Author: Brian Heater

Gillette partners with Formlabs to 3D print razor handles

TECHCRUNCH 3D printing for manufacturing is one of those things that gets talked about a lot, but we’ve yet to see a lot of truly mainstream applications for the technology. A new partnership between Gillette and MIT-born startup Formlabs offers up an interesting potential peak into such a future. Granted, customized razor handles is probably more of a novelty than anything. It’s not exactly as game changing as, say, Invisalign braces, prosthesis or even sneakers, but if the tech proves scalable it could add an extra level of customization to a product that’s a part of many of our...

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Essential lays off nearly one-third of its staff

TECHCRUNCH Layoffs are never an easy pill to swallow, but for Essential, it seems the writing was on the wall for a while with this one. After months of reports highlighting its struggles, the Andy Rubin-led smartphone startup has announced some major layoffs. All told, the company will be losing around 30 percent of its staff. We’ve since confirmed the news, which was initially noted by Bloomberg. “This has been a difficult decision to make,” a spokesperson for the company told TechCrunch. “We are very sorry for the impact on our colleagues who are leaving the company and are doing everything we can to help them with their future careers. We are confident that our sharpened product focus will help us deliver a truly game changing consumer product.” The note strikes a similarly hopeful tone as past responses offered up in the wake of ongoing reports. Certainly the company went out of its way to acknowledge precisely how difficult it would be to launch a successful Android startup from the ground up in 2018. Ditto for the company’s plans to launch a smart speaker to compete with the Echo and Google Home — though that device has reportedly been placed on the back burner as the company looks for a way forward. It’s been over a year since the company launched its first handset. That device got off to...

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Open offices have driven Panasonic to make horse blinders for humans

TECHCRUNCH At what point do we just give up and admit we’re living in exactly the dystopian nightmare speculative fiction warned us about? It probably ought to be these horse blinders for people, which look like something straight out of a Terry Gilliam movie. Panasonic design studio Future Life Factory designed the things, but open space offices are basically the worst. The startup-driven push to eliminate the world from the tyranny of the cubicle has apparently driven us to create cubicles for our faces that have the added bonus of making workers look like their identity has been blurred out on Cops. Along with obscuring the wearer’s peripheral vision, Wear Space (weirdly Office Face is still unclaimed), also sports noise-canceling headphones to really get the job done. “As open offices and digital nomads are on the rise, workers are finding it ever more important to have personal space where they can focus,” the company told Dezeen. “Wear Space instantly creates this kind of personal space – it’s as simple as putting on an article of clothing.” The device, which debuted as a prototype at SXSW earlier this year, is now the subject of a crowdfunding campaign. Early birds can snag one for around $260, but we’re going to say neigh on this...

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Smule raises $20M, with plans to expand India operations

TECHCRUNCH App maker turned music social network Smule has raised another $20 million. The latest round follows a $54 million raise in May of last year, led by Tencent, intent on helping the company expand Asia operations. This time out, funding is arriving via Times Bridge, the VC wing of India media conglomerate The Times Group. The “strategic investment” comes as Smule pushes to expand its footprint in India, currently the second largest of the app maker’s international markets. Engaging there requires building a platform for an utterly massive and multi-lingual market. “Building the Smule brand in India is a long term process, but a critical facet of realizing our vision to connect the world through music,” CEO and co-founder Jeffrey Smith told TechCrunch. “We are therefore thrilled to expand our reach in India through this significant partnership with Times Bridge.” The round marks the first full social media partnership for Times Bridge, which finds the organization leveraging connections with local artists and helping to provide targeted marketing for Smule. “Times Bridge’s mission is to bring the world’s best ideas to India and share India’s best insights with the world,” Times Bridge CEO Rishi Jaitly says in a statement. “Smule is a deeply original, bold idea with a mission of changing the way the world experiences music. Our investment will advance Smule’s music mission across the Indian subcontinent and...

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With Watch GT, Huawei ditches Google for its own OS

TECHCRUNCH LG’s strange new hybrid Watch W7 marked a small but important victory for Wear OS. But this morning in London, Google lost a key ally in the smartwatch wars — for this model, at least. Huawei’s latest wearable, the Watch GT ditches the Google operating system for its own in-house brew, LiteOS. The move marks a blow for Google’s struggling wearable operating system. The company has made a point of avoiding fragmentation for Wear OS, a decision that may ultimately haunt the company as manufacturers like Samsung, Fitbit and now Huawei go it on their own. Each manufacturer...

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Huawei’s new phone can wirelessly charge the competition

TECHCRUNCH Make no mistake, Huawei’s going after the big dogs here. The company’s taken a Samsung-esque approach to the world of flagship smartphones with a beast of a handset that delivers everything and the kitchen sink. The Mate 20 Pro is a 6.4 inch powerhouse with features and specs to spare. It’s a combination of the genuinely useful and the just sort of novel, but the hardware maker has clearly spared no expense getting itself on the global map with this thing.  There’s a lot to unpack here, but the most compelling feature of the set may well be...

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The new Kindle Paperwhite is thinner and waterproof

TECHCRUNCH The Voyage may be dead, but the Kindle line still has some life left in it. This time last year, Amazon upgraded the high-end Oasis model, and now the mid-range Paperwhite is getting a little love.The workhorse of the company’s devoted e-reader line just got a handful of upgrades that will give users a more premium experience, while keeping the device’s starting price at $130. Waterproofing is the most exciting among the upgrades here. Remember that time four years ago when we ran a story with the headline, “This Waterproof Kindle Paperwhite Is Humanity’s Greatest Achievement?” Well, this is that potential fulfilled — now directly from Amazon. The reader sports an IPX8 rating, meaning it can be dunked in two meters of water for up to an hour. That bit comes, in part, courtesy of another key upgrade. Like the Oasis before it, the reader sports a flush front, rather than the raised bezels found on older, cheaper models. The move gives the model an overall more premium feel and should help keep water from invading its circuits. It also goes a ways toward making this the thinnest and lightest Paperwhite, as well. Another key change is the bump from four LEDs to five. Seems like a small thing, but it goes a ways toward keeping the front lighting more uniform across the board, versus the more patchy...

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Mighty, the iPod Shuffle for Spotify, gets a bigger battery and better bluetooth

TECHCRUNCH Technology, like so much of life, is cycle. Gadget evolve, leaving holes in our lives that some fresh new startup is waiting in the wings to fill. There are few better examples of the phenomenon than the Mighty. Introduced last year, the product built a pretty solid reputation as “the iPod Shuffle for Spotify.” The new Mighty Vibe is designed to address some of users’ concerns with the first generation product. Chief amongst the updates is improved bluetooth range. Enough of the product’s 50,000 users complained about spotty connections that the company made it a priority this time...

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