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.

NASA has added five companies to the list of vendors that are cleared to bid on contracts for the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. This list, which already includes nine companies from a previous selection process, now adds SpaceX, Blue Origin, Ceres Robotics, Sierra Nevada Corporation and Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems. All of these companies can now place bids on NASA payload delivery to the lunar surface.

This basically means that these companies (which join Astrobotic Technology, Deep Space Systems, Draper Laboratory, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin Space, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express and OrbitBeyond) can build and fly lunar landers in service of NASA missions. They’ll compete with one another for these contracts, which will involve lunar surface deliveries of resources and supplies to support NASA’s Artemis program missions, the first major goal of which is to return humans to the surface of the Moon by 2024.

These providers are specifically chosen to support delivery of heavier payloads, including “rovers, power sources, science experiments” and more, like the NASA VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover), which is hunting water on the Moon. All of these will be used both to establish a permanent presence on the lunar surface for astronautics to live and work from, as well as key research that needs to be completed to make getting and staying there a viable reality.

Artist’s concept of Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander

NASA has chosen to contract out rides to the Moon instead of running its own as a way to gain cost and speed advantages, and it hopes that these providers will be able to also ferry commercial payloads on the same rides as its own equipment to further defray the overall price tag. The companies will bid on these contracts, worth up to $ 2.6 billion through November 2028 in total, and NASA will select a vendor for each based on cost, technical feasibility and when they can make it happen.

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos announced at this year’s annual International Astronautical Congress that it would be partnering with Draper, as well as Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, for an end-to-end lunar landing system. SpaceX, meanwhile, revealed that it will be targeting a lunar landing of its next spacecraft, the Starship, as early as 2022 in an effort to help set the stage for the 2024-targeted Artemis landing.


TechCrunch

How funding rounds are classified these days has much more to do with positioning than any VC definitions, but it’s still true that nothing has quite the pizazz as the “strategic investment” celebrity party round.

Sandbox VR, a location-based virtual reality startup that capped off a huge $ 68 million Series A led by Andreessen Horowitz at the beginning of the year, is bringing on some new investors in a $ 11 million “strategic” round, let’s call this one the Series A-listers round.

Yeah, there were a couple Silicon Valley folks, David Sacks and the Andreessen Horowitz Cultural Leadership Fund led the round, but they joined the much glitzier names of celebs including Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom and Will Smith. Other investors include Michale Ovitz, Honda Keisuke and Kevin Durant.  Some of the investors in this latest round don’t have much in common beyond being LPs in the Andreessen Horowitz Cultural Leadership Fund, which seems to be the glue holding these stars together.

topanga4

Sandbox VR operates physical spaces, generally in retail locations, that users can play multiplayer virtual reality games inside with friends. It’s a next-generation arcade of sorts that’s relying on expensive new technology to attract customers, but that formula hasn’t been a slam dunk for plenty of other VR startups, and it’s forced the leadership to get creative.

“It’s a difficult space to be in, because it’s one of those spaces where you have to be three startups in one,” Sandbox VR exec Siqi Chen told TechCrunch in an interview. “You have to build your own content, build your own technology and construct and operate retail locations.”

While most virtual reality startups that have raised substantial amounts of capital have had to dump it into R&D, Sandbox’s business is more focused on pinning virtual reality experiences to physical real estate giving the curious a hub to try out the technology.

Sandbox has plenty of obstacles ahead, the most dire of which will be building a content ecosystem that’s exclusive to the system. Even Facebook’s Oculus has struggled to court established studios to the system without bankrolling development, a process that could get very expensive very quickly for Sandbox. Consumer expectations are also quite high given the steep $ 48 ticket prices for the 30 minute experience. Sandbox recently partnered with CBS Interactive Studios to create a title based on Star Trek IP.

Sandbox will have to compete with consumer headsets like the Oculus Quest that are far cheaper and simpler than previous-generation at-home headsets. The startup will also have to find ways to deepen experiences while still relying on plenty of off-the-shelf consumer hardware. Sandbox’s success relies at least a bit on consumer VR headset adoption growing at a sluggish pace, something Facebook is still spending billions to accelerate.

