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The Morning After: Wednesday, April 5th 2017

Welcome to the middle. Apple is sorry about its Mac Pro, and promises something big next year, while in other mea culpa news, the makers of Mass Effect: Andromeda will release a bunch of fixes both this week and in the coming months. Rounding it off, we took a closer look at Sonos’ new Playbase speaker – possibly the only speaker you’ll need in your living room.

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Jay Z launches a venture capital firm to back startups

Jay Z was rumored to be launching a venture capital firm, and it looks like the scuttlebutt was true. His company Roc Nation has formed Arrive, a VC “platform” that will help younger startups build their brands and businesses. Roc is betting that its experience in fostering artists and athletes will translate to the corporate world. Arrive doesn’t have a fund of its own just yet, but one is in the works.

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On the Brink of Greatness: Online Experts
Ah yes, the fabulous life of an aspiring YouTube star. Steve visits with Dan, the host of Catitude TV, to get the story behind his channel that’s chock-full of useful lifehacks. You know, things like the proper technique for screwing in a lightbulb, petting a cat and making a single cup of coffee. Let’s face it, watching a video is a lot funner than Google directions yourself. Read more
On the Brink of Greatness: Startup Culture

If you’ve been wondering what it’s like to work for a hot Silicon Valley startup, you’re in luck. Bambu’s new promo video offers a behind-the-scenes look at what makes the company tick. On this week’s episode of On the Brink of Greatness, Steve Goldbloom and the crew discuss what makes the work environment at the startup so great. They cover important topics like work/life balance, diversity, giving back, inspiration and, most importantly, the future. We’ll totally understand if you want to submit a resume after watching, because really this is the only company that matters.

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How much should we trust tech companies?

Last week, the internet was awash with journalists’ interpretations of Spotify’s new privacy policy. Depending on whom you ask, the policy was eerie, creepy or just downright atrocious. While Spotify scrambled to reassure us that it wasn’t really interested in snooping through your photos or tracking your every move, people publicly quit the service, argued with its CEO and generally hated on the company. Such public outcries are now commonplace. But what is it about the industry that evokes such an endemic distrust? Why are we so quick to believe they’re out to do us harm? Aaron Souppouris and Devindra Hardawar try to get the bottom of the matter. Or at least argue about it.

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Aviary launches photo editing application on iOS, turns Android plugin into an app

Last we heard, Aviary was being chosen to replace the deceased Picnik as the main photo editor on Flickr, and now the startup is getting ready to launch its first iOS app and give its previous Android offering a major boost. The Jeff Bezos-backed company has just announced its entry into the application game, giving iOS and Android folks access to an array of its image editing tools – much like Apple’s iPhoto on Cupertino devices or Photoshop Express on ones powered by Google’s OS. Naturally, you’ll be able to do run-of-the-mill tidbits such as cropping, rotating, sharpening and blurring, which are bundled alongside others like cosmetic tools, one-tap auto enhance and “gorgeous effects.” It’s also worth noting Aviary was once present on Google Play as a plugin, but has now made the change to a full-on, feature-packed application. Those interested in taking the fresh app for a spin can hit either of the source links below, where a mighty free download awaits you. %Gallery-158194%

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NYC's Made in New York Digital Map lets you see who's hiring in the tech field

You can’t deny Mike Bloomberg’s often coming up with different ways to involve New Yorkers in tech-related bits. On this occasion, Mayor Bloomberg & Co. have introduced a novel way for citizens of The Big Apple – and others who plan on making the move – to find jobs in the technology sector. Dubbed “Made in New York Digital Map,” the service aims to make it easier for folks to see which tech companies are seeking engineers, designers, developers, etc. At the moment there’s more than 325 outfits looking for new hires, with over “thousands of jobs” being up for grabs. Mayor Bloomberg says this is only the beginning and he’s encouraging startups to set up shop here in the City, as he believes this “is the place to be if you’re a growing tech startup.” You can take a tour of the Digital Map now via the source link below.

