The internet is often lauded for the potential to increase the impact of a range of primary services in emerging markets, including education, commerce, banking and healthcare. While many of those platforms are now being built, a few are finding that a hybrid approach combining online and offline is advantageous.

That’s exactly what Jio Health, a ‘full stack’ (forgive the phrase) healthcare coming is doing in Southeast Asia, initially in Vietnam.

The company started out as a U.S-based venture that worked with healthcare providers around the ‘Obamacare’ initiative, before sensing the opportunity overseas and relocating to Vietnam, the Southeast Asian market of 95 million people and a fast-growing young population.

Today, it operates an online healthcare app and a physical facility in Saigon, it also has licenses for prescriptions and over the counter drug sales. The serviced launched nearly a year ago, already the company has some 130 staff, including 70 caregivers — including doctors — and a tech team of 30.

The idea is to offer services digitally, but also provide a physical location for when it is needed. Therein, the company ensures that “every element of that journey” is controlled and of the required standard, that’s in contrast to services that partner with hospitals or other care centers.

The scope of Jio Health’s services range from pediatrics to primary care, chronic disease management and ancillary services, which will soon cover areas like eye care, dermatology and cancer.

“Our initial research [before moving] found that healthcare in Vietnam was unlike the U.S,” Raghu Rai, founder and CEO of Jio Health, told TechCrunch in an interview. “Spending is primarily driven by the consumer (out of pocket) and there’s no real digital infrastructure to speak of.”

Rai — a U.S. citizen — said doctors typically “have minutes per patient” and get through “hundreds” of consultations in every morning shift. That gave him an idea to make things more efficient.

“We can probably address north of 80 percent of consumers health needs,” he said of Jio Health,” but we also have referral partnerships with certain hospitals.”

Raghu Rai is CEO and founder of Jio Health

The process begins when a consumer downloads the Jio Health app and inputs primary information. A representative is then dispatched to visit the consumer in person, potentially within “hours” of the submission of information, according to Rai.

He believes that Jio Health can save its users money and time by using remote consultancy for many diagnoses. The company also works with health insurance companies, for areas like annual checkups, and Rai said that McDonald’s and 7-Eleven are among the corporations that offer Jio Health among the providers for their staff, they’re not exclusive.

This week, Jio Health announced that it has closed a $5 million Series A funding from Southeast Asia’s Monk’s Hill Ventures . Rai said the company plans to use the capital for expansion. In particular, he said, the company is adding new care categories this month — including eye care and dermatology — and it is working towards expanding its brand through marketing.

Further down the line, Rai said the company hopes to expand to Hanoi before the end of this year. While there is interest in moving into other markets within Southeast Asia, that isn’t about to happen soon.

“We have begun to investigate other markets but at this point feel the market in Vietnam is substantial in itself,” he told TechCrunch. “It’s very plausible that we’d be looking at international expansion plans in 2020… we’re going to be focused on Southeast Asia.”

from TechCrunch

News just in: We’re getting reports the board of Krablr has voted overwhelmingly to jettison the sole remaining founder, Wilson Poney, and install an interim CFO to take the company in a new old direction.

“We’re going to make Krablr great again,” said chairman of the board, Goldie Seamann. “We’re not 100% sure what’s been going on around here but the board is unanimous in agreement that Krablr should return to its roots in the fishing industry to provide strong value to stakeholders and its ecosystem.”

“No more ICOs, no more microdosing podcast retreats flirting with white supremacy. Just good, old clean business,” he added.

Seamann, a former consultant with McKinsey, KPMG and OMFG, said the board believes the shell of the Krablr brand can still be salvaged — in spite of its disastrous ICO last year which saw an estimated $260M worth of ‘Krabcoin’ vanish without trace.

The company is said to be in negotiations to offload its Krab.coin arm, developed specifically for the ICO, for a bargain price of around a dozen Dentacoins. It is also working to offload the assets of a previously developed messaging app to a “major social network” in order to extend its cash runway.

No one has seen Poney for months either.

“We believe there are exciting opportunities for Krablr to develop financial services for emerging markets — like offering loans to SMEs, as well as micro-insurance, cross-border remittance payments and other financial services to support those who are actually doing the fishing,” added Seamann.


from TechCrunch

Calling all hackathon fans across Europe and beyond. It’s time once again to put your creative coding skills to the test at the TechCrunch Hackathon at VivaTech 2019, which returns to Paris on May 17-18. Brush up on your parlez-vous français, stock up on RedBull and get ready to compete against some of the best hackers, coders and programmers in the world.

