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VR optics could help old folks keep the world in focus

The complex optics involved with putting a screen an inch away from the eye in VR headsets could make for smartglasses that correct for vision problems. These prototype “autofocals” from Stanford researchers use depth sensing and gaze tracking to bring the world into focus when someone lacks the ability to do it on their own. I talked with lead researcher Nitish Padmanaban at SIGGRAPH in Vancouver, where he and the others on his team were showing off the latest version of the system. It’s meant, he explained, to be a better solution to the problem of presbyopia, which is basically when your eyes refuse to focus on close-up objects. It happens to millions of people as they age, even people with otherwise excellent vision. There are, of course, bifocals and progressive lenses that bend light...

Reports indicate that Tesla has been subpoenaed over Elon Musk’s tweets

The long week for Tesla is getting even longer as the company has now been subpoenaed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to multiple reports. First reported by the Fox Business Network and confirmed by The New York Times, federal regulators appear to be interested in Elon Musk’s August 7 tweet regarding his plans for privatizing the electric car manufacturer and his claims to have found investors committed to finance the transaction. From later statements it has become clear that Musk had not actually secured financing, and has only had preliminary talks with investors. Federal securities regulators have served Tesla with a subpoena, according to a person familiar with the investigation, increasing pressure on the electric car company as it deals with the fallout from sev...

LA to become the first city to use body scanners in rail transit systems

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority just announced its plans to become the first city to use portable body scanners in its subway and light-rail systems to help detect the presence of explosive devices. “We’re dealing with persistent threats to our transportation systems in our country,” TSA administrator David Pekoske in a statement. “Our job is to ensure security in the transportation systems so that a terrorist incident does not happen on our watch.” The portable scanners will begin rolling out in a few months, the executive director of security for the LA Metro Alex Wiggins said yesterday. According to the AP, the scanners will be able to conduct full-body scans from 30 feet away and are capable of scanning more than 2,000 passengers per hour. “We’re looking sp...

Making way for new levels of American innovation

Matt Weinberg Contributor Matt Weinberg is a former White House appointee with the U.S. Small Business Administration, where he served as a Senior Advisor in the Office of Investment and Innovation. More posts by this contributor New tech trade associations will have big role in future tech policy ITC protection of IP necessary for continued innovation New fifth-generation “5G” network technology will equip the United States with a superior wireless platform unlocking transformative economic potential. However, 5G’s success is contingent on modernizing outdated policy frameworks that dictate infrastructure overhauls and establishing the proper balance of public-private partnerships to encourage investment and deployment. Most people have heard by now of the coming 5G revolution. Compared t...

Asian investors have plenty of cash, a hearty appetite for investments and a different approach to doing deals

Daniel Zimmermann Contributor Daniel Zimmermann navigates emerging companies and tech startups through complex corporate transactions, financings and venture technology matters. The VC landscape has been shifting radically in the past few years as Asian investors pump cash into startups. Last year, Asian VCs invested 40 percent of the $154 billion in global venture financing, compared to a 44 percent stake for U.S. investors, according to a recent Wall Street Journal analysis. Asian VCs largely fund companies close to home, but their portfolios are expanding to include U.S. businesses. That influx of capital can be a valuable lifeline for founders who need cash to fuel hiring, product development and growth. Securing that money, however, demands cross-cultural sensitivities and negotiation...

Google releases a searchable database of US political ads

In an effort to provide more transparency and deliver on a promise to Congress, Google just published an archive of political ads that have run on its platform. Google’s new database, which it calls the Ad Library, is searchable through a dedicated launch page. Anyone can search for and filter ads, viewing them by candidate name or advertiser, spend, the dates the ads were live, impressions and type. For anyone looking for the biggest ad budget or the farthest reaching political ad, the ads can be sorted by spend, impressions and recency, as well. Google also provided a report on the data, showing ad spend by U.S. state, by advertiser and by top keywords. The company added a bit of context around its other recent ad transparency efforts: Earlier this year, we took important steps to increa...