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CES 2012 to feature 94 startup companies in 'Eureka Park TechZone'

CES hasn’t exactly been known as the place where small startup companies catch their big break, but the CEA seems intent on changing that notion this time around. The organization announced today that its new ‘Eureka Park TechZone" will feature 94 startup companies occupying some 9,000 square feet of floor space at The Venetian – up considerably from the 28 companies that were signed on when the new area was first announced this summer. As CNET’s Daniel Terdiman notes, digital imaging companies look set to have a particularly big presence in the area, including the likes of smartphone accessory-maker Kogeto (its Dot device pictured above) and the Cornell Research offshoot Mezmeriz, which is focused on pico projector technology. Needless to say, we’ll be there next month to see what comes out of it. Read more
Researchers develop 'wireless optical brain router' to manipulate brain cells
might be a relatively unknown area of neuroscience, but it’s one that, thanks to some new research, could soon find itself (and its rodental subjects) in the spotlight. For the uninitiated, it’s the practice of manipulating animal cells using light (with a little help from gene therapy). Until now, optogenetic equipment has been large and unwieldy, making testing on subjects (read: rats) painstaking. Startup, Kendall Research, has changed all this, creating wireless prototypes that weigh just three grams (0.11 ounces). By eschewing bulky Lasers for LEDs and Laser diodes, the equipment is small enough that it can be attached to the rodents. At that point, their brain function can be manipulated with the touch of a button, and different parts can be stimulated without breeding mutant variants – a controversial practice that doesn’t even yield results in real time. The “router” is powered wirelessly by super capacitors below test area, and researchers can conduct experiments remotely, even automatically. Human applications for this are still some way off, but we’re sure our future overlords will make good use of it. Read more
On the Brink of Greatness short: Standup

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Last week, aspiring startups found out just how harsh kids can be when it comes to offering criticism. To see if his jokes were funny enough, a standup comedian put his skills to the test in front of a panel of school children. What’s the worst that could happen? A cat-tastrophe, that’s what. Read more
Transphorm promises brickless laptop chargers, power savings aplenty
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. A mysterious startup company operates in secret for a number of years, raises millions in funding from some of the biggest players in the industry (in this case, Google and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers), and announces a breakthrough technology that promises to change everything. In this case the startup is a company called Transphorm, and the breakthrough is a gallium nitride technology that promises to improve AC/DC transformers. While that might not sound like the most exciting thing in the world, the company’s CEO says that it could not only drastically reduce the electricity wasted by electronics that currently rely on silicon components, but significantly reduce the size of the components as well. One prime example there is laptop charger bricks, which Transphorm says could be reduced or even completely eliminated by building the necessary components right into the laptop itself. The company also sees a huge opportunity with electric cars, and especially data centers, which is one of the first markets it will be targeting. Of course, complete details are still fairly light at the moment, but the company is promising to unveil its first products in just two weeks, and you can be sure we’ll be watching. Read more
Lockheed Martin's technology hub brings startups closer to government needs

Wondering who would be the first to concoct a Kickstarter for governmental wishes? We suppose it’s Lockheed Martin. Today, the aforementioned outfit has launched an initiative “aimed at expanding its collaboration with Silicon Valley companies to meet the diverse technology needs of the federal government.” Called the Lockheed Martin Silicon Valley Alliance, the hub will reportedly “provide the federal government with greater visibility into innovative technology solutions developed locally,” even going so far as to suggest that a game developer could use their resources in order to improve the realism of a military simulation system. It sounds as if Lockheed will end up being the middleman between aspiring companies and entities like the Department of Defense and NASA, essentially ensuring that whatever is built meets federal requirements. Those interested in venturing down such a rabbit hole can give the source link a look, but as always, we’d caution you to register at your own risk.

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Y!kes' app-enabled system transforms hotel accessibility: talking with hotel chains, launching this month on iOS, Android, BlackBerry and WP7

We all knew opening one’s hotel room door with a smartphone was just the beginning, didn’t we? As the years have turned (and LodgeNet has inexplicably remained), a smattering of companies have seen the opportunity to connect savvy hotel guests to the properties they frequent. Y!kes is the latest to tune in, and its solution undoubtedly has the potential to change the way smartphone users interact with lodging venues. Designed as a hardware + software platform, the proximity-aware access system offers hotels the ability to tightly and specifically grant or deny access to one’s phone. As an example, a hotel and guest both utilizing the system could see an elevator automatically choose one’s floor upon entry, a door automatically unlock when a patron walks within range, a parking deck automatically have its gate raised, and a VIP lounge door automatically open if the credentials are programmed in.