The TechCrunch Hackathon takes place over the course of two days, May 17-18. Competitors will form ad hoc teams and spend a little over 24 grueling, caffeine-, sugar-, beer- and pizza-fueled hours building well, who knows? Something great, life-changing or just plain fun. It’s your chance to show the world your skills, network with other like-minded techies and maybe even win the €5,000 grand prize. Want to throw your hat in the ring? Sign up to participate here.

Last year, 64 teams competed. The winning team, CommerceDNA built software that accurately autofills product information when a seller uploads the product image — making it easier for buyers to find it during a web search.

This year, the TechCrunch Hackathon at VivaTech is open to everyone and once again, BeMyApp will serve as the official Hackathon platform. Here’s how the judging works. A panel of esteemed TechCrunch hackathon judges will give each competing team a numerical score between 1 and 5, and the team with the highest score walks away with major bragging rights along with a cool €5,000. But all teams that earn a combined score 3 or higher will receive two tickets to VivaTech 2020 and two tickets to TC Disrupt Berlin 2019 in December. Not too shabby.

And don’t you worry — we’ll also have plenty of cool sponsored contests, prizes and other fun stuff for you (swag, anyone?). In fact, we are happy to announce our first sponsored challenge with EDHEC — Making an impact can have different meanings, and we believe that one of them is about improving how we support student’s careers. Have you ever asked yourself “have I chosen the right studies and the right career for me?” According to the French Ministry of Higher Education, 150,000 french students decide to change their degree course. Participating in the TC Hackathon at VivaTech is a great way to solve this issue through innovation. So let’s help them find the path that suits them best for their future career! The winner of this challenge will receive a €5,000 prize. More details on additional sponsor challenges in the coming weeks, so check back for updates.

Tickets to participate in the hackathon are free, but we have a limited number of spots available and they’ll disappear quickly. Don’t wait and risk getting shut out of the competition and sign up today.

The TechCrunch Hackathon at VivaTech in Paris takes place on May 17-18, 2019 at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles. Don’t miss your opportunity to show the tech world what you can do. Sign up to compete right now. We can’t wait to see what all you mad hackers create!

from TechCrunch

Facebook announced today that it is adding a feature called “Why am I seeing this post?” to News Feeds. Similar to “Why am I seeing this ad?,” which has appeared next to advertisements since 2014, the new tool has a dropdown menu that gives users information about why that post appeared in their News Feed, along with links to personalization controls.

Meant to give users more transparency into how Facebook’s News Feed algorithm works, the update comes as the company copes with several major events that have highlighted the platform’s shortcomings, including potentially harmful ones. These include its role in enabling the dissemination of a video taken during the shooting attacks on New Zealand mosques two weeks ago, which were originally broadcast using Facebook Live; a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that accuses Facebook’s ad-targeting tool of violating the Fair Housing Act and its role in spreading misinformation and propaganda (after years of complaints and criticism, Facebook recently announced plans to downrank anti-vaccination posts and ban white nationalist content.

Facebook’s announcement says this is the first time its “built information on how ranking works directly into the app.” Users will be able to access “Why am I seeing this post?” as a dropdown menu in the right hand corner of posts from friends, Pages and Groups in their News Feed that displays information about how its algorithm decided to rank the post, including:

  • Why you’re seeing a certain post in your News Feed — for example, if the post is from a friend you made, a Group you joined, or a Page you followed.
  • What information generally has the largest influence over the order of posts, including: (a) how often you interact with posts from people, Pages or Groups; (b) how often you interact with a specific type of post, for example, videos, photos or links; and (c) the popularity of the posts shared by the people, Pages and Groups you follow.

The same menu will also include links to personalization options, including See First, Unfollow, News Feed Preferences and Privacy Shortcuts. The company’s blog post said that “during our research on ‘Why am I seeing this post?,’ people told us that transparency into News Feed algorithms wasn’t enough without corresponding controls.”

“Why am I seeing this ad,” a similar feature that launched in 2014, will be updated with to include more information. For example, it will tell users if an ad appeared in their News Feed because a company uploaded their contact lists, like emails or phone numbers, or if they worked with a marketing partner to place the ad.

from TechCrunch

I’ve been doing a lot of interviews lately, and I’ve been watching the rise of Lambda School — which I think is fantastic, incidentally — and the combination has me wondering two things:

  1. how educated do software engineers need to be?
  2. And how well does that map to what they actually learn from formal education?

