Actress Maisie Williams to launch Daisie, a social app for talent discovery and collaboration

Actress Maisie Williams, best known for her role as Arya Stark on Game of Thrones, is the latest celeb to venture into tech entrepreneurship, with the launch of a new company aimed at connecting creatives, called Daisie. Available later this summer as a mobile app, Daisie will offer a platform where creators can network, like, share and collaborate on projects within a social networking setting.

The overall goal is to help newcomers gain exposure for their work while connecting them with others who can provide guidance as they continue their careers.

Williams, who advocates for women’s rights, also sees Daisie as something that could give women in the creative community the ability to promote their own work and be discovered in a more appropriate way than is often the case today.

This speaks to the sea change underway in the creative industry, where people are rapidly dismantling the old ways of doing things; and where the abusers who took advantage of the old system are being called out for things like sexual harassment and abuse, and losing their jobs.

In that light, the launch of an alternative network for talent discovery and collaboration seems especially relevant.

“I couldn’t be happier about the change we are currently seeing in creative industries and the movement towards women becoming truly valued,” said Maisie Williams, in a statement about the app’s development.

“I want Daisie to give other creatives the opportunities that I was lucky enough to receive at the beginning of my career. Daisie will break down the archaic gap between youth and creative jobs; offering new opportunities for individuals to collaborate, learn and create – establishing a new way for talented individuals to be discovered and employed,” she said.

The company, which is co-founded by film producer Dom Santry, also aims to address the issues of trying to use existing social media sites, like Facebook, for self-promotion purposes.

“Social media can be a very lonely place, and somewhere that doesn’t necessarily inspire collaboration or foster meaningful connections,” explained Santry. “It’s very easy for creative voices to get lost in platforms riddled with ads and unimportant content; we’re hoping to eradicate these, providing a focused, industry specific platform.”

The app’s development is still in its early stages, the company tells us.

The technology team, led by U.K.-based Tim Novis, is only 4 months into a 10-month build, to give you an idea of its progress. The expectation is that Daisie will be ready to launch in the App Store and online by August, 2018.

The company is also working with WME to put together a talent roster who will be participating in Daisie at launch. Some of those people will be confirmed by March. (Daisie’s team is actually flying to L.A. in February to lock in names, we understand).

In addition to building a social network for talent discovery and collaboration, Daisie aims to generate revenue in almost Tinder-like fashion.

The app will offer a “Plus” program that opens up locked areas of its site and allow the use of additional features, like the ability to toggle on or off a “looking for work” setting, for example.

But neither the website nor app will display advertising.

The app has another advantage for Williams and Santry, too.

It may be a potential source of new talent for their U.K. production company Daisy Chain Productions, which was founded along with Bill Milner. The company has a similar goal to Daisie, in fact: projects with a focus on youth and talent development, as ScreenDaily reported last fall.

Santry will lead Daisie as CEO, managing its day-to-day operations.

However, the company will give the network time to grow before tapping into Daisie’s creator community for its own ends. For the first six months, there will be “no visible synergies” between Daisie and Daisy Chain Productions, the company told TechCrunch.

Afterwards, the two will come together to create content by selecting the most talented individuals on the site.

Given that Daisie is not yet available, the website is currently accepting email sign-ups to be alerted about its launch.


Apple could let you run iPad apps on your Mac

Apple is working hard on the next major versions of its operating systems — macOS, iOS, tvOS and watchOS. While iOS is the big elephant in the room, the most intriguing new feature could be fore macOS. According to reports from Bloomberg and Axios, Apple will let you run iPad apps.

Yesterday, Axios first reported that Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi announced a revised plan for iOS 12. Apple usually unveils the new version of iOS at its WWDC developer conference in June. It then goes through a few months of beta testing and gets released in September.

And this time, Axios has heard that Apple is delaying some features to work on quality issues. Many customers have been complaining about bugs in iOS 11, such as weird autocorrect bugs, messages arriving out of order, the Calculator app not calculating properly and more.

That’s why some rumored features have been pushed back to iOS 13 in 2019. Those features include a home screen redesign, CarPlay improvements, Mail and Photos updates.