Going a step further, one could envision this system having the ability to alert a hotel when a guest lands at the nearest airport, thereby triggering a series of events that places fresh Perrier bottles on the desk, blue mood lighting in the bathroom, a thermostat adjustment to 74 degrees and whatever else that person has specified in their profile. Insane? Sure, but not at all outside of the realm of feasibility. Once a venue has installed the system, guests need only have the associated app – available for Android, BlackBerry OS, Windows Phone and iOS – running in the background on their device. If all goes as planned, he or she won’t even have to drop by the check-in counter, and when the stay is over, they’ll be able to bypass the check-out line as well.

If you’re curious about app availability, we’re told that the iOS build will hit the App Store “this week,” while the other three platforms will see launches “within 30 days.” We asked the company if it was ready to announce any partnerships with hotel chains, and received the following reply: “As for integration, Y!kes is currently engaged in deep discussions with the top hotel chains and will have information pertaining to specific contracts in the near future.” Needless to say, the jetsetters in the crowd will be keeping an ear to the ground for more.

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Confirmed: Airtime video chatting works in the air... on Gogo in-flight internet!

“Whoa! Whoa! Are you on a spaceship? Seriously, are you on a spaceship?!”

Those words came flowing – enthusiastically, I might add – from an anonymous Airtimer just today, on the launch of Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning’s Airtime project. “I’m actually on an airplane,” I replied. “Where are you headed?,” he responded. “LA!,” as I tried to keep the conversation going. I failed to get to the part about continuing on to San Francisco, but it mattered not – I just confirmed that Airtime does indeed work in airplanes. On a packed-to-capacity flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles, the onboard Gogo connection held up decently enough to have a relatively meaningful conversation (and eventually, for me to post this very article). The video feeds were a bit bumpy – not completely unlike the ride itself – but audio was fairly crisp. We shot the breeze for a minute or so before waving goodbye, two complete strangers brought together for the sake of discovering what’s possible.

I never engaged in any late-night Chatroulette sessions, so the first-time Airtime experience was quite the surreal one – particularly given that I was somewhere high over the New Mexican mountains. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s just a matter of time before Airtime is funneled into that same black hole as Skype, making it impossible to complete a call whilst onboard; but for now, the tunnels are wide open. The friendly skies never felt so friendly.

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Opening the Book(Book) on Twelve South: between the covers of a Mac-exclusive accessory maker

The year is 2009. In history books, it’ll widely be recognized as the year that most of America – heck, the world – would prefer to forget. Job after job was lost, bank after bank fell, and humanity as we knew it plunged into “the worst recession since the Great Depression.” It’s also the year that Palm attempted a comeback with webOS, and as it turns out, the year that yet another accessory company was born. While such an occurrence may be forgettable on a macro scale, economic researchers and lovers of technology alike have reason to take notice – and, indeed, ask questions. So, that’s exactly what I did.

Beyond growing a technology startup in a me-too field during the worst economy that I’ve personally been a part of, it’s also not often that I find compelling consumer electronics companies far outside of New York City and San Francisco. Twelve South just so happens to be located in a nondescript nook in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina – just a beautiful trip over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge from historic Charleston. Three years after its founding, the company now fittingly counts a dozen employees on its roster, and despite entering a market flooded with iAccessory after iAccessory, it has somehow managed to grab its own slice of an increasingly large niche. As with all good success stories, this particular outfit has plenty of twists, turns and run-ins with Lady Luck to tell about; for those interested in seeing how the “stay small” mantra is keeping Twelve South firmly focused on the future ahead, take a peek beyond the break.

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LightSquared officially files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

As expected, May 14th is indeed a dark day for LightSquared. The company has just filed paperwork in order to initiate Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in Manhattan’s US Bankruptcy Court, effectively killing its dream of providing a high-speed mobile wireless network to upwards of 260 million people. Not quite a year after Sprint and LightSquared put together an agreement that would ensure 15 years of blissful LTE enjoyment together, Philip Falcone’s baby looks weaker than ever. With the Sprint tie-up now void, and over $1.6 billion in debt, there’s probably not too many places for LS to turn. The primary hurdle – one it never could seem to overcome – was the FCC’s outright refusal to believe any of the company’s mitigation proposals in relation to GPS interference issues. Despite “profoundly disagreeing” and raising all sorts of chaos in an effort to get its way, LightSquared never did manage to convince the powers that mattered. Where it turns from here is anyone’s guess, but it won’t be a quiet fall from grace, we’re surmising.

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