Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

PayPal Shutters Money Market Fund For Merchants

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 09:47 AM PDT

PayPal is shutting down its Money Market Fund, notifying participants that the fund will be closing as of July 29 of this year.

PayPal users could previously put the money they earned from PayPal transactions in a Money Market Fund to accrue interest. PayPal customers could choose have their free cash balances swept into the Fund in order to earn income until the cash is used. Shares of the Fund will could be redeemed to pay for transactions such as payments, purchases and other electronic money transfers from PayPal customer accounts.

As of last week, the fund held $471 million and had returned 0.04% to investors so far this year, reports SmartMoney. A PayPal rep told SmartMoney, that “market conditions, financial advantages of the money market fund have diminished” for its merchants.

The investment vehicle has had issues previously. In the past, the fund was seeing around 5 percent in returns. But more recently, the fund earned around 0.15% in returns.

Here’s the message sent to the fund’s participants:

Hello [ ],

Thanks for using PayPal and the PayPal Money Market Fund. Unfortunately, we've decided to close the Money Market Fund, effective 7/29/11.

What does this mean for you? PayPal will transfer any undisbursed dividends you've earned into your PayPal account within 7 business days after we close the fund. Don't worry; you don't have to do a thing.

Your 2011 tax documents will continue to be available on the Fund Summary page in your PayPal account throughout 2012. You'll receive a tax statement from PayPal only if you've earned $10 or more in dividends in 2011.

Tictacti Secures Funding To Take On Heyzap In Game Aggregation

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 09:21 AM PDT

A lot of companies would like to get on the flash games bandwagon but have no core competency to do it. Out of Israel is a new white label solution called Tictacti. The startup has also now raised a $500,000 round led by Kima Ventures and other undisclosed investors. To date the startup has pulled in $1.6m in funding so far.

Tictacti plans to compete with existing players Mochi Media and heyzap, with a platform which enables games developers to monetize their games on Mobile, Web or IPTV with one API/SDK or, in the case of Flash based games. BUt the crucial aspect here is that they can do it without needing to use the the API.

Yobongo Aims To Up The Interaction With “Around” And “Nudge”

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 09:00 AM PDT

Yobongo has a problem that isn’t an easy one to solve. They want to create a realtime communication tool centered around location. But if people around you aren’t always on Yobongo, what do you do? Two new features aim to address that key issue. “Around” and “Nudge”.

Both new features launch today in the latest version of the app. And they make a lot of sense from an interaction perspective. “Around” allows you to see who has been recently active on Yobongo near you. This means that even if a user has closed the app, they’ll show up as someone who has been online recently and looking for a conversation. And you can message them. “Nudge” is more straight forward. You know the Facebook “poke”? Yeah, this is that for Yobongo. If you want to bring someone online to talk with them, you use this.

“As we work to reduce the friction of making new connections, we realized we were missing the real world equivalent of seeing who is around you,” Yobongo Caleb Elston says about Around. “We already allowed you to chat in a group with people, and then move to one on one conversations. Around fills the gap of seeing who is around, but with even more context than the real world,” he continues, noting that the recent Pondering feature plays a role here as well.

Meanwhile, of Nudge, he says that it’s “a quick way to get your Yobongo friends to join the conversation.” “If you swipe to the end of the faces in the top bar there is a new ‘Nudge’ button. When tapped, it presents a view of people who have recently sent messages and people you have interacted with on Yobongo whom you can then simply Nudge,” he continues, noting that if a conversation in the main chat room slows, they’ll also suggest users who you can nudge to join in.

Since its launch four months ago, Elston says that Yobongo is now seeing users sign in an average of three times throughout the day (which is lower than it would be if Yobongo didn’t add multitasking support recently) and that active users are sending sending 49 messages a day on average.

The startup remains committed to the iPhone as they don’t want to spread themselves too thin. They now have five employees.

You can find Yobongo in the App Store here.


Gilt Groupe And Gogo To Offer Exclusive In-Flight Deals To WiFi Users

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 08:59 AM PDT

Well this is interesting. Gilt Groupe is partnering with in-flight wifi provider Gogo to offer passengers exclusive in-air deals on the flash sales site. So when you log-on to Gogo WiFi on any Delta, United, Virgin America, Alaska Airlines and US Airways planes, you can find exclusive deals on Gilt.

You’ll also be able to access Gilt for free (as opposed to paying the $4.95 minimum price to access Gogo wifi). Gogo did a similar deal with Facebook earlier in the year, where passengers could log-on to Facebook for free (but had to pay for access to other sites.)

While the Facebook deal may draw more users, it is certainly interesting to see an e-commerce site use Gogo to offer exclusive deals and draw traffic. As a Gilt user, I know I’ve definitely checked the flash sales site while on a flight and would be more incentivized to check the site if I could access better deals. It’s important to note that we don’t know how good these deals will be. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more e-commerce sites striking similar partnerships with Gogo in the future.

@Jack To Moderate President @BarackObama’s First @TownHall On @Twitter Next Week

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 08:30 AM PDT

President Obama has held town halls on both Facebook and YouTube, and to round things out a bit, the White House has announced that the President will be holding his first town hall on Twitter next week.

The President’s town hall, which will take place July 6 at 2 pm ET, will focus on the economy and job creation. People will be able to participate by Tweeting questions with the hashtag #AskObama, and can follow @Townhall for updates. Via a Twitter-hosted site, you can also watch President Obama respond live via webcast. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey will moderate the meeting.

The fact that @jack is moderating the meeting isn’t too surprising considering Mark Zuckerberg moderated Obama’s Facebook town hall meeting earlier this year. Twitter PR head Sean Garrett said in a Tweet that Dorsey will be providing the questions to the President, and ‘there will be a fairly involved process on how they are selected’ from the stream.

