Small satellite startup Kepler opens sign-ups for its IoT developer kits

Kepler Communications, the Toronto-based startup that’s focused on developing and deploying shoebox-sized satellites to provide telecommunications services, is opening up registration for those interested in getting their first developer kits. These developer kits, designed to help potential commercial customers take advantage of its Internet of Things (IoT) narrowband connectivity deploying next year, will then be made available to purchase for elect partners next year.

This kind of early access is designed to give companies interested in using the kind of connectivity Kepler intends on providing a head start on testing and integration. Kepler‘s service is designed to provide global coverage using a single network for IoT operators, at low costs relative to the market, for applications including tracking shipping containers, railway networks, livestock and crops and much more. Kepler says that its IoT network, which will be made up of nanosatellites designed specifically for this purpose it plans to launch throughout next year and beyond, is aimed at industries where you don’t need high-bandwidth, as you would for say HD consumer video streaming, but where coverage across large, often remote areas on a consistent basis is key.

IoT connectivity provided by constellations of orbital satellites is an increasing are of focus and investment, as large industries look to modernize their monitoring and tracking operations. Startup Swarm got permission from the FCC to launch its 150-small satellite constellation earlierr this month, for instance, to establish a service to address similar needs.

Kepler, founded in 2015, has raised over $20 million in funding so far, and has launched two small satellites thus far, including one in January and one in November of 2018. The company announced a contract with ISK and GK Launch Services to deploy two more sometime in the middle of next year aboard a Soyuz rocket.

Source: Tech Crunch

Facebook sues OnlineNIC for domain name fraud associated with malicious activity

Facebook today announced it has filed suit in California against a domain registrar OnlineNIC and its proxy service ID Shield for registering domain names that pretend to be associated with Facebook, like or, for example. Facebook says these domains are intentionally designed to mislead and confuse end users, who believe they’re interacting with Facebook.

These fake domains are also often associated with malicious activity, like phishing.

While some who register such domains hope to eventually sell them back to Facebook at a marked up price, earning a profit, others have worse intentions. And with the launch of Facebook’s own cryptocurrency, Libra, a number of new domain cybersquatters have emerged. Facebook was recently able to take down some of these, like and, one of which had already started collecting personal information from visitors by falsely touting a Facebook ICO.

Facebooks’ new lawsuit, however, focuses specifically on OnlineNIC, which Facebook says has a history of allowing cybersquatters to register domains with its privacy/proxy service, ID Shield. The suit alleges that the registered domains, like, are being used for malicious activity, including “phishing and hosting websites that purported to sell hacking tools.”

The suit also references some 20 other domain names that are confusingly similar to Facebook and Instagram trademarks, it says.

Screen Shot 2019 10 31 at 1.27.38 PM

OnlineNIC has been sued before for allowing this sort of activity, including by Verizon, Yahoo, Microsoft, and others. In the case of Verizon (disclosure: TechCrunch parent), OnlineNIC was found liable for registering over 600 domain names similar to Verizon’s trademark, and the courts awarded $33.15 million in damages as a result, Facebook’s filing states.

Facebook is asking for a permanent injunction against OnlineNIC’s activity as well as damages.

The company says it took this issue to the courts because OnlineNIC has not been responsive to its concerns. Facebook today proactively reports instances of abuse with domain name registrars and their privacy/proxy services, and often works with them to take down malicious domains. But the issue is widespread — there are tens of millions of domain names registered through these services today. Some of these businesses are not reputable, however. Some, like OnlineNIC, will not investigate or even respond to Facebook’s abuse reports.

The news of the lawsuit was previously reported by Cnet and other domain name news sources, based on courthouse filings.

Attorney David J. Steele, who previously won the $33 million judgement for Verizon, is representing Facebook in the case.

“By mentioning our apps and services in the domain names, OnlineNIC and ID Shield intended to make them appear legitimate and confuse people. This activity is known as cybersquatting and OnlineNIC has a history of this behavior,” writes Facebook, in an announcement. “This lawsuit is one more step in our ongoing efforts to protect people’s safety and privacy,” it says.