Generating venture-sized returns will undoubtedly involve more than jacking up ticket prices for more immersive games, though we haven’t heard much of a grand vision from the young startup yet. Whatever Sandbox does, the team is going to have to walk in the same footsteps of many VR companies before it all while improving perceptions of the technology, something the company’s executives hope their new celebrity investor friends can help with.

For Sandbox, gathering attention from celebrities like Kanye West has already been part of the strategy. “Part of it is brand, in that VR is not perceived as a cool thing to do,” Chen says. “So having influential people onboard helps with that perception a bit.”

Sandbox has 16 locations planned by the end of 2020. The company has now raised a whopping $ 82 million.


TechCrunch

In way, these new wireless controllers from 8BitDo kind of defeat the purpose of the Switch Lite. So, why do I kind of want them? Honestly, I’m pretty enamored with the new, more portable version of Nintendo’s wildly successful console. As I noted in a recent review, it’s exactly the take on the Switch I was looking for as a TV-less frequent traveler.

The idea of an accessory that’s roughly half the size of the Lite kind of goes against the whole bit about “built-in” Joy-Cons. Also, the Lite doesn’t have a built-in kickstand, so you’re either finding a way to prop it up or playing it flat on a table. Neither scenario is ideal, and yet here I am, thinking about shelling out $ 25 to augment my setup with a matching turquoise version.

Life comes at you fast.

The controller actually sports two D-pads, rather than sticks, which is nice for all of those NES and SNES titles that have been added to Switch Online. Honestly, my Switch playing has been like 95 percent A Link to the Past since I started testing the Lite. The controller is up for pre-order now through Amazon and set to start shipping at the end of October — plenty of time for me to come to my senses.

 

 


TechCrunch

Trump said in July that some U.S. suppliers would be allowed to sell to Huawei while it remains blacklisted, but so far no vendors have been allowed to do so. Reuters reports that more than 130 applications have been submitted by companies that want to do business with Huawei, but the U.S. Commerce Department has not approved any of them yet.

Huawei has served as a bargaining chip in the U.S.-China trade war, which escalated again last week when Trump said he would adds tariffs to $ 550 billion worth of Chinese imports, after China said it would impose duties of $ 75 billions on U.S. goods. Trump’s mixed signals during this weekend’s G7 summit also created confusion on Wall Street.

When both presidents met at the G20 Summit in June, Donald Trump told Chinese leader Xi Jinping that he would allow some American companies to sell to Huawei, even though it remains on the Commerce Department’s Entity List. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said the Commerce Department would begin accepting applications again, requiring companies to prove that the tech they sell to Huawei would not pose a national security risk.

But one of the reasons no licenses have been granted yet is because the Commerce Department is unclear about what it is supposed to do. Former Commerce department official William Reinsch told Reuters that “nobody in the executive branch knows what [Trump] wants and they’re all afraid to make a decision without knowing that.”

In addition to providing telecom equipment, Huawei is an important customer for many U.S. tech firms, including Qualcomm, Intel and Micron. Out of the $ 70 billion in parts it bought last year, $ 11 billion of that went to U.S. suppliers. The U.S. claims Huawei is a national security risk, a charge the company has repeatedly denied.


TechCrunch

A pair of digital news companies are teaming up, with PressReader acquiring News360.

PressReader was founded back in 1999 as Newspaper Direct. It now operates a platform that converts newspapers and magazines into digital formats, while offering a $ 29.99 monthly subscription that provides unlimited access to more than 7,000 of those titles.

News360, meanwhile, is relatively youthful, having been founded in 2010. It’s also created a news aggregation app, but the announcement makes it sound like PressReader was particularly interested in the company’s NativeAI technology for analytics and personalization.

In a statement, PressReader CEO Alex Kroogman suggested that News360’s technology will be used to improve PressReader’s consumer experience and publisher tools:

In a world where news fatigue is a real and growing problem, and media literacy a global concern, it’s more important than ever for people to have access to the trusted content they need in an engaging environment. By understanding each person’s interests, and building advanced data science systems around content analytics, we will be able to give our millions of readers the trusted media they want, how they want it, when they want it, and where they want it, while building more audience intelligence into the data that drives our publisher and brand partnerships.

