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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

The best GIF-maker apps and websites

Making an animated GIF isn’t as hard as you might expect. Check out some of our favorite desktop and mobile software, whether you want to record yourself, capture your screen, or pick a clip from the web.

The post The best GIF-maker apps and websites appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

Personal finance startup SmartAsset raises $28M

I first wrote about SmartAsset nearly six years ago, when it launched its first product, a tool allowing prospective homebuyers to analyze the rent vs. buy decision and to see what kind of home they could actually afford.

According to co-founder and CEO Michael Carvin, “On the consumer side, our strategy has never really changed. Our mission is to help people make the best personal finance decisions and to build the web’s best resource for personal finance decision-making.”

Of course, some aspects of the company have evolved. For one thing, SmartAsset now offers tools, calculators and content in a number of categories, including taxes, retirement and banking.

For another, it’s announcing today that it has raised $28 million in Series C funding, bringing its total raised to more than $51 million. The new round comes from Focus Financial Partners (a firm backed by Stone Point Capital and KKR), Javelin Venture Partners, TTV Capital, IA Capital, Contour Venture Partners, Citi Ventures, Fabrice Grinda and others.

Carvin said SmartAsset reached more than 45 million uniques last month, nearly doubling its traffic year-over-year. And 25 percent of that traffic comes from repeat visitors.


As for how SmartAsset makes money from those visitors, it does so partly by promoting financial products like mortgages. But Carvin said the biggest piece is the SmartAdvisor platform, which connects financial advisors with potential investors.

Carvin described it as “the web’s first digital lead generation platform for financial advisors,” and compared the SmartAsset business model to Zillow’s, saying both companies have built big audiences that they can then match up with real estate or finance professionals.

In SmartAsset’s case, users fill out a questionaire and then work with a SmartAsset concierge to help them find an advisor who’s a good fit. Carvin added that the advisors on the platform have been screened by the company, for example to ensure that they haven’t had any criminal violations and that SEC hasn’t upheld any complaints against them for the past decade.

Asked whether this focus on financial advisors has led SmartAsset to change the way it designs its consumer products Carvin said, “We believe the better the user experience, the better our business will work. And so when we’re building a retirement tool, a home affordability tool, a tax tool, we’re building that only with the consumer interest in mind.”

Looking ahead, Carvin said he plans to continue following this strategy.

“We’re going to build out the web’s premiere personal finance resources and then leverage that on advisor side,” he said.

Source: TechCrunch

Anchor brings podcast creation and editing to the iPad

Following its relaunch earlier this year as a podcast creation platform, Anchor today is bringing its suite of mobile podcasting tools to the iPad. Like its iPhone counterpart, the iPad version of Anchor lets you record, edit, then distribute your podcast anywhere, including iTunes and Google Play Music. The new app is also customized for touch-based editing, and it takes advantage of iPad features like drag-and-drop and multitasking.

The company had originally been focused on short-form audio, but more recently realized it could better serve the growing audience of podcasters with a set of easy-to-use tools available right on their mobile device.

The iPhone version of Anchor lets you press a button to record your audio, record with friends, insert voice messages (like call-ins) into your podcast, and easily add music and transitions. The iPad app now offers a similar set of tools, with a few upgrades and tweaks.

For starters, you can opt use a real microphone by plugging one into your iPad’s lightning port, or by using a lightning-to-USB adapter.

You can also upload or even drag and drop audio files from other apps into Anchor for use in its episode builder. For example, you could pull in music from GarageBand, add a voice memo, or import other audio files saved in a cloud storage site like Dropbox.

The app support multitasking, too, so you can keep your notes open as your record.

And you can directly edit the audio files on the iPad itself using touch-based controls that are easy enough for anyone – even novice or amateur podcasters – to use.

The controls allow you to trim the beginning and end of your podcast, so you can cut out issues like false starts or other chatter. And you can split audio clips in order to insert transitions, voice messages, music, and other audio.

The clips can then be moved around or deleted as you put your podcast together.

Given the popularity of podcasting today, it’s actually fairly remarkable that no one else had yet introduced audio editing tools built with the needs of podcasters in mind.

The Anchor app is also another example of how the iPad can be used for content creation, not just consumption – and specifically, how it can be used as an editing tool for creative projects.

The company doesn’t share its user numbers, but Sensor Tower reports over 850,000 installs worldwide across both app stores. Anchor’s sequential month-over-month growth since February when it pivoted to podcast creation has been impressive, averaging 40 percent, the firm also says.