OnlineNIC has been asked for comment and we’ll update if it responds.

Source: Tech Crunch

Supercross’s anticipated EV class not ready for primetime in 2020

Motorcycle racing series Supercross isn’t quite ready to add an EV class.

The sport — where riders race high-performance machines on jump-filled stadium tracks — currently fields only gas-powered two-wheelers.

Supercross was poised to launch an all electric class this month, by converting its junior program to a new e-moto manufactured by KTM — Supercross Director of Operations Dave Prater told TechCrunch in April.

“We haven’t one-hundred-percented it yet, but it’s fairly close and we’re…going to race that electric KTM in October,” he said.

That won’t likely happen for the upcoming 2020 season, but input from Supercross and KTM indicates the launch of a junior EV class could be imminent.

On why it didn’t kick-off in October, “That would be a KTM question,” Prater told TechCrunch on a call this week.

“As a company we’re embracing EV racing. At the moment, we’re beholden to the OEM’s and how quickly they want to introduce it into the mix,” he added.

The first-mover OEM could still be KTM and the first electric class the juniors.

“The KTM Junior racing in Supercross is an incredible experience for a small group of kids and their parents. At some point we might start using the SX-E5,” KTM’s Group Marketing Manager for North America Tom Moen told TechCrunch in an email.

“We can’t have them racing something that is not readily available,” he added.

KTM SX E 5 2020KTM’s SX-E5 launched in the U.S. this month, but won’t be available in dealerships until late November, according to Moen.

So for now, there appears to be a timing gap between Supercross and KTM.

Another area to watch for the introduction of e-moto competition — according to Moen — is outdoor dirt series Motocross, the rules of which (like Supercross) are governed by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA).

“The AMA…is working on classes for the AMA Loretta Lynn’s championships for 2020, which is the national amateur MX series, the finals happen late summer, this is much more important racing wise,” Moen said.

TechCrunch has an inquiry into AMA for confirmation and will update accordingly.

One hurdle to entering electric motorcycles in AMA gas racing is how to classify battery powered two-wheelers compared to internal combustion engines that the AMA classes based on displacement, AMA off-road racing manager Erek Kudla explained to TechCrunch in April.

The other potentially larger hurdle (as Supercross’s Dave Prater alluded to) is the lack of an OEM produced competition e-moto capable of racing at or near the specs of the high-performance gas machines that run in Supercross and Motocross.

California based EV startup Alta Motors had come the closest toward creating an e-moto toward that endeavor, but went bankrupt before getting there.

In addition to its junior SX-E5, KTM debuted its Freeride E-XC adult off-road e-motorcycle in the U.S. in 2018, but KTM didn’t indicate if this was the bike it was planning to reconfigure for motocross.

For the moment, it looks like seven to eight-year-olds racing KTM’s SX-E5 in Supercross could be the nearest bet for EV motorcycle competition.

And Supercross creating an all EV junior class has a spot of relevance in the overall transformation of global mobility — namely the conversion of the motorcycle industry to electric.

Factors such as declining sales among young people and competitive pressure from EV startups are pushing the big names toward E offerings. Harley Davidson launched its first e-moto, the $29K  LiveWire, this year as part of a full EV pivot.

Zero Motorcycles is challenging HD with its new $19K SR/F.  And rumors have floated on Ducati developing an e-moto, after the Italian company debuted two e-bicycles.

Harley and e-moto companies such as Zero have spoken of the importance of early adopters to embrace e-motorcycles. Harley made moves this year to reach the earliest of early adopters when it acquired kids e-bicycle company StaCyc.

Launching one of motorcycle racing’s first all electric classes with juniors and pairing it to Supercross’s stadium venues could become more than an EV gateway for OEM KTM.

It could actually start young riders on e-motos before they’ve ever ridden gas and keep them running on voltage into teen and adult years.

For the motorcycle industry at large, that means creating a future EV market vs. trying convert one with preferences set in fossil-fuel the past.