Instead, you can expect a rock-solid iOS 12. There will still be new features, but not as many as expected. iOS 12 could feature better parental controls, a FaceTime update. There could be more augmented reality features too.

Some of those delays will also affect the next macOS update, such as the update to the Photos app for instance. But Bloomberg first reported that Apple is still on track to let you use iOS apps on your Mac. Axios confirmed those plans, saying that iPad apps in particular should run on macOS.

This could represent a huge change for the Mac platform with a big number of new apps hitting the Mac App Store. It’s still unclear whether Apple will optimize the user interface of those apps on the Mac. Using a touch screen is very different from using a mouse. But iPad app developers can expect to reach a lot more users.


Robotic swans now patrol Singapore’s waters

Researchers at the National University of Singapore have created a clever self-driving drone called the Smart Water Assessment Network – the SWAN. These swan-shaped robots swim in Singapore’s waters and assess pollution, drinkability, and temperature, allowing researchers to gather data without scaring people with dangerous-looking traditional water drones.

NUSwan – New Smart Water Assessment Network is an innovative concept on spatial-temporal water quality monitoring. Building upon aesthetics and recreation, NUSwan is a comprehensive solution to maximize use of resources and cost effectiveness. It is a simple yet powerful tool to observe the water environment. Its ability to collect data according to directed mission in real-time allow interactive sampling at any location of interest. It has the capability of performing simultaneous multi-node, high speed sensing for observing concentration gradients for better characterization and detection of time varying hotspots.

The swans are currently being used to test the water quality in Singapore’s reservoirs and they’re designed to withstand contact with boats and other dangers of the sea. They are using the swanbots simply because it is far more difficult to gather samples by boat. These swans can simply swim around pulling samples over time with little to no human intervention and, we assume, they won’t scare away the real swans on the water.


Ex-Apple execs take on Twitch with launch of new social broadcasting platform Caffeine

A team of ex-Apple engineers and execs is taking on Amazon-owned Twitch and Google’s YouTube Gaming with today’s official launch of a new social broadcasting platform, Caffeine. Backed by $46 million from Andreessen Horowitz and Greylock Partners, Caffeine was co-founded by former Product Design Lead for Apple TV and Chomp co-founder Ben Keighran, along with Senior User Experience Designer at Apple, Sam Roberts.

Keighran joined Apple when he sold his search startup Chomp to the company back in 2012, where it became the basis for an App Store redesign. He later spent several years working on the look-and-feel for the Apple TV, before leaving Apple in 2016 to start his own company.

Roberts, meanwhile, spent six years leading user interface and user experience design on photo, video and TV products at Apple, before leaving to build Caffeine.

Of course, it’s no small matter to take on incumbents like Twitch and YouTube, and to a lesser extent, Twitter’s Periscope, Facebook Live, and Microsoft’s Mixer. You can’t simply build yet another live streaming service and hope for the best – you have to create something original and differentiated.

For Caffeine, that’s a suite of technology products and new experiences that existing rivals don’t have.

For starters, Caffeine has developed its own publication tool, in the form of a free 10 MB download, that makes getting started with streaming easier for the casual gamer.

“There’s about 800 million gamers out there, but there’s roughly 2 million content creators a month on Twitch. We think a lot of people would like to create a broadcast of their video game, but it’s a bit of a pain to do right now,” explains Keighran. “You’ve got to download third-party software; you have to set bitrates, IP addresses, stream keys. You have to have an elaborate set-up with potentially multiple screens,” he says.

With the Caffeine software, gamers can start streaming from their Windows PC with a single click.

In addition to the PC software, users can also live stream their vlog-type content from their web browser or their iPhone.

What’s more, they don’t need a multi-monitor setup because of how Caffeine incorporates viewers’ comments into the experience.

Caffeine has developed custom technology that can detect when a game launches on the PC (by watching the system’s processes), then is able to use the Windows DLL file to inject viewers’ comments as an overlay onto the game itself.

That means your game and your viewers’ comments are all in the same window on your screen.

Finally, and perhaps most notably, is what’s under the hood of Caffeine.

The company built out its own real-time distribution video network that leverages WebRTC – the same technology that powers things like Google Hangouts and other peer-to-peer communications. That means everything on Caffeine is taking place in real-time with zero delays.