As the 2012 campaign heats up, Twitter has become a centralized platform for communications between candidates and the general public. A few weeks ago, we saw that the President's 2012 campaign took over managing Obama’s Twitter (@barackobama) and Facebook accounts (which were previously managed by the DNC). And Obama himself will begin posting updates on both Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter has more mass appeal than four years ago, and there’s no doubt that the platform has become a centralized place for political communication and news. Twitter will be a central part of the election (and so will Facebook), and Obama is taking this seriously and helping to draw more users to Twitter.

Want A Google+ Invite Real Bad? Try eBay

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 08:10 AM PDT

So you still haven’t gotten into the Google+ field trial, not even after Google allowed early users who did send invites for a while, and not even while there are loopholes abound?

Desperate times call for desperate measures: break out your wallet and head on over to eBay, where Google+ invites are being sold for up to $75. Buy it now and you too will be able to enjoy the marvelous wonder that is Google’s brand new Facebook challenger.

What do you mean you’re not that insane?


Update: the ‘buy it now’ price of $75 isn’t visible anymore on the page linked above, sorry.

(Thanks to @mikerbrt for the heads up)

Fly Or Die: Guess Who Doesn’t Like The HP TouchPad?

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 07:57 AM PDT

Erick is a cruel man. Known throughout TC HQ as the “Iron Stampede,” his rages against technology products are epic and legendary. You should have heard him go off on Google+ yesterday. He was livid.

That’s why it’s interesting to see him calmly dismantle the TouchPad in this episode of Fly or Die. Gone is the red faced anger, the spittle, the curses. Instead, he tries it out and comes away disappointed and nonplussed.

I, personally, got a kick out of the TouchPad and I think, if you read my review, you’ll understand that I find this product flawed but more than acceptable.

I think I could be swayed either way when it comes to Palm/HP’s latest, but until I change my mind I’m giving this guy a Fly. Watch the video for Erick’s reaction.

Also, note that the HP Facebook app was made by HP, not Facebook as we mentioned in the discussion.

TechCrunched: 90 Seconds Of Top Tech News (TCTV)

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 07:48 AM PDT

We’re trying something new this week by bringing you some of the top tech stories in video format. Time is short, and so is this video. We realize it is a bit rough around the edges but hopefully the quick dose of news can get you caught up while on the run. Check it out and tell us what you think. In the meantime we’ll be iterating on TechCrunched. Below are the links to the stories mentioned in the video:

Good First Sign: I Have A Strong Desire To Keep Using Google+

Square Closes That $100 Million Round, Mary Meeker Joins Board

Myspace Acquired, CEO Out: Email From Mike Jones To Employees

He's Bringing Myspace Back: Justin Timberlake Takes A Stake

Microsoft Office 365 Rolls Out Its Online Productivity Suite

Zynga To Provide Customized Mobile Games And Content To AT&T Customers

He's Bringing Myspace Back: Justin Timberlake Takes A Stake

With Ten Million Videos Played, TechCrunch TV Turns One

Let The Games Begin, TechCrunch Disrupt SF Startup Battlefield Applications Are Now Open!

As Google+ Invites Are Locked Down Here Are Some Work-arounds

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 07:47 AM PDT

Here in Europe we woke up to find Google had shut down the invitation process to Google +. So after a bit of testing I’ve found out the following how to bring your friends in to it while Google has a lock-down on the service.

If you have an invite to join Google+, right click on the invite link you were sent on email and save the URL. Paste that URL to Twitter or Facebook or email it to some friends. With any luck some of them will get in via that link.

I tried this by Tweeting my own invite link, and magically a few people managed to get an invite of their own. Most did not however, so this is not a full proof work-around. It seems to work if people waited a couple of minutes or refreshed the page after a minute.

The better, more guaranteed hack is one or both of the following.

Onkyo Latest To Pay Microsoft Royalties Over Android Tablets

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 07:18 AM PDT

Microsoft is on a roll. Onkyo is the latest company to trade Android tablet royalties for access to Microsoft’s patent licensing program. The details of the agreement wasn’t released. This makes Onkyo the third company this week that has signed such an agreement. Velocity Micro and General Dynamic’s Itronix brand joined the club just days ago.

"We are pleased that Onkyo has taken advantage of our patent licensing program for Android devices and has signed this agreement," said Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing at Microsoft. "This agreement and similar agreements recently announced evidence the momentum and success of our licensing program."

Read More

What WebOS Means To HP, Linux, And You

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 06:42 AM PDT

In John’s review of the new HP TouchPad, he claimed that “WebOS is the real star of this show. The OS offers true multi-tasking and uses a system of "cards" and "stacks" to display active applications.” I think it’s worthwhile to remind everyone that WebOS is built atop the Linux kernel, and that has several interesting ramifications. HP has continued Palm’s dedication to user experience, and WebOS should make it abundantly clear that “Linux” need not be synonymous with “complex and arcane”. But there’s a lot more than just superficial window dressing to consider.

Read more…

Google Teams Up With Virgin America To Allow Passengers To Test Out Chromebooks In-Flight

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 06:31 AM PDT

Google just announced that it is teaming up with Virgin America to allow passengers to “test-fly” the search giant’s new Chromebook computers for free. Virgin passengers will be able to use the computers onboard their flight and at select airport gates from July 1 through September 30, 2011.

