Reach Robotics closes $7.5M Series A for its augmented reality bots.

After years of research and development, Reach Robotics has closed a $7.5 million Series A, co-led by Korea Investment Partners (KiP) and IGlobe, to bring its augmented reality bots to market in a big way. The Bristol-based startup is looking to expand into the U.S., and the team is exploring opportunities for growth into other European and Asian markets.

Reach Robotics’ first product, MekaMon, launched last fall. Today’s round comes after the company produced and sold an initial run of 500 of its four-legged, crab-like, bots. MekaMon fits into an emerging category of smartphone-enabled augmented reality toys like Anki.

Silas Adekunle, CEO of Reach Robotics, tells me the influx of capital will be used to make some strategic hires and increase brand recognition through marketing. This is the first time the startup has announced a funding round. Adekunle tells me his experience raising capital wasn’t easy; as they say, hardware is hard.

“It was hard to pitch in our early days because people didn’t believe,” explained Adekunle.

MekaMon sits somewhere between toy and full-fledged robot. Unlike the radio-controlled RadioShack robots of yesteryear, MekaMon costs a hefty $329. At first glance this can be hard to swallow, but Adekunle remains adamant that he is building a platform and not a line of toys — think PS4 instead of an expensive, single-use robot collecting dust on a shelf.

Outside of retail sales, another avenue for the company to make money is through partnerships within the entertainment industry. Adekunle says that Reach would never go out of its way to deliver a specific product for a client, but he always keeps an eye out for overlap where a partnership could occur with minimal operational changes.

“People are taken aback that something could be this realistic,” asserts Adekunle. “If you strip back the product and lose that, then you don’t have an innovative company.”

Because Reach is selling software-enabled hardware, it has the opportunity to collect all sorts of interesting data that it can use to fine-tune its products. The startup is able to track retention in aggregate and look at how people actually use their robots. Moreover, if MekaMon suffers leg failure, Reach can analyze indicators like temperature readings and torque.

Adekunle insists on keeping the Reach Robotics team interdisciplinary — one employee helped shape the way robots move in the Transformers movie series. This same team is focused on empowering the next group of developers who will build on the MekaMon platform and create new use cases, beyond the company’s initial vision for the product.


Source: Tech Crunch


Researchers 3D Print a Silicone Artificial Heart That Beats Like a Real One.

A working artificial heart has been 3D printed by researchers from ETH Zurich. The beating artificial heart is made from silicon created using 3D-printing and lost-wax casting technique. While the prototype isn’t ready to replace failed hearts in humans, the technology could be used to replace blood pumps that are used in hospitals for patients awaiting heart transplants.

The artificial heart is created from a single piece of silicon, so the likelihood of complications associated with the pump’s combination of plastic and metal is reduced. The team leading the research set their sights to make a heart that “is roughly the same size as the patient’s own one and which imitates the human heart as closely as possible in form and function.”


Artifical heart beats like a human’s

The most recent version of the astounding invention does use the basic design of a human heart. It has a left and right ventricle. But instead of a wall between the two tubes, they designed the artificial heart to have an extra chamber that is inflated and deflated by pressurized air. This is how they manage to get the ‘beating effect’. The invention gives a lot of hope to future ‘soft machine’ technology. But there is a long way to go before these types of artificial organs would be ready to replace living tissue.


New materials need to be developed to extend the life of heart

The current silicone heart model only lasts for 3,000 beats or about 45 minutes. The silicone mold begins to break down after this time due to the continual motion and pressure it is under. The search is now on to find a more durable material, that still has the soft and flexible properties of silicone but can last much longer in operation. The researchers stated, “This was simply a feasibility test. Our goal was not to present a heart ready for implantation, but to think about a new direction for the development of artificial hearts.”

The search for a fully functioning artificial heart is a real necessity. More than 26 million people suffer from heart failure around the world each year. Many of these people will die due to lack of donor hearts available.

The research team is a collaborative group created from medical researchers and engineers from the Functional Materials Laboratory at ETH in Zurich. One of the team members, Anastasios Petrou, said, “As a mechanical engineer, I would never have thought that I would ever hold a soft heart in my hands. I’m now so fascinated by this research that I would very much like to continue working on the development of artificial hearts,” says Petrou.


Other Soft Robots could be developed to save lives

Other types of ‘soft robots’ have been developed for use in treating heart problems. Researchers from Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital have developed a silicone type sleeve that might help save the lives of heart attack victims. The soft sleeve wraps around the heart and pumps and twists the muscles to improve cardiovascular function.


