Author: Greg Kumparak

Rachio announces a new smart sprinkler controller, raises $10M

TECHCRUNCH Rachio, the company that builds WiFi controllers for your garden sprinklers (think Nest Thermostat, but for watering your plants instead of heating your house), is back with a new one. They’ve also raised $10M in a Series B round. So what’s new in this Gen 3 version? A new hardware design, which the company tells me is meant to feel “sort of like an MP3 player” 5ghz WiFi support (in addition to the existing 2.4ghz support) Support for a new Flow Meter that the company says will ship in May, allowing the Rachio to know exactly how much...

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Amazon’s new GameOn API helps developers add eSports competitions to their games

TECHCRUNCH Here’s a curious bit of news for your Monday morning: Amazon wants to be the backend for gaming tournaments. They’ve built a new, AWS-powered platform called “GameOn” for third-party developers, allowing them to easily add things like tournaments, leaderboards and leagues to their games. Fittingly for Amazon, there’s a product fulfillment aspect to the new API — competition organizers can offer up real-world prizes to players (assuming said prize is available on Amazon), and Amazon will handle the process of getting it to the winner. The developer would have to pay for the prize, of course — but...

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Wing It is a Facebook Messenger bot meant to get you out of the house

TECHCRUNCH “I should go on a weekend trip,” you think to yourself. “I’ll go to the mountains!” And then the weekend comes and all the hotels are booked and you’re tired and the mountains are far and hey look, Netflix! Wing It is a Facebook Messenger bot that tries to get you out of that rut. You punch in your criteria, and it’ll pop up every once in a while when it finds trips that fit the bill, recommending accommodations and an activity or two in the area. Wing It asks just a few questions off the bat: Where do you live? How far do you want to go? Is it just you and a partner, or a big group of friends? How much is each person looking to spend? A few minutes later, it’ll respond with a short list: a few places to stay and some things you might want to do while there. Right now, that’s mostly hikes and trails; eventually, the Wing It team hopes to expand their knowledge base out to things like kayaking trips, rock climbing, or nearby surf spots. Wing It focuses on things that are far enough away to feel like a vacation, but close enough to do on a whim. While early iterations of the bot tried to offer up trips involving last minute flights, they’ve since learned to focus on...

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Aalo is do-it-yourself, customizable, re-purposable furniture

TECHCRUNCH Buying furniture sucks. Getting rid of it later is worse. Aalo, part of the Y Combinator Winter 2018 class, is trying to fix both sides of that equation. They want you to design and build your own furniture… and when you’re done with it, turn it into something else. They’ve built a system of interlocking, interchangeable parts which you can use to build their designs or create your own. “Furniture”, here, mostly means things to sit your stuff on at this point — not stuff you sit on. Think bookshelves, tables, and shoe racks — not couches, beds, and chairs just yet (though people have built benches with it.) Some examples: The system is currently made up of around ten different components, from different lengths of beams to different types of connectors and mounts. Furniture can be ordered in pre-arranged kits — but if you’re feeling creative, each component can be ordered individually. Each piece is powder-coated aluminum in white or black, super strong, and snaps together with just an Allen wrench. Here’s a quick GIF of the company’s founder, Sejun Park, building a headphone stand at our office (sped up for the sake of file size – actual assembly time was ~20 seconds): Aalo was born out of a good ol’ failed DIY attempt. Sejun bought a shelf for his new apartment from a nearby big box...

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Nest’s video doorbell is now shipping

TECHCRUNCH Back in September of last year, Nest announced its first smart doorbell. When it would actually ship, however, was left sort of up in the air; all the company said at the time was to expect it sometime in Q1 of 2018. Turns out, that means today. The Nest doorbell — or the Nest Hello, as it’s known — is now shipping for $229. Nest also mentioned a few other bits of news: The front door lock/touchpad they built in partnership with Yale, also announced back in September of last year, is now shipping They’re now making external,...

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Twitch will now give Prime users free games each month

TECHCRUNCH A bit of fun news for Amazon / Twitch Prime users: you’re going to get some free games each month. Twitch has just announced Free Games With Prime, a program in a similar vein as Microsoft’s Games with Gold on Xbox Live, or Sony’s offerings alongside PlayStation Plus. In short: each month, they’ll offer a selection of PC games. Download them within the offering window, and they’re yours to keep (though it’s unclear, at this point, if you can keep them if your Prime subscription lapses; we’re asking). Miss the window and you’re probably out of luck —...

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Waymo shows off what it’s like to ride in a truly driverless self-driving car

TECHCRUNCH Just a few weeks back, Waymo got the thumbs up to start testing its self-driving cars in Arizona without the need for a human “safety net” behind the wheel. Wonder what it’s like to ride in one? This morning at SXSW, the company released a video showing off the experience had by the first few riders. The folks in the video up above are part of Waymo’s “Early Rider” program — in other words, folks who opted in to riding without a safety driver. Waymo CEO John Krafcik said that around 20,000 people around Phoenix, Arizona had signed...

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Twitch will now give Prime users free games each month

TECHCRUNCH A bit of fun news for Amazon/Twitch Prime users: you’re going to get some free games each month. Twitch has just announced Free Games With Prime, a program in a similar vein as Microsoft’s Games With Gold on Xbox Live, or Sony’s offerings alongside Playstation Plus. In short: each month, they’ll offer a selection of PC games. Download them within the offering window, and they’re yours to keep (though it’s unclear, at this point, if you can keep them if your Prime subscription lapses. We’re asking.) Miss the window and you’re probably out of luck — but as...

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