Tech

Commission Impossible, part two: How enemies gathered around net neutrality

One would think that the classification of internet providers as telecoms or not, and which federal agency has authority over them, is about as in the weeds as it gets. But it is a symptom of the times in which we live that no issue, however technical, provincial, or jurisdictional, can escape being swept up in the eternal hurricane of partisan politics. The FCC’s masterstroke in 2015, the lead-up to which formed the first article in this series, made a lot of people very angry. It angered the broadband industry, as you might expect, for several reasons. For one thing, decades of legal maneuvering to keep regulations light (or failing that, to switch regulators) were being nullified. This was a worst case scenario: not only were they being classified as telecoms, with all the headaches tha...

Google Assistant is coming to older Android phones and tablets

The Google Assistant, Google’s take on Siri, Cortana and Alexa without the approachable name, has long been available on most modern phones and tablets. But given the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem, many older devices will never get the newer versions of Android that actually feature built-in support for the Assistant. Now, however, Google is bringing support for its voice-activated helper to phones running Android 5.0 Lollipop and tablets running Android 7.0 Nougat and 6.0 Marshmallow. Lollipop launched back in 2014, so we’re talking about a rather old phone operating system here (Android 8.1 is now standard on Google’s own Pixel phones), but according to Google, more than 26 percent of all Android devices still run some version of Android 5.0 Lollipop. Just over 30 percent run An...

Why content crowdfunder Patreon is halting its hated fee change

Overhauling the creative economy turns out to be quite tricky. Following massive backlash, Patreon is at least temporarily pausing its plan to change its payment processing fee structure on December 18th from charging creators 2%-10% on the first of the next month to charging patrons 2.9% plus $0.35 per transaction up front and on the monthly anniversary of their first pledge beyond the 5% Patreon takes. “We messed up. We’re sorry, and we’re not rolling out the fees change” CEO Jack Conte writes. He tells me “We got in the way of the creators and their fans.” The subscription content crowdfunding company’s goal was to prevent patrons from being able to sign up and get access to exclusive content and then cancel their subscription before paying on the first of the next month, and to avoid u...

Aurora Flight Sciences demonstrates a fully autonomous helicopter in action

Aurora Flight Sciences is a company working on making full-scale autonomous combat craft a reality, and now some of its work is ready for prime time. The company showed off an autonomous helicopter created to demonstrate its Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System contribution for the Office of Naval Research’s ongoing work in the field, and it successfully navigated a UH-1H helicopter from start to finish through a mission in which it’s loaded up by Marines and then navigates through the air to another who makes the request for supplies on a tablet – kind of like ordering an Uber. The autonomous piloting system is deigned to be aircraft-agnostic (for vertical take-off and landing vehicles, specifically), meaning it’ll work with vehicles other than the UH-1H light transport helicopter used ...

Fanchest raises $4M in seed funding to become the best gift for sports fans

Here’s a great present for a sports fan this holiday season: Fanchest is a Brooklyn-based startup that curates and sends team-themed gift boxes as gift. The boxes start at $59 and include about $80 worth of apparel and gear from whatever pro or college team you choose. Today the startup has announced $4M in seed funding with a diverse group of investors like New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, Founder and CEO of the Drone Racing League Nick Horbaczeswki and more traditional VC funds like GoAhead Ventures and Connected VC. This brings them to $5.4M in total funding since starting the company in 2015. While you won’t know what exactly is in each chest before you buy it, boxes typically include a few pieces of apparel and other themed items like Te...

Lily raises $2M from NEA and others for a personal stylist service that considers feelings, not just fit

One of the reasons recently IPO’d Stitch Fix became so popular among female shoppers is because of how it pairs the convenience of home try-on for clothing and accessories with a personal styling service that adapts to your tastes over time. But often, personal stylists bring their own subjective takes on fashion to their customers. A new startup called Lily aims to offer a more personalized service that takes into account not just what’s on trend or what looks good, but also how women feel about their bodies and how the right clothing can impact those perceptions. The company has now closed on $2 million in seed funding from NEA and other investors to further develop its technology, which today involves an iOS application, web app and API platform that retailers can integrate with their o...