As an incentive, flyers who check out a Chromebook will receive a free WiFi session onboard Virgin America. Virgin says that at airport gates in San Francisco, Chicago O’Hare, Boston and in Dallas-Fort Worth will include Google “Chrome Zone” lounges starting this week, where passengers can learn more about the Chromebook and check one out for their flight. Google is also partnering with the Ace Hotel in New York to offer Chromebooks in hotel guests’ rooms.

Travelers will have to pony up their credit card info (for deposit purposes) and will then receive a Chromebook for use on their flights between SFO and DFW, ORD or BOS. he Chromebooks can be returned at the guest’s arriving gate. And Google Chrome Staff will also be on hand at the participating Virgin America gates to assist passengers.

This seems to be an extension of an existing marketing relationship between Google and Virgin America. Google has actually partnered with Virgin for the past two years to offer passengers free in-flight WiFi around the holidays. As part of last year’s partnership, Google was peddling its browser Chrome to travelers.

(Founder Stories) Bre Pettis’ Ambition: “One MakerBot Per Child” (TCTV)

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 06:29 AM PDT

Hi. My name's Chris Dixon. I'm a co-founder of Hunch and Founder Collective. This is Founder Stories. Today we have Bree Pettis, the co-founder and CEO of MakerBot. Thanks for being here.

Good to be here.

I should disclose that Founder Collective is an investor in MakerBot. So what is MakerBot?

So Maker Bot...

We have one right behind us actually.

Yeah, so it's printing out right here. It's a 3D printer. It's a machine that can make you almost anything, which turns out is pretty handy.

And so, when you say almost anything, what are some, I mean... Here you brought some examples which are kind of fun to show some of our friends in New York or whatever.


So there's fun stuff you can print. But then there's also practical stuff?

Yeah, so I brought fun stuff. These are busts of friends, and a heart that when you twist it it goes crazy.


And then, but when we have a new employee, they have to print out their own coat hook and those kind of things...

They have to print their own
coat hook...

Yeah (laughs) - so it's kind of practical stuff.

But also people are using it for like jewellery moulding... I mean, are there professional uses of it currently?

Yeah. You can use lost plastic casting and make something on a MakerBot out of plastic and then transform it and get it made in metal. You can do all sorts of stuff. If you have a 3D model of it, you can make it.

Yeah. So while this thing's printing now can you explain a little bit about what its doing and..?

Sure. The green stuff at the top is the filament. That's the raw plastic, it's the same thing Lego's made of.


And that goes into the machine and gets pulled in by a high-torque motor and then it goes out. It goes in kind of like spaghetti, and then it comes out like super super fine angel hair spaghetti that's molten and sticky, and it moves it around so it draws with it.

So, right now this thing is building this rocketship, right?

Yeah so we're about...

Just building the bottom of it.
Yeah, so we're about a third of the way through the rocketship.

And so, how does it, so where does the design come from?

So you have a few options with the design. If your somebody who likes to design things. You can design whatever you want.

And that'd be using some kind of CAD software on your computer or something?

Yeah, and actually, like, that whole area is blowing up right now. There's actually, with webGL you can, like, design things in the browser. Super cool. And then we have a site called Thingiverse and people share their digital designs and there's, like, more than 10000 things you can just download it and print.

Without having to design any of it.

It's like a bottle opener. I think I ran into a bottle opener or something and then downloaded and printed it out on Thingiverse right?

Yeah, nobody with a MakerBot so you'd never have to buy a bottle opener again.

OK. And then, and so then, OK, so then you print the design, so the design is just sort of a standard 3D image. How do you get it on there?

There's an SD card. So you just put your SD card in your computer and transfer it or you hook it up by USB.

So you either build it yourself, OK, so build it yourself or download it from the internet. And you can put it on there and then you need to buy, I guess, this material. And then how does it decide, like, so it's, like, doing all these crazy patterns and things, like, how does just deciding to that.

Yeah. When you go in and print it, there's a little slider. You can decide if you want to be totally solid or totally empty. I think we're like 25 percent infill. You can choose whether if you want hexagons or circles or squares in there. And then there's an algorithm that fills it out.

OK, cool. And this will take, so this thing printing will take like twenty minutes or something like that right?

Yeah. OK. So there have been 3D printers for, like, decades, right?

Yeah. So they, I mean, they first started coming out at the end of, in the late 80's. So, they've been around for a while. But those machines were like mainframe, literally mainframe-sized machines. Like, bigger than your refrigerator.

Yeah. And used for what purposes? Primarily those machines are used for prototyping. So in design houses or engineering they're, like, OK, we want to make a new phone. Let's make a design. Let's print it out. OK, now we feel like this is too big for my pocket. We can't use this.

I see. Supposedly, like people with the new iPhone, someone's carrying around form some of the exact same form factors to see if it feels good or whatever.

Yeah. Exactly.


But the Maker Bot kind of messes with that whole system because...

That was
a sort of fairly big business that was going on.

Still is. Yeah.

And still is. And what other competitors like big companies, right?

Stratesis and 3D Systems are the big ones.

Okay. How much do these devices cost?

They make beautiful machines that are 20 thousand to a million dollars. So, they go really...

your thing is how much?

1,299 dollars.

You mentioned mainframes, would you consider what you have sort of the PC to their mainframes in a way? Like this is 1978 or something?

I think it's more like 1976 with Apple I, pre-Apple II days.

You still have to build it yourselves.

Altair, you have to put...

It's still like hobbyists, or whatever.

Yeah. And the coolest people in the world are getting into it. You talk to the people who have an Altair 8800 and they went on to start crazy companies that are famous now.


It's early days The cool thing about that is that all of our customers are these super-smart, really awesome people who are getting this because they're into the bleeding edge of technology, pushing it farther than we can.

