneau. It’s a publicity stunt for H. Moser’s custom watch business that lets the ultra-rich develop one-off timepieces. As for this concept, I’m a fan. The watch demonstrates everything special about the watch industry right now. After years of getting beat up from the Apple Watch, it’s finding its grove in producing both beautiful and affordable mechanical watches and wonderful unattainable timepieces. To be justified, watches do not have to have apps; they just have to delight the wearer and this $ 350,000 watch does just that.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

New Apple voice phishing scam looks just like a real support call

A new voice phishing scam is going after iPhone users with in a clever new way: by making calls seem like they are coming directly from Apple Support.

Brian Krebs reported today that a user, Jody Westby, got a call from Apple Support asking for her to call back. The contact information that came along with the number appeared to be Apple Inc.’s in the identity screen for the call. When she called the 866 number, however, something was clearly amiss.

KrebsOnSecurity called the number that the scam message asked Westby to contact (866-277-7794). An automated system answered and said I’d reached Apple Support, and that my expected wait time was about one minute and thirty seconds. About a minute later, a man with an Indian accent answered and inquired as to the reason for my call.

Playing the part of someone who had received the scam call, I told him I’d been alerted about a breach at Apple and that I needed to call this number. After asking me to hold for a brief moment, our call was disconnected.

No doubt this is just another scheme to separate the unwary from their personal and financial details, and to extract some kind of payment (for supposed tech support services or some such). But it is remarkable that Apple’s own devices (or AT&T, which sold her the phone) can’t tell the difference between a call from Apple and someone trying to spoof Apple.

The exploit is unique because it allows callers to masquerade as other callers essentially by polluting search results with junk information that makes one number look like the contact number for a real company. The number Westby was told to call is a known phishing source. Remember: if anyone calls you claiming that your computer is broken they are most probably lying. After all, support people will never be proactive when it comes to problems with your computers, only reactive (if that).

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Google’s smart home sell looks cluttered and incoherent

If any aliens or technology ingenues were trying to understand what on earth a ‘smart home’ is yesterday, via Google’s latest own-brand hardware launch event, they’d have come away with a pretty confused and incoherent picture.

The company’s presenters attempted to sketch a vision of gadget-enabled domestic bliss but the effect was rather closer to described clutter-bordering-on-chaos, with existing connected devices being blamed (by Google) for causing homeowners’ device usability and control headaches — which thus necessitated another new type of ‘hub’ device which was now being unveiled, slated and priced to fix problems of the smart home’s own making.

Meet the ‘Made by Google’ Home Hub.

Buy into the smart home, the smart consumer might think, and you’re going to be stuck shelling out again and again — just to keep on top of managing an ever-expanding gaggle of high maintenance devices.

Which does sound quite a lot like throwing good money after bad. Unless you’re a true believer in the concept of gadget-enabled push-button convenience — and the perpetually dangled claim that smart home nirvana really is just around the corner. One additional device at a time. Er, and thanks to AI!

Yesterday, at Google’s event, there didn’t seem to be any danger of nirvana though.

Not unless paying $ 150 for a small screen lodged inside a speaker is your idea of heaven. (i.e. after you’ve shelled out for all the other connected devices that will form the spokes chained to this control screen.)

A small tablet that, let us be clear, is defined by its limitations: No standard web browser, no camera… No, it’s not supposed to be an entertainment device in its own right.

It’s literally just supposed to sit there and be a visual control panel — with the usual also-accessible-on-any-connected-device type of content like traffic, weather and recipes. So $ 150 for a remote control doesn’t sound quite so cheap now does it?

The hub doubling as a digital photo frame when not in active use — which Google made much of — isn’t some kind of ‘magic pixie’ sales dust either. Call it screensaver 2.0.

A fridge also does much the same with a few magnets and bits of paper. Just add your own imagination.

During the presentation, Google made a point of stressing that the ‘evolving’ smart home it was showing wasn’t just about iterating on the hardware front — claiming its Google’s AI software is hard at work in the background, hand-in-glove with all these devices, to really ‘drive the vision forward’.

But if the best example it can find to talk up is AI auto-picking which photos to display on a digital photo frame — at the same time as asking consumers to shell out $ 150 for a discrete control hub to manually manage all this IoT — that seems, well, underwhelming to say the least. If not downright contradictory.

Google also made a point of referencing concerns it said it’s heard from a large majority of users that they’re feeling overwhelmed by too much technology, saying: “We want to make sure you’re in control of your digital well-being.”

Yet it said this at an event where it literally unboxed yet another clutch of connected, demanding, function-duplicating devices — that are also still, let’s be clear, just as hungry for your data — including the aforementioned tablet-faced speaker (which Google somehow tried to claim would help people “disconnect” from all their smart home tech — so, basically, ‘buy this device so you can use devices less’… ); a ChromeOS tablet that transforms into a laptop via a snap-on keyboard; and 2x versions of its new high end smartphone, the Pixel 3.

There was even a wireless charging Pixel Stand that props the phone up in a hub-style control position. (Oh and Google didn’t even have time to mention it during the cluttered presentation but there’s this Disney co-branded Mickey Mouse-eared speaker for kids, presumably).

What’s the average consumer supposed to make of all this incestuously overlapping, wallet-badgering hardware?!

Smartphones at least have clarity of purpose — by being efficiently multi-purposed.