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Hard-core game streamers may not actually want real-time streams, though, because of the threat of screen sniping. (That’s when someone watches your live stream in order to kill you or taunt you.) But for now, at least, Caffeine isn’t focusing on those top game streamers – it wants to build a service for everyone else.

That said, being able to delay the stream is something Caffeine could add in the future, when it launches the monetization tools that may attract more serious players. That’s not expected until sometime later this year, we’re told.

Beyond all the tools and technology, Caffeine’s user experience is different from what you’d find on other game streaming sites.

“Unlike Twitch and YouTube, we have a people-centric model where we’re more like a social network,” says Keighran. On Caffeine, users follow other people, like friends from Facebook or Twitter or other streamers they like, he explains. “This creates a much more personal experience,” Keighran notes.

In the main feed, you’re then shown live videos from those you follow alongside other human-curated suggestions.

The social elements come into play when you watching a stream, too.

For example, comments from your friends are prioritized in your view, as are those that are “endorsed” (basically, upvoted) by the community.

This ability to filter out the better comments helps streamers too – even if the numbers of viewers gets really big, they’ll be able to see those comments worth answering more easily.

The comments themselves aren’t displayed in a traditional chat-like interface, either, but load in customizable bubbles beneath the chat. You can choose the comment bubble’s background, color scheme, pattern and shape to give it a unique look. (Unfortunately, the option to add a GIF is getting pulled, as a means of protecting streamers against harassment. Apparently, GIFs can be used for evil, too.)

Building a more friendly community is part of Caffeine’s larger focus, as it aims to take on the existing game streaming sites.

“There’s sometimes a toxic community that comes from the fact that if you put everybody in a stream on Twitch – and there are 2,000 people all just anonymously talking over top of each other, says Keighran.

“There’s no surprise that chaos is going to reign, The best experience needs to be simple, friendly, and welcome to a diverse audience,” he adds.

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To this end, Caffeine brought on former Valve and Oculus executive, Anna Sweet, to head its business, content and strategy efforts. Other members on its team of over 20 (and under 50…the company wouldn’t say exactly) hail from Apple, Netflix, Amazon and Oracle.

Caffeine has been quietly live for some time, but is only officially announcing its plans and fundraising today. The first round closed in 2016 and was led by Greylock; Andreessen Horowitz led the round that closed in February 2017. Ben Horowitz from Andreessen Horowitz and John Lilly from Greylock Partners are on Caffeine’s board of directors as a result.



Nuro’s self-driving vehicle is a grocery-getter and errand-runner

Not every self-driving car has to be able to move passengers from point A to point B. Take, for example, Nuro: The startup just revealed their unique autonomous vehicle platform, which is more of a mobile small logistics platform than a self-driving car.

The company, which has been working away in stealth mode in Mountain View until now, has raised a $92 million Series A round led by Banyan Capital and Greylock Partners to help make its unique vision of autonomous transport take shape.

Nuro’s vehicle is a small, narrow box on wheels, which is about half the width of a regular car, and which is designed to be a lightweight way to get goods from a local business to a customer, or from one person to another within a neighborhood or city. The platform is just one example of what Nuro wants to do, however; the startup bills itself as a product company focused on bringing “the benefits of robotics” to everyday use and ordinary people.

Nuro’s AV also operates completely autonomously, and looks like something you’d see on a Moon base in a retro-futuristic sci-fi show. There’s a pin pad for user interaction, so that only the right customer can access the contents stored within, and a top-mounted sensor array that includes LiDAR, optical cameras and radar (other sensors are located around the vehicle to enable its autonomous driving).

The young startup’s goal is to partner with businesses to set up transportation services. You can easily imagine this slotting in nicely to something like Uber Eats, and bringing food from the local lunch spot to offices around where people are hungry but can’t make the trip out to their usual places in person. Or, these could support Amazon’s last mile needs for in-city delivery, for example. Nuro isn’t yet talking about specific partnerships, however.

This fit-for-purpose vehicle and dedicated focus could help Nuro accomplish some of the vision that Ford has for its AV program, for instance, with potentially fewer barriers to deployment in limited markets and specifically bounded environments. It’s still early days for the startup, however, and it’s also competing in some ways with more established young companies like Starship Robotics. Still, it’s a neat first product and an interesting vision.


