Tech

Author Nick Montfort tells us how to define the future

Nick Montfort is a professor in MIT’s Comparative Media Studies/Writing and the author of a new book, “The Future.” His book explores “future makers” – people who create the future with their work. It’s a fascinating read and he’s a fascinating thinker in the space. Our conversation on Technotopia started with the Norman Bel Geddes, designer of the World’s Fair the Futurama exhibits and went on to cover the loci of innovation and what we can do to better predict what will happen with culture and technology. Although no one can predict the future, notes Montfort, we can easily see where things are headed by extrapolating from the present. Technotopia is a podcast by John Biggs about a better future. You can subscribe in Stitcher, RSS, or iTunes and listen the MP3 here.

Why I decided to install Messenger Kids

I’ve been struggling with whether or not to download Facebook’s new app aimed at children, Messenger Kids, onto my daughter’s iPad. This weekend, I took the plunge. I sat with her as she typed her first message and sent a selfie. I watched as she discovered GIFs. I wasn’t sure I had done the right thing. No one wants to surrender their kids to online social networks, but children can be exposed to even more danger by going around their parents’ backs. This point was drilled home for me a few days ago, when a friend discovered her daughter downloaded the messaging app IMVU without her parents’ knowledge. The child was almost immediately contacted by an adult man, whose conversations indicated he was a child predator in the early stages of grooming his victim. (The police were called and are...

Mixpanel analytics accidentally slurped up passwords

The passwords of some people using sites monitored by popular analytics provider Mixpanel were mistakenly pulled into its software. Until TechCrunch’s inquiry, Mixpanel had made no public announcement about the embarrassing error beyond quietly emailing clients about the problem. Yet some need to update to a fixed Mixpanel SDK to prevent an ongoing privacy breach. It’s unclear which clients were impacted due to confidentiality agreements, but Mixpanel lists Samsung, BMW, Intuit, US Bank and Fitbit as some of the companies it works with. “We can tell you that less than 25 percent of our customers were impacted,” the company’s spokesperson told me, but they noted approximately 4 percent of all Mixpanel Projects suffered from the privacy gap. Mixpanel has raised $77 million in rounds led by p...

VISA and Mastercard make it harder to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies

Justin Mauldin Contributor Justin Mauldin is the founder of Salient PR and an investor in cryptocurrency. More posts by this contributor: Sometime in the last week Bitcoin investors started noticing additional fees on their bank statements. It turns out that VISA and Mastercard both decided (how convenient!) to reclassify the way Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency purchases are processed on their networks. Incidents like this pose several challenges for the cryptocurrency industry short-term, but also show just how scared the incumbents really are. Currently, if you want to buy bitcoin, ethereum or any other alt-coin instantly, the only option is to use your debit or credit card. Transferring funds from your bank has lower fees, but takes several days. Coinbase has long accepted debit and cr...

Strava appears to have disabled a key tracking feature over privacy concerns

This will come as no surprise to those who’ve been following the news of the past couple of weeks, but it appears that Strava’s disabled at least one top feature as it works to get to the bottom of recent privacy concerns over its mapping features. The app’s Segments feature looks to be at least temporarily offline, as first noted by The Verge by way of Reddit. We reached out to the company company to determine whether that specific feature was a casualty of the company’s recent privacy woes. Without confirming the shuttering of any specific features, a spokesperson for Strava confirmed that certain functionality was, indeed, under review. “We are reviewing features that were originally designed for athlete motivation and inspiration to ensure they cannot be compromised by people with bad ...

These are the arguments that define the Uber Waymo lawsuit

In a crowded courtroom in San Francisco, the trial that could determine the fate of Uber’s autonomous driving program is finally underway. For the past year, lawyers for Waymo (the self-driving car unit spun out from Alphabet in December 2016) and ride-hailing juggernaut Uber have been sparring in court over evidence and witnesses and proceedings. At the center of the lawsuit is an acquisition that Uber made in 2016, of a self-driving company called Otto, picking up that company’s brilliant-but-troubled chief executive — Anthony Levandowski. Formerly known as Ottomotive, Otto was created by Levandowski, a former Alphabet employee, who was one of the founding fathers of autonomous vehicle technologies. For years, Levandowski worked (in somewhat odd business arrangements) with Google — and l...

