Another high-flying, heavily funded AR headset startup is shutting down – gpgmail


While Apple and Microsoft strain to sell augmented reality as the next major computing platform, many of the startups aiming to beat them to the punch are crashing and burning.

Daqri, which built enterprise-grade AR headsets, has shuttered its HQ, laid off many of its employees and is selling off assets ahead of a shutdown, former employees and sources close to the company tell gpgmail.

In an email obtained by gpgmail, the nearly 10-year-old company told its customers that it was pursuing an asset sale and was shutting down its cloud and smart-glasses hardware platforms by the end of September.

“I think the large majority of people who worked [at Daqri] are sad to see it closing down,” a former employee told gpgmail. “[I] wish the end result was different.”

The company’s 18,000+ square foot Los Angeles headquarters (above) is currently listed as “available” by real estate firm Newmark Knight Frank. The company’s Sunnyvale offices appear to have been shuttered sometime prior to 2019.

Daqri’s shutdown is only the latest among heavily funded augmented reality startups seeking to court enterprise customers.

Earlier this year, Osterhout Design Group unloaded its AR glasses patents after acquisition talks with Magic Leap, Facebook and others stalled. Meta, an AR headset startup that raised $73 million from VCs including Tencent, also sold its assets earlier this year after the company ran out of cash.

Daqri faced substantial challenges from competing headset makers, including Magic Leap and Microsoft, who were backed by more expansive war chests and institutional partnerships. While the headset company struggled to compete for enterprise customers, Daqri benefitted from investor excitement surrounding the broader space. That is, until the investment climate for AR startups cooled.

Daqri was, at one point, speaking with a large private-equity firm about financing ahead of a potential IPO, but as the technical realities facing other AR companies came to light, the firm backed out and the deal crumbled, we are told.

As of mid-2017, a Wall Street Journal report detailed that Daqri had raised $275 million in funding. You won’t find many details on the sources of that funding, other than references to Tarsadia Investments, a private-equity firm in Los Angeles that took part in the company’s sole disclosed funding round. We’re told Tarsadia had taken controlling ownership of the firm after subsequent investments.

In early 2016, Daqri acquired Two Trees Photonics, a small UK startup that was building holographic display technologies for automotive customers. The UK division soon comprised a substantial portion of the entire company’s revenues, sources tell us. By early 2018, the division was spun out from Daqri as a separate company called Envisics, leaving the Daqri team to focus wholly on bringing augmented reality to enterprise customers.

The remaining head-worn AR division failed to gain momentum after prolonged setbacks in adoption of its AR smart glasses, including difficulties in training workers to use the futuristic hardware, a source told gpgmail.

All the while, the company’s leadership put on a brave face as the startup sputtered. In an interview this year with Cornell Enterprise Magazine, Daqri CEO Roy Ashok told the publication that the startup was forecasting shipments of “tens of thousands” of pairs of its AR glasses in 2020.

Daqri, its founder and several executives did not respond to requests for comment.


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Nintendo shows off exercise-powered RPG for Switch, Ring Fit Adventure – gpgmail


Nintendo has been at the crossroads of video games and fitness since the famous Power Pad for the NES, and the Switch is the latest to receive a game powered by physical activity: Ring Fit Adventure. And it actually looks fun!

In the game, you’ll jog in place to advance your character, and perform various movements and exercises to avoid obstacles and defeat enemies. Your quest is to defeat an “evil body-building dragon” who has disrupted the peaceful, apparently very fit world of the protagonist. Sure.

The game comes with a pair of accessories: a ring and leg strap, each of which you slot a Joy-Con into. The two controllers work together to get a picture of your whole body movement, meaning it can be sure you’re keeping your arms out in front of you when you do a squat, and not phoning it in during leg raises.

The ring itself is flexible and can tell how hard you’re squeezing or pulling it— but don’t worry, it can be calibrated for your strength level.

Interestingly, the top button of the controller appears to be able to be used as a heart-rate monitor. That kind of came out of left field, but I like it. Just one more way Nintendo is making its hardware do interesting new things.

ringfit2

There look to be a ton of different movements you’ll be required to do, focusing on different areas of the body: upper, lower, core and some sort of whole-body ones inspired by yoga positions. Ingeniously, some enemies are weak to one or another, and you’ll need to use different ones for other scenarios, so you’re getting a varied workout whether you like it or not.

