Gadgets

Rumor suggests Apple’s AirPower mat has finally gone into production

Posted by | Apple, Gadgets, TC | No Comments

In 2017, Apple announced the Qi-compatible AirPower Mat, a device that would charge multiple devices at once simply by placing them on the mat.

That product has been seriously delayed due to reported interference and overheating issues, with a whole year going by without hearing much about the availability of the product. In fact, Apple’s total silence on the matter led some to believe it may have been canceled altogether.

Today, however, a new rumor has breathed life back into hopes for an AirPower Mat.

Hong Kong website ChargerLAB tweeted that a credible source in the supply chain said Luxshare Precision (the same manufacturer that builds AirPods and USB-C cables) has started production on the AirPower charging pad.

Breaking: AirPower is finally coming. We just learned from credible source in supply chain that the manufacture Luxshare Precision has already started producing Apple AirPower wireless charging pad. Luxshare Precision is also the maker of Apple AirPods and USB-C cables. pic.twitter.com/UqgWIAh3sx

— ChargerLAB (@chargerlab) January 12, 2019

MacRumors took a look at the tweet and used Google Translate to translate the WeChat screenshot included in the tweet, saying that the conversation is consistent with the information in the tweet.

ChargerLAB went on to tweet that another manufacturer, Pegatron, would start production on January 21st alongside Luxshare Precision. A report from June said that Pegatron would also be involved in manufacturing, so these tweets at least line up with what we’ve already heard.

Respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in October that the AirPower Mat could be released in first quarter 2019.

That said, this is just a rumor being passed along the Twitter grapevine for now.

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This Brooklyn man makes massive robotic costumes out of junk

Posted by | artist, food and drink, Gadgets, Gears, robot, TC, Vimeo | No Comments

One Man’s Trash from We Are Films on Vimeo.

Peter Kokis makes robots. Or more correctly, he turns into robots. This Brooklyn artists takes parts from different things — slicers, juicers and the like — and sticks them together to make some amazing costumes. He then wanders the streets of Brooklyn looking like an escaped Transformer.

His studio site, Brooklyn RobotWorks, features many of his creations, including an alien-looking robot and an exosuit that looks like something out of Gears of War.

“I look at the shape of objects and see their potential to portray something,” he wrote. “Virtually everything can be changed to suit my needs: re-shaped, cut-down, painted…altered in my ‘foundry’, to be seen as something else.”

This cute video shows Kokis’ foundry — actually his kitchen table — up close and explores the dedication of an artist who likes to make cool stuff to make people happy — a mission that applies to us all.

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Schneider’s EVLink car charging stations were easily hackable, thanks to a hardcoded password

Posted by | automotive, broadband, charging stations, electric car, electric vehicles, energy, Gadgets, inductive charging, internet connectivity, New York, Security, transport | No Comments

Schneider has fixed three vulnerabilities in one of its popular electric car charging stations, which security researchers said could have easily allowed an attacker to remotely take over the unit.

At its worst, an attacker can force a plugged-in vehicle to stop charging, rendering it useless in a “denial-of-service state,” an attack favored by some threat actors as it’s an effective way of forcing something to stop working.

The bugs were fixed with a software update that rolled out on September 2, shortly after the bugs were first disclosed, and limited details of the bugs were revealed in a supporting document on December 20. A fuller picture of the vulnerabilities, found by New York-based security firm Positive Technologies, were released today — almost a month later.

Schneider’s EVLink charging stations come in all shapes and sizes — some for the garage wall and some at gas stations. It’s the charging stations at offices, hotels, shopping malls and parking garages that are vulnerable, said Positive.

At the center of Positive’s disclosure is Schneider’s EVLink Parking electric charging stations, one of several charging products that Schneider sells, and primarily marketed to apartment complexes, private parking area, offices and municipalities. These charging stations are, like others, designed for all-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles — including Teslas, which have their own proprietary connector.

Because the EVLink Parking station can be connected to Schneider’s cloud with internet connectivity, either over a cell or a broadband connection, Positive said that the web-based user interface on the charging unit can be remotely accessed by anyone and easily send commands to the charging station — even while it’s in use.

“A hacker can stop the charging process, switch the device to the reservation mode, which would render it inaccessible to any customer until reservation mode is turned off, and even unlock the cable during the charging by manipulating the socket locking hatch, meaning attackers could walk away with the cable,” said Positive.

“For electric car drivers, this means not being able to use their vehicles since they cannot be charged,” it said. The company also said that it’s also possible to charge a car for free by exploiting these vulnerabilities.

Positive didn’t say what the since-removed password was. We asked for it — out of sheer curiosity more than anything — but the company isn’t releasing the password to prevent anyone exploiting the bug in unpatched systems.

