NASA’s Open Source Rover lets you build your own planetary exploration platform

NASA’s Open Source Rover lets you build your own planetary exploration platform
Got some spare time this weekend? Why not build yourself a working rover from plans provided by NASA? The spaceniks at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have all the plans, code, and materials for you to peruse and use — just make sure you’ve got $2,500 and a bit of engineering know-how. This thing isn’t made out of Lincoln Logs.
The story is this: after Curiosity landed on Mars, JPL wanted to create something a little smaller and less complex that it could use for educational purposes. ROV-E, as they called this new rover, traveled with JPL staff throughout the country.
Unsurprisingly, among the many questions asked was often whether a class or group could build one of their own. The answer, unfortunately, was no: though far less expensive and complex than a real Mars rover, ROV-E was still too expensive and complex to be a class project. So JPL engineers decided to build one that wasn’t.
The result is the JPL Open Source Rover, a set of plans that mimic the key components of Curiosity but are simpler and use off the shelf components.
“I would love to have had the opportunity to build this rover in high school, and I hope that through this project we provide that opportunity to others,” said JPL’s Tom Soderstrom in a post announcing the OSR. “We wanted to give back to the community and lower the barrier of entry by giving hands on experience to the next generation of scientists, engineers, and programmers.”
The OSR uses Curiosity-like “Rocker-Bogie” suspension, corner steering and pivoting differential, allowing movement over rough terrain, and the brain is a Raspberry Pi. You can find all the parts in the usual supply catalogs and hardware stores, but you’ll also need a set of basic tools: a bandsaw to cut metal, a drill press is probably a good idea, a soldering iron, snips and wrenches, and so on.
“In our experience, this project takes no less than 200 person-hours to build, and depending on the familiarity and skill level of those involved could be significantly more,” the project’s creators write on the GitHub page.
So basically unless you’re literally rocket scientists, expect double that. Although JPL notes that they did work with schools to adjust the building process and instructions.
There’s flexibility built into the plans, too. So you can load custom apps, connect payloads and sensors to the brain, and modify the mechanics however you’d like. It’s open source, after all. Make it your own.
“We released this rover as a base model. We hope to see the community contribute improvements and additions, and we’re really excited to see what the community will add to it,” said project manager Mik Cox. “I would love to have had the opportunity to build this rover in high school, and I hope that through this project we provide that opportunity to others.”

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

20 takeaways from Meeker’s 294-slide Internet Trends report

20 takeaways from Meeker’s 294-slide Internet Trends report

This is a must-read for understanding the tech industry. We’ve distilled famous investor Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report down from its massive 294 slides of stats and charts to just the most important insights. Click or scroll through to learn what’s up with internet growth, screen addiction, e-commerce, Amazon versus Alibaba, tech investment and artificial intelligence.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Here’s Mary Meeker’s essential 2018 Internet Trends report

Here’s Mary Meeker’s essential 2018 Internet Trends report

Want to understand all the most important tech stats and trends? Legendary venture capitalist Mary Meeker has just released the 2018 version of her famous Internet Trends report. It covers everything from mobile to commerce to the competition between tech giants. Check out the full report below, and we’ll add some highlights soon. Then come back for our slide-by-slide analysis of the most important parts of the 294 page report.

  • Internet adoption: As of 2018, half the world population, or about 3.6 billion people, will be on the internet. That’s thanks in large part to cheaper Android phones and Wifi becoming more available, though individual services will have a tougher time adding new users as the web hits saturation.
  • Mobile usage: While smartphone shipments are flat and internet user growth is slowing, U.S. adults are spending more time online thanks to mobile, clocking 5.9 hours per day in 2017 versus 5.6 hours in 2016.
  • Mobile ads: People are shifting their time to mobile faster than ad dollars are following, creating a $7 billion mobile ad opportunity, though platforms are increasingly responsible for providing safe content to host those ads.
  • Crypto: Interest in cryptocurrency is exploding as Coinbase’s user count has nearly quadrupled since January 2017
  • Voice: Voice technology is at an inflection point due to speech recognition hitting 95% accuracy and the sales explosion for Amazon Echo which went from over 10 million to over 30 million sold in total by the end of 2017.
  • Daily usage – Revenue gains for services like Facebook are tightly coupled with daily user growth, showing how profitable it is to become a regular habit.
  • Tech investment: We’re at an all-time high for public and private investment in technology, while the top six public R&D + capex spenders are all technology companies.