Meanwhile, your character levels up and unlocks new, more advanced moves — think a lunge instead of a squat, or adding an arm movement to a leg one — and you can get closer to the goal.

ringfit3

There are also minigames and straight-up workouts you can select, which you can do at any time if you don’t feel like playing the actual game, and contribute to your character’s level anyway.

The idea of gamifying fitness has been around for quite a while, and some titles, like Wii Fit, actually got pretty popular. But this one seems like the most in-depth actual game to use fitness as its main mechanic, and critically it is simple and easy enough that even the most slothful among us can get in a session now and then at our own pace.

Ring Fit Adventure will be available October 18 — no pricing yet, but you can probably expect it to be a little above an ordinary Switch game.

You can watch the full-length walkthrough of the game below, but beware — the acting is a little off-putting.


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Apple’s HomePod set to gain some long overdue functionality this fall – gpgmail


It’s no secret that the HomePod’s software updates have been a bit sluggish, which made it all the more alarming that the device was barely touched on in yesterday’s Apple event.

Well, even as pre-launch promises are still getting ironed out, by the fall Apple says that its home smart speaker will be gaining new functionality including multi-user support, live radio and a relaxing “ambient sounds” mode, according to an updated product page on the company’s website. Some of this functionality was detailed at Apple’s June services event.

Multi-user support is “coming this fall” assumedly after the release of iOS13. This is one of the most egregious missing features from the device at the moment, something both Alexa and Google Home devices have pushed forward more quickly on.

The product page for the HomePod details that multi-user voice recognition will allow the device to recognize up to six individual voices. This feature will allow users to ask the device to play music catered to their interests while also asking the device to carry out commands related to personal data like recent iMessages or upcoming meetings.

The live radio features is part of iOS13’s functionality and will be arriving at the end of the month with support for iHeartRadio, Radio.com, and TuneIn. More than 100,000 radio stations will be available to users who ask Siri to pop on a station.

Alongside the new radio stations, in the fall Apple will be adding a relaxing Ambient Sounds mode “featuring the soothing sounds of ocean waves, forest birds, rainstorms, and more.”

Apple hasn’t proven the HomePod to be all that capable in meeting consumer-facing software update deadlines so we’ll see how that goes, but they’re saying all of these features will arrive by fall.


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Apple unveils new iPhones – gpgmail


The Daily Crunch is gpgmail’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Here’s everything Apple announced today at the iPhone 11 event

The biggest announcement was a new lineup of iPhones, including the iPhone 11, with a new dual-camera system, as well as two iPhone Pro models with three cameras each. Cameras galore!

In addition, the company announced new iPads and Apple Watches, as well as pricing and launch dates for Apple Arcade (launching September 19) and Apple TV+ (November 1).

2. California passes landmark bill that requires Uber and Lyft to treat their drivers as employees

The bill says that if a contractor’s work is part of a company’s regular business, then they must be designated as employees. And thus, these workers will get access to more protections such as minimum wage, the right to unionize and overtime.

3. Peloton plots $1.2B Nasdaq IPO

In an amended S-1 filing released Tuesday afternoon, the developer of internet-connected stationary bikes and treadmills announced a proposed price range of $26 to $29 per share, allowing the company to raise as much as $1.2 billion in its public offering.

4. Uber lays off 435 people across engineering and product teams

Speaking of Uber, the company laid off about 8% of the workforce, with 170 people leaving the product team and 265 people leaving the engineering team.

5. Mozilla launches a VPN, brings back the Firefox Test Pilot program

The Test Pilot program allows users to try out new features before they are ready for mainstream usage.

6. Aerospace Corp CEO Steve Isakowitz to talk how to raise non-dilutive capital at Disrupt SF

Aerospace Corp is not that widely known outside space circles, but its 59-year-old R&D legacy is remarkable. The nonprofit works with the U.S. Air Force and other government space programs to identify emerging technologies from the commercial sector that could apply to future space programs.

7. What the iPhone 11 says about Apple’s present — and future

Let’s wrap this up with some thoughts on what yesterday’s announcements mean for Apple’s strategy — particularly the company’s growing focus on content and services, and its new thinking on how to position the iPhone. (Extra Crunch membership required.)