Source: Tech Crunch

Sidewalk Labs (Alphabet’s grand experiment in smart cities) will move forward with Toronto project

In the two years since Sidewalk Labs pitched its vision for a grand smart city development — encompassing an entire neighborhood on the Toronto waterfront — the project has been beset by controversy and criticism.

On one hand, the 12-acre project in Toronto’s Quayside district promised to be a proving ground for the latest thinking in sustainable design and technology integration into urban planning led by a subsidiary of one of the world’s most innovative technology companies. On the other, that same technology company has been instrumental in the development of a corporate, technologically enabled, panopticon that has an almost total view into our digital (and physical) lives through its search and mapping technology.

Giving that company the potential for unfettered access to the built environment in which Toronto citizens would move seemed like a step too far for many privacy advocates in the city — and around the world.

The public outcry had gotten so loud that the project seemed to be in jeopardy. That, in turn, likely would be an existential challenge to Sidewalk Labs, since the company’s work in Toronto was to be the early crown jewel proving out its ability to integrate technology into the built environment in a way that would benefit populations, the company argued.

Now, the project will move forward. Sidewalk and Waterfront Toronto (the regulatory body overseeing the project) have come to an agreement that will limit the scope of the Sidewalk development and make the company work more closely with oversight agencies on the construction of the 12-acre parcel abutting Toronto’s parliamentary building.

We are encouraged by today’s decision by the Waterfront Toronto board and are pleased to have reached alignment on critical issues with Waterfront Toronto. We want to be a partner with Waterfront Toronto and governments to build an innovative and inclusive neighborhood,” said Sidewalk Labs chief executive officer, Dan Doctoroff, in a statement.

Sidewalk is making some significant concessions to move forward. Under the initial plan that the company submitted in June, it attempted to expand the scope of its development efforts beyond the initial 12 acres it had been bidding for. The company also wanted to be the lead developer of the land.

Instead, Sidewalk is acceding to the Waterfront Toronto counter-offer that it restrict its development to the 12-acre “beta site” initially carved out by the city. The company will also agree to work with Waterfront Toronto, which will lead a public procurement process for a developer to partner with Sidewalk Labs. Finally, Sidewalk Labs will also no longer lead the efforts to design and implement infrastructure. That’s now going to be handled by Waterfront Toronto.

“After two years in Toronto and engaging and planning with over 21,000 Toronto residents, we are looking forward to the next round of public consultations, entering the evaluation process, and continuing to develop a plan to build the most innovative neighborhood in the world. We are working to demonstrate an inclusive neighbourhood here in Toronto where we can shorten commute times, make housing more affordable, create new jobs, and set a new standard for a healthier planet.”

One of the sticking points that the agreement between Sidewalk and the city doesn’t address is what’s going to be done with all of the data the company will doubtless be collecting about the residents and visitors to this new intentional community.

Data privacy was one of the biggest concerns about the project. Indeed, at one point Sidewalk Labs proposed setting up an independent trust that would analyze and approve data collection in Quayside. The conflict between Sidewalk and its consultants drove one expert, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, to step away from the work she was doing. Cavoukian wanted the data collection to be anonymized before it would be collected by any entity, and Sidewalk Labs was not willing to make that commitment on behalf of third parties.

Even with concerns over data collection, the experiment in urban planning has merit. Integrating technology to improve efficiencies in construction, energy generation, energy efficiency, traffic management and telecommunications could create a roadmap that other developments could follow. That’s a good thing. But those advancements should not come at the cost of an even greater erosion of personal privacy.

Ensuring that Sidewalk Labs can thread that needle in Toronto could actually improve the company’s chances to create a quilt of technologically advanced communities around the world.

Source: Tech Crunch

Daily Crunch: Twitter is banning political ads

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. Jack Dorsey says Twitter will ban all political ads

Arguing that “internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse,” CEO Jack Dorsey announced that Twitter will be banning all political advertising — albeit with “a few exceptions” like voter registration.