Let’s step back and define some terms before we try to answer those. First, by “formal” education I generally mean a four-year accredited university, whereas people with eg Lambda School or boot camps behind them are “informally” educated, and in turn distinguished from autodidacts. This is not universal. Early Google didn’t seem to consider anyone with less than a masters “formally” educated.

Second, of course there’s no absolute need. Since the dawn of the first vacuum tube, and very much including hardcore grotty stuff like compilers and cryptography, software has been a field in which people with no formal training whatsoever have thrived and succeeded wildly. Obviously neither a formal nor an informal education is actually necessary. What we’re actually asking is: in general, is there reason to believe software engineers with formal educations are better hires?

Note that, speaking as an employer, I don’t actually care whether this is due to selection bias, i.e. whether it’s because capable people are more likely to be formally educated or because they actually learned from it. I’m happy to accept that the entire university system in any country, especially yours, is deeply and increasingly pathological, unfairly and jealously hierarchical, terrifyingly high-priced, and deeply flawed at credentialing and capability signaling.

That’s a big deal to me personally … but when wearing my hiring hat, I don’t care about how that credentialing sausage is made. All I’m interested in, when I’m interviewing, is: are those signals meaningful? Are those people more or less likely to succeed, or make a mess I will subsequently have to clean up?

It’s awfully hard to find applicable statistics here, let alone any whose compilers didn’t have some implicit axe to grind. And of course I have my own biases: I have a four-year degree, from a (Canadian) school outside the hierarchy of the (American) nation in which I live, but with a strong international reputation (Waterloo), in a field (electrical engineering) only somewhat associated with software development.

I used to ask an interview question or few about theory. One of my go-to questions used to be: “Do you have a favorite algorithm, and why?” I’ve stopped asking it, because the answer is almost always some variant of “no.” Even those who have formally studied algorithms rarely care about them. Sometimes I get some variant of “I know what an algorithm is, but I’ve never actually written one.”

That’s not surprising. A whole lot of modern software engineering consists of connecting pre-existing components in slightly new ways. “Algorithms,” as we usually understand them, come baked into our tools and libraries. Does a formal education in big-O notation and Turing machines help at all? Short answer: no. Is prior experience with matrix multiplication and eigenvectors useful? Actually yes, in the rarefied case that you want to understand modern machine learning … but, as the tooling improves, not so much if you just want to use it.

Modern software engineering often — but not always — has much more in common with plumbing or carpentry than with hacking art, architecture, or computer science. It’s more like cranking out aggregative blog posts, or writing business nonfiction, than it is like crafting a novel, much less writing poetry.

Of course, this comes with the important caveat that the analogy only stands if every few years the tools which plumbers and carpenters used changed completely, along with the occasional rise of whole new approaches to their fields. But still, the need for constant re-education is probably an argument against formal training; why spend four years learning how to use tools which will probably be obsolete two years after you graduate?

So it seems reasonable to argue that if — if — you strip out theory and history, then the pedagogical content of “formal” education, vs. “informal” education plus a year or two of experience, is roughly equivalent. Autodidacts? …They’re a difficult edge case. They tend to be highly intelligent, and both hard and fast workers, but they haven’t spent as much time implicitly learning from others’ mistakes, so if still anywhere near their larval stage, they’re more likely to make them anew. An autodidact with an extensive history / portfolio, though, has no strikes against them.

What about the credentialing and selection bias of smarter people being drawn to universities? I concede there’s something to that. If it’s a university I’ve heard of (again, I didn’t grow up here) then that biases me in favor of a candidate. But at the same time, America’s education system is so screwed up, giving such advantages to the already privileged, and the existence of “legacy” students (who don’t really happen in Canada), that at the same time I’m extra wary.

You might conclude that ultimately I don’t distinguish between formally and informally trained students. But you’d be wrong. Most of the time they actually are surprisingly equivalent. But software engineering isn’t always like plumbing — and because of that, I find myself pretty unwilling to strip out theory and history from the analysis after all.

Formal education, whether it be engineering or the liberal arts, is supposed to teach you how to think critically, how to analyze systematically and strategically, and how to educate yourself efficiently, more than it’s supposed to import any particular body of knowledge. It doesn’t always succeed at this. And most of the time you don’t need any of those skills (except the last, which you need forever.)