Mary Meeker, analyst with Morgan Stanley, speaks during the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010. This year’s conference, which runs through Nov. 17, is titled “Points of Control: The Battle for the Network Economy.” Photographer: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg via Getty Images

  • Ecommerce vs Brick & Mortar: Ecommerce growth quickens as now 13% of all retail purchases happen online and parcel shipments are rising swiftly, signaling big opportunities for new shopping apps.
  • Amazon: More people start product searches on Amazon than search engines now, but Jeff Bezos still relies on other surfaces like Facebook and YouTube to inspire people to want things.
  • Subscription services: They’re seeing massive adoption, with Netflix up 25%, The New York Times up 43%, and Spotify up 48% year-over-year in 2017. A free tier accelerates conversion rates.
  • Education: Employees seek retraining and education from YouTube and online courses to keep up with new job requirements and pay off skyrocketing student loan debt.
  • Freelancing: Employees crave scheduling and work-from-home flexibility, and internet discovery of freelance work led it to grow 3X faster than total workforce growth. The on-demand workforce grew 23% in 2017 driven by Uber, Airbnb, Etsy, Upwork, and Doordash.
  • Transportation: People are buying fewer cars, keeping them longer, and shifting transportation spend to rideshare, which saw rides double in 2017.
  • Enterprise: Consumerization of the enterprise through better interfaces is spurring growth for companies like Dropbox and Slack.
  • China: Alibaba is expanding beyond China with strong gross merchandise volume, though Amazon still rules in revenue.
  • Privacy: China has a big opportunity as users there are much more willing to trade their personal data for product benefits than U.S. users, and China is claiming more spots on the top 20 internet company list while making big investments in AI.
  • Immigration: It is critical to a strong economy, as 56% of top U.S. companies were founded by a first- or second-generation immigrant.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Students confront the unethical side of tech in ‘Designing for Evil’ course

Students confront the unethical side of tech in ‘Designing for Evil’ course
Whether it’s surveilling or deceiving users, mishandling or selling their data, or engendering unhealthy habits or thoughts, tech these days is not short on unethical behavior. But it isn’t enough to just say “that’s creepy.” Fortunately, a course at the University of Washington is equipping its students with the philosophical insights to better identify — and fix — tech’s pernicious lack of ethics.
“Designing for Evil” just concluded its first quarter at UW’s Information School, where prospective creators of apps and services like those we all rely on daily learn the tools of the trade. But thanks to Alexis Hiniker, who teaches the class, they are also learning the critical skill of inquiring into the moral and ethical implications of those apps and services.
What, for example, is a good way of going about making a dating app that is inclusive and promotes healthy relationships? How can an AI imitating a human avoid unnecessary deception? How can something as invasive as China’s proposed citizen scoring system be made as user-friendly as it is possible to be?
I talked to all the student teams at a poster session held on UW’s campus, and also chatted with Hiniker, who designed the course and seemed pleased at how it turned out.
The premise is that the students are given a crash course in ethical philosophy that acquaints them with influential ideas, such as utilitarianism and deontology.

“It’s designed to be as accessible to lay people as possible,” Hiniker told me. “These aren’t philosophy students — this is a design class. But I wanted to see what I could get away with.”
The primary text is Harvard philosophy professor Michael Sandel’s popular book Justice, which Hiniker felt combined the various philosophies into a readable, integrated format. After ingesting this, the students grouped up and picked an app or technology that they would evaluate using the principles described, and then prescribe ethical remedies.
As it turned out, finding ethical problems in tech was the easy part — and fixes for them ranged from the trivial to the impossible. Their insights were interesting, but I got the feeling from many of them that there was a sort of disappointment at the fact that so much of what tech offers, or how it offers it, is inescapably and fundamentally unethical.
I found the students fell into one of three categories.
Not fundamentally unethical (but could use an ethical tune-up)
WebMD is of course a very useful site, but it was plain to the students that it lacked inclusivity: its symptom checker is stacked against non-English-speakers and those who might not know the names of symptoms. The team suggested a more visual symptom reporter, with a basic body map and non-written symptom and pain indicators.
Hello Barbie, the doll that chats back to kids, is certainly a minefield of potential legal and ethical violations, but there’s no reason it can’t be done right. With parental consent and careful engineering it will be in line with privacy laws, but the team said that it still failed some tests of keeping the dialogue with kids healthy and parents informed. The scripts for interaction, they said, should be public — which is obvious in retrospect — and audio should be analyzed on device rather than in the cloud. Lastly, a set of warning words or phrases indicating unhealthy behaviors could warn parents of things like self-harm while keeping the rest of the conversation secret.