Not only is this a decisive move by Twitter, but it also could increase pressure on Facebook to follow suit, or at least take steps in this direction.

2. Apple beats on Q4 earnings after strong quarter for wearables, services

Apple’s iPhone sales still make up over half of its quarterly revenues, but they are slowly shrinking in importance as other divisions in the company pick up speed.

3. Facebook shares rise on strong Q3, users up 2% to 2.45B

More earnings news: Despite ongoing public relations crises, Facebook kept growing in Q3 2019, demonstrating that media backlash does not necessarily equate to poor business performance.

4. Driving license tests just got smarter in India with Microsoft’s AI project

Hundreds of people who have taken the driver’s license test in Dehradun (the capital of the Indian state of Uttarakhand) in recent weeks haven’t had to sit next to an instructor. Instead, their cars were affixed with a smartphone that was running HAMS, an AI project developed by a Microsoft Research team.

5. Crunchbase raises $30M more to double down on its ambition to be a ‘LinkedIn for company data’

Good news for our friends at Crunchbase, which got its start as a part of TechCrunch before being spun off into a separate business several years ago. CEO Jager McConnell also says the site currently has tens of thousands of paying subscribers.

6. Deadspin writers quit after being ordered to stick to sports

The relationship between new management at G/O Media (formerly Gizmodo Media Group/Gawker Media) and editorial staff seems to have been deteriorating for months. This week, it turned into a full-on revolt over auto-play ads and especially a directive that Deadspin writers must stick to sports.

7. What Berlin’s top VCs want to invest in right now

As we gear up for our Disrupt Berlin conference in December, we check in with top VCs on the types of startups that they’re looking to back right now. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

Source: Tech Crunch

Work permit delays disrupt foreign workers’ career plans

Immigration advocates are rightly fretting over the Trump administration’s new health insurance mandate and efforts to dismantle the asylum system. But away from the spotlight, another crisis is quietly brewing that could affect virtually every foreign-born STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) student and worker.

The problem lies in Employment Authorization Documents (EADs). These work permits, issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), authorize international students and green card applicants to take jobs. Requests for EADs, known as I-765s, now account for more than a quarter of all forms USCIS receives. But technological hiccups, staffing shortages, and the pressures of conforming to new immigration policies mean the agency is taking longer and longer to process them. That’s leaving tens of thousands of students and skilled workers unable to work and hundreds of thousands of tech positions unfilled for months, or even years. 

The EAD crisis has been simmering for years but reached a head in early 2017 when officials scrapped a rule requiring USCIS to process I-765s within 90 days. Along with an influx of new EAD requests from DACA and TPS recipients, that’s led to spiraling delays. In 2015, 23 percent of EAD applications took more than three months to process; by 2018, it had doubled to 46 percent. The average processing time today for non-DACA-related EADs is almost five months, with over a third of applications taking significantly longer — last year, over 118,000 applications took more than nine months to process. 

That squares with what we’re seeing at Boundless: our internal data show that average EAD wait times have climbed above five months, with many customers waiting eight months or more for work permits. We’re also seeing an enormous disparity among processing facilities, with some USCIS service centers far more clogged than others. At the time of writing, if your I-765 is processed in Texas, for example, you could get your EAD within three weeks; if in Vermont, you could wait more than 17 months, depending on the immigration status you seek.

That adds up to an unpredictable, unfair, and deeply frustrating situation and one more obstacle for the skilled immigrants that President Donald Trump says he’s trying to attract to the United States. Whether you’re trying to make ends meet while waiting for your green card, seeking a summer job, or hoping to work after graduation, EAD delays can be excruciating — and unless your employer is willing to wait for you, the holdup could cost you your dream job. 

So what could you do if you find yourself stuck in EAD limbo? Fortunately, you have options:

If you already have a visa, hold on to it

Many immigrants file EAD requests as part of their green card applications, even if they’re already authorized to work under visas such as an H-1B or L-1. That’s a smart move: If your current work visa expires, but you’ve been issued an EAD, you’ll be able to keep working until your green card arrives. Still, if your EAD gets delayed, you’ll be glad to know that as long as your original employment-based visa remains valid, you can keep working without a problem. 

