Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Toyota will work with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on a fuel cell Moon rover vehicle, with a target launch date of a Moon mission currently set for 2029. The two previously announced their collaboration, but on Tuesday they signed a formal agreement which defines a three-year joint research agreement to co-develop pressurized lunar rover prototypes.

Each year will see the partnership focus on a different phase of the prototype’s development, with 2019 all about identifying technical requirements and drawing up spec docs; next year, the goal will be to build test parts and then actually putting together a rover prototype; finally, in fiscal 2021, the partners will test both the rover parts and rover prototype in order to evaluate the results for potential full production.

The pressurized rover will be able to transport astronauts over 10,000 km using its onboard fuel cells and solar recharging mechanism, according to a press release detailing the concept from March, prior to today’s development partnership agreement. It would have a total seating capacity of two people, with the option to carry as many as four if there’s an emergency need to do so.

It’s about the size of two microbuses, according to Toyota, which means about 20 feet long, by 17 feet wide and 12.5 feet tall. The six-wheeled concept also features deployable solar panels for recharging, ample communications equipment and a front winch for getting itself out of jams another potential applications.

JAXA intends to launch a series of lunar missions, including 2007’s Selene (or ‘Kayuga’), which sent an orbiter and a pair of communication satellites to lunar orbit. Ultimately, JAXA’s goal is to host a series of uncrewed and human missions under a broader Lunar Exploration Program with the ultimate aim of establishing a presence for Japanese astronauts in a combined international lunar outpost program.


TechCrunch

Users of Amazon’s voice assistant will soon be able to talk to Alexa in Hindi. Amazon announced today that it has added a Hindi voice model to its Alexa Skills Kit for developers. Alexa developers can also update their existing published skills in India for Hindi.

Amazon first revealed that it would add fluent Hindi to Alexa last month during its re: MARS machine learning and artificial intelligence conference. Before, Alexa was only able to understand a few Hinglish (a portmanteau of Hindi and English) commands. Rohit Prasad, vice president and head scientist for Alexa, told Indian news agency IANS that adding Hindi to Alexa posed a “contextual, cultural as well as content-related challenge” because of the wide variety of dialects, accents and slang used in India.

Along with English, Hindi is one of India’s official languages (Google Voice Assistant also offers Hindi support). According to Citi Research, Amazon holds about a 30 percent market share, about the same as its main competitor, Walmart-backed Flipkart.


TechCrunch

Tomorrow, representatives from Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple will testify before Congress in the second hearing organized as part of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust investigation into the world’s largest technology companies.

While the first hearing focused on the ways technology companies busted the traditional news business, this one promises to look at the “impact of market power of online platforms on innovation and entrepreneurship,” according to the committee.

Unlike the previous hearing, which featured representatives from media outlets and industry trade organizations attacking or defending the ways in which online advertising had gutted the news business, this latest outing led by Rhode Island Democratic Rep. David Cicilline will have actual tech company execs on hand to answer congressional queries.

One section of the testimony will feature Google’s economic policy head, Adam Cohen; Amazon’s associate general counsel, Nate Sutton; Facebook’s global head of policy, Matt Perault; and Kyle Andeer, Apple’s chief compliance officer.

Others expected to appear include Tim Wu, the Columbia Law professor who’s been an outspoken critic of technology consolidation and an advocate for more stringent antitrust oversight of tech companies, and Maureen Ohlhausen, a partner at Baker Botts and the former acting chairman of the Federal Trade Commission in charge of its antitrust actions.

Wu and his views sort of encapsulate much of the thinking from critics of these companies’ current dominance in the market.

“I would love, in fact, if a serious Facebook challenger took down Facebook, and I would stop calling for any antitrust action. It’s just when you become suspicious that the barriers have gotten strong enough that a company could survive, then maybe we need to have antitrust law loosened up, get things moving, and provide for the market cycle to take its place. Now eventually it will happen, but we can’t wait for 50 years,” Wu told the American Enterprise Institute in an interview earlier this year.

“It’s also possible that history would suggest that a company like Facebook, and perhaps Amazon, will soon try to get government on their side to defend themselves against competition. I don’t know what it will look like, but maybe Facebook agrees to some kind of privacy law, which for some reason is very hard for new entrants to adhere to. Amazon may try and instantiate itself as basically the national e-commerce monopolist, kind of like a Bell-regulated monopoly. That’s a next natural step, especially as a big star, to become less competitive. And so before that happens, I think we give the antitrust law its turn.”