MIT uses Lego to prototype low-cost micro pumps

Lego bricks (or, if you’re not a pedant, Legos) are highly precise and highly consistent plastic objects. Anywhere you go in the world the Lego is the same. That means that scientists at MIT can use these little sole stabbers to create very precise scientific systems.

Their first tests involves creating a microfluid pump and sorter using basic Lego parts. Because they can trust Lego bricks to be consistent around the world, they can easily create complex micorfluidics kits that can be assembled almost anywhere.

“You could then build a microfluidic system similarly to how you would build a LEGO castle — brick by brick,” said lead author Crystal Owens, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “We hope in the future, others might use LEGO bricks to make a kit of microfluidic tools.”

The project does require a little modification to the bricks including running fine channels through the bricks. However, because each brick and panel is so precise they you don’t need much more than a drill and some tubing to prototype a working microfluidics lab. Think of it as 3D printing with toys.

“Over the years, I’ve had peripheral exposure to the field of microfluidics and the fact that prototyping microfluidic devices is often a difficult, time-consuming, resource-intensive process,” said Anastasios John Hart, associate professor at MIT.


Fujifilm will take over Xerox, cut 10,000 jobs

Fujifilm announced this week that it’s set to take a majority stake in Xerox. The news comes as the U.S. tech stalwart and photocopying synonym struggles to cope with an eroding demand for office printers and photocopies. The boards of both companies agreed to the deal this week, giving Fujifilm a 50.1-percent stake in the combined companies.

The naming conventions on this one are admittedly convoluted, but the situation essentially shakes out like this: Fujifilm and Xerox founded Fuji Xerox in 1962. The 75/25-percent joint venture largely operated in the Japan/Asia-Pacific region, with Xerox maintaining its own footprint in its native U.S.

Under this new deal, the existing Fuji Xerox is becoming a subsidiary of Xerox, with the combined companies now referred to as, get this, Fuji Xerox. In a somewhat futile attempt to avoid confusion, the company has temporarily taken to calling the joint venture, “New Fuji Xerox.”

Here’s a graph that may clear things up, slightly:

Both companies have struggled to maintain profits in a changing landscape that has rapidly moved away from paper driven offices. The newly formed company will result in some pretty big job losses. The companies will close some Fuji Xerox factories and cut north of 10,000 jobs by 2020, largely in the Asia Pacific region.

In spite of all of this, Fujifilm appears to be bullish in its projections. “The combined company is expected to deliver a total of USD $1.7 billion in total annual cost savings by 2022,” the company writes in a release, “with approximately $1.2 billion of the total cost savings expected to be achieved by 2020.”


Google Flights will now predict airline delays – before the airlines do

Google is rolling out a few new features to its Google Flights search engine to help travelers tackle some of the more frustrating aspects of air travel – delays and the complexities of the cheaper, Basic Economy fares. With the regard to delays, Google Flights won’t just be pulling in information from the airlines directly, however – it will take advantage of its understanding of historical data and its machine learning algorithms to predict delays that haven’t yet been flagged by airlines themselves.

Explains Google, the combination of data and A.I. technologies means it can predict some delays in advance of any sort of official confirmation. Google says that it won’t actually flag these in the app until it’s at least 80 percent confident in the prediction, though. (Of course, you should still get to the airport on time, but at least you’ll know what you’re about to face once there.)

It will also provide reasons for the delays, like weather or an aircraft arriving late.

You can track the status of your flight by searching for your flight number or the airline and flight route, notes Google. The delay information will then appear in the search results.

The other new feature added today aims to help travelers make sense of what Basic Economy fares include and exclude with their ticket price.

These low-cost fares are often the only option for travelers on a budget, but they have a number of restrictions that can vary by airline.

Google Flights will now display the restrictions associated with these fares – like restrictions on using overhead space or the ability to select a seat, as well as the fare’s additional baggage fees. It’s initially doing so for American, Delta and United flights worldwide.

These changes come only a month after Google Flights added price tracking and deals to Google Flights as well as hotel search features for web searchers.