But on the occasions that you do need those other meta-skills, you need them badly — and it seems to me that you’re noticeably less likely to gain them from informal training or autodidacticism. You’re probably right to be suspicious of this view. I’m suspicious of it myself. It’s probably essentially impossible to measure and test.

It still seems to me, though, that what you gain from formal education is not so much an expansion of your mind as a specific and (somewhat) controlled expansion of your worldview, one which hasn’t yet been replicated elsewhere. That doesn’t mean it can’t be. But there’s more to it than just intensive training in technical skills … and maybe that kind of meta-skilling is the next step in nontraditional education.

from TechCrunch

How’s your weekend going? Good, good. Now, here, have a billionaire’s super autotuned rap track about a famous deceased gorilla:

Tesla/Space X/Boring Company guy, Elon Musk has apparently uploaded a SoundCloud track titled “RIP Harambe,” about the 17-year-old Western lowland gorilla who was shot to death at a Cincinnati zoo in 2016 after a three-year-old boy climb into his enclosure. No word yet on precisely what role Musk played in the creation of the track, beyond releasing it on his “failed […] record label.”

“This might be my finest work,” the billionaire tweeted about the track, uploaded to his Emo G (emoji) Records SoundCloud account. The song, which includes lines like “RIP Harambe / Smoking on some strong hay” appears to be more meme-centric that serious musical pursuit. But as James Dolan can happily attest, you should never let a little thing like being an ultra-wealthy executive get in the way of your dreams.

So, happy early April Fool’s Day, I guess. Honestly, I don’t really know anymore. Now back to your regularly scheduled weekend plans.

from TechCrunch

Fast, affordable food delivery service has been life-changing for many working Chinese, but some still prefer to whip up their own meals. These people may not have the time to pick up fresh ingredients from brick-and-mortar stores, so China’s startups and large companies are trying to make home-cooked meals more effortless for busy workers by sending vegetables and meats to apartment doors.

The fresh grocery sector in China recorded 4.93 trillion yuan ($730 billion) in total sales last year, growing steadily from 3.37 trillion yuan in 2012 according to data collected by Euromonitor and Hua Chuang Securities. Most of these transactions still happen inside wet markets and supermarkets, leaving online retail, which accounted for only 3 percent of total grocery sales in 2016, much room for growth.

Ecommerce leaders Alibaba and have already added grocery to their comprehensive online shopping malls, nestling in the market with more focused players like Tencent-backed MissFresh (每日优鲜), which has raised $1.4 billion to date. The field has just grown a little more crowded with new entrant Meituan, the Tencent-backed food delivery and hotel booking giant that raised $4.2 billion through a Hong Kong listing last year.

meituan grocery

Screenshots of the Meituan Maicai app / Image: Meituan Maicai

The service, which comes in a new app called “Meituan Maicai” or Meituan grocery shopping that’s separate from the company’s all-in-one app, set out in Shanghai in January before it muscled into Beijing last week. The move follows Meituan’s announcement in its mid-2018 financial report to get in on grocery delivery.

Meituan’s solution to take grocery the last mile is not too different from those of its peers. Users pick from its 1,500 stock keeping units ranging from yogurt to pork loin, fill their in-app shopping carts and pay via their phones, the firm told TechCrunch. Meituan then dispatches its delivery fleets to people’s doors in as little as 30 minutes.

The instant delivery is made possible by a satellite of physical “service stations” across neighborhoods that serve warehousing, packaging and delivering purposes. Placing offline hubs alongside customers also allows data-driven internet firms to optimize warehouse stocking based on local user preferences. For instance, people from an upscale residential area probably eat and shop differently from those in other parts of the city.

Meituan’s foray into grocery shopping further intensifies its battle with Alibaba to control how Chinese people eat. Alibaba’s Hema Supermarket has been running on a similar setup that uses its neighborhood stores as warehouses and fulfillment centers to facilitate 30-minute delivery within a three-kilometer radius. For years, Meituan’s food delivery arm has been going neck-and-neck with, which Alibaba scooped up last year. More recently, Alibaba and Meituan are racing to get restaurants to sign up for their proprietary software, which can supposedly give owners more insights into diners and beef up customer engagement.