Policy watchers can expect market criticisms of the big technology platforms to come from a few different angles (each company has different, slightly overlapping, issues that policymakers find worrisome).

For Alphabet, criticism stems primarily from the company’s dominance in online search and the ad networks it controls through its ownership of DoubleClick and AdMob (along with its ownership of YouTube’s wildly popular video platform). At Amazon, it’s the ways in which Jeff Bezos’e-commerce behemoth hoovers up sales information  and uses it to inform pricing and potentially anticompetitive practices that stymie the development of new e-commerce players by promoting its own brands and products.

For Facebook, it’s the dominance of the company’s social media platforms (including Instagram and the messaging service WhatsApp) that are a cause for concern — as is its unwillingness to open its social graph for other startups. The company also elicits howls from consumer advocates for its abysmal ability to protect user privacy and data.

Finally, Apple’s control over the entire ecosystem it pitches to consumers — and the pricing policies it enforces that some critics have called extortive are cause for concern among the political class.

These competitive concerns also play out against the outsized ambitions that these technology companies have in other areas. Facebook is trying to make an end run around the existing global financial system through the launch of its Libra cryptocurrency; Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook all have designs to dominate the development of artificial intelligence in open markets; and then there’s the work these companies are conducting in areas as diverse as healthcare, mobility technologies and even space travel and high-speed networking.

With so many interests in so many areas and core businesses generating so much money, it’s easy to conflate a broader unease with these companies’ ambitions and the core anti-competitive arguments that are worthy of discussion.

For this hearing — and indeed the Congressional investigation to be successful — the focus should be less on the global ambitions of these technology companies and more on the practices they’ve enacted to stifle competition.


TechCrunch

Sutro’s device has changed a lot since the company appeared as a contestant in our Hardware Battlefield way back in 2015. But who hasn’t, really? The startup happened to be in town as TechCrunch paid a visit to SSV’s Shenzhen headquarters. Turns out it’s a good place to be six weeks ahead of your product’s commercial launch. There are always plenty of kinks to be ironed out ahead of product, after all.

The heart of the product is the same, of course: a floating connected device that can continually measure the chlorine, pH and other levels of a pool’s content. The final version of the device, however, is cylindrical, with, thankfully, fewer wires hanging out than the previous version. Honestly, it looks a bit like a floating travel mug.

With a new production partner announced way back at CES in January, the company says it’s now six weeks away from shipping the product for those who purchase it directly through the startup’s site. Some point soon, it will also make the device available through pool stores and other online channels. For now, however, it’s direct purchase only.

At $ 699, the device isn’t cheap. Though the Bay Area-based startup believes that the nuisance of regularly monitoring pools will be enough to convince those with deep pockets to take the plunge, sop to speak. And the company’s already seen a fair amount of interest from potential customers since it started talking up the product nearly half a decade back.

A planned second version of the device will make things even more convenient, with plans to add a system for releasing chemicals into the water in order to automatically regulate the water’s make up. That bit certainly sounds appealing if a ways off.

Hardware is just the first step for the company, though. Sutro believes that with enough devices out in the real world, it can create useful datasets for water quality. While plenty of monitoring systems exist for reservoirs and aqueducts, a lot can happen on the way to the hose or faucet. Flint is, sadly, a recent example of this, as river water corroded aging pipes, causing lead to enter the water supply.

The company plans to use data from this and future products to build what it deems a “water genome,” offering rich information on water quality across the world.


TechCrunch

“Point Blank,” a new Netflix original film, stars Frank Grillo and Anthony Mackie as a criminal and a nurse thrown together by circumstances — Abe (played by Grillo) is struck by a car while fleeing a murder scene, and he’s brought to the hospital where Paul (Mackie) works. Soon, Paul finds himself coerced into to breaking Abe out of the hospital.

Despite the presence of two Marvel stars (Grillo had a brief-but-memorable run in the Captain America movies as Brock Rumlow, while Mackie’s Falcon is about to become the new Captain America), “Point Blank” is a decidedly modest affair, focusing on these two men as they drive through the streets of Cincinnati, on the run from both the police and criminals.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to deliver a straightforward crime movie, but as we discuss in the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we found ourselves underwhelmed by the results, largely because the film was so by-the-numbers.

