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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Playground is betting big on robots

You find robotics in unexpected corners of Playground Global’s Palo Alto headquarters. They’re in the lobby and scattered amongst the cubicles. Inside the venture fund’s labs, an older Spot Mini stands next to RightHand Robotics’ pick and place mechanical arm.

A recent video shoot in the space shows Boston Dynamics’ latest creation meeting Playground-funded bipedal wunderkind Cassie for the first time. The former also had a run-in with Andy Rubin’s dog in the company parking lot. The poor little terrier was less impressed.

Robotics is a core part of the firm’s portfolio. No surprise, really. It was, after all, co-founder Rubin’s lifelong obsession with the technology that gave Google’s mobile operating system its name. Co-founder and CTO Peter Barrett clearly shares that enthusiasm, as he gives us a tour around the space, pointing out each and every ‘bot surrounding Playground’s delightfully on-brand slide and swings.

“They’re becoming a good investment,” the executive begins. “Robotics is really in its infancy for some of these scale applications. What’s missing has been the link between what are now tour de force controls and physical systems with the intelligence and perception to make them useful.”

At last count, the company lists around 10 robotics investments in its portfolio — including some that are still in stealth mode. Those that it has revealed represent a fairly robust cross-section of technologies. There’s warehouse fulfillment system RightHand and Agility, the Oregon State spin-off that created Cassie. Zippy develops delivery robots and FarmWise builds autonomous systems designed to harvest food for short-staffed farmers.

To hear Barrett describe it, however, the companies are not as disconnected as they might appear at first blush. The CTO casually hints at something larger — a sort of connective tissue that might one day link the far-flung world of robotics. It’s hard not to see echoes of his pitch in Rubin’s earlier work on Android.

“There’s not a good robotics platform the way there is a good platform for making cellphones,” Barrett explains during an interview seated above the titular playground. “There are core components in things like ROS [Robot Operating System], but there’s no real, broad intelligence platforms that imagines robotics the way we think it will evolve.”

ROS, a legacy operating system designed by dearly departed Bay Area robotics company Willow Garage, is currently the closest to what Barrett describes. The open source OS, currently maintained by Open Source Robotics Foundation, is designed to provide the framework for robotic development.

Its mission statement also hints at Playground’s grander goals, being “built from the ground up to encourage collaborative robotics software development.” But the executive believes the teams his firm have developed can take things even further, offering both a springboard for robotics developers and helping to develop a shared knowledge base so both robots and their creators don’t have to redouble efforts every time a new system comes along.

“Every one of those investments would benefit from a common, underlying infrastructure that scales up into the disrupted intelligence that we think these robotic applications will need in the future,” Barrett says. “So, we think it’s worth our while spending the time working on the underlying infrastructure.”

Beyond that, things start to get a bit hazy — because, well, VCs. No point in showing your full hand when you may or may not be building Skynet (without all of the time-traveling, killer robots, of course). But Playground’s larger vision finds the company looking to help robotics grow beyond its own built-in feedback loop.

“If you look into the capital that goes into robotics, an enormous amount of it goes sideways implementing and reimplementing things that we’ve been doing since Shakey was made in the ’50s,” he says, referring to SRI’s groundbreaking, multi-purpose mobile robot.

There are echoes here of Google robotics, Rubin’s post-Android pursuit, which left the world wondering what, precisely the company was building amid an acquisition spree that found the company snapping up Boston Dynamics, Industrial Perception and Bot & Dolly, among others.

With Barrett and Rubin at the helm, along with fellow co-founders Matt Hershenson and Bruce Leak, those goals could finally be realized. After all, what’s the point (or fun) in funding startups if you aren’t going to go big?

“We tend not to look for short-term returns,” says Barrett. “In VC, you have to do something that is almost certainly wrong, otherwise everyone else will do it. The real opportunities are somewhere between the unlikely and the impossible. It’s hard to invest on the other side of impossible, and it’s hard to make money on the other side of unlikely.”