The researchers, Vladimir Kononovich and Vyacheslav Moskvin, also found two other bugs that gives an attacker full access over a device — a code injection flaw and a SQL injection vulnerability. Both were fixed in the same software update.

When reached, a Schneider spokesperson did not immediately have comment. If that changes, we’ll update.

Additional reporting: Kirsten Korosec.

Updated at 12:15pm ET: with additional details, including about the unreleased password.

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Samsung’s new Galaxy M smartphones will launch in India first

Posted by | Gadgets, Galaxy M, india, Mobile, Samsung, Samsung Electronics, smartphones, TC | No Comments

Samsung will launch its new lower-priced Galaxy M series in India before the smartphones roll out globally. Asim Warsi, senior vice president of Samsung India’s smartphone business, told Reuters that three devices will be available through its website and Amazon India at the end of January and are intended to help the company double online sales.

Samsung is currently trying to recover its lead in India, the world’s second-largest smartphone market behind China, after losing it to Xiaomi at the end of 2017, when Xiaomi’s sales in India overtook Samsung for the first time, according to data from both Canalys and Counterpoint.

Xiaomi’s budget Redmi series gave it an advantage, as Samsung had a dearth of competitors in the same price bracket, but analysts noted the Korean electronics giant maintains an edge in terms of R&D and supply chain expertise. Samsung leaned into those strengths last year, opening what it describes as the world’s largest mobile phone factory in Noida, just outside of New Delhi.

Specs about the three Galaxy M smartphones emerged last month, with details appearing on platform benchmark Geekbench about devices called M10, M20 and M30, the latter of which may be powered by an Exynos 7885 chip with 4GB ram.

Warsi told Reuters that “the M series has been built around and incepted around Indian millennial consumers.” The price range of Indian-first smartphones will be from less than 10,000 rupees (about $142) to 20,000 rupees. TechCrunch has emailed Samsung for more information about the new phones.

The company will debut the latest version of its flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S10, in San Francisco on February 20.

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Amazon Dash buttons judged to breach consumer rules in Germany

Posted by | Amazon, amazon dash, consumer protection, consumer rights, eCommerce, Europe, Gadgets, Germany, lawsuit, munich | No Comments

Amazon’s Dash buttons have been found to breach consumer e-commerce rules in Germany.

The push-to-order gizmos were debuted by Amazon in 2015 in an attempt by the e-commerce giant to shave friction off of the online shopping process by encouraging consumers to fill their homes with stick-on, account-linked buttons that trigger product-specific staple purchases when pressed — from washing powder to toilet roll to cat food.

Germany was among the first international markets where Amazon launched Dash, in 2016, along with the U.K. and Austria. But yesterday a higher state court in Munich ruled the system does not provide consumers with sufficient information about a purchase.

The judgement follows a legal challenge by a regional consumer watchdog, Verbraucherzentrale NRW, which objects to the terms Amazon operates with Dash.

It complains that Amazon’s terms allow the company to substitute a product of a higher price or even a different product in place of what the consumer originally selected for a Dash push purchase.

It argues consumers are also not provided with enough information on the purchase triggered when the button is pressed — which might be months after an original selection was made.

Dash buttons should carry a label stating that a paid purchase is triggered by a press, it believes.

The Munich court has now sided with the group’s view that Amazon does not provide sufficient information to Dash consumers, per Reuters.

In a press release following the ruling, Verbraucherzentrale NRW said the judges agreed Amazon should inform consumers about price and product before taking the order, rather than after the purchase as is currently the case.

It also expressed confidence the judgement leaves no room for Amazon to appeal — though the company has said it intends to do so.

Commenting on the ruling in a statement, Verbraucherzentrale NRW consumer bureau chief, Wolfgang Schuldzinski, said: “We are always open to innovation. But if innovation is to put consumers at a disadvantage and to make price comparisons more difficult, then we use all means against them, as in this case.”

Amazon did not reply to questions about how it intends to respond to the court ruling in the short term, such as whether it will withdraw the devices or change how Dash works in Germany.

Instead it emailed us the following statement, attributed to a spokesperson: “The decision is not only against innovation, it also prevents customers from making an informed choice for themselves about whether a service like Dash Button is a convenient way for them to shop. We are convinced the Dash Button and the corresponding app are in line with German legislation. Therefore, we’re going to appeal.”

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Holoride’s in-car VR solution is the best thing at CES 2019

Posted by | Audi, automotive, CES 2019, Gadgets, holoride, Virtual reality | No Comments

After days of demos and announcements and miles of walking, I’m confident in declaring Holoride the best thing at this year’s CES. The designation of “The best thing at CES 2019” is my badging. This isn’t an official award handed out by a governing body. This is just me saying Holoride is the best thing I’ve seen at the show.