Yes, there are moments when “Point Blank” tries to surprise the audience, but most viewers will see the twists coming a mile away. And while the movie (based on a French film of the same name) seems to owe a debt to buddy cop movies like “48 Hours” and “Lethal Weapon,” it lacks the finesse needed to balance its jokes with high-stakes violence.

We also discuss AT&T/WarnerMedia’s announcement that it’s taking “Friends” off Netflix, so that it can bring the show to its upcoming streaming service, now called HBO Max.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

f you want to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Introduction
0:39 HBO Max
13:27 Point Blank review
26:24 Point Blank spoiler discussion


TechCrunch

We met with a handful of Brinc’s top startups earlier this week, during a visit to the accelerator’s Hong Kong headquarters. The lion’s share of the demos involved hardware products, which has long been the organization’s core offering. Increasingly, however, food focused startups like Phuture Foods have become an important focus.

Whereas stateside companies like Beyond and Impossible largely work to approximate beef, the Malaysian startup has been pioneering on a plant-based pork substitute. The meat is in particularly high demand in the Asian market, where it’s targeting initial sales, beginning with Hong Kong in the next few months and then branching out into Singapore shortly after.

The foodstuff is designed to mimic the taste and texture of pork, using a variety of plants, including wheat, shiitake mushrooms and mung beans. The company has received support from Hong Kong-based angel investors, beginning with online sales, before rolling out to area super markets roughly five months from now.

Phuture’s primary value play is sustainability, and increasing important issue, particularly under the strain of population growth in areas like China. Price wise, it hopes to hit a target of at or lower than that of actual pork products, which could certainly add appeal among consumers for whom ethical and environmental concerns aren’t at top of mind.

The foodstuff is Halal, a key feature for markets like Malaysia and Singapore. The company is also exploring kosher certification, along with chicken and lamb substitutes.


TechCrunch

The Roblox EC-1

Following in the wake of our deep profiles of Patreon and Niantic, we have our next EC-1 package, this time on children’s gaming platform Roblox . Extra Crunch writer Sherwood Morrison has covered gaming and startups for years, and he got an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the incredibly popular startup with interviews with many of the company’s principals. This is your weekend read.

How Roblox avoided the gaming graveyard and grew into a $ 2.5B company

In part one of this EC-1, Morrison looks at the origin story of Roblox, which has to be one of the most interesting I have read in some time. Founders Dave Baszucki and Erik Cassel first worked together on a physics simulation engine called Knowledge Revolution before founding Roblox in 2004 (then known as Dynablox).

Since those humble origins 15 years ago, Baszucki and his team have grown the company dramatically through a sequence of smart strategic moves that Morrison illuminates, eventually culminating in the company’s massive $ 150 million Series F venture capital round last year from Greylock and Tiger Global, valuing the company at a reported $ 2.5 billion. Roblox now has 90 million active users, tripling in just a few short years.

Digging into the Roblox growth strategy

Meanwhile, in part two of this EC-1, Morrison illuminates the challenges and opportunities facing Roblox in the years ahead as it looks to conquer a greater swath of the gaming market, or what Baszucki calls “human co-experience.”

First and foremost, Roblox has to expand internationally and capture a greater share of children’s entertainment. Then, the company wants to start to expand beyond its children’s gaming roots to reach other, older demographics. It has to do all this while also maintaining safety for its users and increasing the quality of its game engine against competitors like Unity and Unreal.

As Morrison writes:

If Roblox can continue to grow, it will serve as a guiding example for a whole new generation of companies. And if it continues to evolve, it may yet prove that human co-experience is more than a fever dream. A whole generation of companies failed to create immersive social environments — but in the space between games and chat, Roblox may yet prove that there’s a whole new social category waiting to be discovered.

Be sure to check out both parts, and if you haven’t already, be sure to read the Patreon EC-1 and the Niantic EC-1 as well for similar deep profiles of leading Silicon Valley startups.

Minimum investment for EB-5 investor green card expected to more than double

Immigrants make up a huge portion of Silicon Valley’s workers and investors. That’s why news that the Trump Administration is changing the eligibility for investor green cards is a huge story, particularly for immigrants from India.


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