As part of its goal to be an “everything” app, Meituan has tried out many new initiatives in the lead-up to its initial public offering but was also quick to put them on hold. The firm acquired bike-sharing service Mobike last April only to shutter its operations across Asia in less than a year for cost-saving. Meituan also paused expansion on its much-anticipated ride-hailing business.

But grocery delivery appears to be closer to Meituan’s heart, the “eating” business, to put in its own words. Meituan is tapping its existing infrastructure to get the job done, for example, by summoning its food delivery drivers to serve the grocery service during peak hours. As the company noted in its earnings report last year, the grocery segment could leverage its “massive user base and existing world’s largest intra-city on-demand delivery network.”

from TechCrunch

When you’ve been doing this job long enough, you start to develop strange interests (though some might compellingly argue that strange interests are a prerequisite). Lately for me it’s been power banks. Quite possibly the least sexy product in all of consumer electronics outside of the ever-ubiquitous dongle.

I don’t know what to tell you. Blame the fact that I’m traveling every other week for this job. There are also all of the liveblogs from years’ past that got cut off in the last few minutes as my poor ancient MacBook put itself to sleep during those last precious battery percentages. Low batteries give me anxiety. I’m the guy who’s the first to notice when your phone’s screenshot is below 10 percent.

So the power bank has become constant accessory in my life, both home and on the road. Until last year, I used to carry a massive one that was just north of 20,000mAh. The peace of mind to back pain ration seemed sensible enough, but I learned the hard way that, not only do Chinese airports have a limit on battery size, they chuck yours in the trash without a second thought if you go over. It’s a quick way to lose $150.

The good news, however, is that between USB-C, wireless charging and the magic of crowdfunding, it seems we might be living through the golden age of the power bank. I know, right? What a time to be alive.

Point is, there are a lot of choices out there. Anker and Amazon’s house brand RAVPower both offer some good options on a budget. There’s also mainstay Mophie for those who don’t mind paying a bit of a premium for design.

Fuse Chicken was actually a brand that was new to me when they hit me up to try out their latest product. It’s a name I definitely would have remembered — because, honestly, it’s pretty terrible. Memorable, but terrible. Maybe that’s why the company went with such a mundane name for what’s a really interesting charger.

My dad ones told me that he gave my sister and I boring first names because we had such an unusual surname. I have no idea if this is true, but it’s an interesting story and could well apply here.

The Universal is a good example of making the most of out a form factor. It manages to jam a lot of features in without creating a Frankenstein’s Monster worthy of the name Fuse Chicken. On its face, the product looks like a black and white version of Amazon’s default power bricks. It serves that purpose, of course, coupled with a trio of swappable international wall adapters (bonus points for travelers).

But the brick also sports a 6,700mAh battery inside, so you can continue charging gadgets while unplugged. That’s ideal for a phone — you can keep a laptop alive for a bit as well, but you’re going to burn through that pretty quickly. There’s also a wireless charging pad up top, so you can power up another phone or, say, a new set of AirPods at the same time. The side of the device features a small display showing off how much juice is left.

It’s great having a bank that’s also a plug, though like Apple’s brick, it’s much too massive to plug into many vertical outlets. I learned this lesson the hard way on a recent coast to coast flight. Thankfully, though, it’s compatible with Apple’s extension cable.

OmniCharge, meanwhile, is a company I’ve been following since their earliest Kickstarter days. Matter of fact, the aforementioned power bank that’s currently sitting in a Chinese garbage dump is one of their products. R.I.P. noble battery pack.

The Omni Mobile 12,800 mAh is a much more basic product that the company’s earliest offerings. There’s no display for power information here — instead you have to rely on four lights to let you know how much juice is left.

As with most of the company’s products, I do quite like the design language. It’s subtle and unobtrusive and fits nicely inside a backpack. It’s definitely too big for carrying around in a pocket, however. Thanks the wonders of USB it will charge a laptop, as well, though once again, you’re going to run through that 12,800 mAh pretty quickly, if you do.

The Fuse Chicken and OmniCharge run $85 and $99, respectively. They’ve both served me well as travel companions these last few weeks. Here’s to long flights and avoiding life’s landfill.

from TechCrunch

It’s been a busy day for Facebook exec op-eds. Earlier this morning, Sheryl Sandberg broke the site’s silence around the Christchurch massacre, and now Mark Zuckerberg is calling on governments and other bodies to increase regulation around the sorts of data Facebook traffics in. He’s hoping to get out in front of heavy-handed regulation and get a seat at the table shaping it.

