Tech

Scientists make kale plants glow in the dark with firefly enzymes

A team of MIT research have engineered plants that glow in the dark, using luciferase, the enzyme that lights up firefly butts. The answer to the question of why, precisely, anyone would want to do such a thing is clearly, “because science is cool.” The longer and slightly more boring answer, however, has to do with energy savings. Thus far, the scientists have only been able to replicate the the results on arugula, kale, spinach and watercress, but their plans for the future are much grander, including trees that could stand in for outdoor electric light. “The vision is to make a plant that will function as a desk lamp — a lamp that you don’t have to plug in,” says Professor Michael Strano, the study’s senior author. “The light is ultimately powered by the energy metabolism of the plant i...

This app will help you figure out if you can fit that Costco-sized paper towel box in your apartment

You’re probably going to get a better deal when you buy consumer products — like paper towels — wholesale, but at the same time you’re also buying a very, very large package of said consumer products. So, they might not always fit in your apartment. Wholesale goods are the primary play for a startup called Boxed, a retailer looking to play the sort of digital-to-your-door Costco game. But there might be a bit of a challenge visualizing how big those packages are, so the company built an augmented reality tool to demo the sheer size of that massive box of Mac and Cheese you might buy through the app. All things said the AR demo is a little bit of a joke. Built during a hackathon, Fong said that it’s primarily a way to help get the brand out there. It’s a fun little application, though there...

Indiegogo now lets you fund via token sale

Crowdfunding service and Kickstarter-competitor Indiegogo is now offering an ICO service alongside its partner, MicroVentures. The company will allow users to participate in SEC-complaint ICOs and, like its slow-burning equity crowdfunding service, will pick and choose startups that match certain exacting criteria. These tokens sales will be SEC complaint and the sales are performed within current SEC regulations. Their first client, a fan-controlled football league, is in pre-sales now. “Our ICO service is designed to allow the maximum number of investors to participate in ICO token pre-sales and sales,” said Slava Rubin, Indiegogo Founder and Chief Business Officer. “We believe cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies constitute an important step towards democratizing finance and intro...

Amazon expands same-day delivery and one-day shipping to thousands more cities

Amazon announced today it has expanded its same-day delivery and one-day shipping service to thousands more markets across the U.S., just in time for last-minute holiday shopping. Before, these services were available to Prime members in 5,000 cities and towns, the retailer tells us. Now, they’re available in over 8,000. The market expansion is not just focused on serving major metros, but brings the services to both larger cities and smaller towns in states including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and others. The move could put Amazon at an advantage over rival online retailers who sometimes lose out on sales later in the shopping season – and in particular those last few days leading...

Amazon Echo’s multi-room music streaming feature now supports Spotify and SiriusXM

Just in time for all of those ridiculous holiday playlists, Amazon’s added two key players to the Echo’s multi-room streaming feature. Spotify and SiriusXM now join the ranks of TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Pandora and, naturally, Amazon’s own Music Unlimited service. The feature, which hit the smart speakers over the summer, makes it possible to stream songs to multiple Echos on a single network. It’s also possible to play music on individual devices in various parts of one’s home, by telling Alexa to “play my music” and then specifying the a location. So, you know, like, “Alexa, play The Kinks on upstairs from Spotify.”   As we noted back in August, the feature is a sort of cheaper alternative to traditional premium multi-room music options like Sonos. Of course, since then, Sonos has also gotte...

Events management platform Bizzabo raises $15M growth round

Just eight months after its last round of funding, events management platform Bizzabo has raised another $15 million. The new round, which brings Bizzabo’s total funding so far to $30 million, was led by Pilot Growth Equity, with participation from Maor Investments and returning investors. Co-founder and chief executive officer Eran Ben-Shushan told TechCrunch that Bizzabo raised more capital because the company is growing quickly and wants to expand its cloud-based event software platform to take advantage of market demand. “We have both a product market fit and a scalable repeatable business model. This growth round will help us scale faster and bring our event innovations to more brands around the world,” he said. The company claims its annual revenue is in the millions and that its ann...