Andy Rubin and Playground will be appearing at TC Sessions: Robotics on May 11 at the UC Berkeley campus. 


Source: TechCrunch

Facebook’s Bookmarks menu gets a facelift that makes its settings easier to find

Facebook is rolling out a redesigned bookmarks section in its app that will make it easier to navigate and access various Facebook settings – including Account Settings, Privacy Shortcuts, News Feed Preferences, Activity Log, Payments Settings, access to Help & Support, and more. None of the options in the updated menu are new to Facebook. Instead, the changes are focused on centralizing a variety of controls that were previously located in other places, where they may have been unknown to some users.

The updated menu, at first glance, appeared to be a continuation of the redesign to Facebook’s Settings, announced last month.

At the time, the company promised a revamped settings menu on mobile that moves settings from across 20 different screens to a single place. It also launched the menu item “Privacy Shortcuts,” where you can lock down who can view your profile or contact you as well as learn about how to protect your privacy on its social network.

However, Facebook tells us this redesign was not related to the earlier announcement, but has been in the works for a while.

Now the entire Bookmarks menu is getting a makeover, where controls aren’t just centralized, but some have moved to the forefront instead of being buried behind an extra click.

The Bookmarks menu has also been given a new look and updated icons. While most of the list remains colorful, all the Settings Bookmarks appear in shades of gray to differentiate them.

Facebook confirmed the change to the Bookmarks section has begun to roll out to new users worldwide as part of a staged rollout.

“We’ve been looking into how to make Bookmarks easier to navigate and more relevant for people for some time,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We hope this update, similar to the ones we’ve been making recently, will help people navigate Facebook more easily so they can continue to connect with the people, Pages and Groups they log on to see.”

The redesign comes at a time when Facebook is being heavily scrutinized over its data privacy protections for users, which has led to changes in other areas of its business as well – including its API (app) platform, apps’ access to user data, data portability and more. It had already acknowledged that some of its controls were too hard to find in the past, and it needed to correct that.

The new look for Bookmarks will be scaled to all users globally across all platforms over the next two weeks, Facebook told us. 


Source: TechCrunch

Android Auto is finally ready to go wireless, mostly – Roadshow

Finally, Android users (with Google phones) will be able to connect to Android Auto over Wi-Fi.
Source: CNET

Hollywood Should Make Movies That Grapple with Gamergate

‘Ready Player One’ isn’t that movie.
Source: Wired

Russia Bans Telegram, China's Facial Recognition, and More Security News This Week

Russia bans popular encrypted chat app Telegram, China’s facial recognition system flexes, and more security news this week.
Source: Wired

Zuckerberg testifies before Congress, Disney launches ESPN+ video – CNET

In this week’s wrap-up, Facebook’s CEO spends hours fielding questions from members of Congress. Meanwhile, Disney’s new sports streaming service is up and running.
Source: CNET

Acer Nitro 5 Spin vs. Lenovo Yoga 720 15

Acer’s Nitro 5 Spin tries its hardest to be both a gaming notebook and a convertible 2-in-1, and it fails to be a great example of either. Does the Lenovo Yoga 720 15 do a better job of straddling that fence?

The post Acer Nitro 5 Spin vs. Lenovo Yoga 720 15 appeared first on Digital Trends.


Source: Digital trends

This setting makes entering passwords on Android Oreo a breeze – CNET

Android 8.0 Oreo included a new autofill feature, and it makes maintaining your digital life so much easier.
Source: CNET

After Zuckerberg hearings, Congress broadens focus to Google, Twitter – CNET

Facebook’s CEO went to Washington, in part, to mend relationships with lawmakers. But Congress also has the other tech giants in its sights.
Source: CNET

Elon Musk calls humans underrated, needs more for Model 3 production – Roadshow

In his interview with CBS This Morning, Musk says that relying too much on robotics was his mistake.
Source: CNET

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