The News360 team will be joining PressReader and working out of the acquiring company’s Vancouver headquarters.

News360 CEO Roman Karachinsky told me via email that the combined company will continue to support the News360 app and “develop it alongside the PressReader apps,” but he added, “In the short-term[,] the team will be focused on adding News360 tech into PressReader, so I wouldn’t expect big changes to the News360 app until we’re done with this.”

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. According to Crunchbase, News360 has raised a total of $ 7.5 million from investors including Ordell Capital.


TechCrunch

India’s Reliance Jio, which has disrupted the local telecom and features phone businesses in less than three years of its existence, is now ready to aggressively foray into many more businesses.

In a series of announcements, the subsidiary of India’s largest industrial house Reliance Industries today said it will commercially launch its fiber-optic broadband business next month, an IoT platform on January 1, 2020, and “one of the world’s biggest blockchain networks” in the next 12 months.

The broadband service, called Jio Giga Fiber, is aimed at individual customers, small and medium sized businesses, as well as enterprises, Mukhesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries, said at a shareholders meeting Monday. The service, which will be available starting September 5, will offer free voice calls, high-speed internet and start at Rs 700 per month.

Continuing its tradition to woo users with significant offers, Jio said customers who opt for the yearly-plan of Giga Fiber will be provided with the set top box and an HD or 4K TV at no extra charge. A premium tier, which will be available next year, will allow customers to watch many movies on the day of their public release.

The Giga Fiber broadband service, which also offers access to TV channels, will bundle games from many popular studios including Microsoft Game Studios, Riot Games, Tencent Games, and Gameloft,

Partnership with Microsoft

The company also announced a 10-year partnership with Microsoft to leverage the Redmond giant’s Azure, Microsoft 365, and Microsoft AI platforms to launch new cloud datacenters in India to ensure “more of Jio’s customers can access the tools and platforms they need to build their own digital capability,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a video appearance Monday.

“At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Core to this mission is deep partnerships, like the one we are announcing today with Reliance Jio. Our ambition is to help millions of organizations across India thrive and grow in the era of rapid technological change…”

“Together, we will offer a comprehensive technology solution, from compute to storage, to connectivity and productivity for small and medium-sized businesses everywhere in the country,” he added.

As part of the partnership, Nadella said, Jio and Microsoft will jointly offer Office 365 to more organizations in India, and also bring Azure Cognitive Services to more devices and in many Indian languages to businesses in the country. The solutions will be “accessible” to reach as many people and organizations in India as possible, he added.

The first two data-centers will be set up in Gujarat and Maharashtra by next year. Jio will migrate all of its non-networking apps to Microsoft Azure platform and promote its adoption among its ecosystem of startups, the two said in a joint statement.

Ambani also said Jio is working on a “digital stack” to create a new commerce partnership platform in India to reach tens of millions of merchants, consumers, and producers.

The announcement comes weeks after Reliance Industries acquired majority stake in Fynd, a Mumbai-based startup that connects brick and mortar retailers with online stores and consumers, for $ 42.3 million.

More to follow…


TechCrunch

New successes in printing vascular tissue from living cells point to the accelerating pace of development of 3D printing tissue — and eventually the ability to manufacture organs from small samples of cells.

Late last month Prellis Biologics announced a $ 8.7 million round of funding and some significant advancements that point the way forward for 3D printed organs while a company called Volumetric Bio based on research from a slew of different universities unveiled significant progress of its own earlier this year.

The new successes from Prellis have the company speeding up its timeline to commercialization including the sale of its vascular tissue structures to research institutions and looking ahead to providing vascularized skin grafts, insulin producing sells, and a vascular shunt made from the tissue of patients who need dialysis, according to an interview with Melanie Matheu, Prellis’ chief executive officer and co-founder.