Source: Interesting Engineering


How Will iPhone 8 3D Face Scanning Change Events?

Apple is bringing 3D face scanning and dedicated AI processing to the iPhone 8. Here we look at how that could affect the event industry.

A recent report from Bloomberg has revealed that Apple is testing new 3D face scanning technology for the upcoming iPhone 8. The report says that the new technology will replace the fingerprint scanner used for unlocking the device and providing security validation for payments and apps.

According to sources close to Apple, the new technology will be more secure than fingerprint scanning because a 3D face scan contains more data points than a 2D fingerprint. 3D face scanning is also more secure than previous attempts at using camera-based security due to its ability to sense depth. Unlike 2D scanning, the new technology can’t be fooled by a photograph.

iPhone 8 New Features

According to Bloomberg, along with 3D face scanning, the next generation iPhone will include a host of other features including:

- Dedicated chip for carrying out AI (artificial intelligence) tasks

- Faster screen capable of higher video frame rates

- Edge-to-edge OLED screen for better image quality

- Casing with beveled glass front and back separated by a steel chassis

- Integrated AR (augmented reality) to run apps built with ARkit

Knock On Effect For Events

When Apple introduces a new technology, adoption of that technology usually soars. That, in turn, has a knock-on effect in the event industry; be that directly, through event apps or indirectly by influencing other eventtech. Some of the new features of the iPhone 8 are quite groundbreaking and thrusting them into the mainstream will obviously cause a few issues for Apple – adopting new technologies isn’t easy – but if Apple gets it right, adoption will be relatively fast and painless. For events, the mass adoption and trust of new technologies provide several opportunities. We’ve already seen this with speech recognition following Siri, fingerprint authentication and of course, if it wasn’t for the iPhone, what would event apps look like now?

3D Face Scanning For Events

As we’ve already seen, face scanning technology is beginning to proliferate events already but the feedback so far has been very mixed. There are some serious privacy issues that come with facial recognition but the improved security of 3D face scanning might assuage some of that ill feeling. If users begin to trust the technology and its operators are honest about how the data is being used, face scanning technology will become a much more common occurrence for event check-in and even more localized ID functions such as payment and access control.

AR Everywhere

Mass adoption and familiarity with AR will mean that mobile users will start expecting to find information by pointing their device camera at something. AR technology can pin virtual content to objects and places. If developers make the link between face recognition and AR, it’s even possible that information could be pinned to people too. For example, if an attendee wants to find a representative from a specific vendor in a crowded room, an attendee matching app could use the device’s camera and screen to point out the right person and display extra information about them or provide an opportunity to connect.

Dedicated AI Functionality

Devices with more power dedicated to AI mean more opportunities for AI rich applications. AI is already making its mark on eventtech but because it takes a lot of power to process AI, the limitations of what you can do within a smartphone app are currently quite limited. A dedicated chip will free up other system resources as well as streamline AI processes. What this means for events is that event apps will get smarter but without getting slower.

For events, this could see a rise in personal assistant and concierge technology in event apps, more intelligent attendee matching and better ways to find event related content and important information.

In Conclusion

When Apple introduces something new, a lot of people want it. That will almost certainly be the case for the iPhone 8 and all the shiny new technology within. Despite security concerns surrounding face scanning, the new 3D scanning technology seems to be the star of the show and could be the harbinger of a shift in consumer perception. This, of course, opens lots of doors for eventprofs and eventtech developers alike. Welcome to the future.


Source: Event manager blog



The best smart speaker... Amazon Echo vs Google Home vs Apple HomePod

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The Insider Pick:

  • Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, smart speakers can answer any question, control your smart home, play games, and so much more. The best smart speaker hands down is the Amazon Echo with its 15,000+ skills, ability to buy items on Amazon, support for dozens of smart home devices, and stellar audio quality.

Amazon's Echo was the very first smart speaker on the scene with artificial intelligence, and it still dominates the field. Since its launch, Amazon has grown the Echo lineup to include the original Echo, the cheaper Echo Dot, the touchscreen-enabled Echo Show, and the upcoming fashion-forward Echo Look.However, Amazon is no longer alone in the smart speaker space. Google entered the fray last year with the Google Home smart speaker, and its smart Assistant now rivals Alexa for power. Apple is also about to get into the AI smart speaker space with its HomePod and you can bet your life that Samsung is looking into making its own smart speaker sooner or later with its Bixby voice assistant.