Anchor for iPad, like the iPhone app, is free to use as the company is currently living off its funding. But the longer-term plan is to offer monetization tools to Anchor’s podcasters, where Anchor itself would likely take a cut of revenues.

Source: TechCrunch

IBM’s new supercomputer doesn’t just take orders — it can argue back

IBM’s Project Debater is a supercomputer that is smart enough to win debates against humans. It can understand and rebut arguments, make jokes, and convince the audience that it has a better argument through a careful analysis of facts.

The post IBM’s new supercomputer doesn’t just take orders — it can argue back appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

CityMapper, the urban transportation app, is integrating with bike-sharing company Mobike

Hot on the heels of getting acquired for $2.7 billion by on-demand services startup Meituan-Dianping en route to its own $60 billion IPO, Chinese bike-sharing startup Mobike is ramping up its international push as companies like Uber, Lyft and other standalone bike-on-demand startups take their own expansion strategies up a gear.

The company will this week start integrating with Citymapper, the mapping and navigation app focused on urban areas and public transportation, in all cities where both companies operate (Citymapper is now live in 39 cities; while Mobike calls itself the world’s largest bike-sharing startup, in 200 cities in some 15 countries).

This will mean that users of Citymapper will be able to select bike routes on the app, and also see where they can find a Mobike to complete those journeys, giving the bike-hire-on-demand company one more way to snag customers in what is shaping up to be a very competitive market for transportation options geared to single users.

TechCrunch first learned of the integration by way of an anonymous tip, which was then confirmed to us by a spokesperson from Mobike itself. (We sent multiple emails to Citymapper, but didn’t receive any replies.)

“Bikesharing is a true new emerging global transport platform, so a partnership with Citymapper, one of the most popular transport apps in the world, is a logical step,” said the spokesperson. “Partnering with Citymapper means that more and more people will realise how easy using a Mobike is, encouraging cycling everywhere for short urban trips.”

London-based Citymapper taps APIs from city transportation networks to provide bike routes alongside walking, bus, train, ferry and car routes. In cities where there are city bike schemes — for example in London and New York — it shows locations for bike docking stations and, if available, information on how many bikes are available.

But while there are in London — as one example — some 750 docking stations in the city covering 11,000 bikes, there are large swathes of the city, particularly outside the center, where the city bike scheme doesn’t reach. That presents an opportunity for these bike startups, which are often not banked at docks but parked on sidewalks, to cater to people who may not own a bike but would like to ride one from points A to B, when one or both of those are not near a docking station.

For the moment, you still have to register through the Mobike app to be able to reserve a Mobike you find on Citymapper. And it’s not a given that you will ever be able to book these directly: if you look at Citymapper’s Uber integration it gives you an estimate but links to the Uber app to actually seal the deal (this is now also what Google Maps does, too).

The spokesperson confirmed that there is no revenue share in this deal, and it’s not exclusive. “Mobike is in conversation with a variety of other companies which focus on helping people improve their journeys,” said the spokesperson. “They will announce partnerships as they come.” Mobike is also planning to expand into India this year.

While taxi and ride-on-demand companies duke it out for customers in cities and towns against alternative motorised options like people’s own private cars, buses and trains, in dense urban environments, there has been a secondary track of competition developing around vehicles that are geared (sorry) to more individual modes of transport, such as bikes and electric scooters.

The runaway success of other transportation-on-demand services has driven a lot of investors to look for the next big transport opportunity, which in turn has turned into a glut of money going into these smaller, semi-manual vehicle companies, and a subsequent glut of bikes and scooters filling city streets in that wake.

Electric scooters in particular have raised a lot controversy, because of how scooter services are run, potential safety concerns, and legal requirements for the drivers, to name just three of the issues. That leaves, potentially, more open road for manual bikes, which fall outside of some of these regulations so can grow a little more easily (if with more human pedal power).

All the same, there are a number of bike companies competing for potential customers, so by integrating with Citymapper, Mobike gets more visibility above that competition, specifically at a time when its new owner is itself looking for more differentiated revenue streams as it reportedly gears up for a public listing valued at $60 billion.

Citymapper itself has raised $50 million from investors that include Balderton, Benchmark, Index and Yuri Milner and it has to date not spelled out many details on how it plans to monetise, although in February it launched a hybrid taxi and small bus service serving under-served routes in the city, pointing to how it might evolve those business plans in the future with its own transportation options alongside routing suggestions.

Source: TechCrunch

Feds crack down on Tesla Autopilot safety cheat device

The federal government is stepping in to end the use of an aftermarket product designed to let Tesla owners skirt a safety feature from the electric automaker’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a cease and desist letter Tuesday to a California company known as Dolder, Falco and Reese Partners LLC that is selling the Autopilot Buddy product.