WeChat Discover allows users to find others around them and see recent photos they’ve taken — it’s opt-in, which is good, but it can be filtered by gender, promoting a hookup culture that the team said is frowned on in China. It also obscures many user controls behind multiple layers of menus, which may cause people to share location when they don’t intend to. Some basic UI fixes were proposed by the students, and a few ideas on how to combat the possibility of unwanted advances from strangers.
Netflix isn’t evil, but its tendency to promote binge-watching has robbed its users of many an hour. This team felt that some basic user-set limits like two episodes per day, or delaying the next episode by a certain amount of time, could interrupt the habit and encourage people to take back control of their time.
Fundamentally unethical (fixes are still worth making)
FakeApp is a way to face-swap in video, producing convincing fakes in which a politician or friend appears to be saying something they didn’t. It’s fundamentally deceptive, of course, in a broad sense, but really only if the clips are passed on as genuine. Watermarks visible and invisible, as well as controlled cropping of source videos, were this team’s suggestion, though ultimately the technology won’t yield to these voluntary mitigations. So really, an informed populace is the only answer. Good luck with that!
China’s “social credit” system is not actually, the students argued, absolutely unethical — that judgment involves a certain amount of cultural bias. But I’m comfortable putting it here because of the massive ethical questions it has sidestepped and dismissed on the road to deployment. Their highly practical suggestions, however, were focused on making the system more accountable and transparent. Contest reports of behavior, see what types of things have contributed to your own score, see how it has changed over time, and so on.
Tinder’s unethical nature, according to the team, was based on the fact that it was ostensibly about forming human connections but is very plainly designed to be a meat market. Forcing people to think of themselves as physical objects first and foremost in pursuit of romance is not healthy, they argued, and causes people to devalue themselves. As a countermeasure, they suggested having responses to questions or prompts be the first thing you see about a person. You’d have to swipe based on that before seeing any pictures. I suggested having some deal-breaker questions you’d have to agree on, as well. It’s not a bad idea, though open to gaming (like the rest of online dating).
Fundamentally unethical (fixes are essentially impossible)
The League, on the other hand, was a dating app that proved intractable to ethical guidelines. Not only was it a meat market, but it was a meat market where people paid to be among the self-selected “elite” and could filter by ethnicity and other troubling categories. Their suggestions of removing the fee and these filters, among other things, essentially destroyed the product. Unfortunately, The League is an unethical product for unethical people. No amount of tweaking will change that.
Duplex was taken on by a smart team that nevertheless clearly only started their project after Google I/O. Unfortunately, they found that the fundamental deception intrinsic in an AI posing as a human is ethically impermissible. It could, of course, identify itself — but that would spoil the entire value proposition. But they also asked a question I didn’t think to ask myself in my own coverage: why isn’t this AI exhausting all other options before calling a human? It could visit the site, send a text, use other apps and so on. AIs in general should default to interacting with websites and apps first, then to other AIs, then and only then to people — at which time it should say it’s an AI.

To me the most valuable part of all these inquiries was learning what hopefully becomes a habit: to look at the fundamental ethical soundness of a business or technology and be able to articulate it.
That may be the difference in a meeting between being able to say something vague and easily blown off, like “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” and describing a specific harm and reason why that harm is important — and perhaps how it can be avoided.
As for Hiniker, she has some ideas for improving the course should it be approved for a repeat next year. A broader set of texts, for one: “More diverse writers, more diverse voices,” she said. And ideally it could even be expanded to a multi-quarter course so that the students get more than a light dusting of ethics.
With any luck the kids in this course (and any in the future) will be able to help make those choices, leading to fewer Leagues and Duplexes and more COPPA-compliant smart toys and dating apps that don’t sabotage self-esteem.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Meet the speakers at The Europas, and get your ticket free (July 3, London)

Meet the speakers at The Europas, and get your ticket free (July 3, London)
Excited to announce that this year’s The Europas Unconference & Awards is shaping up! Our half day Unconference kicks off on 3 July, 2018 at The Brewery in the heart of London’s “Tech City” area, followed by our startup awards dinner and fantastic party and celebration of European startups!
The event is run in partnership with TechCrunch, the official media partner. Attendees, nominees and winners will get deep discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.
The Europas Awards are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. But key to the daytime is all the speakers and invited guests. There’s no “off-limits speaker room” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs and speakers.
What exactly is an Unconference? We’re dispensing with the lectures and going straight to the deep-dives, where you’ll get a front row seat with Europe’s leading investors, founders and thought leaders to discuss and debate the most urgent issues, challenges and opportunities. Up close and personal! And, crucially, a few feet away from handing over a business card. The Unconference is focused into zones including AI, Fintech, Mobility, Startups, Society, and Enterprise and Crypto / Blockchain.
We’ve confirmed 10 new speakers including:

Eileen Burbidge, Passion Capital

Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp

Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures

Sitar Teli, Connect Ventures

Nancy Fechnay, Blockchain Technologist + Angel

George McDonaugh, KR1

Candice Lo, Blossom Capital

Scott Sage, Crane Venture Partners

Andrei Brasoveanu, Accel

Tina Baker, Jag Shaw Baker
How To Get Your Ticket For FREE
We’d love for you to ask your friends to join us at The Europas – and we’ve got a special way to thank you for sharing.
Your friend will enjoy a 15% discount off the price of their ticket with your code, and you’ll get 15% off the price of YOUR ticket.
That’s right, we will refund you 15% off the cost of your ticket automatically when your friend purchases a Europas ticket.
So you can grab tickets here.
Vote for your Favourite Startups
Public Voting is still humming along. Please remember to vote for your favourite startups!
Awards by category:
Hottest Media/Entertainment Startup
Hottest E-commerce/Retail Startup
Hottest Education Startup
Hottest Startup Accelerator
Hottest Marketing/AdTech Startup
Hottest Games Startup
Hottest Mobile Startup
Hottest FinTech Startup
Hottest Enterprise, SaaS or B2B Startup
Hottest Hardware Startup
Hottest Platform Economy / Marketplace
Hottest Health Startup
Hottest Cyber Security Startup
Hottest Travel Startup
Hottest Internet of Things Startup
Hottest Technology Innovation
Hottest FashionTech Startup
Hottest Tech For Good
Hottest A.I. Startup
Fastest Rising Startup Of The Year
Hottest GreenTech Startup of The Year
Hottest Startup Founders
Hottest CEO of the Year
Best Angel/Seed Investor of the Year
Hottest VC Investor of the Year
Hottest Blockchain/Crypto Startup Founder(s)
Hottest Blockchain Protocol Project
Hottest Blockchain DApp
Hottest Corporate Blockchain Project
Hottest Blockchain Investor
Hottest Blockchain ICO (Europe)
Hottest Financial Crypto Project
Hottest Blockchain for Good Project
Hottest Blockchain Identity Project
Hall Of Fame Award – Awarded to a long-term player in Europe
The Europas Grand Prix Award (to be decided from winners)
The Awards celebrates the most forward thinking and innovative tech & blockchain startups across over some 30+ categories.
Startups can apply for an award or be nominated by anyone, including our judges. It is free to enter or be nominated.
What is The Europas?
Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with 1,000 of the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the Speakers
• Key Founders and investors speaking; featured attendees invited to just network
• Expert speeches, discussions, and Q&A directly from the main stage
• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players on vertical topics
• The opportunity to meet almost everyone in those small groups, super-charging your networking
• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters
• A parallel Founders-only track geared towards fund-raising and hyper-networking

• A stunning awards dinner and party which honors both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene
• All on one day to maximise your time in London. And it’s PROBABLY sunny!

That’s just the beginning. There’s more to come…

Interested in sponsoring the Europas or hosting a table at the awards? Or purchasing a table for 10 or 12 guest or a half table for 5 guests? Get in touch with:
Petra Johansson
[email protected]
Phone: +44 (0) 20 3239 9325

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

University of Michigan opens up its M-Air UAV testing facility to students

University of Michigan opens up its M-Air UAV testing facility to students
Companies and students who want to test an autonomous vehicle at the University of Michigan have the excellent Mcity simulated urban environment. But if you wanted to test a drone, your options were extremely limited — think “at night in a deserted lecture hall.” Not anymore: the school has just opened its M-Air facility, essentially a giant netted playground for UAVs and their humans.
It may not look like much to the untrained eye, and certainly enclosing a space with a net is considerably less labor-intensive than building an entire fake town. But the benefits are undeniable.
Excited students at a school like U-M must frequently come up with ideas for drone control systems, autonomous delivery mechanisms, new stabilization algorithms and so on. Testing them isn’t nearly as simple, though: finding a safe, controlled space and time to do it, getting the necessary approvals and, of course, containing the fallout if anything goes wrong — tasks like these could easily overwhelm a few undergrads.
M-Air serves as a collective space that’s easy to access but built from the ground up (or rather, the air down) for safe and easy UAV testing. It’s 80 by 120 feet and five stories tall, with a covered area that can hold 25 people. There are lights and power, of course, and because it’s fully enclosed it technically counts as “indoor” testing, which is much easier to get approval for. For outdoor tests you need special authorization to ensure you won’t be messing with nearby flight paths.