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iFixit gives Fairphone 3 a perfect 10 for repairability – gpgmail


Here’s something the hermetically sealed iPhone can’t do: Score a perfect 10 for repairability.

Smartphone startup and social enterprise Fairphone’s latest repairable-by-design smartphone has done just that, getting 10/10 in an iFixit Teardown vs scores of just 6/10 for recent iPhone models.

The Fairphone 3, which was released in Europe last week with an RRP of €450, gets thumbs up across the board in iFixit’s hardware Teardown. It found all the internal modules to be easily accessible and replaceable — with only basic tools required to get at them (Fairphone includes a teeny screwdriver in the box). iFixit also lauds visual cues that help with disassembly and reassembly, and notes that repair guides and spare parts are available on Fairphone’s website.

iFixit’s sole quibble is that while most of the components inside the Fairphone 3’s modules are individually replaceable “some” are soldered on. A tiny blip that doesn’t detract from the 10/10 repairability score

Safe to say, such a score is the smartphone exception. The industry continues to encourage buyers to replace an entire device, via yearly upgrade, instead of enabling them to carry out minor repairs themselves — so they can extend the lifespan of their device and thereby shrink environmental impact.

Dutch startup Fairphone was set up to respond to the abject lack of sustainability in the electronics industry. The tiny company has been pioneering modularity for repairability for several years now, flying in the face of smartphone giants that are still routinely pumping out sealed tablets of metal and glass which often don’t even let buyers get at the battery to replace it themselves.

To wit: An iFixit Teardown of the Google Pixel rates battery replacement as “difficult” with a full 20 steps and between 1-2 hours required. (Whereas the Fairphone 3 battery can be accessed in seconds, by putting a fingernail under the plastic back plate to pop it off and lifting the battery out.)

The Fairphone 3 goes much further than offering a removable backplate for getting at the battery, though. The entire device has been designed so that its components are accessible and repairable.

So it’s not surprising to see it score a perfect 10 (the startup’s first modular device, Fairphone 2, was also scored 10/10 by iFixit). But it is strong, continued external validation for the Fairphone’s designed-for-repairability claim.

It’s an odd situation in many respects. In years past replacement batteries were the norm for smartphones, before the cult of slimming touchscreen slabs arrived to glue phone innards together. Largely a consequence of hardware business models geared towards profiting from pushing for clockwork yearly upgrades cycle — and slimmer hardware is one way to get buyers coveting your next device.

But it’s getting harder and harder to flog the same old hardware horse because smartphones have got so similarly powerful and capable there’s precious little room for substantial annual enhancements.

Hence iPhone maker Apple’s increasing focus on services. A shift that’s sadly not been accompanied by a rethink of Cupertino’s baked in hostility towards hardware repairability. (It still prefers, for example, to encourage iPhone owners to trade in their device for a full upgrade.)

At Apple’s 2019 new product announcement event yesterday — where the company took the wraps off another clutch of user-sealed smartphones (aka: iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro) — there was even a new financing offer to encourage iPhone users to trade in their old models and grab the new ones. ‘Look, we’re making it more affordable to upgrade!’ was the message.

Meanwhile, the only attention paid to sustainability — during some 1.5 hours of keynotes — was a slide which passed briefly behind marketing chief Phil Schiller towards the end of his turn on stage puffing up the iPhone updates, encouraging him to pause for thought.

“iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 are made to be designed free from these harmful materials and of course to reduce their impact on the environment,” he said in front of a list of some toxic materials that are definitely not in the iPhones.

Stuck at the bottom of this list were a couple of detail-free claims that the iPhones are produced via a “low-carbon process” and are “highly recyclable”. (The latter presumably a reference to how Apple handles full device trade-ins. But as anyone who knows about sustainability will tell you, sustained use is far preferable to premature recycling…)

“This is so important to us. That’s why I bring it up every time. I want to keep pushing the boundaries of this,” Schiller added, before pressing the clicker to move on to the next piece of marketing fodder. Blink and you’d have missed it.

If Apple truly wants to push the boundaries on sustainability — and not just pay glossy lip-service to reducing environmental impact for marketing purposes while simultaneously encouraging annual upgrades — it has a very long way to go indeed.

