Author: Greg Kumparak

Niantic finalizes its Series C at $245M with a valuation of nearly $4B

We’ve known since around December that Niantic (the creators of Pokémon GO and the soon to be released Harry Potter Wizards Unite) was in the middle of raising a ton of money for its Series C round. At the time, it looked like it’d come in around $200M dollars. The company has just officially announced the round, disclosing the final amount: $245 million. Niantic says that the round was led by IVP, and backed by aXiomatic Gaming, Battery Ventures, Causeway Media Partners, CRV, and Samsung Ventures. They also confirmed that the company’s current valuation is “nearly” $4 billion, as...

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Here’s everything Google announced at CES 2019

Google made a flurry of announcements at CES this week, many of them coming rapid fire this morning. Don’t have time to dig through it all? That’s ok. Here’s the condensed version: Google says that Assistant, its voice-powered AI, will be on 1 billion devices around the world by the end of this month Meanwhile, Google is also rolling out an update today that brings Google Assistant into Google Maps on both iOS and Android. It’s a bit more powerful on the latter as Google has more flexibility on their own platform, but it’s a very useful addition on both. Google says that Assistant will soon be able to control Sonos speakers. They’ve been promising that for over a year now, but it should be coming sooner than later. It’ll land on Sonos speakers with built-in mics first (Sonos One and Sonos Beam) but you’ll also be able to use Google Home devices to control mic-lacking Sonos speakers (like the Play:one or many of the older speakers) down the road. 2019 Samsung TVs will get Google Assistant compatibility later this year. If you have a Google Home or something similar, you’ll be able to link it up with your Samsung TV, allowing you to turn it on/off, adjust the volume, change the channel, and switch inputs with your voice. Dish is adding Google Assistant to its Hopper set-top boxes,...

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Google Assistant will soon be able to translate conversations on-the-fly with ‘Interpreter Mode’

Google Assistant has long been able to do quick, one-off translations — just say something like “Hey Google, how do I say ‘birthday’ in French?” That doesn’t help much with actual conversations between people who speak different languages. For that, Google is building what they call “Interpreter Mode.” If you speak English and want to have a conversation with someone who primarily speaks French, for example, you would trigger Interpreter Mode by saying “Hey Google, be my French interpreter.” From there, the translation happens in both directions. Speak English, wait a second, and Google Home will repeat what you...

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Google Assistant is coming to Google Maps today

We’ve known for a while now that Google Assistant (the company’s voice powered AI, a la Siri or Alexa) would eventually be built right into Google Maps. They announced as much at Google I/O 2018, noting at the time that they were aiming for a summer launch. It didn’t happen by summer, but Google says it’s happening today. An update should be rolling out shortly enabling Assistant within Google Maps on both Android and iOS. While it’s hitting both platforms, it’ll be a bit more capable on Android — which makes sense, of course, as Google has a whole...

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Lenovo is building an $80 Google Assistant clock for your nightstand

If you like the idea of Amazon’s Echo Spot — that is, a tiny voice powered assistant on your night stand, complete with a full color display — but are more into Google Assistant than Alexa, your options have thus far been a bit limited. You could put your phone on a dock, but that’s not quite the same. There’s Google Home Hub, but it’s a bit big for a nightstand with limited space. With that in mind, Lenovo is building Smart Clock — an $80 Google Assistant powered device built for the bedside. It’s got a 4-inch 480×800 touchscreen on the face, which can show stuff like the weather when it’s not acting as a clock. If you sync it up with your Google Calendar, it’ll also try to give you a heads up when you need to shift your normal alarm wake-up time. It’s got one small built-in speaker for tunes, and a rear USB port for charging other devices. They wrapped the whole thing in a soft grey fabric, which in addition to making it fit right in with any Google Home devices you might have, looks pretty dang snazzy for an $80 device. And with Google Assistant at the core, of course, it can handle everything you might otherwise use something like Google Home for — voice powered automation, controlling your TV, etc. Unlike the...

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OtterBox and PopSocket teamed up and made an iPhone case with a built-in PopGrip

I have an OtterBox case on my phone, mostly because my five month old loves to knock my phone out of my hands. I also have a PopSocket on my phone, again, because my five month old loves to knock my phone out of my hands. It’s also nice to use the PopSocket as a little kickstand while I travel. So when TC colleague Brian Heater sent this to me and said “this is made for you”, he… was very much right. Just announced at CES, it’s an OtterBox with a built-in PopSocket. Called the “Otter + Pop” (because, come on, how could they not call it that) it’s designed to bring the perks of a PopSocket without the hump. When in use, it pops out just as you’d expect; when not, it folds into itself and goes almost completely flush with the case. Don’t like the default look? It uses the same swappable face system as other PopSockets — “PopTops”, as they call them — so you can drop a new one on with just a quick twist. It’s only available for iPhones (7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, X, Xs) at the moment — no Android love, at least not yet. The only downside I can think of: you can’t pick where the PopSocket goes. One of the nice aspects of the PopSocket is being able to...

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Samsung just announced a 98-inch 8K TV because why not

TV makers love to use CES as a launch pad for TVs that they don’t actually expect a ton of people to buy. This year’s “eh, why not?” swing from Samsung: a 98-inch 8K QLED TV. “Wait, is there even anything to watch in 8K yet?” Nope, not really. Hell, even content natively shot in 4K still isn’t as common as anyone would like. There’s always upscaling (Samsung says they’ve built some pretty fancy, machine learning-based upscaling here) – but if nearly everything you’re watching is upscaled anyway, you probably would’ve been better off waiting a few years and...

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Ring is making a peephole camera and a bunch of new outdoor smart lights

Ring — the security company acquired by Amazon for a billion+ dollars last year — is launching a bunch of stuff at CES. First up: the Door View Cam. While at first glance it looks pretty similar to Ring’s existing doorbell cameras, there’s a key difference here: it’s meant to go on your door itself, replacing the glass peep hole viewer rather than replacing your doorbell. Because no one wants a bunch of wires running across their door, this new cam runs off a battery that’ll live on the inside half of your door. A button on the face acts as a sort of doorbell — but because people might not automatically think to push a button on your door (rather than off to the side somewhere, as doorbells usually are), it also has an impact sensor that’ll automatically detect when someone knocks. And, for good measure, it’ll still work as a good ol’ fashion analog viewer. Ring says the Door View Cam should hit the US “later this year” for $199. Next, a bunch of new accessories to tie into the existing Ring Alarm security system. Pictured from left to right above, they’ve got: A $35 Smoke/CO listener. It’s meant to sit next to existing smoke alarms (not replace them) and listen for any alarms, triggering your Ring should the need arise. A $35 flood/freeze sensor, which you...

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