Yeah. And so how are you able to build these things for $1000 when it costs the other companies, I mean, is it just, I mean, presumably they have a lot of other features and it does things that yours doesn't do, right, I mean?

Well, I mean, it's interesting. We just came at it from a totally different place. You know, they're servicing a market of, it has to work, it has to be perfect. It has to, you know, it has to be 99.9999% accurate. And we came at it from, like, OK, what's the absolute minimum we can do to make it work.


And then let's try that, and if it works, ship it.

I see.

And it actually turns out like we've been able now with our second machine and our six extruder, and the 25th version of our software, we've been able to, like, actually make it work pretty well.

Yeah. And, so, do you use, for example, off-the-shelf parts or something, like no.


That makes it cheaper and so you don't have to go do machine tooling or something?

Yeah. Instead of having to, make it out of injection-molded parts, which requires tooling and that gets real expensive, and to make changes is difficult. We just use laser cutting and off-the-shelf parts. And with laser cutting, we literally just tell our laser cutter, okay, with the next batch, we want this little hole moved over here, you know, we have some little changes to make.


So it's really easy for us to be iterative and then also to keep costs down and make it flexible.


And get something out.

In this episode of Founder Stories, host Chris Dixon takes a look at a 3D printer while talking to the maker behind the MakerBot, Bre Pettis.

If printing 3D objects sounds impressive, think about this. Pettis thinks “it’s early days”—drawing comparisons to early PC’s like the Altair.

About the size of a mini-fridge, the Makerbot ships for $1,299 and allows users to create their own objects via CAD software (or users can select from “more than 10,000 things” on Thingiverse says Pettis) and print them out in a matter of minutes. Products range from shower curtain rings and eyeglass rims to mini-buildings and movable plastic hearts. We actually tested the Makerbot in our studio and came away with a rocket (Dixon takes it out at the end of the series).

When Dixon asks Pettis how MakerBot is able to make and sell 3-D printers for under $1,500 when corporate models are priced between $20,000 to $1,000,000, Pettis responds, “We just came at it from a totally different place you know. They are servicing a market of it has to work, it has to be perfect, it has to be 99.9999% accurate and we came at it from like, ok what is the absolute minimum we can do to make it work, and then let’s try that and if it works, ship it.”

Picking up on their conversation below, Pettis discusses his background (former puppeteer), the competition and the future of home based 3D printing.  When Dixon asks Pettis what the landscape looks like “in 5 to 10 years” Pettis responds by saying he hopes to “get one in front of every kid, one Makerbot per child.”

Make sure to watch both clips for additional insights, including the new feature Makebot recently rolled out.

Past episodes of Founder Stories with Mike McCue, Dennis Crowley, David Karp and Soraya Darbi are here.

So just stepping back then, so how did you like, what's your background and how did you, particularly, how did you get into this kind of interesting world, or whatever?

So, I've always been a tinkerer, and I got a, you know, I was a puppeteer, and then a school teacher, and then I made videos for MAKE magazine and worked at Etsy, and then started a hacker collective in Brooklyn called NYCResistor. And...

Can you talk a
little bit about that?

Yeah. NYCResistor is awesome. It's a, and now there's hackers spaces. You know, when we started I think we're one the first hackers spaces in this new wave of hacker spaces. And now pretty much every city has a hacker space. So like, and what it is is a club house, and that's for geeks.


And we have all the tools we want and a community of folks who are smart.

So it's particularly hardware and not software hacking, or both or?

You know, every space is different. Ours is focused on hardware hacking and making things, but there's other spaces that are more software focused.

So like, what would people make there besides 3D printing stuff?

If somebody just made something for a classroom that is basically a like a telepresence robot, made out of like just junk we had laying around.


We have a laser cutter so there's a lot of laser cutters basically gets used like 24/7.

OK, and so, so started that and then what happened?

You know, 3D printing is sort of a holy grail for tinkerers, because it is not just making things it is making something. It makes things so we really wanted one and we couldn't afford one, so we started hacking things together. And we started in 2006, 2007 as a hobby for fun and then by 2009 we had one that almost worked, and so then we quit our jobs and started Microbots.

Put the pedal to the metal. I see. And right now when you order one, you have to assemble it, correct?


I mean, is your plan to have one that is fully assembled and...

Yes, actually.

That definitely limits the audience, right ? Target market or whatever, having to assemble it?

Yes, up until now, you have to put it together actually. About a week ago we made it so that you could buy one fully assembled. It's the same thing, just our technicians assemble it and actually they give you a call and then ask you what color LEDs you want in it, or what colour plastic, and then we make it and ship it out to you and they walk you through the process of getting it started, because it's not hard, but it's definitely something new and so it takes a little walking through.

And so you did mention that this is sort of like 1976 and you're sort of Altair or something. When you think of it from a business point of view, how do you... I think Altair turned out to, I don't know the exact story, but they weren't big winners in the PC world.


Do you see this first of all as like a movement the same way that the PC was a movement and there were forty companies that created it? And then software industries, and massive industries, or do you think it's, that kind of scale? And, I guess, first question, and second question is if that's the case, how do you avoid being kind of the kinda cool guys who helped kick it off, but then were surpassed by some marketing wonderboy or something?

Yeah, we want our next machine to be the Apple 2, not the Commodore 64.

Okay. I think that was a good machine too.

It was, but then it didn't go anywhere. And when we started, there was just basically the RepRap Research Foundation, which was basically a bunch of folks making 3D printers with the focus of being able to make other 3D printers with their 3D printers. And we decided we wanted the machine that would just make anything, that would just be useful.

There's a name - the RepRap machine is the machine that can build itself, right?

That's it's name.

And does the MakerBot qualify as a RepRap Machine?