The Autopilot Buddy product, which is marketed with the catchy slogan “Tesla Autopilot Nag Reduction Device,” is a magnetic piece of plastic that disables the feature in Tesla vehicles that monitors the driver’s hands on the steering wheel and warns the driver when hands are not detected. Aftermarket devices, such as Autopilot Buddy, are motor vehicle equipment regulated by NHTSA.

Autopilot Buddy works on the Tesla Model S, Model X and Model 3.

“A product intended to circumvent motor vehicle safety and driver attentiveness is unacceptable,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King said in a statement. “By preventing the safety system from warning the driver to return hands to the wheel, this product disables an important safeguard, and could put customers and other road users at risk.”

Tesla’s Autopilot is not a fully autonomous driving system. Instead, the advanced assistance system includes a number of features such as traffic-aware cruise control (TACC) and its branded Autosteer, which uses information from cameras, radar and the ultrasonic sensors to detect lane markings as well as the presence of vehicles and objects. When Autopilot and the Autosteer feature are activated, the system maintains the speed of the Tesla while keeping a distance from the vehicle in front of it, keeps it in its lane and changes lanes.

However, it also requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, apparently a rule so annoying that owners have found all sorts of interesting ways to trick the system. When drivers don’t keep their hands on the wheel, the system is supposed to give visual and audible warnings. If the driver continues to ignore it, Autopilot shuts off.

The letter directs the company to respond by June 29, 2018, and to certify to NHTSA that all U.S. marketing, sales and distribution of the Autopilot Buddy has ended.

The company appears to have already adjusted to the feds. The company posted on its website that it is currently only taking international orders. “We are not taking orders inside the U.S.A. at this time,” the website reads. “We are hopeful to resolve this by as quickly as possible.”

Source: TechCrunch

Wait, what? These ridiculous hacks will make you do a double-take

Check out the most ridiculous hacks in history! These insane hacks are some of the funniest we’ve ever seen — including Godzilla signs, velociraptors wearing hats, and an unsolved TV station takeover.

The post Wait, what? These ridiculous hacks will make you do a double-take appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

Here’s Ford’s plan for Detroit

Ford will spend the next four years transforming at least 1.2 million square feet of space in Corktown—Detroit’s oldest neighborhood—into a hub for its electric and autonomous vehicles businesses.

But the automaker’s ultimate aim goes beyond just building a new campus. The goal is to create a “mobility corridor,”—Ford’s version of its own Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley—that ties hubs of research, testing, and development in the academic hub of Ann Arbor to Ford’s Dearborn headquarters, and finally to Detroit.

Ford, which is celebrating its 115th anniversary this week, announced plans to house 2,500 Ford employees, most from its emerging mobility team, in its new Corktown campus by 2022. The new campus will have space to a accommodate 2,500 additional employees of partners and other businesses. The remaining 300,000 square feet will serve as a mix of community and retail space, and residential housing.

The Corktown campus is where Ford will develop autonomous and electric vehicle businesses as well as what CEO Jim Hackett describes as a new transportation operating system designed to make moving from Point A to Point B easier and accessible. The idea is for this transportation operating system to tie all forms of mobility together, including smart, connected vehicles, roads, parking and public transit will be tied together.

You might remember that Ford announced in January plans to develop an open cloud-based platform for cities to use to manage all the disparate transportation modes (as well as data) happening at any given time. The idea is for the platform to help cities optimize their various modes of transit and provide a way for everything in the city such as stoplights, signs, and even bikes to speak to each other and share information.

The centerpiece of the new Corktown campus will be the long-abandoned Michigan Central Station, which Ford acquired.

Ford hasn’t forgotten about its main campus in Dearborn. The company says it’s still working on the redesign of its Dearborn campus that started in 2016. This will continue in parallel with the Corktown campus development. This summer the 150,000-square-foot Wagner Place development in West Dearborn is on track to open, as is a new driving dynamics lab located on Ford’s Product Development Campus.

The acquisition of Michigan Central Station follows the automaker’s purchase of the former Detroit Public Schools Book Depository, two acres of vacant land, the site of an old brass factory and the recent purchase of a refurbished former factory in Corktown.

Source: TechCrunch

Ford is betting big on Detroit

The Ford Motor Company now owns one of Detroit’s iconic buildings in the Michigan Central Station. The monumental building looms over Detroit’s oldest neighborhood. It’s long been a symbol of Detroit’s decay, and now it could become the symbol of Detroit’s revival, and Ford’s along with it. The building is set to become the anchor of Ford’s 1.2 million-square-foot campus in the Detroit neighborhood.