This year’s CES is fine, I guess. The main theme is connecting services around the smart home. There’s a huge range of devices that now support services from Amazon, Google and Apple. CES 2019 also featured the launch of new silicon chipsets and self-driving platforms. But the thing that impressed me the most is from Holoride, a startup from Audi that wants to put VR in cars to entertain and reduce motion sickness.

Iron Man needs help, Rocket told me. And like that I was thrust into a space battle against Thanos’ bad guys. There was an Oculus on my head and my body was dipping and diving, shooting through space, while I was waving my hands around, blasting the enemy. It was straight out of Disney World (partly because Disney helped with the content). Except I was in Vegas, in the back of an Audi SUV hitting speeds of 90 mph on a track.

After two laps around the track, I walked away fine. I didn’t feel sick at all, even though I’m the sort of person who can’t look at their phone in a car.

Matching the VR content to the vehicle’s movements is key to the Holoride experience. In short, when the car moves, the content moves in the same way. This reduces motion sickness, and, from my demo, I can confirm it works — at least on me.

The technology comes from a small startup recently spun out of Audi in a play to put VR in every car. The founders have been working on the technology behind the in-car VR system for several years. The automaker holds a minority interest through subsidiary Audi Electronics Venture, which helped develop the technology. Audi will license the technology to Holoride and the startup will use an open platform to allow any automaker as well as content developers to create whatever reality formats they desire.

I’ve experienced countless VR experiences, and this was one of the best demos I’ve had. The use case is compelling too. Not only does it provide entertainment, but it also solves motion sickness. It’s easy to imagine this in an ad-supported format in the back of an Uber or while on a long-distance bus. It could work in planes too. It could improve long car rides with the kids.

Holoride is a longshot and there are countless questions around the content, consumer outreach and compatibility. In order for it to take off, the company needs to build an ecosystem complete with developers, auto makers and consumers. Building amazing experiences is one thing; selling amazing experiences is even harder.

CES 2019 coverage - TechCrunch

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Daily Crunch: How the government shutdown is damaging cybersecurity and future IPOs

Posted by | Apps, Enterprise, Finance, Fundings & Exits, Gadgets, Government, hardware, payments, Policy, Startups, Venture Capital | No Comments

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here:

1. How Trump’s government shutdown is harming cyber and national security
The government has been shut down for nearly three weeks, and there’s no end in sight. While most of the core government departments — State, Treasury, Justice and Defense — are still operational, others like Homeland Security, which takes the bulk of the government’s cybersecurity responsibilities, are suffering the most.

2. With SEC workers offline, the government shutdown could screw IPO-ready companies
The SEC has been shut down since December 27 and only has 285 of its 4,436 employees on the clock for emergency situations. While tech’s most buzz-worthy unicorns like Uber and Lyft won’t suffer too much from the shutdown, smaller businesses, particularly those in need of an infusion of capital to continue operating, will bear the brunt of any IPO delays.

3. The state of seed 

In 2018, seed activity as a percentage of all deals shrank from 31 percent to 25 percent — a decade low — while the share and size of late-stage deals swelled to record highs.

4. Banking startup N26 raises $300 million at $2.7 billion valuation

N26 is building a retail bank from scratch. The company prides itself on the speed and simplicity of setting up an account and managing assets. In the past year, N26’s valuation has exploded as its user base has tripled, with nearly a third of customers paying for a premium account.

5. E-scooter startup Bird is raising another $300M 

Bird is reportedly nearing a deal to extend its Series C round with a $300 million infusion led by Fidelity. The funding, however, comes at a time when scooter companies are losing steam and struggling to prove that its product is the clear solution to last-mile transportation.

6. AWS gives open source the middle finger 

It’s no secret that AWS has long been accused of taking the best open-source projects and re-using and re-branding them without always giving back to those communities.

7. The Galaxy S10 is coming on February 20 

Looks like Samsung is giving Mobile World Congress the cold shoulder and has decided to announce its latest flagship phone a week earlier in San Francisco.

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Chamberlain Group acquires Lockitron and Tend for its myQ smart garage hub

Posted by | Chamberlain Group, Gadgets, home security, Lockitron, security cameras, smart locks, TC, Tend Insights | No Comments

Chamberlain Group, which owns several security and access brands including the myQ smart garage hub, has added two new companies to its portfolio: connected door lock maker Lockitron and wi-fi home security camera startup Tend.

In a press statement, Chamberlain Group CEO JoAnna Sohovich said Tend and Lockitron’s produts will be integrated into myQ. “We know families enter and exit their homes through their garage doors multiple times a day. Our myQ technology allows homeowners to monitor and control access from their smartphone,” she said. “Adding video, connected locks, and enhanced artificial intelligence to our access solutions will provide even further peace of mind as homeowners connect to their homes and loved ones.”