So which one is best for you and do you even need a smart speaker with artificial intelligence? We've tested the main smart speakers and done a lot of research on each of the main players in this space to bring you the answer to both of those questions. Before we get into the battle royale between Amazon's Echo lineup and the Google Home, let's go over the basics of what's going on in the smart speaker space and why you might want one in your home.

If you're not an Amazon Prime member yet, you may want to consider signing up before you buy an Echo smart speaker. Also, Tuesday, July 11, is the third annual Amazon Prime Day, during which thousands of items go on sale, including Amazon gadgets like the Echo lineup. These deals will be available only to Prime members, but you can sign up for a free 30-day trial, which will give you full access to Prime Day and the many other benefits of being a Prime member. We recommend you sign up for Prime and check back on the Echo's pricing on July 11.

Perhaps the best thing about having a smart speaker is that it frees up your hands and gets you away from your smartphone. You can ask Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri what the temperature is before you run out the door or ask if you need an umbrella. The voice assistants can also read you recipe instructions or set timers when your hands are occupied in the kitchen. They can play you soothing music after a long day or set the mood during a date. If you have smart home devices, you can control them with your voice instead of having to get out of bed or off the couch to turn your lights on and off. 

Smart speakers are also fun for parties and kids, because they can answer trivia questions and even play games. If you have an inquisitive child at home or you like to win arguments, you can just ask your voice assistant a question and get the answer immediately without typing a word or opening an app. Once you've used one, you won't want to be without it.

What services and smart home devices work with the Amazon Echo and Google Home?

Feature sets vary based on the speaker and you should take into account which compatible devices and services you already own or subscribe to before you pick one or the other. Amazon's Alexa has many more skills, compatible products, and compatible apps and services than the Google Home. It's undoubtedly more fully featured, and Google Home is playing catch up. Here's a breakdown of which services and products work with the Amazon Echo and Google Home:

Smart speakers can do a number of different things, including answer questions, control smart home devices, set alarms, play music, and more. Each speaker has different strengths and weaknesses, but companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple are working hard to fill the gaps and make these speakers even smarter. 

- Smart home devices: Phillips Hue, Ring, Schlage Smart Locks, TP-Link Smart Home Products, Leviton, Insteaon, SmartThings, Wink, Caseta Wireless, LI-FX Smart Bulbs, GE Link Smart Bulbs, WeMo, iHome Smart Plugs, iDevices Switches, Nest, Sensi Thermostat, EcoBee Thermostat, Lyric Thermostat, August Smart Lock, Arlo Pro, Nest Cam IQ, Rachio Sprinklers, Gargeio Garage Door, iRobot Roomba Smart Vacuums, and so many more. You can browse all of the Echo compatible products on Amazon and buy them by clicking this link. 

- Services: Amazon's Alexa supports more than 15,000 skills, and it supports far too many services to list here. Big ones include Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, iHeart Radio, TuneIn, Sirius XM, Uber, Domino's, StubHub, Audible, Dish, NPR, and so many more. You can also buy things from Amazon with a simple voice command.

Google Home

- Smart home devices: Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs and speakers, Nest, SmartThings, Phillips Hue, LIFX Smart Lights, TP-Link Smart Home, Vivint Home Security, Rachio Sprinklers, Logitech Harmony, Geeni Connected Tech, August Smart Locks, Anova Precision Cooker, Insignia Wi-Fi Smart Plug, Belkin WeMo Insight Smart Plug, iRobot Roomba 960, Honeywell Wi-Fi Thermostat, Mr. Coffee Smart Coffee Maker, Lutron, Ring, and many more. See the full list here.

- Services: Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, TuneIn Radio, YouTube, IFTTT, Netflix, Google Services, Domino's, Food Network, Headspace, MadLibs, and more. See the full list here.

Apple HomePod

Apple's HomePod isn't available yet, so we don't know how many services and devices it will support at launch, but it's safe to say that Apple apps, Apple Music, and HomeKit smart home products will work with the speaker. We'll keep you updated.

Should I be worried about privacy, hackers, and companies selling my data?

There is a trade-off when you buy a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. Both devices are listening all the time for the wake words — "Hey Alexa," or "Okay Google/Hey Google" — that trigger actions.  You can mute the speakers, so they're not listening, but that defeats the purpose of being able to wake the AI assistants up whenever you need them. 