Mario Bear has come to save 2017

It’s been a long year – it feels like it actually spanned about 50, in fact. But now, at the end, some relief: Mario Bear. Yes, it’s just a bear from Build-A-Bear Workshop. And a ‘brand collaboration,’ that horrific thing that usually just means some executives get a larger Christmas bonus and more people are convinced to part with their hard-earned money for something they don’t need. But this is a Mario Bear. There’s also a Yoshi. And a Bowser. And a Toad. And a Luigi costume in case you want your bear to represent one of Nintendo’s slightly less appreciated protagonists. And a Princess Peach costume so you can prep your bear for far-flung adventuring (play Super Mario Odyssey if you don’t get this reference). 25632x 25633x 25663x 25655x Nintendo also licensed BAB (do people call it that...

Aiming to be the LinkedIn for creatives, The Dots raises £4m

Professional social networks like LinkedIn have long been a mainstay of business, but what if you are more of a creative bent where LinkedIn looks pretty stuffy? In the US, Behance, a network for creatives previously raised $6.5 million and now the general idea has moved across the pond in the shape of The Dots. Aimed at the so-called ‘No Collar’ professionals (creatives in T-shirts, if you will) has raised a £4m investment round, led by Hambro Perks, a ‘company builder’. Other notable investors include advertising agency gurus Sir John Hegarty and Tom Teichman, whose investment fund The Garage Soho invested, and female-focused investors Angel Academe. The investment will be used to bolster The Dots’ position as ‘LinkedIn for creatives’ ahead of international expansion. Launched in 2014 by...

Berlin’s Joblift raises €10M to attack legacy sites, in a round led by DN Capital

Joblift, a European job site in the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands, has raised €10 million in a funding round led by the London/Berlin VC DN Capital. The round was joined by Picus Capital and existing investors Cherry Ventures, btov and TruVenturo. The fundraising brings the total raised by two-year old Joblift to €12m. The Berlin-based startup aggregates jobs data from multiple job boards, corporates and recruiters to provide job seekers with a one-stop shop where they can look for positions that match their skills. Direct competitors in this space are Indeed, Adzuna, Jobrapido, Glassdoor, but some are built on very legacy technology platforms at this point, whereas Joblift’s pitch is that it’s running on the latest available technology. Joblift claims to have 1.5 million monthly...

Click-to-WhatsApp messaging buttons are now rolling out in Facebook ads

WhatsApp has always said that it has no plans to put ads into its own app, but this is not stopping Facebook, which now owns WhatsApp, from figuring out other ways of monetizing the hugely popular messaging service, which has around 1 billion daily users. Today, Facebook is launching a new ad unit that will let businesses create a link between the two platforms: advertisers can now include a button on their ads so that people can call or message via WhatsApp with the click of a button. We reported early sightings of the feature in test mode earlier this year.  Now, Facebook has confirmed to us that it’s rolling this out gradually, starting first with North and South America, Africa, Australia and most of Asia. You might notice that Europe is not included in the list, and wonder if that mig...

Target is buying Alabama-based, same-day delivery service Shipt for $550 million

Target, America’s other favorite old-line retailer (the one that’s not Walmart, with the arguably better commercials), is buying the Alabama-based delivery startup Shipt in a $550 million all-cash transaction. The deal, announced today, is another example of how every single store in America is responding to the very real threat that Amazon will drink their milkshake and eat their lunch, shortly after it delivers those things to their doors in 30 minutes or less. A combination of Shipt’s delivery services, with Google Express and its voice enabled shopping options, provides a kind of upside down universe for retailers that are worried about the Amazon monolith. And this is happening amid a broader upheaval in the retail world. Amazon has consolidated its own empire with the acquisition of ...

NASA to screen ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ on the International Space Station

Being an astronaut living and working aboard the International Space Station shouldn’t mean that you have to miss out on much-anticipated movie releases like Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In fact, it should probably mean the opposite, which is why it’s great news that NASA will work with Disney to arrange a screening for ISS crew of the new movie, which is arriving in theatres in the U.S. this week. They probably won’t get the big-screen experience – NASA tells Mashable that typically screening movies on the ISS means watching a digital copy on a notebook computer or one of the onboard projectors. But at least they’ll be safe from spoilers while orbiting the Earth, something I’m sure is a top concern for any astronaut. I’ll be most interested in what real space-faring folks think about Porgs.