It does now. So like a year and a half in, one of our users made a MakerBot, with this MakerBot.

So it's not like you can print the whole thing, but you can print every piece of it?

All the parts except what we call the vitamins, which are like the nuts and bolts and metal parts, you can print on MakerBot.

I see. OK. Sorry, you were saying about the industry. So, yes, the industry is just going to get more and more interesting. It's actually going faster than I expected when we started. I thought it would take like four years, five years to get to where we are now, and, you know, we're just trying to keep up.

It's going fast.

So, well, in
five, ten years, you think people, everyone will have a 3D printer in their home?

You know, it's hard to imagine now, but like when microwaves came out, it was super, super exciting and thrilling to have a microwave, and you went over and watched, it and you worried about sitting in front of it and stuff, and now its just like boring, like everybody has a microwave.

Well Bill Gates had this you know, it was considered radical when he said his goal was have a pc on every desk.


It was like wow that's nuts. And now of course we have like four of them or something, I mean not just PC but some computer or whatever.

I won't mind. One of my goals is to get one in front of every kid. 'One MakerBot Per Child' style, you know? Because if I was 10, and I had access to a MakerBot and I could take the things that I imagined, and just make them rather than having to like, take things apart and, feel it straining stuff.

But is it, is it all sort of round like kind of the fun, sort of toy like stuff or I mean, I guess, you know, I mean, you know, the PC I think started off, like I don't know, I start off playing games on it. I think a lot of people who, you know, of our era or whatever who had Apple 2's, and things did.

But, then eventually you had the spreadsheet and you had all sorts of other things and that's when you really had a booming industry is when you kind of crossed over beyond just the tinkerers, right? I mean, do you see that as something that, like, I mean, like, what would that be. So, what would be like in the household of 2020 you know, would you just be printing all of your silverware and not buying anymore or how I mean, what do you use it for.

Or, do you like send somebody, like, you send, I mean, presumably, like you can have different materials and eventually you can have any material, I guess, or?

Yeah, I mean, the future looks interesting. We've got, like, like you say, like, right now most people are using it, just for their, like 95% of MakerBot use is just for satisfaction and enjoyment, puzzles and toys and stuff like that. But, then there's stuff, like, when you have a MakerBot, and, you know, we had a user whose glasses broke, so he just printed new glasses frames.


We had a user who moved into his apartment and they were out of shower curtain rings and so he printed shower curtain rings. I mean, we hear stories like this of people just printing things that they need. So, when you have a MakerBot, you have like MakerBot goggles. And you just start seeing the world through the eyes of, like, well, you know, I need one of these, rather than just instantly think go shopping for it.

Yeah, I think glasses are interesting, I guess, because you can, you could completely tailor them to your face in a way that you could never before, right?

Yeah, I'm actually.

I have a super weird nose and I always have trouble finding glasses for example or?

Yeah, we could scan those, scan your glasses in and, like, move them part of them.

Yeah, so that's actually how you got these people here, right? This is like Chris Poole from Canvas. It was...


Because I saw him that day and he was covered in powder. I said "What happened to you?" He said, "I was over at MakerBot getting scanned." So you have this scanner over there where you scan any object and then...

Yeah, it's a
laser-scan, it's a polhemus scanner, and we basically, you sit down and we cover you in corn starch. Well, just mostly your hair because the laser doesn't see dark things, so we have to kind of lighten it up with some powder.


Flipboard 1.5 Integrates LinkedIn, Adds A Content Guide For Curated News Browsing

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 06:29 AM PDT

An update to social news viewing app Flipboard goes live in the app store today, with a new souped up 1.5 version that optimizes the reader experience even further. Earlier this week we had the chance to sit down with Flipboard CEO Mike McCue and did a demo of the new features, above.

McCue tells me that the redesign focused on three core changes.

1. People can now navigate to an infinite number of feeds (previous limit was 21).
2. Navigation through content is much more efficient via a Content Guide.
3. Users can follow their LinkedIn graph through added LinkedIn integration.

The biggest shift from the previous version is the Flipboard Content Guide, which separates curated content streams like Science and Tech and Design to easily connect first time and repeat users with the topics that they’re most interested in, similar to competitor app Pulse’s curated streams.

Users can access the Content Guide by tapping on the red “More” tab at the top of the app and add frequently viewed feeds to Favorites by tapping on the “add” button. The Content Guide is curated and constantly refreshed by an editor at Flipboard, regularly adding new news sources like The New Yorker, The National Geographic and Wired.

Flipboard has also added LinkedIn integration with its latest build, allowing people to view what their contacts on LinkedIn are sharing in Flipboard mode. The LinkedIn integration is novel in that people can also view what people are reading on LinkedIn Today, which breaks down industry news into 37 verticals, useful when brushing up on small talking points before a meeting.

Other interface changes in this latest version include no delay “one-tap” into stories as well as highlighting the popular stores in each section and speed improvements. Content from partners like Wired is even further streamlined into a frictionless, speedy and magazine-likereading experience.

With over 2 1/2 million downloads and with 11.4 million “Flips” per day (which can be likened to pageviews), Flipboard, which just received and addition $50 million in funding, is a fortunate first mover in a space that may eventually be the way most people get their news, on a tablet.

B&N Now Offering 30 Free Books For Upgrading To Nook

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 06:00 AM PDT

Got an “old” ereader you want to “upgrade?” Get yourself a Nook and B&N will throw in $315 worth of free books, 30 titles in all, including “Glory in the Fall: The Greatest Moments in World Series History, 21st Century Crossword Puzzle Dictionary, My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me” along with some public domain titles. There are some cook books in there and a few other interesting titles but it’s not like you’re going to score a complete Stephen King library or anything.