Uber reports Q2 losses of $404 million, up 32 percent from Q1

While Uber isn’t required to disclose its financial results, Uber has done so for the past few quarters as it gears up to go public next year. In Q2 2018, Uber’s net revenue was up 8 percent quarter-over-quarter, at $2.7 billion. Year-over-year, that’s a 51 percent increase. Uber recorded gross bookings — the total taken for all of Uber’s transportation services — of $12 billion, a six percent quarter-over-quarter increase and a 41 percent year-over-year increase. But while Uber’s gross bookings increased, so did its losses. In Q2, Uber had adjusted EBITDA losses of $404 million compared to $304 million in losses in Q1. Uber’s losses added up, given its investments in Eats, India, the Middle East, bikes and scooters. This quarter, Uber expanded Eats into a number of new cities in Europe, t...

Coinbase acquires Distributed Systems to build ‘Login with Coinbase’

Coinbase wants to be Facebook Connect for crypto. The blockchain giant plans to develop “Login with Coinbase” or a similar identity platform for decentralized app developers to make it much easier for users to sign up and connect their crypto wallets. To fuel that platform, today Coinbase announced it has acquired Distributed Systems, a startup founded in 2015 that was building an identity standard for dApps called the Clear Protocol. The five-person Distributed Systems team and its technology will join Coinbase. Three of the team members will work with Coinbase’s Toshi decentralized mobile browser team, while CEO Nikhil Srinivasan and his co-founder Alex Kern are forming the new decentralized identity team that will work on the Login with Coinbase product. They’ll be building it atop the ...

Turkish President Erdogan calls for boycott of US tech

Yesterday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a boycott of all US technology during a speech in the country’s capital city of Ankara. “Every product that we buy in foreign currency from outside, we will produce them here and sell abroad,” said Erdogan during the speech. “We will boycott the electronics products of the U.S.” Erodagan continued to suggest that for every Apple iPhone Turkish citizens could use a Korean Samsung phone instead. An ironic statement given the importance the iPhone had in helping him quell a military coup in the country in 2016 that sought to remove him from power. In what became a swiftly ended (though still deadly with over 200 casualties) coup, Erodagan used Facetime to call his supporters to the streets. This announcement follows a tense week in ...

LinkedIn to relaunch Groups in the flagship app as it looks to reverse ‘ghost town’ image

LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned social networking platform for the working world with over 500 million users, is making a significant change as it continues to look for ways to make its platform more useful (and used). The company is relaunching Groups by rolling it into its main app by the end of the month after quietly pulling the standalone app earlier this year, and it will be streamlining the service by cutting out several features, including an ability for Group administrators to pre-moderate comments; and a way to email send Group posts as emails to the whole group, while also adding in new features like threaded replies and the ability to post video and other media. An announcement detailing the changes was sent out to a select Groups power users earlier today, and we have confirmed ...

Android 9 Pie (Go edition) arrives this fall

With Android Pie now available (on a handful of devices, at least), Google’s prepping the launch of its low-powered counterpart. Android 9 Pie (Go edition) — the successor to the more pithily named Android Go — will be hitting arriving on devices this fall. Like Android Oreo (Go Edition), the latest OS is a stripped down version of its latest full operating system, designed to run on devices with 1GB of RAM. The more modest hardware requirements make it a compelling match for low-cost devices and thus a solid option for developing markets. Among other things, it will offer faster boot times than standard Android and will free up space on the phone’s storage. There are new security features on board as well, along with a dashboard for monitoring data consumption. There are a number of updat...

Meet the Disrupt SF 2018 Virtual Hackathon judges and our semi-finalists

Holy hackathon, people. Here’s an exciting update on the judges and semi-finalists who are set to make the Virtual Hackathon — at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2018 on September 5-7 — an event that redefines “epic.” Since June, more than 1,000 developers, programmers, hackers and tech makers all over the world have been hard at work on their most creative hacks, and we recruited an impressive panel of judges — check out their bona fides below — to help us narrow the field. There were so many incredible hacks, but only 30 semi-finalist slots. We don’t envy the judges, but they rose to the challenge. The semi-finalists (see below) represent the 30 highest-scoring teams, and they’ll go on to demo their projects at Disrupt SF 2018. From that field of 30, the judges will thin the herd down t...