The founder published a letter simultaneously on his own page and The Washington Post, the latter of which is an ideal way to get your sentiments on every desk inside the beltway. In the wake a couple of years that have come with black eyes and growing pains, Zuckerberg notes that if he had it to do over again, he’d ask for increased external scrutiny in four key areas:

  • Harmful content – He wants overarching rules and benchmarks social apps can be measured by
  • Election integrity – He wants clear government definitions of what constitutes a political or issue ad
  • Privacy – He wants GDPR-style regulations globally that can impose sanctions on violators
  • Data portability – He wants users to be able to bring their info from one app to another

The story of why the letter breaks down each doubles as kind of recent history of the social network. Struggles and missteps have defined much of Facebook’s last few years, with several controversies often swirling around the social network at once. Not every CEO gets asked to testify in front of Congress. Facebook houses and controls an incredible collection of data, playing a key role in everything from ad targeting and interpersonal relationships to news cycles and elections.

I’ve spent most of the past two years focusing on issues like harmful content, elections integrity and privacy. I think…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Saturday, March 30, 2019

“Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree,” Zuckerberg writes, three days after issuing a blanket ban on “white nationalism” and “white separatism.” He goes on to describe the company’s work with various governments, along with its development of independent oversight committee, before anyone can accuse the company of completely passing the buck.

“One idea is for third-party bodies to set standards governing the distribution of harmful content and to measure companies against those standards,” Zuckerberg writes, “Regulation could set baselines for what’s prohibited and require companies to build systems for keeping harmful content to a bare minimum.”

Zuckerberg goes on to encourage increased legislation around election tampering and political advertisements. Notably, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development hit Facebook earlier this week with charges that its targeted ads violate the Fair Housing Act.

The op-ed rings somewhat hollow, though, because there’s plenty that Facebook could do to improve in these four areas without help from the government.

Facebook’s harmful content policies have long been confusing, inconsistent, and isolated. For example, Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was removed from Facebook but not from Instagram. Meanwhile, bad actors can just hop between social networks to spread problematic posts. Facebook should apply enforcement of its policies across its whole family of apps, publicly work through its logic for why it does or doesn’t remove things instead of having those discussions leak, and cooperate better with fellow social networks to coordinate blanket takedowns of the worst offenders.

As for election integrity, Facebook made a big advance this week by placing all active and old inactive political ad campaigns into keyword-searchable Ad Library. But after pressure from news publishers who didn’t want their ads promoting politicized articles to be included beside traditional campaign ads, Facebook exempted them. Those ads can still influence the electorate, and while they should be classified separately, they should still be archived for research.

On privacy, well, there’s a ton to be done. One major area where it could improve is allowing people to more completely opt out of search, including by their phone number, to avoid stalkers. And better controls should be available for how Facebook uses your contact info when uploaded in the address books of other users.

Finally, with data portability, Facebook has been dragging its feet. A year ago, we published a deep dive into how Facebook only lets you export your social graph as a list of friends’ names which can’t be easily used to find them on other social networks. Facebook must make its social graph truely interoperable so users don’t lose their community if they switch apps. That would coerce Facebook to treat users better since leaving would actually be a viable option.

Taking these steps would show regulators that Zuckerberg isn’t just paying lip service in hopes of getting a more lenient sentence. It would demonstrate he’s ready to make change that serves society.

from TechCrunch

On our final day in Pittsburgh, we find ourself in a decommissioned coal mine. Just northeast of the city proper, Tour-Ed’s owners run field trips and tours during the warmer months, despite the fact that the mine’s innards run a constant 50 degrees or so, year round.

With snow still melted just beyond the entrance, a team of students from Carnegie Mellon and Oregon State University are getting a pair of robots ready for an upcoming competition. The small team is one of a dozen or so currently competing in DARPA’s Subterranean Challenge.

The multi-year SUbT competition is designed to “explore new approaches to rapidly map, navigate, search, and exploit complex underground environments, including human-made tunnel systems, urban underground, and natural cave networks.” In particular, teams are tasked with search and rescue missions in underground structures, ranging from mines to caves to subway stations.

The goal of the $2 million challenge is design a system capable of navigating complex underground terrains, in case of cave-ins or other disasters. The robots are created to go where human rescuers can’t — or, at very least, shouldn’t.