The companies say that nothing is being monitored or recorded until the wake words are spoken, but once they are, Amazon and Google tend to hold on to that voice data to improve the services for you. Luckily, it is all encrypted, so it should be fairly safe. You can delete that voice data from your Echo every now and then, and you should. Just go to Manage my device and delete recordings one by one or clear your search history. With Google Home, you can alter your permissions to limit the data it collects here.

Of course, neither situation is ideal, as Naked Security by Sophos points out. Gizmodo's Fieldguide has more tips on how to tighten your security and privacy a bit on both devices. The worry here is twofold: either hackers will use that data against you or Amazon and Google will mine it for advertising dollars. Unfortunately, it's the risk you take right now.

In contrast, Apple's upcoming HomePod advertises that its system is more secure and private than any other smart speaker. The promo page says that HomePod has, "multiple layers of security — including anonymous ID and encryption" to "protect your privacy." 

Both Google Home and Amazon Echo encrypt your voice data, too, but there are two big differences. One, Amazon and Google associate your data directly with you and your account to learn how to serve you better. Meanwhile, Apple does not associate your data with you or your account, but rather with a randomized set of numbers. Secondly, Apple deletes the association between the data and the random code every six months, whereas Amazon and Google just hold on to it forever unless you bother to delete it yourself, Wired explains.

This becomes important when government requests for data come in. Amazon and Google can find that data and trace it back to you directly, but Apple literally can't because the numbers are randomized and the data is regularly deleted. Apple has the upper hand here, so if data security and privacy matter to you, you'll want to wait and buy a HomePod.

Should you buy a smart speaker?

Smart speakers are helpful, fun to use, and a sure sign of things to come in the future of artificial intelligence and the smart home. If you like to be ahead of the curve, you enjoy having a good speaker at home, you own lots of smart home devices already, and you don't mind some of the trade-offs; you'll love these smart speakers.

Apple fans should hold off until the verdict is in on the HomePod, but Amazon Prime subscribers would do well to pick up an Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Show. Finally, Google fans who aren't into Prime should spring for a Google Home because it's bound to pick up as many tricks as Amazon's Alexa before too long. Read on to learn all about these different smart speakers and to figure out which one is best for you.

If you're looking for more great tech, you should check out our guides to the best e-readers, the best computer mice, the best wireless Bluetooth headphones, the best smartwatches, the best Bluetooth keyboards, the best home projectors, the best home security cameras, the best Android tablet, the best battery packs, the best Micro USB cables, the best lightning cables, the best USB-C cables, and more on Insider Picks.

Although the Amazon Echo is our top pick, for various reasons laid out in the slides below, you should also consider the Google Home, the Amazon Echo Dot, and the Amazon Echo Show. We also look forward to testing the Apple HomePod in December, so we've included a preview of what it does in our guide.

The best smart speaker overall

Why you'll love it: The Amazon Echo is the uncontested best smart home speaker with its 15,000+ skills, smart home support, and strong audio.

If you want a smart speaker that does it all, the Amazon Echo is the best one you can buy. Amazon got a head start on the competition, and it shows. Alexa has more than 15,000 skills, supports dozens of smart home products, and works with too many apps to count. You can even order things on Amazon with your voice.

This slim, modern cylinder plays audio that matches great Bluetooth speakers for quality, and it'll fit in with any room's decor. When you awaken Alexa, a subtle blue light flicks around the round top of the speaker as it listens in.

You can play music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more, and the sound quality is very good. If you subscribe to Audible's audiobook service, the Echo will also play the narration for you while you cook, relax, or work around the house.

Alexa can read you recipes, play audio news shows, tell you the score, look up local businesses, check the weather, and complete just about any other basic task that springs to mind. She'll even order you an Uber to the airport and read out your text messages.

If you have smart home devices already, chances are the Echo works with them. Major ones like the Phillips Hue and other great smart bulbs, as well as Nest and other smart thermostats, work with the Echo. Smart switches, garage doors, sprinklers, locks, and security cameras also play nice with Alexa. The Echo supports more smart home devices than any other smart speaker currently. You can browse compatible smart home devices here.

The only downsides are a lack of privacy, the general fear that Amazon is slowly but surely taking over the world, and the fact that Alexa's search chops aren't as good as Google's.

If you're a Prime member, this is the smart speaker for you, and if you don't have Prime yet, sign up, because all the perks like two-day shipping, free music streaming, free ebooks, and free video streaming on Prime Video are well worth the annual fee.

Pros: Strong speaker, you can buy things on Amazon, best smart home support, cool design, good voice recognition, huge support network, 15,000+ skills and counting

Cons: Some limits with search



Source: Insider