The additions seem especially targeted toward today’s travel startups and businesses, like Hopper which had just added hotel search, and uses big data to analyze airline prices and other factors; or TripIt, a competitor of sorts to Google’s own travel app Google Trips, which most recently introduced security checkpoint wait times. (Given that Google already knows the busy times for area businesses by tracking people’s movement via Google Maps, it wouldn’t be surprising to see it implement security wait times next.)

The features are also a real-world demo of Google’s machine learning and big data capabilities, especially in the case of predicting flight delays. Since you can’t take action on the alerts until the airline makes an official announcement, they will largely just cause more anxiety on top of your already stressful travel experience.



Uber is piloting a bike-sharing service with JUMP

Uber is launching a bike-sharing service next week in partnership with JUMP, a startup that recently received the first and only permit to operate dockless bike-sharing in San Francisco. JUMP’s contract with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency enables it to launch 250 of its dockless, electric bikes in San Francisco. After the first nine months of the program, the SFMTA may allow JUMP to add an additional 250 bikes to its fleet.

Called Uber Bike, Uber customers will be able to book JUMP bikes within the Uber app. To be clear, the bikes will not be brought to people. Instead, riders are responsible for going to the location of the bike.

“This partnership is a great way to get a much larger audience on bikes and help them understand their transportation options,” JUMP CEO Ryan Rzepecki told me over the phone. “Our ultimate goal is to better connect all the neighborhoods within San Francisco and provide affordable, greener transportation.”

This is Uber’s first foray into the bike-sharing game. It’s worth noting that India-based ride-hailing startup expanded into bicycles in December. Called Ola Pedal, the service is available on a handful of university campuses in India.

“We’re always kind of searching for options to make transportation affordable and more accessible for people,” Uber Head of Transportation Policy and Research Andrew Salzberg told TechCrunch.

He noted how bikes have been on Uber’s mind for some time now but it was a matter of figuring out the right way to try it out. With JUMP, which recently closed a $10 million Series A round, Salzberg said he sees it as being a good place to start.

“It fits into this larger vision, we think, that there can be multiple modes of transportation that can be made available through the Uber app,” he said. “There are lot of places where there are many trips that it’s probably going to be quicker and cheaper to hop on a bike. Strategically, it makes a lot of sense for us as business.”

Uber and JUMP would not disclose the terms of their partnership, other than that the plan is to worth together at least through the duration of JUMP’s 18-month contract with the SFMTA. While Uber Bike is only live in San Francisco, Salzberg envisions Uber Bike eventually launching more broadly.

“You don’t do a pilot if you don’t have hopes to make it a vision for the future,” Salzberg said. “I think right now we’re focusing on the pilot, that’s the announcement right now. There’s a lot of reasons to be optimistic about how bikes fit into the vision of shared mobility on demand. You can think about a future where we go bigger but I think right now the focus is on making this pilot work now in San Francisco.”


Nintendo’s Switch took just 10 months to outsell the Wii U

Nintendo’s Switch has only been on sale for 10 months but already it has outsold its predecessor, the Wii U, the flop that heralded Nintendo’s first step into hybrid gaming.

The Japanese tech giant shifted a little over 13.5 million Wii U consoles across its entire lifecycle, and today Nintendo revealed that the Switch has reached 14.86 million sales to date. Business was so brisk during the Christmas period that Nintendo actually doubled its total Switch numbers during the three-month period, the Verge reported.

Nintendo had predicted Switch’s success when it raised expectations back in October and there had been plenty of supplementary evidence even before today. It raced past 10 million sales in December and then officially became the fastest selling console in U.S. history earlier this month.

Those sales helped Nintendo pulled in an operating profit of 116.5 billion yen ($1.07 billion) from total revenue of 482.97 billion yen ($4.44 billion) for its past nine months, both of which came in above analyst estimates, according to CNBC.

That progress has led Nintendo to raise its operating profit for its financial year by 33 percent. The firm expects a take-home of 160 billion yen ($1.47 billion) from revenue of 1.02 trillion yen ($9.38 billion) for the full 12-month period.

There aren’t any major updates in the pipeline, but we do have something unique to look forward to when the company launches its cardboard-based Labo system in April.

Note: Article updated to reflect that profit and revenue figures released today are for nine-month period not Q3.