As for repairability, the latest and greatest iPhones clearly won’t hold a candle to the Fairphone.


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Razer made a case for cooling iPhones while gaming – gpgmail


Razer’s efforts to build a game-centric smartphone haven’t exactly caught the world on fire just yet. Still, mobile gaming is a huge business poised to get even bigger, with services from big names like Apple and Google waiting in the wings.

Seeing as how accessories have long been the company’s bread and button, products like Arctech are probably an easier way for the company to ensure it’s got a horse in that race. The product is a phone case specifically designed to help stop phones from overheating during resource-intensive activities like gaming.

The product uses Razer’s proprietary Thermaphene technology sandwiched between microfiber lining and an outer casing with perforations to help let the heat out. Per Razer,

Thermaphene is a thermally – conductive material that dissipates heat. In independent testing against similar style cases, the Razer Arctech case maintained temperatures up to 6° Celsius (42.8 Fahrenheit) lower than the comparison case.

There are two versions of the case, Slim and Pro, the latter of which offers added protection for up to a 10 foot drop. As for why the company’s launching today, in addition to the Razer Phone 2, the Arctech will be available for all of Apple’s new iPhones. The Slim runs $30 and the Pro is $40. They’re both available starting today.


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What the iPhone 11 says about Apple’s present — and future – gpgmail


No matter how much polish and Apple magic the company put on today’s big event, there was one unshakable truth that colored the event: phones just aren’t selling like they used to. And unlike other industry-wide trends, Apple isn’t immune. The large scale slowdown of smartphone sales has had an undeniable impact on the company’s bottom line.

Casual observers may not have noticed, but that harsh truth impacted nearly every mobile announcement on stage today at the Steve Jobs theater. Two elements in particular really stood out, however:

  1. Content and services taking center stage
  2. Apple rethinking how the iPhone is positioned.


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Apple Watch Series 5 hands-on – gpgmail


The new Apple Watch is even harder to distinguish from its predecessor than the new iPhone. Given the fact that Fitbit’s smartwatches appear more and more Apple-like with every new generation, however, maybe the company’s onto something here. Like the iPhone, Apple hasn’t touched the Watch’s design for a while now, leading one to wonder if there’s much to be done on that front.

The new titanium and ceramic cases are nice to look at, but they’ll cost you. There are some nice new magnetic straps, as well, and Apple’s new in-store customization options will go a little ways toward helping wearers stand out from the crowd.

On the whole, the Series 5 doesn’t feel like a huge step forward. There’s nothing on here that’s quite as radical a shift as the addition of LTE from a while back. The addition of sleep tracking, meanwhile, appears to have been put on the back burner for a bit — owing perhaps to battery constraints. The truth of the matter is that 18 hours is more than enough to get you through a day, but wearing the watch to sleep is another matter.

That said, there has been some battery improvement. The listed battery life is the same as the last model, but that time now factors in the always-on display. That’s probably the useful day to day addition for the new device. Even when you’re not actively engaging with it, the screen stays on.

Apple Watch Series 5

Like other smartwatches, it accomplishes this with the low-energy display. But the switch is less radical than on, say, the new Fitbit Versa. Instead, the faces invert while keeping complications and other features visible. I got a demo of the feature, which was triggered when either covering the light sensor with a hand or, more naturally, swinging your arm down to the side.

I’ve been using always on with the Fitbit and find it to be kind of a mixed bag. It sucks when sleeping (you’re better off turning it off at night) and would probably be a pain in, say, a movie theater. That said, there are plenty more instances when you just want to check the time without actively engaging the watch. Among other things, Apple appears to be laying the ground work for battery improvements and, hopefully, the aforementioned sleep tracking.

The inclusion of the compass is nice. It’s easy to see how developers can leverage it, going forward. The best demo I got was Night Sky. The familiar star gazing app is neat when you can move the watch around to get a full spherical look at the constellations.

The Series 5 starts at $399 for the standard version and $499 for LTE. Titanium is around $700. Like the iPhone, they hit stores September 20.


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Why does the new iPhone 11 Pro have 3 cameras? – gpgmail


On the back of the iPhone 11 Pro can be found three cameras. Why? Because the more light you collect, the better your picture can be. And we pretty much reached the limit of what one camera can do a little while back. Two, three, even a dozen cameras can be put to work creating a single photo — the only limitation is the code that makes them work.