Nvidia and construction giant Komatsu partner on AI for job site safety

Nvidia is teaming up with Komatsu, one of the largest manufacturers of heavy equipment for construction and mining in the world, to deploy AI at worksites across these industries in order to promote safety and increase efficiency. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang announced the partnership at GTC Japan today, and described how it’ll make use of Nvidia GPU hardware to provide virtual ‘brains’ to heavy machinery at work sites, with AI powered by Nvidia’s Jetson platform. This team-up builds on work done by Komatsu previously, as it originally rolled out its SMARTCONSTRUCTION program to build connected, smart worksites starting in 2015. Now, Nvidia’s tech will help Komatsu build 3D visualizations of entire construction sites, with real-time representation of people and machinery working on the ground. ...

NSI Ventures hits first close on new $125M fund for Southeast Asia

There’s been pause since Southeast Asia last welcomed fresh venture capital, but one reload is on its way after NSI Ventures, an early investor in Indonesian unicorn and Uber rival Go-Jek, announced a first close of its second fund. The target is $125 million, which represents a significant increase on its first fund of $90 million. The firm said it has pulled in $75 million of committed capital from existing LPs for the new fund. A full close is expected in the first half of 2018. Beyond an early investment in Go-Jek, which is closing in on new investment at a valuation exceeding $2.5 billion, NSI’s maiden fund backed health-focused insurance brokerage CXA Group, online credit service FinAccel and restaurant reservation startup Chope among others in Southeast Asia. The plan is to continue...

Blue Origin flies its Crew Capsule 2.0 for the first time

Jef Bezos’ space company Blue Origin recorded a new milestone today – an inaugural flight for Crew Capsule 2.0, the latest version of the vehicle it’s creating to bring astronauts into space for its first passenger flights. The Crew Capsule 2.0 craft flew atop a New Shepard reusable booster, traveling up to an altitude of over 322,000 feet. The New Shepard rocket, which also carried additional commercial and research payloads, came back to earth for a powered landing around 10 minutes after launch. It’s the seventh time that Blue Origin has flown the reusable New Shepard rocket, and the Capsule itself also returned to earth via unpowered, parachute assisted descent. [embedded content] Crew Capsule 2.0 wasn’t carrying anyone on board for this test ride, but it did have a dummy onboard to pr...

Apple invests $390 million in TrueDepth component maker Finisar

Apple announced a substantial investment in Finisar. Apple is giving Finisar $390 million to build a new 700,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Sherman, Texas. Finisar is going to hire 500 people to work on the laser sensor in the TrueDepth camera in the iPhone X. Today’s investment is part of Apple’s commitment to invest $1 billion in U.S.-based companies with its Advanced Manufacturing Fund. Apple says that Finisar is going to work on both research & development and high-volume production of optical communications components. The most complicated components are the vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) used in the iPhone X for Face ID, Animoji, Portrait mode and other face-mapping technologies. But Finisar also works on proximity sensors including the ones in the AirPo...

Line adds unsend for recalling missent messages

Messaging platform Line has added the ability for users to retrieve messages they’ve sent in error. The unsend feature, which has been added via an update out today, gives users a 24 hour window for unsending missives — so it’s considerably more generous than the unsend option rival platform WhatsApp added in October (which offers a mere seven minutes for users to realize their regrets). Line doesn’t cite WhatsApp in its explainer for launching the unsend feature — claiming instead that it wants to give users “peace of mind” and expand their “communication choices”. Line’s unsend feature can be used across chat types — in one-to-one conversations, multi-user and groups chats. It will also work whether a message has been read or not. Message types that can be deleted within 24 hours of bein...

FreightHub, a European ‘digital freight forwarder’, scores $20M Series A

FreightHub, a Berlin and Hamburg-based startup that claims to be Europe’s first fully digital freight forwarder, has raised a $20 million Series A round, just 1.5 years since launch. The round is led by VC firm Northzone, with participation from existing investors. The latter includes Rocket Internet’s Global Founders Capital (GFC), Cherry Ventures, Cavalry Ventures, and La Famiglia. Operating in the freight industry, a market that is ripe for digitalisation and as a result has attracted a plethora of well-funded startups, FreightHub is setting out to compete with and replace traditional freight forwarding companies who typically rely on legacy IT systems and cumbersome and manual processes. This, the company claims, leads to price opacity and inefficiencies, something it is aiming to erad...