Bear in mind, though, that you won’t be able to renew your existing visa after filing a green card application. It’s worth applying for your green card as soon as you’re eligible to give you plenty of time before your existing work visa expires.  

If you’re still waiting, tell USCIS

It’s not impossible for your EAD to slip through the cracks or be sent to the wrong address, so check with USCIS if things are taking too long. Start by checking the processing times for your service center. If you filed your I-765 before the “receipt date for a case inquiry” listed on the USCIS processing times tool, you can file an e-Request or call 1-800-375-5283 for an update. 

In some cases, you can also ask USCIS to expedite your I-765. This is only available in certain circumstances, such as if delays are due to USCIS error or if you or your prospective employer would otherwise suffer major financial losses. Unfortunately, the possibility of losing or delaying acceptance of a job offer isn’t sufficient grounds for expediting an application.

Still stuck in limbo? Ask for help

Source: Tech Crunch

Forerunner Ventures’ newest bet is Curated, a marketplace that matches pros with people buying high-ticket items

If you’ve ever tried buying a bike online, or ski equipment, or any number of expensive goods where it would be useful to know a lot more than you do, you might check out Curated, a two-year-old San Francisco-based startup that wants to help busy shoppers who know generally what they want but don’t necessarily have time to visit a specialty store to learn more.

It isn’t the first startup to help with shopping recommendations. Among its predecessors is Hunch, a company that delivered customized recommendations to users based on signals around the web (and sold to eBay in 2011). Another variation on the same theme can be traced back to the era company, a live answer community where people could get answers to their questions over the phone.

Still, Curated makes enough sense in today’s market that Forerunner Ventures, which has established a name for itself as the preeminent investor in e-commerce companies, just led its $22 million Series A round. It was the only venture firm in the round by design, says cofounder and CEO Eddie Vivas, who says the funding was filled out by the same friends and family who’d participated in Curated’s $5.5 million seed round.

As part of the deal, Forerunner cofounder Kirsten Green has also joined the board.

It’s easy to appreciate the company’s appeal. Curated works by matching bewildered shoppers with people who are passionate and knowledgeable and “expert” in their fields. Right now, those experts are mostly athletes or coaches as the platform is launching publicly with a handful of verticals, including golf, cycling, and and a few winter sports, though the idea is to launch new sections on the site every six to eight weeks, including fly fishing, kiteboarding, camping and hiking.

How the economics works: Curated strikes deals with manufacturers — say makers of snowboard equipment or mountain bikes — that sell Curated their goods at wholesale prices. Curated can then sell them at retail prices to its customers. (Curated fulfills the order itself.)

Part of that markup is used to pay its experts, who tend to be people who have jobs in related fields but could use more income and who love sharing what they know about a topic, like ski instructors. To ensure that these experts know as much as they claim, they are vetted by other experts on the platform (they have to answer a battery of questions, as part of that process).

The experts are in no way incentivized to recommend anything in particular to a customer, but customers can tip the experts if they wish. (Curated suggests tips of 5%, 7.5%, or 10%, though Vivas says they are sometimes given much more than that by shoppers who are thankful for their time and effort, especially when their interactions end up leading them to products that cost more than they might have paid otherwise. He says in some cases, these can involve tens of email exchanges.)

The end goal — and Vivas says it’s working — is for customers to complete transactions on the platform that they wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable completing at a site where they aren’t actively educated.

The platform is seizing on a number of trends that make it a smart idea for this day and age. For one thing, it uses artificial intelligence to connect shoppers with the right advisors. Sure, everyone tosses around AI as a competitive advantage, but Curated seemingly has a genuine competitive advantage on this front, owing to the background of Vivas, who sold an earlier company that used AI to automate the recruiting process to LinkedIn.

At the time, in 2014, it was LinkedIn’s biggest acquisition ever. And Vivas stayed at LinkedIn for another 3.5 years as the head of product within its talent solutions business, which is where LinkedIn derives most of its revenue. In fact, it’s where he met some of the 32 people who now work at Curated.