The CMU team’s solution features multiple robots, with a foul-wheeled rover and a small, hobbyist style drone taking center state. “Our system consists of ground robots that will be able to track and follow the terrain,” says CMU’s Steve Willits, who serves as an adviser on the project. “We also have an unmanned aerial vehicle consisting of a hexacopter. It’s equipped with all of instrumentation that it will need to explore various area of the mine.”

The rover uses a combination of 3D cameras and LIDAR to navigate and map the environment, while looking for humans amid the rubble. Should it find itself unable to move, due to debris, small passage ways or a manmade obstacle like stairs, the drone is designed to lift off from the rear and continue the search.

All the while, the rover drops ultra rugged WIFI repeaters off its rear like a breadcrumb trail, extending its signal in the process. Most of this is still early stages. While the team was able to demonstrate the rover and drone in action, it still hasn’t mastered a method for getting them to work in tandem.

Testing the robots will begin in September, with the Tunnel Circuit That’s followed in March 2020 by the manmade Urban Circuit and then a Cave Circuit that September. A final event will be held in September 2012.

from TechCrunch

Welcome back to this week’s transcribed edition of Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast that unpacks the numbers behind the headlines. We’re running an experiment for Extra Crunch members that puts the words of our wildly popular venture capital podcast, Equity, in your eyes instead of your ears.

This week, Kate Clark and Alex Wilhelm recorded an emergency episode to discuss Lyft’s IPO, which debuted Friday. The crew has been talking about the ridesharing company for a long time and this week, it closed its first day of trading up 9% after a 21% opening pop. So if you don’t like podcasts but still want the goodness that is Equity, you can have a read of this week’s episode below. It’s been edited for clarity.

For access to the full transcription, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 

Kate Clark: Hello and welcome to Equity. I’m tech crunches, Kate Clark and I’m joined today by Alex Wilhelm of Crunchbase news.

Alex Wilhelm: Hey everybody.

Kate Clark: How’s it going?

Alex Wilhelm: We’ve been doing a lot of Equity lately. I almost feel bad, but also all the IPOs we’ve been waiting for are finally here, so I’m kind of excited and glad.

Kate Clark: I mean, yeah. A couple extra episodes is the least we can do given that one of the most highly anticipated IPOs ever was just completed today. But I think we’re all a little bit relieved that the Lyft extravaganza has sort of come to a, well, I guess it’s not over now we just get to report on their earnings.


Alex Wilhelm: Yeah. But I mean at least this portion of the story is complete. Like we’ve been talking about them eventually going public for quarters and quarters now. Now it’s just Lyft had a good or bad quarter, it’s a two minute story and we can move on.

So it’s nice to have gotten here. But can we go back to the beginning and there’s not a lot of steps Kate, that though you and I have been tracking very almost religiously, but for a lot of people probably not as close. So I was thinking we could kind of go back to the beginning of Lyft’s public journey and quickly walk everyone through the numbers, if that makes sense.

from TechCrunch

In an open letter published by the New Zealand Herald, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg finally addressed the shocking mass shootings that left 50 dead at two Christchurch mosques. The first of part of the deadliest mass shooting in modern new Zealand history was live-streamed on Facebook by the attacker.

But while the site’s technology was used the broadcast the horrific attacks, Facebook has largely stayed silent on the matter in the intervening two weeks. Sandberg broke that silence in her letter, which addressed grieving families and a shaken nation. The note addresses aspects that the site could have handled better, but the company still appears to be at something of a loss for how to handle such an event.

“Many of you have also rightly questioned how online platforms such as Facebook were used to circulate horrific videos of the attack,” Sandberg writes. “We are committed to reviewing what happened and have been working closely with the New Zealand Police to support their response.”

The executive adds that the company is working on technologies to identity re-upload. The letter stops short of offering specific answers or a blueprint for its policy, going forward.

“We have heard feedback that we must do more – and we agree,” Sandberg says. “In the wake of the terror attack, we are taking three steps: strengthening the rules for using Facebook Live, taking further steps to address hate on our platforms, and supporting the New Zealand community. First, we are exploring restrictions on who can go Live depending on factors such as prior Community Standard violations.”

Both Facebook and YouTube have been subject to widespread criticism over the roles their platforms have played in propagating the images from these horrific attacks. YouTube was quick to issue a statement, noting that it would “work cooperatively with the authorities.”

from TechCrunch