The creation of a vascular shunt made from a patient’s own cells should increase the chances of the procedure working successfully, says Matheu. “[If] that shunt fails there aren’t many other options… and then people have ports put in their chest.” The proposed treatment from Prellis could increase quality of life and longevity of people who are waiting for a kidney,” according to Matheu. 

A few months earlier, a team of researchers led by bioengineers Jordan Miller of Rice University and Kelly Stevens of the University of Washington (UW) with collaborators from UW, Duke University, Rowan University and the design firm, Nervous System, revealed a model of an air sac that mimicked the function of human lungs. The model could deliver oxygen to surrounding blood vessels — creating vascular networks that mimic the body’s own passageways.

“One of the biggest road blocks to generating functional tissue replacements has been our inability to print the complex vasculature that can supply nutrients to densely populated tissues,” said Miller, assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice’s Brown School of Engineering, in a statement. “Further, our organs actually contain independent vascular networks — like the airways and blood vessels of the lung or the bile ducts and blood vessels in the liver. These interpenetrating networks are physically and biochemically entangled, and the architecture itself is intimately related to tissue function. Ours is the first bioprinting technology that addresses the challenge of multivascularization in a direct and comprehensive way.”

Miller has launched a startup to commercialize the research called Volumetric Bio. While the researchers have made their findings freely available through open source licenses, they’re hoping to commercialize the technology by selling their bioprinters and materials and reagents.

The technology that Miller and his team develops uses photoreactor chemicals that respond to light, so specific area of liquid solidify while others can be rinsed away. The problem is that most of these chemicals have been found to cause cancer, so Miller and his team found a replacement to the traditional photoreactors in an unlikely place — the supermarket aisle.

The researchers surmised that food dye might do the trick and Miller just went to the supermarket and picked up a dye that’s typically used in baking, according to a story in Scientific American.

“We were screaming with joy, because it was stunning how simple an idea it was; it immediately enabled us to make this dramatically more complex architecture,” Miller told the magazine.

Prellis has made significant strides of its own. Alongside the funding, the company announced the successful implantation of tumors in animal subjects that were made using the company’s vascular scaffolds. The target market for these tests is in drug discovery, where animal testing can prove the efficacy of new treatments before they’re used on people in drug trials.

The printed structures, a combination of living cells and hydrogels are designed to provide a sort of scaffolding that an animal’s own cells can build on. In the study, conducted at Stanford University, Prellis was able to fully graft a tumor onto an animal using just 200,000 cells — far fewer than what’s required for typical tumor studies, according to the company.

And, as the company noted, within eight weeks, researchers identified branched vasculature of up to 50 microns inside of the transplanted structures, which indicated the animal’s vasculature system had incorporated the scaffolding into its own circulatory system.

Prellis is actually pitching its pre-made vascular scaffolds to researchers for their work on 3D printed biologics. Scientists at pharmaceutical companies and universities including UC San Francisco, Johns Hopkins, UC Irvine, and Memorial Sloan Kettering, are developing tests with standardized tissue structures (something that’s important for drug trials).

The drug discovery applications alone are a multi-billion dollar market, says Matheu, but the company is focused on its goal of fully transplantable 3D printed organs, starting with kidneys. The company is going to do their first large animal studies for organ implantation by the end of the year.

“My goal has always been and will always be that we want this to cost the same amount as procurement from a human donor,” says Matheu.

As Matheu looks ahead to the places where more work needs to be done, she points to getting a supply chain to source the right cells for drug therapies and organ development.

So the roadmap for new products begins with the vascular scaffolds, runs through vascularized skin grafts and developing insulin producing cells and vascular shunts for dialysis patients.

“Regenerative medicine has made enormous leaps in recent decades. However, to create complete organs, we need to build higher order structures like the vascular system,” said Dr. Alex Morgan, Principal at Khosla Ventures, in a statement. “Prellis’ optical technology provides the scaffolding necessary to engineer these larger masses of tissues.  With our investment in Prellis, we’re supporting an initiative that will ultimately produce a functioning lobe of the lung, or even a kidney, to be used in addressing an enormous unmet global need.”


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