Curated is also smartly putting to work far-flung knowledge workers who, like a lot of Americans, increasingly work for themselves or in part-time roles that they’re looking to supplement with other part-time roles.

But perhaps most meaningfully, Curated is a kind of antidote to Amazon, where shoppers can turn when they need something fast but that’s incredibly limited when it comes to providing the kind of information needed to comfortably make big purchases. (Consumers may pull the trigger on items anyway, but often, they end up with merchandise that they then have to send back or never wind up using.)

The question now is whether the company can scale. To do so, it’ll need to rise above the din of other e-commerce platforms to attract enough customers to support its network of experts (and vice versa), and it’s a pretty crowded landscape out there, even with the magic of search-engine optimization and Facebook ads. It will also need to strike enough deals with goods manufacturers to make the platform compelling for shoppers, and to ensure that the level of the advice that’s provided to those consumers is, and remains, high.

Vivas doesn’t sound concerned. He thinks he’s built a strong team. He’s also excited about the growing network of experts the team has pieced together since founding the company in the summer of 2017

“You take someone who is passionate about something and you let them make money off it, and good things happen,” he says. “In allowing people to monetize their knowledge, the unlock is just unbelievable.”

Source: Tech Crunch

Walmart Grocery now offers curbside alcohol pickup at 2,000 US stores

The online grocery wars continue. Amazon this week just made grocery delivery free, so Walmart is now touting how its grocery service offers the booze. The retailer today announced a new milestone in terms of giving its customers the ability to shop for alcohol online, noting that over 2,000 Walmart locations across 29 states will now let you pick up wine and beer along with your other grocery purchases.

The alcohol pickup service has to abide by local laws, which limits its expansion in some cases.

In addition, Walmart says that now over 200 stores in California and Florida are also offering alcohol delivery. It plans expansions on this front, as well.

Walmart has been slowly ramping up its online alcohol shopping options, in accordance with local, county and state regulations for some time. Its Sam’s Club subsidiary has offered this option, too, by way of Instacart. In the latter case, Sam’s Club has been able to offer delivery of spirits, like Tito’s vodka or those from Sam’s Club own “Member’s Mark” brand, among others.

Today, there are a number of ways to shop alcohol online, depending on where you live.

Target-owned Shipt delivers alcohol from some of its supported retailers (including Target) in some markets. Instacart, BJ’s and Amazon (Prime Now) do as well, in select cities, states and stores. And finally, services like Drizly, Saucey, Postmates and Uber Eats can help fill in the gaps, in some markets.

The problem with all these services is that consumers often don’t know which retailers will offer alcohol delivery, or which app they should use. If you live in a more permissive state, this may not be as big of a problem — you’ll likely encounter an abundance of choice for same-day alcohol delivery. But in a more conservative state, your options may be more limited — or not available at all. And when consumers have to launch a half dozen apps just to figure out how to order booze online, most people will just give up and drive to the store.

That’s in conflict with Walmart’s larger goal, which is to allow shoppers to take advantage of its online grocery shopping to fully replace the traditional grocery shopping trip to the store. After all, if consumers are driving to the store, they’ll likely choose their local grocer, not necessarily Walmart.

To meet the needs of the online shopper, Walmart Grocery has to offer it all — not just food, but also adult beverages.  If successful on speeding this option to market, Walmart’s brand could become known as the place to order everything you need from the grocery store online. And that, in turn, could help boost sales.

Walmart’s alcohol shopping feature works just like shopping for groceries — you just search for what you want, add it to the cart, then check out. The only difference is that, upon pickup or delivery, you’ll be required to show your ID so the Walmart team member can verify your age.

Alcohol pickup is available in big states like California, Florida, and Texas, and dozens of others, while delivery is limited to the first two states, for the time being.