The Michigan Central Station will house more than just Ford employees, though. The auto company says it will be a mixed-use facility with facilities for up to 5,000 office workers and space for shops, restaurants and maybe even residential housing.

Ford has a substantial undertaking before employees and businesses move into the building. The Michigan Central Station is nearly literally a shell of its former self.

The station was built in 1913 by the same firm responsible for New York’s Grand Central Terminal. In its day, the 21-story building stood proudly with marble floors under an arched 65-foot ceiling. It was the tallest train station in the world when its colossal bronze doors first opened to the public.

Since its closure in the ’80s the building sat empty, eventually losing nearly everything to looters and nature. The windows disappeared, graffiti covers much of the brickwork, and the ornamental ceiling is crumbling. Barbed-wire fence eventually encircled the structure, attempting to keep people out. But they don’t. The lure of the station is too strong.

DETROIT, MI – JUNE 19: An artist spray paints a canvas at the historic, 105-year old Michigan Central train station prior to a Ford Motor Company press conference to formally announce their plans to renovate the building and turn it and Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood into a hub for Ford’s auto technology on June 19, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. The project is expected to be completed by 2022 and will be the workplace for approximately 2500 Ford employees. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Detroit, The Mobility City

The Michigan Central Station is set to be the center of a large Ford campus centered around forward-looking automotive technology research and design. Ford sees 2,500 employees occupying the buildings by 2022. The focus is on the future of mobility including electric and autonomous vehicles, and everything from connected vehicles to roads and parking.

Ford held a large event today announcing its intentions for the campus and Michigan Central Station. CEO Jim Hackett points to the advancing revolution where, as he says, artificial intelligence and big data that will be even more disruptive than the industrial revolution.

“What Rouge was to Ford in the industrial age, Corktown can be for Ford in the information age,” said Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett said in a released statement. “It will be the proving ground where Ford and our partners design and test the services and solutions for the way people are going to live and get around tomorrow, creating a Southeast Michigan mobility corridor that spans west from Dearborn to Ann Arbor, and east to Detroit.”

The plan calls for Ford to occupy at least three buildings in the area as part of a mobility corridor Ford intends to build spanning Detroit to Ann Arbor to Ford’s home in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford says it will redesign its Dearborn campus alongside Corktown campus.

Hackett was clear on this point: The plans for the Corktown campus will not compete or replace Ford’s Dearborn campus. He stressed that it’s part of the same system.

“It’s actually one whole system,” Hackett said. “In fact, if anything it guarantees the future of Dearborn. Our Dearborn redesign [and] our Corktown revitalization are just steps in the strategy to keep moving forward.”

Ford largely operates outside the city of Detroit. The company’s headquarters, main development operations and Ford River Rouge Complex are located in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn. This move into Corktown is more than symbolic; it’s significant.

The big three automakers, along with countless automotive suppliers located in Michigan, are increasingly fighting with Silicon Valley for talent. Rightfully so, prospective employees are looking for employers that can offer a compelling work/life balance, with that, comes the place of employment. I’ve been through Ford’s Dearborn’s facilities. From an outsider’s perspective, some of these facilities feel like an aging office complex that could crush your soul at any moment.

Silicon Valley offers engineering talent a unique opportunity previously largely unavailable for such jobs. It’s likely why GM let its self-driving startup, Cruise, continue to operate in the Bay Area.

Moving engineering teams into a Corktown campus will place these employees in the middle of a historic city on the upswing. By the time Ford moves employees into the facility by 2022, Corktown should be packed with upstart restaurants, bars and shops, ready to take the money of Ford engineers.


From Trains to Self-Driving Cars

The Detroit News explains how the deal unfolded. Along the way, the structure was inspected and deemed sound enough for redevelopment. Apparently since concrete encases the steel girders, the structure of the building has fared better than its ornamental adornments.

The station was in a state of decay before the last Amtrak train left the station in 1988 and was never an overwhelming success on its own. The station is located outside of the downtown core and relied on Detroit’s trolleys to bring riders to the station. The station also lacked a large parking facility, which became problematic after the rise of the automobile caused the trolley system to age and shut down.

The station’s interior is stunning even in its decayed state. The general waiting room reminds of a Roman bathhouse with soaring arched ceilings covered in Guastavino tile that speak to Detroit’s glorious past. Light pours through the tall windows and glass ceiling. Pillars are throughout the lobby. The arches continue in a lovely arcade that once housed shops and service stalls.

Space for 500 offices occupied the floors above the station, though the top floor of the station remained unfinished and unused through the building’s history.