Earlier in today’s announcements, Apple showed the base-level iPhone 11 with two cameras, but it ditched the telephoto for an ultrawide lens. But the iPhone Pro has the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto, its optical options covering an approximate 35mm equivalents of 13mm to 52mm, and 26mm.

“With these three cameras you have incredible creative control,” said Apple’s Phil Schiller during the stage presentation. “It is so pro, you’re going to love using it.”

Previously the telephoto lens worked with the wide-angle camera to produce portrait mode effects or take over when the user zooms in a lot. By combining the info from both those cameras, which have a slightly different perspective, the device can determine depth data, allowing it to blur the background past a certain point, among other things.

The ultra-wide lens provides even more information, which should improve the accuracy of portrait mode and other features. One nice thing about a wide angle on a dedicated sensor and camera system is the creators can build in lots of corrections so you don’t get crazy distortion at the corners or center. Fundamentally you’ll still want to back off a bit, because using an ultrawide lens on a face gives it a weird look.

While we’re all used to the pinch-to-zoom-in gesture, what you’re usually doing when you do that is a digital zoom, just looking closer at the pixels you already have. With an optical zoom, however, you’re switching between different pieces of glass and, in this case, different sensors, getting you closer to the action without degrading the image.

One nice thing about these three lenses is that they’ve been carefully chosen to work together well. You may have noticed that the ultra-wide is 13mm, the wide is twice that at 26mm, and the telephoto is twice that at 52mm.

wide1

The simple 2x factor makes it easy for users to understand, sure, but it also makes the image-processing math of switching between these lenses easier. And as Schiller mentioned on stage, “we actually pair the three cameras right at the factory calibrating for focus and color.”

Not only that, but when you’re shooting with the wide camera, it’s sharing information with the other two cameras, so when you switch to them, they’re already focused on the same point, shooting at the same speed and exposure, white balance, and so on. That makes switching between them mostly seamless even while shooting video (just be aware that you will shake the device when you tap it).

Apple’s improvements to the iPhone camera system this year are nowhere near as crazy as the switch from one to two cameras made by much of the industry a couple years back. But a wide, tele, and ultra-wide setup is a common one for photographers and no doubt will prove a useful one for everyone who buys into this rather expensive single-device solution.


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Apple debuts the triple-camera iPhone 11 Pro – gpgmail


Apple’s triple-camera iPhone is real and it’s the first phone the company has dubbed “Pro.”

The iPhone 11 Pro comes in two flavors, with 5.8″ and 6.5″ varieties at $999 and $1,099, respectively.

The bizarre-looking camera is the real star of the release. There are three 12-megapixel lenses with varying fields-of-view — a telephoto, a wide and an ultra-wide lens. The variety of lenses makes for a very strange nodule on the rear of the phone, but the shots Apple detailed in its keynote highlighted the level of detail that the new combination camera can bring when you switch between the lenses.

There wasn’t much said about the front-facing camera system, but Apple did detail that Face ID will now detect your face at wider angles. The phones will continue to shoot 4K HDR footage.

Apple has shifted to a three-year redesign cycle, and in its third year, not much has changed with the iPhone 11 Pro looks-wise (beyond the camera square). In terms of looks, there’s a new “midnight green” textured matte finish, which actually looks quite nice among the more classic hues.

The new Pro devices ship with the company’s new A13 bionic chip, which has been optimized for high-intensity, low-power computing. The gains mean more usage between charges; the iPhone 11 Pro gets four more hours of usage per charge than the iPhone XS and the iPhone 11 Pro Max (what a mouthful) gets five hours more. The new phones ship with an 18-watt charger so that you can replenish your battery quickly… you’re probably going to want to dump those 5W charger blocks.

The new naming scheme doesn’t seem to denote a widening gap between the new phones Apple has released. The differences between the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 seem similar to the iPhone XR/XS relationship, the emphasis seems to be on boosting sales of the cheaper LCD iPhone while not making people feel like they’re buying the bargain iPhone.

Pre-orders for the iPhone 11 Pro go live this Friday and the phones ship on September 20.


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