Beginning Friday, while supplies last, customers will receive a free, 2GB microSD card loaded with 30 NOOK Books – from cooking and lifestyle to classics and reference –when they show a bookseller their old device and purchase the NOOK reader that best suits them.

Read more…

BlinQ Is A Social Channel Guide For Your TV

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 05:50 AM PDT

There are plenty of apps that provide a social ‘second screen’ experience to watching TV, allowing users to check-in to TV shows, share commentary with friends, earn badges and more. But these apps don’t actually combine their social functionality with your TV guide or remote control. Enter BlinQ, a new mobile iOS app that reorders the channel lineup on your cable system into most to least popular by your location.

The app, which was developed by Ryz Media, basically reorders your channel guide from numbers to what are the most popular shows on. You can click the channel on the phone and change channel immediately from the app itself. Ryz previously launched My TV Remote, which was a earlier iteration of BlinQ.

You can also see updates on the programs your friends are watching in the moment. Viewers can not only post and view posts from other viewers within and outside of their own networks, but can also invite friends to join virtual viewing parties to watch their favorite TV shows together.

In terms of hardware, you’ll need Ryz Media’s infra-red emitter, known as the "Q", which plugs into the headset jack of any iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad device to transform the device into a universal remote. The app is free, but the infra-red emitter costs $9.99 (including shipping).

I don’t think I’d choose to have BlinQ replace my TV Guide all together but it is certainly a technology I’d use in addition to the TV Guide or channel guide. Another drawback is that the BlinQ app shows popularity of TV shows by people who are using the app. I’d rather see popularity of TV shows by people I know and trust (i.e. some of my Facebook friends). And I wonder how hard it would be for a cable company to implement a similar experience in the channel guide; similar to a ‘what’s trending,’ by show, but for TV sets.

Though there are some flaws to BlinQ’s technology, I do think that the company is on to something that could shape the future of TV watching (for those of you who still have a cable box and haven’t cut the cord). It will be interesting to see how cable companies can or will incorporate social into cable television. We’ve already seen Comcast’s efforts with Tunerfish. The fact is that combining social with cable programming is a lot tougher than combining social with programming on the web.

Citrix Makes Strategic Investments In Graymatics And Gizmox

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 05:32 AM PDT

Citrix today announced two investments. The company is backing Graymatics, a stealth startup that is building a cloud platform for content-based analysis of video and other digital media, and Gizmox, the developer of the Visual WebGui web, cloud and mobile delivery platform. The Graymatics investment marks the fourth funding commitment for the Citrix Startup Accelerator, the company's Silicon Valley-based seed investment initiative, which launched in December 2010. The Gizmox investment is of greater strategic importance to Citrix.

ANSYS Acquires Apache Design Solutions For $310 Million In Cash

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 04:33 AM PDT

ANSYS, which offers simulation software and technologies designed to optimize product development processes, has agreed to acquire Apache Design Solutions, a simulation software provider for low power solutions in the electronics industry. The purchase price is approximately $310 million in cash. The price includes an estimated $29 million in cash on Apache's balance sheet. ANSYS intends to fund the transaction with cash on-hand from the combined organization. The agreement also includes retention provisions and incentives for certain members of management and employees, earned over a three year period, including an additional $13 million of performance equity awards.

Robert Morris, Computer Security Expert, Dead At 78

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 04:06 AM PDT

Robert Morris, a security expert and father of Robert Tappan Morris, the creator of the Morris Worm, died near his home in Lebanon, N.H. of complications due to dementia.

Morris spent almost a decade as chief scientist for the National Security Agency and was instrumental in the first cyberattack against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army in 1991. Morris was also worked at building tools and systems for Unix research group at Bell Laboratories and laying the groundwork for the Internet as we know it.

Read more…

Skype For Android Now Supports Video Calls, Works Over WiFi And 3G

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 03:22 AM PDT

Thanks to an update of Skype’s Android application, you can now make one-to-one video calls over both WiFi and 3G connections. You can download the Skype app from the Android Market or point your browser to from your phone.

Note that your smartphone needs to be running Android Version 2.3 (or above) and have a front-facing camera. Supported handsets include the HTC Desire S, Sony Ericsson Xperia neo, Sony Ericsson Xperia pro and the Google Nexus S.

This is just the first phase, Skype says, so expect support for more devices soon.

Once installed, you can have video calls from your Android phone with your Skype contacts on iPhone, Mac, Windows PCs and even a number of TVs.

The Skype for Android app has also been given a new lick of paint.

There’s now a new main menu where you can navigate more easily through your contacts, access your Skype profile to change personal details, use the dial pad to make calls and see the balance of your Skype Credit.

A new mood message box at the top of the Skype app menu also enables you to share whatever you’d like to share with your contacts.

Finally, you can now send SMS messages from the Android app.

Neil Stevens, Skype's vice president and general manager for product and marketing, says approximately 30 million concurrent users log into Skype at any given time and make up to half a million simultaneous video calls (at peak times as of June 2011).

Related posts:

Skype's GM Of Consumer Products On Mobile Video; The Cloud And Monetization

Skype Adds Group Video Calling To Enterprise Offering

Skype Buys Mobile Video Startup Qik

StockTwits Comes To The Android

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 03:00 AM PDT

StockTwits, the  finance community currently available on mobile via the iPhone, is taking its experience to the Android today.

Like StockTwits for the iPhone, StockTwits for the Android retains many of the same functionalities as the StockTwits community its, allowing users to access realtime stock quotes, financial news and the ability to bookmark stocks on a “Watchlist” or the ability to access stocks on the go.