Increasingly powerful all-in-ones that let you do more with less and don’t even require you to buy a new one every year vs the smart home’s increasingly high maintenance and expensive (in money and attention terms) sprawl, duplication and clutter. And that’s without even considering the security risks and privacy nightmare.

The two technology concepts really couldn’t be further apart.

If you value both your time and your money the smartphone is the one — the only one — to buy into.

Whereas the smart home clearly needs A LOT of finessing — if it’s to ever live up to the hyped claims of ‘seamless convenience’.

Or, well, a total rebranding.

The ‘creatively chaotic & experimental gadget lovers’ home would be a more honest and realistic sell for now — and the foreseeable future.

Instead Google made a pitch for what it dubbed the “thoughtful home”. Even as it pushed a button to pull up a motorised pedestal on which stood clustered another bunch of charge-requiring electronics that no one really needs — in the hopes that consumers will nonetheless spend their time and money assimilating redundant devices into busy domestic routines. Or else find storage space in already overflowing drawers.

The various iterations of ‘smart’ in-home devices in the market illustrate exactly how experimental the entire  concept remains.

Just this week, Facebook waded in with a swivelling tablet stuck on a smart speaker topped with a camera which, frankly speaking, looks like something you’d find in a prison warden’s office.

Google, meanwhile, has housed speakers in all sorts of physical forms, quite a few of which resemble restroom scent dispensers — what could it be trying to distract people from noticing?

And Amazon now has so many Echo devices it’s almost impossible to keep up. It’s as if the ecommerce giant is just dropping stones down a well to see if it can make a splash.

During the smart home bits of Google’s own-brand hardware pitch, the company’s parade of presenters often sounded like they were going through robotic motions, failing to muster anything more than baseline enthusiasm.

And failing to dispel a strengthening sense that the smart home is almost pure marketing, and that sticking update-requiring, wired in and/or wireless devices with variously overlapping purposes all over the domestic place is the very last way to help technology-saturated consumers achieve anything close to ‘disconnected well-being’.

Incremental convenience might be possible, perhaps — depending on which and how few smart home devices you buy; for what specific purpose/s; and then likely only sporadically, until the next problematic update topples the careful interplay of kit and utility. But the idea that the smart home equals thoughtful domestic bliss for families seems farcical.

All this updatable hardware inevitably injects new responsibilities and complexities into home life, with the conjoined power to shift family dynamics and relationships — based on things like who has access to and control over devices (and any content generated); whose jobs it is to fix things and any problems caused when stuff inevitably goes wrong (e.g. a device breakdown OR an AI-generated snafu like the ‘wrong’ photo being auto-displayed in a communal area); and who will step up to own and resolve any disputes that arise as a result of all the Internet connected bits being increasingly intertwined in people’s lives, willingly or otherwise.

Hey Google, is there an AI to manage all that yet?

more Google Event 2018 coverage

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Kaptivo looks to digitally transform the lowly whiteboard

At Kaptivo, a company that’s bringing high-tech image recognition, motion capture and natural language processing technologies to the lowly whiteboard, executives are hoping that the second time is the charm.

The Cambridge, U.K. and San Mateo, Calif.-based company began life as a company called Light Blue Optics, and had raised $ 50 million in financing since its launch in 2004. Light Blue Optics was working on products like Kaptivo’s white board technology and an interactive touch and pen technology, which was sold earlier in the year to Promethean, a global education technology solutions company.

With a leaner product line and a more focused approach to the market, Kaptivo emerged in 2016 from Light Blue Optics’ shadow and began selling its products in earnest.

Founding chief executive Nic Lawrence (the previous head of Light Blue Optics) even managed to bring in investors from his old startup to Kaptivo, raising $ 6 million in fresh capital from Draper Esprit (a previous backer), Benhamou Global Ventures and Generation Ventures.

“The common theme has been user interfaces,” Lawrence said. “We saw the need for a new product category. We sold off parts of our business and pushed all our money into Kaptivo.”

What initially began as a business licensing technology, Lawrence saw a massive market opening up in technologies that could transform the humble whiteboard into a powerful tool for digital business intelligence with the application of some off the shelf technology and Kaptivo’s proprietary software.

Kaptivo’s technology does more than just create a video of a conference room, Lawrence says.

“In real time we’re removing the people from the scene and enhancing the content written on the board,”  he said.”

Optical character recognition allows users to scribble on a white board and Kaptivo’s software will differentiate between text and images. The company’s subscription service even will convert text to other languages.

The company has a basic product and a three-year cloud subscription that it sells for $ 999. That’s much lower than the thousands of dollars a high-end smart conferencing system would cost, according to Lawrence. The hardware alone is $ 699, and a one-year subscription to its cloud services sells for $ 120, Lawrence said.

Kaptivo has sold more than 2,000 devices globally already and has secured major OEM partners like HP, according to a statement. Kaptivo customers include BlueJeans, Atlassian and Deloitte, as well as educational institutions including George Washington University, Stanford University and Florida Institute of Technology.

The product is integrated with Slack and Trello and BlueJeans video conferencing, Lawrence said. In the first quarter of 2018 alone, the company has sold about 5,000 units.

The vision is “to augment every existing whiteboard,” Lawrence said. “You can bring [the whiteboard] into the 21st century with one of these. Workers can us their full visual creativity as part of a remote meeting.”

Gadgets – TechCrunch