The station lacked windows for years and nature did its best to reclaim the station. Water damage is visible everywhere. Tiles are falling off the arches, revealing the terra cotta backing. Stagnant water is found throughout the lower levels.

Historic Detroit states ridership peaked following World War 1 with 200 trains leaving the station daily but started to dwindle quickly in the 1950s. Amtrak took over the station from the bankrupt Penn Central in 1971, the year it was founded. The corporation spent $1 million updating the station but couldn’t save it, and the last train departed the station in 1988 heading to Chicago.

The year Amtrak unveiled the updated station, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. This designation didn’t increase riders, but it did save the building from being demolished after Amtrak moved out.

Since its closure, the building has traded hands several times with each owner unveiling grand plans for the building: a casino and hotel, a rail yard, an international trade center, even a police station.

The Moroun family purchased the building in 1992 and left it untouched until just a few years ago when it started landscaping the park in front of the station. The family then installed windows throughout the building. It’s unclear if this was to prepare the building for sale or other purposes.

The station sits just blocks from the former Tiger Stadium that was built in 1911 and torn down in 2008. It’s a mostly residential neighborhood, sitting just outside the downtown area. Corktown has yet to see the redevelopment boom found elsewhere in Detroit.

Though not ideal when the Michigan Central Station was built, its location is likely what brought Ford to the table. The area has easy access to major highways and is just far enough away from downtown Detroit to mostly avoid the traffic congestion. Real estate opportunities seem ample, too.

Amazon turned down Detroit

Last year Detroit enlisted the help of real estate mogul Dan Gilbert to help win Amazon’s bid for a second headquarters. It didn’t work out. The city of Detroit and State of Michigan reportedly offered Amazon a massive tax incentive but Amazon didn’t take the bait. The deal would have changed Detroit, but not necessarily for the better. Had Amazon picked Detroit, the city would have had to adjust physically and mentally to handle the supposed increase of 30,000 workers within the city limit.

Ford seems like a good fit for today’s Detroit. The company is restoring an eyesore and essentially extending the border of the downtown area. Instead of adding tens of thousands of workers like Amazon would, Ford is adding thousands of workers. The streets will get a bit more crowded, but not overwhelmed.

The area lacks a lot of the infrastructure needed for an Amazon-sized workforce. Public transportation is limited to a couple of short lines, and some suburban leaders are fighting their expansion. Parking is hard to come by and there’s a housing crunch in the downtown core. The roads are a mess and traffic congestion is getting worse. Ford’s campus, located outside the downtown areas, should avoid some of those challenges — besides the terrible roads.

This deal puts Ford back in Detroit 22 years after it sold the Renaissance Center to General Motors. Even though it’s early, Ford’s return to Detroit could prove to be as pivotal to Detroit’s future as when Dan Gilbert moved Quicken Loans downtown in 2010. Gilbert largely kickstarted Detroit’s revitalization by filling unused office space with Quicken Loans employees, but also buying up blocks of the city and convincing retailers and corporations to move downtown. It worked, and downtown Detroit in 2018 is a much different place than it was in 2008.

Questions still remain about the purchase of the Michigan Central Station. How much did Ford purchase the building for and what sort of tax incentives were offered to the auto maker and Moroun family? Will I ever be able to get a table at Slow’s BBQ again?

Source: TechCrunch

PAX introduces Session Control to let novice users control their intake

PAX Labs, makers of the popular PAX 3 and PAX Era vaporizers, have today updated their app to offer a new feature called Session Control.

The idea here is based around the fact that people can sometimes overindulge when using a vaporizer for the first time, as the effects of cannabis oil can take a minute or two to kick in, leading people to continue puffing.

With Session Control, users can control their intake by selecting micro, small or medium puffs. Once the user has maxed out their session by puffing, the PAX Era will lock for 30 seconds, stopping users from overdoing it.

PAX launched an app called PAX Mobile in 2017 to give vape users even more control over their experience. From temperature control to different color schemes, the PAX Mobile app lets users fiddle with the PAX 3 or PAX Era on the fly.

While temperature control makes sense for more experienced users, Session Control lets newer users control their intake without making the process overly complicated.

“We want the tech to get out of the way,” said PAX Labs CEO Bharat Vassan. “A big part of what we want to do is to not have people staring at their phone. That’s why we use firmware so that the device updates itself. This way, users can set it and forget it.”

Session Control is available for the PAX Era, which vaporizes oil, and Vassan said they’re thinking of ways to introduce something similar with the PAX 3, which is a floral vaporizer.

Source: TechCrunch