StockTwits for Android users can also access a “Trending” view of stocks, highlighting the most discussed stocks in the community. This can be useful, as realtime information is increasingly more crucial to making investments.

StockTwits has $8.6 million in funding and is based out of San Francisco and New York. Those interested can download the app here.

Hands-On With The New Olympus PEN E-P3

Posted: 30 Jun 2011 02:00 AM PDT

Calling all closet Henri Cartier-Bressons: buy you a PEN E-P3, a packet of Gauloises and start shooting people kissing in the street. This new camera, part of Olympus‘ extended PEN line, is probably one of the most solid and capable micro 4/3s cameras I’ve used and with a solid alloy 12mm lens and a Gallic sensibility you can grab some excellent shots.

Read more…

Walking Around In Circles: As Google+ Opens Up Will People Start Using It Correctly?

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 07:48 PM PDT

Last night, I wrote up my initial thoughts on Google+ after using it for a day. Overall, I find it pretty compelling so far. While there is a bit of a learning curve, after about 15 minutes, I found myself at home using the service. And little things (namely notifications) kept bringing me back. But let’s be realistic, it has only been a day. The new car smell has yet to wear off. And I have also noticed a few other things that may spell trouble down the road.

Right now, almost every single post I see on Google+ is shared with the Public. Perhaps this is to be expected since the initial roll-out yesterday was very small. People don’t have a lot of friend in their Circles yet, so they’re posting everything to the public in the hopes of seeing some interaction, I imagine. I have been doing this too.

But tonight, Google started dishing out invites for early users to spread around as they see fit. As far as I can tell, the service is seeing a massive influx of new users right now — a lot more than yesterday. And while Google’s servers appear to be handling the new load just fine, I do wonder what this will mean for the underlying principles of the site. Namely, will people start using Circles in the correct way?

By “correct”, I don’t mean to suggest that there is a set way to use Google+. But it’s no secret that Circles are a huge part of what the service is supposed to be about. Google has spent a lot of time and energy working on what they believe to be the correct system for grouping people together for the purpose of sharing content online. But again, right now, most people seem to be sharing to “Public” and not actually using their Circles.

That type of usage doesn’t seem tenable as Google+ gains users. Imagine the service having over a million users (which would be quite low for Google) — while you’ll still be in control of what posts you see, the comment sections will likely be too much. And people re-sharing other content will lead to too much noise.

More importantly, that would make Google+ just another slightly different version of Twitter, Facebook, etc. Then it becomes a question of “why share here instead of there?” — and that’s not something I’m sure Google can win coming to the game so late.

I think Google knows all of this. I don’t believe they’re setting out this time with the intention of trying to win that game. They did that with Buzz, and they lost. The emphasis with Google+ is on using Circles as a sort of natural filter. The hope is that you’ll share within Google+ the same way you do in the real world. You’ll send certain things to your close friends, other things to your co-workers, other things to your college buddies, etc.

But as everyone has learned over the years, getting users to create and use groups is hard. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg. No one wants to do it.

With Google+, Google has created the most visually appealing and simple way to create groups yet (better than even Facebook’s revamped Groups). But I’m still not entirely sold that people will do it. Or at least not to the extent that Google hopes.

Google has smartly made it so that you have to add people to Circles in order to “follow” them. This is a slight barrier to entry in terms of digging in and using the service, but it does bolster the Circle idea. But instead of creating a bunch of Circles, I foresee people simply shoving everyone into the default “Friends” or “Following” Circles and going about their business.

Who knows, maybe I’m just a Silicon Valley guy who has lost touch with reality. It’s entirely possible. But maybe, just maybe, the opposite is true. Maybe “regular” people have been allergic to using groups in the past because they simply don’t want to use groups. Maybe it’s one of those things that’s a good idea on paper or in a brain-storming session, but doesn’t translate onto the web.

Maybe — gasp — the web isn’t meant to mimic the real world.

Again, I’m not saying that’s for sure the case. I’m just very curious to see how Google+ usage plays out with a ton of people now using it. Will the current public sharing we’re seeing yield to the use of Circles? Or is the idea of public sharing becoming mainstream enough that it’s the new norm?

That idea will certainly piss some people off. The old “I don’t want my boss or my mom seeing my drunken pictures” thing is the oft-cited rationale for why we need groups. But Twitter and now Facebook have slowly been changing that mentality in the public psyche. Increasingly, everything we do online is becoming public. You can say you hate it all you want, but it’s becoming more accepted each day. And this will only continue.

When I look at my Google+ Circles right now, I think: what would I share with only these select people that I wouldn’t share with everyone? It’s hard to come up with an answer. People jump on me: “you don’t have kids!” That’s true, but I have a lot of friends with kids. The vast majority of them seem fine sharing those pictures with the public.

Further, I’m just not sure that sharing pictures of your kids is a big enough use case to constitute an entire, massive social fabric. For certain smaller services, sure. For Google? No.

This is the company that wants to organize all of the world’s data. In order to do that, don’t they need all of that data to be public? Doesn’t it seem like they should be pushing the fully public Twitter mentality more than private group sharing? It sure does. But again, they already lost that race. And the attempts to buy Twitter have been rebuffed. So instead they’re going for the market where there is an opening right now.

And maybe that will work. Again, I like Google+ a lot so far. But I like it because it’s a well-made network with some interesting tools. I’m not sold on Circles yet. Maybe other features like Huddle (group mobile chat) will change that. Maybe they won’t. Google has said that this initial roll-out of Google+ is only a sliver of what’s to come. So we’ll have to wait and see.