(Blogger Dave Zatz first spotted signs of the deal two weeks ago, including updates to Lockitron’s privacy policy).

Lockitron was one of the first smart lock brands, shipping its first connected lock in 2010. Its flagship product is the Bolt, a smart lock that is accessed by smartphone. The Bolt launched in 2015 and was the first smart locks available for under $100. The Chamberlain Group will integrate Lockitron’s technology into myQ so users can control their garage and residential doors with one app.

In an email to TechCrunch, Cameron Robertson, who co-founded Lockitron with Paul Gerhardt, said they began looking for potential buyers in order to have the resources to scale up and meet retail and e-commerce demand. Chamberlain Group was the best fit because it will support existing Lockitron users, and Lockitron’s technology can also be integrated into other products besides myQ. The transaction was an asset sale of the Lockitron product line from its parent company Apigy. Robertson and Gerhardt are now advising Chamberlain on a part-time basis, as well as working on new projects not related to Apigy, which Robertson says will eventually be wound down.

Tend’s video and functionality, including facial recognition, will also be integrated into myQ, so users can add a Tend camera and see video of their garage doors opening and closing through myQ’s app. The company was launched in 2008 and its co-founder and CEO Herman Yau will continue on as Tend general manager, leading its video and AI platform as part of Chamberlain Group.

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Hands-on with Ledger’s Bluetooth crypto hardware wallet

Posted by | CES, CES 2019, Europe, Gadgets, Ledger, Ledger Nano X, Ledger Wallet, Startups | No Comments

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

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This extra-large handheld Nintendo works (and feels) like the real thing

Posted by | CES 2019, Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, NES, Nintendo, retro | No Comments

Handheld retro gaming machines come and go, but few go so simply and effectively to the point as My Arcade’s Retro Champ. You stick in your NES cartridge, hit the power button and, assuming you blew on it beforehand, it powers up. This one sets itself apart with a big ol’ screen, Famicom compatibility and a whopping 35-hour battery life. Update: Nope! It’s 3 to 5 hours, not 35 as the company originally stated. I thought that was suspiciously high.

I played with the Retro Champ at CES, where they had one under lock and key — it’s not the production version, but that’s coming in the Spring. But it works just like you’d expect, and I was pleased to find it responsive, comfortable and pleasantly ridiculous. It’s really quite big, but not nearly as heavy as it looks.

The 7-inch screen is bright and the color looked good; it was responsive and the device felt well-balanced. The controls are where you’d expect, with big scoops in the back of the case to help you grip it. NES cartridges go in the top (and stick out as you see) and Famicom cartridges tuck in the bottom.

There’s a stand so you can prop it up and use wireless controllers with it (not included; they’re trying to keep the price low), and you can also plug it straight into your TV via HDMI, which basically makes this thing a spare NES home console. (I’m waiting to hear back on the screen and output resolutions and some other technical details.)

Lastly (and hilariously), there’s a hidden cleaning kit with space for a few Q-tips and a small bottle of solvent, for getting those really grimed-up games working.

My questions went to the usual pain points for scrupulous retro-loving gamers like myself:

Yes, it’s a 16:9 screen, and of course NES games were 4:3. So yes, you’ll be able to change that.

And no, it’s not just loading the ROM data into an emulator. This is the common way of doing it, and it produces artifacts and incompatibility with some games, not to mention control lag and other issues. Things have gotten better, but it’s definitely corner-cutting.

I chatted with Amir David, the creative director and one of the developers of the device. Though he couldn’t get into the technical details (patents pending), he said that they had developed their own chip that runs the game the same way an actual NES would.

So any cartridge that works on the NES, including homebrew and hacked games, will load right up no problem. That means you can also use a cartridge with an SD card loader, like an Everdrive, for those hard-to-get and hacked titles.

Some features are up in the air, for instance save states. It’s possible, but because this is in effect just a small Nintendo and not a virtual one, it’s also tricky. We’ll see.

I was also curious why there were four round buttons instead of the traditional NES D-pad. David said they were still waiting on feedback from players about which worked best; for an actual controller, the original D-pad might be good, but perhaps not for the handheld style. So they’re considering a few configurations; likewise the buttons on the right — they could get some tweaking before release.

The device goes for $80, which seems fair to me. If you want absolute fidelity for a home console, you can spend five to 10 times that amount, while for handhelds there are cheaper and smaller devices out there, most of which use emulators. They’re aiming for enthusiasts who want an easy but uncompromised way of playing their cartridges — lots of us have consoles sitting in boxes, but it’s a pain to get them set up. The Retro Champ could be one of the easiest ways to get back in the game. It ships in June.

CES 2019 coverage - TechCrunch

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