Source: Tech Crunch

This robot relies on human reflexes to keep its balance

As much as we’d like to think that we’re entering an era of autonomous robots, they’re actually still pretty helpless. To keep them from falling down all the time, a human’s fast reflexes could be the solution. But the human has to feel what the robot is feeling — and that’s just what these researchers are testing.

Bipedal robots are excellent in theory for navigating human environments, but naturally are more prone to falling than quadrupedal or wheeled robots. Although they often have sophisticated algorithms that help keep them upright, in some situations those just might not be enough.

As a way to bridge that gap, researchers at MIT and the University of Illinois-Champaign put together a sort of hybrid human-robot system reminiscent of either Pacific Rim or Evangelion, depending on your nerd alignment (or Robot Jox, if you want to go that way).

Although the references may be sci-fi, the need for this kind of thing is real, explained U of I’s João Ramos, co-creator of the system with MIT’s Sangbae Kim.

“We were motivated by watching the 2011 Tohoku, Japan, earthquake, tsunami and subsequent Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant disaster unfold. We thought that if a robot could have entered the power plant after the disaster, things could have ended differently,” Ramos said in a U of I news release.

The robot they created is a small bipedal one they call Little Hermes, and it is hooked up directly to a human operator, who stands on a pressure-sensing plate and wears a force-feedback vest.


The robot generally follows the operator’s movements, not in a 1:1 sense (especially as the robot is much smaller than a person), but after interpreting those movements in terms of center of gravity and force vectors, makes a corresponding one almost simultaneously. (The MIT writeup goes into a bit more detail, as does the video below.)

Meanwhile, if the robot were to, say, encounter an unexpected slope or obstacle, those forces are conveyed to the operator via the vest. Feeling pressure indicating a leftward lean, the operator will reflexively take a step in that direction using those excellent instincts we animals have developed. Naturally the robot does the same thing and, hopefully, catches itself.

This feedback loop could make on-site rescue robots and others on uncertain footing more reliable. The technology is not limited to legs, though, or even to Little Hermes. The team wants to set up similar feedback systems for feet and hands, so mobility and grip can be further improved.

The team published their work today in the journal Science Robotics.

Source: Tech Crunch

Daily Crunch: HBO Max will launch in May

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. HBO Max will cost $14.99 per month and launch in May 2020

AT&T and WarnerMedia announced the pricing, launch timetable and content lineup of their HBO Max streaming service. They also revealed that HBO has placed a straight-to-series order for “House of the Dragon,” a spin-off of “Game of Thrones.”

Even though distinguishing between HBO and HBO Max will probably be a bit of a headache over the next few years, this is a service that I’m genuinely excited about, with a rich library of HBO shows and Warner Bros. films at its core. And while the price is high compared to competing services, there’s no additional cost compared to the existing HBO Now.

2. WhatsApp blames — and sues — mobile spyware maker NSO Group over its zero-day calling exploit

WhatsApp has filed a suit in federal court accusing Israeli mobile surveillance software maker NSO Group of creating an exploit that was used hundreds of times to hack into targets’ phones.

3. Tencent leads $111M investment in India’s video streaming service MX Player

Times Internet, which acquired a majority stake in MX Player in late 2017, also participated in the Series A financing round. The post-money valuation was $500 million, according to a source.

4. Spotify launches a dedicated Kids app for Premium Family subscribers

The app allows children three and up to listen to their own music, both online and offline, as well as explore playlists and recommendations picked by experts. The music selection is filtered so songs won’t have explicit content.

5. Slack investor Index Ventures backs Slack competitor Quill

Quill, a startup led by Stripe’s former creative director Ludwig Pettersson, claims to offer “meaningful conversations, without disturbing your team.”

6. Where top VCs are investing in cybersecurity

Many of the rising cybersecurity startups focus on the same or overlapping problems, which could lead to a “cybersecurity consolidation.” (Extra Crunch membership required.)

7. Let’s have a word about what3words with Clare Jones at Disrupt Berlin

What3words wants to map the entire world and overhaul addresses, three words at a time. The startup has divided the world into three-meter squares, each one assigned three words as an identifier.

Source: Tech Crunch