Snapchat slips in features like fonts and do not disturb amidst redesign

Snap is waking up to the “Time Well Spent” movement Facebook is already addressing. Snapchat is offering a way to mute specific people without formally blocking them. Meanwhile, the sweeping redesign that’s slowly rolling out comes with ways to jazz up your Snaps with colorful text styles and multiple captions. The new features focus around making Snapchat the most flexible visual messaging app, doubling down on its most popular use case as its Stories stop growing in the face of competition from Facebook’s Instagram and WhatsApp. Instagram just added its own special fonts, which threatened to make Snapchat’s text look boring. A TechCrunch reader tipped us off with these screenshots. Snapchat tells me Do Not Disturb quietly rolled out a few weeks ago. By tapping and holding on a person or ...

Watch how SpaceX’s first Falcon Heavy launch should go

[embedded content] SpaceX is launching its Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time on Tuesday, and preparations are well underway. Now, we also know how the launch would go down in ideal circumstances, thanks to the new animation above detailing the mission’s planned progression. Elon Musk shared the short clip via Twitter, and it’s the first real look we’ve had yet at every step in the process and what the launch will look like in a perfect world. As you can see, it includes not only the Falcon Heavy launch, but also the controlled landing of the three booster cores that make up the rocket’s first stage. Also, we get a good look at the planned payload deployment – which is basically SpaceX sending the original Tesla Roadster into a course for a wide, looping Mars orbit. Playing “Space Oddi...

Buglife wants to put the power to report mobile software bugs in user’s hands

Every day we encounter bugs in mobile apps. They may lock up or perform in a way we didn’t expect, but what if you could report the bug to developers as it happened with all of the contextual information they need to fix the problem? That’s what Buglife a member of the Winter 2018 Y Combinator class is trying to do. The founders, Dan DeCovnick and Dave Schukin, came up with an early iteration of the idea in 2011 while both were working at Amazon developing a music player for the iPhone. They found while beta testing the software that people would run into problems like music not streaming in certain situations, and would email them. But they lacked context about what was happening on the phone when the problem happened. They needed to know more to solve the problem such as the phone type, ...

Safe Catch Tuna is a startup on a mission to eradicate the risk of mercury poisoning from your fish

Bay Area startup Safe Catch Tuna has developed a patented technology to detect mercury levels in a variety of fish and pledges that its own brand of tuna products have the lowest levels of any brand. The company is one of those overnight successes more than a decade in the making. Co-founder Sean Wittenberg started the company in 2004 after his own mom was diagnosed with mercury poisoning. She’d been eating canned tuna fish a few times a week and started to become lethargic, weak and suffer from short-term memory loss. Thankfully, she recovered but the incident was scary enough to prompt Wittenberg to come up with a way to ensure the safety of tuna. He and his co-founder Bryan Boches started marketing the tech to some of the big tuna manufacturers but soon found they weren’t interested. Un...

Amazon settles tax optimization dispute with French authorities

Amazon has signed an undisclosed deal with the French tax authorities, Amazon told the AFP. From 2006 to 2010, Amazon operated in France using its subsidiary in Luxembourg. This way, the company could pay less taxes. But French authorities think French sales should be taxed in France. That’s why they were asking for $252 million in unpaid taxes (€203 million). Both Amazon and the French government didn’t comment on the amount of the fine. It’s possible that Amazon eventually paid less than $252 million. According to the company, Amazon has created a subsidiary in France since then so that French revenue is taxed in France. So the Luxembourg issue shouldn’t come up again. The company also told the AFP that it has spent quite a bit of money in France. 5,500 people work for Amazon in France. ...

Paige.AI nabs $25M, inks IP deal with Sloan Kettering to bring machine learning to cancer pathology

Artificial intelligence has become one of the key weapons in the fight against cancer and the many forms and mutations that it takes, and today a startup is coming out of stealth and announcing funding and a significant data deal as it seeks to build an AI system specifically to help understand one aspect of the treatment cycle: cancer pathology. New York-based Paige.AI — an acronym for Pathology AI Guidance Engine — has closed $25 million in Series A funding and has signed a deal with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer to have exclusive access to its 25 million pathology slides (one of the biggest repositories in the world) as well as its intellectual property related to computational pathology. The company said that it plans to focus first on breast, prostrate and other major cancers, a...