But whether they like it or not, the public vs. Circle trial is beginning right now. If everyone keeps sharing with the public, Google+ will be a public network. And that’s fine. I’m just not sure it’s what Google wants, because I’m not sure it’s something anyone needs another version of. Instead, the best hope for Google+ may be for Circles to take off and get people hooked on specialized sharing with smaller networks, and then for public sharing to come up later and take its place. You know, the Facebook doctrine.

BeenVerified Takes Background Checks Mobile With A New Android App And An iOS Rerelease

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 06:12 PM PDT

Background checks are now fully mobile, thanks BeenVerified‘s new app for Android and the re-release of the app on iOS. The Background Check App does exactly as you might expect: It pulls data from BeenVerified’s site and allows you to check up on the people you know through name queries or email addresses. Users can check up on their contacts with one click, allowing you to see how many times the person in the cubicle next to you has been arrested. Luckily, I have a spotless record, or else I wouldn’t be writing this. Right, BeenVerified?

When the Background Check App first dropped in 2009, it was downloaded nearly a million times in less then a month. Thanks to this aggressive downloading (and some questions over privacy issues), Apple actually pulled the app from its app store after a few weeks. But, this month, after lengthy conversations with Apple, BeenVerified was able to assuage Apple’s concerns, and has now re-released the app with their blessing. In the first four days, the app was downloaded over 14K times.

As’s Michael Fertik told TechCrunch’s Andrew Keen, the issue of privacy is gearing up to be “the next big thing in the online economy”, and people are becoming are now more willing than ever to pay for online services that keep cookies at bay and protect their web-based reputations. As social media has become ubiquitous, and the Web proliferates, it’s no wonder that our perception of privacy is being categorically altered. Some, would say “threatened”, while others would argue it’s a natural part of our digital evolution.

Regardless of where you come down on that question, a lot of the information on the Web is shady to say the least, and people still want to know that those they’re doing business with, or dating, or interacting with, are trustworthy and not out to do harm. The social web is moving forward at lightning speed, and with services like Airbnb, Match, Craiglist, and umpteen others, the gap between virtual and physical worlds is narrowing. As this is the case, the demand for 3rd party, objective public record information about those we meet on the web is increasing exponentially, especially in cases like, say, who we’re renting our apartments to on Airbnb, and we want this information accessible on-the-go.

Thus, BeenVerified’s mission is to make background checks accessible — and more importantly, affordable — which is why the app is free to download and each user gets one free background check a month that includes criminal, age, and address history. Unfortunately, however, it’s not all free. If users want more than one report a month, additional checks can be purchased through in-app payments for $9.95 a pop.

While BeenVerified has already served over 10 million free background checks and is providing unlimited free reverse phone lookups through its mobile and web app NumberGuru, there are certainly some questions over just how much access there is to personal information and how pervasive it is. Can I really just search for anyone in the U.S. and pull their background info?

Not quite. BeenVerified Director of Communications Danny Canarick told me that most criminal records are stored and maintained at the county level, yet as one might imagine, not all 3,100+ counties in the U.S. have made digital versions of their records available yet. Which is why the company began a “Court Runner” service, which, for a small fee, directs a real-live court runner to go to the local courthouse to pull actual hardcopies of the records and to create a one-off digital version. While this service is currently only available through the BeenVerified site, Canarick says that the company plans to bring it to mobile in the very near future.

Currently, the company’s apps have digital access to criminal convictions in 46 states, and arrest warrant data from portions of 35 states. This data comes directly from the administrative offices of courts, departments of public safety, departments of correction, etc.

And, finally, for those TechCrunch readers out there looking to try this out and educate themselves on public record data, for the next seven days, all in-app background checks will be available for 99 cents. So, readers, check out the Background Check App and let us know what you think.

For more, check out the video below:

Luca Technologies Files To Go Public, Producing New Natural Gas From Old Wells

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 05:35 PM PDT

A Colorado cleantech venture, Luca Technologies, filed an S-1 today revealing its intention to go public, and raise up to $125 million (though that number could vary with the receptivity of the market by the time they actually go public).

The company stimulates microbes with a “proprietary formulation of nutrients,” in already-drilled natural gas wells, which enables the wells to produce more methane, the primary component of natural gas.

Luca Technologies owns and operates wells and infrastructure, then sells natural gas into existing markets. Its end users include power utilities, and government entities that use natural gas for power production.

Today, Luca’s chief executive Bob Cavnar (image, below) explained:

“Our technology activates the microbial communities that are already native in substrata [of existing natural gas wells]. We restore those substrata with water that has nutrients in it— like yeast extracts, some acetates, and stuff you could put into processed food today— which is fully consumed by the microbes, and then as a result, they produce natural gas. This does not require new wells or ‘fracking.’

There are tens of thousands of wells in places like Wyoming and New Mexico, about half of which have been shut down because they were depleted… If we can restore those, recycle and not degrade the water there, but still produce natural gas, that’s sustainable. I think of it like farming natural gas.

We’re definitely economic versus big shale gas wells that are drilled for millions of dollars. The more gas we can produce, the more independent we can become of Middle Eastern oil.”

Cavnar is a serial energy entrepreneur. He survived a gas well pit fire in 1981, which he wrote about on his blog, and in his book Disaster On The Horizon.

Why is Luca considering the IPO? Cavnar said:

“We have a growth plan that involves acquisitions of wells. [Going public could] provide us a source of capital that can take us to that commercial trajectory where we can deploy our technology at scale…”

Today, Luca Technologies owns 1,350 wells in Wyoming. The company intends to expand there, and is looking for wells to revitalize in Alabama, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Appalachia. The company’s venture backers include: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, One Equity Partners, Oxford Bioscience Partners, and BASF Venture Capital.