We can test our system as much as we want without fear of it breaking, without fear of hurting other people,” said grad student Matthew Romano in a U-M video. “It really lets us push the boundaries and allows us to really move quickly on iterating and developing the system and testing our algorithms.”
And because it’s outside, students can even test in the lovely Michigan weather.
“With this facility, we can pursue aggressive educational and research flight projects that involve high risk of fly-away or loss-of-control — and in realistic wind, lighting and sensor conditions,” said U-M aerospace engineering professor Ella Atkins.
I feel for the neighbors, though. That buzzing is going to get annoying.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Tech Will Save Us raises $4.2M for its tech-focused range of toys, partners with Disney

Tech Will Save Us raises .2M for its tech-focused range of toys, partners with Disney
Tech Will Save Us, the U.K. startup getting kids excited about technology through a range of ‘hackable’ toys, has raised $4.2 million in Series A funding led by Initial Capital. The round also includes Backed VC, SaatchInvest, All Bright, Unltd-inc, and Leaf VC, along with angel investors Chris Lee (co- founder of Media Molecule), Martin McCourt (ex CEO of Dyson) and Jonathan Howell (CTO of Made.com).
The London-based startup says the new capital will be used to expand its product range — which now includes a first partnership with Disney with a Marvel Avengers themed kit inviting children to help superheroes complete secret missions — and to continue its mission to “create a brighter future for kids by encouraging them to create with, rather than be fearful of or passive to, technology”.
Founded by wife and husband duo Bethany Koby and Daniel Hirschmann, over the last four and a half years Tech Will Save Us has developed a range of digital and physical toys that combine play with STEM education to help kids get on the front foot of learning the skills they’ll need in the future. It sells its products direct online and through retailers such as Amazon, John Lewis, Best Buy and Target, and claims to have reached customers in over 97 countries.
“We were just very aware that education doesn’t move fast enough to keep up with technology and it probably never will,” Koby tells me when I ask why her and Hirschmann started the company. “The other thing that really motivated us is having a child. Going into the toy department was actually slightly depressing. It didn’t really feel like there was any motivation around empowering kids with technology that was future-facing, that was about the way the world is unfolding, and in a way that is really creative and fun. It just felt like tech shoved inside of plastic”.
In contrast, the Tech Will Save Us product range is anything but. Covering multiple price points and age groups, the ‘kits’ span electronic dough products, wearables where kids have to program their own games and activities that respond to movement, all the way to gaming devices where kids build their own game consoles and invent and program their own video games. For the first few years of the company’s existence, you would have been hard pressed to find anything quite like it on toy store shelves.
“We’re creating a category, ultimately,” says Koby. “And I think creating a category, in addition to scaling and growing a business — with people, with culture, with all of the beautiful and complicated things that businesses possess — is a challenge, right. Building a category is not the same as just entering a category, and when we started, this category didn’t even exist”.
Fast-forward to today and Tech Will Save Us is benefiting from an aligning of the macro stars, with Koby noting that governments in Europe and the U.S. are pushing STEM education and computer science, and that Target now has a STEM buyer, and Walmart has a STEM section. “The challenge has been riding these macro trends and really building the category, while simultaneously building a product business,” she says.
Reaching kids also means securing buy-in from parents, which has its own challenges from a marketing but also product perspective. “Parents are really fearful of tech. They don’t understand it, they want their kids to be a part of it, they want their kids to understand it, but they themselves are fearful of it,” says Koby. To mitigate this, it was important to design products that ensure parents “are on that journey too” and can support their kids being creators of technology.
To that end, the tie-in with Disney, in addition to today’s Series A round, feels like a major milestone for the startup. Koby says it came about after someone from Disney bought one of the startup’s products at John Lewis and contacted the company to say they were really excited about the area of STEM. This led to Tech Will Save Us meeting lots of interesting people within Disney and developing a multi-year, multi-product pipeline, launching with Marvel Avengers.
“We’ve not just taken characters and slapped them on a product, we’ve created new experiences,” explains Koby. “Our product is the first for kids to go on secret missions with the Avengers, and solve these secret missions by learning about electronics… with the Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, using electronic dough and electronics as part of their problem solving tools to solve these missions”.
Like all of the Tech Will Save Us products, the experience mixes digital and physical, and Koby says there is the capacity to add new missions with different superheroes and different characters from the Avengers, as well as superheroes and missions that kids create.
“I’ve always believed that there is a partnership strategy in our business. We are a play experience business, we’re not a character business, and the beauty of having partnerships like Avengers and Disney is that our goal is to reach as many kids as possible and to help them see that they have the capacity to be creators of technology. But the way we do that is not by necessarily convincing them, it’s by meeting them where they’re at. Leveraging the things that kids already love and using those things to create new experiences and tell stories”.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch