This robot can build your IKEA furniture

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who dislike building IKEA furniture and madmen. Now, thanks to IkeaBot, the madmen can be replaced.

IkeaBot is a project constructed at Control Robotics Intelligence( CRI) group at NTU in Singapore. The team began by teaching robots to insert pins and manipulate IKEA proportions, then, slowly, they began to figure out how to pit the robots against the furniture. The outcomes, if you’ve ever opposed with person trying to put together a Billy, are heartening.

From Spectrum 😛 TAGEND

The assembly process from CRI is not quite that autonomous;” although all the steps were automatically planned and controlled, their sequence was hard-coded through a considerable engineering attempt .” The researchers mention that they can ” envisage such a sequence being automatically determined from the assembly manual, through natural-language interaction with a human supervisor or, ultimately, from an image of the chair ,” although we feel like they should have a chat with Ross Knepper, whose IkeaBot seemed to do just fine without any of that stuff.

In other words the robots are semi-autonomous but never get disappointed and can use basic heuristics to figure out next steps. The robots can now basically assemble chairs in about 20 minutes, a accomplishment that I doubt many of us can imitate. You can watch the finished dance here, in all its robotic glory.

The best part? Even robots get frustrated and fling components around 😛 TAGEND

I, for one, welcome our IKEA chair manufacturing robotic overlords.

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By keeping its head in the cloud, Microsoft makes it rain on shareholders

Thanks in part to its colossal cloud business, Microsoft earnings are drenching stockholders in dollars.

For the quarter ending March 31, 2018, the tech ringer from Redmond saw its revenue increase to $26.8 billion( up 16 percent) from $23.2 billion, with operating income up 23 percent to $8.3 billion, up from $6.7 billion.

Income was a whopping $7.4 billion( up from $5.5 billion) and diluted earnings per share were 95 cents versus analyst expectations of 85 pennies per share, according to FactSet.

Despite the earnings beat, shares of the company stock fell as much as 1 percent in after-hours trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

Floating much of Microsoft’s success for the quarter was the continued strength of the company’s cloud business, which chief executive Satya Nadella singled out in a statement.

” Our results this one-quarter reflect the trust people and organizations are placing in the Microsoft Cloud ,” Nadella told.” We are innovating across key growth categories of infrastructure, AI, productivity and business applications .”

The company also returned $6.3 billion to shareholders in dividends and share repurchases in the third one-quarter 2018, an increase of 37 percent.

The company notched wins across the board. In addition to the growth of its cloud business — led by Azure( which grew 93 percent) — Microsoft also recorded strong growth from LinkedIn, which insured revenue increase 37 percent to $1.3 billion and hardware revenue from the Surface increasing 32 percent.

Even the move of Microsoft office into a hosted business seemed to be stanched the flow of hemorrhaging from the company’s former cash cow. The company counts 135 million business users on Office 365, and 30.6 million customer subscriptions for the service.

The Surface numbers are notable because it’s perhaps the first indication that its hardware successes aren’t necessarily limited to the Xbox( insert Zune joke here ).

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Ethereum falls after rumors of a powerful mining chip surface

Rumors of a new ASIC mining rig from Bitmain have driven Ethereum costs well below their one-week high of $585. An ASIC- or Application-specific integrated circuit- in the cryptocurrency world is a chip that decorators generate for the specific purpose of mining a single currency. Early Bitcoin ASICs, for example, drove adoption up and then, in some eyes, centralized Bitcoin mining in a few hands, thereby thwarting the decentralized ethos of die-hard cryptocurrency fans.

According to a CNBC report, analyst Christopher Rolland visited China where he unearthed rumors of a new ASIC chip dedicated to Ethereum mining.

” During our travels through Asia last week, we confirmed that Bitmain has already developed an ASIC[ application-specific integrated circuit] for mining Ethereum, and is readying the supply chain for shipments in 2Q18 ,” analyst Christopher Rolland wrote in a note to clients Monday.” While Bitmain is likely to be the largest ASIC vendor( currently 70 -8 0% of Bitcoin mining ASICs) and the first to marketplace with this product, we have learned of at least three other companies working on Ethereum ASICs, all at various stages of growth .”

Historically users have mined Ethereum using GPUs which, in turn, led to the unavailability of GPUs for gaming and graphics. However, an ASIC would change the mining equation wholly, resulting in a certain amount of centralization as big players- including Bitmain- created higher roadblock to entry for casual miners.

” Ethereum is of the most profitable coins available for GPU mining ,” said Mikhail Avady, founder of TryMining.com.” It’s going to affect a lot of the market. Without understanding the hash power of these Bitmain machines we can’t tell if it will attain GPUs obsolete or not .”

” It can be seen as an attack on the network. It’s a centralization problem ,” he said.

Avady points out that there is a constant debate among cryptocurrency aficionadoes considering ASICs and their effect on the market. Some are expecting a move to more mineable coins including Monero and ZCash.

” What would be bad is if there was only one Ethereum ASIC producer ,” he told.” But with Samsung and a couple other players getting into the game it won’t be bad for long .”

There is also concern over ICO launchings and actual utility of Ethereum-based smart contract tokens.” The price of ETH is becoming consolidated as people become more realistic about blockchain technology ,” told Sky Guo, CEO of Cypherium.” People are looking for higher quality blockchain projects. I believe a rebound in ETH’s price will come soon as anxiety surrounding regulations begins to fade .”

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Global tech firms and investors are reshaping Latin Americas startup environment

Bose is carving out $50 million for startups using its new audio-focused AR tech

The high-end audio technology company Bose is getting into the augmented reality game with a new product and a $50 million money devoted to startups that will develop services for its new platform.

While most of the industry is focused on a visually augmented experience, Bose is most concerned with the intersection of sound and vision.

The Bose AR prototype, which was unveiled at South by Southwest in Austin this year, will use visual info captured by the glasses and add contextually relevant audio information to its wearer.

Bose’s AR kit is a “wafer-thin” acoustics package that the company hopes can be added to headphones, eyewear, helmets and other wearables to give a new spin on reality “augmentation.” The company said the new technology can be controlled with voice commands, head gestures and simple touch gestures.

The new product is a clever spin on augmented reality and a product that plays into Bose’s strength. “It places audio in your surroundings , not digital images, so you can focus on the amazing world around you — rather than a tiny showing, ” said John Gordon, vice president of the Consumer Electronics Division at Bose, in a statement posted. “It knows which way you’re facing, and can instantly connect that place and hour with endless the chances of traveling, learn, music and more. And it can be added to products and apps we already use and love, removing some of the big obstacles that have maintained AR on the sidelines.”

The first prototype glasses are Bluetooth compatible for bellows or to integrate with Siri or Google Assistant. A new technology developed for the glass ensures that the audio is audible merely to the listener wearing the glasses, and the acoustic packages fit inside the arms of the glasses.

Sensors in the glasses track the orientation of a listener and integrate with an iOS or Android device to track place and motion, which is sent to the AR-enabled application in the wearables.

The company is already working with ASICS Studio, Strava, TripAdvisor, TuneIn and Yelp on cooperations that will provide content for the wearables, while MIT’s Media Lab and the NYU Future Reality Lab are also playing around with prototypes.

But Bose wants entrepreneurs and programmers to develop their own applications. They’ve made a $50 million fund to finance companies that would like to work with the new audio technology and is providing an SDK and updated glasses afterwards this summer.

Bose has invested in a number of companies already — unrelated to its new augmented reality platform — that are all based on novel wearable technologies.

The platform includes investments like Embr Labs, a wearable for governing body temperature; Qleek, a company that embeds augmented reality experiences onto custom designed wooden blocks; and Vesper, a MEMS-powered microphones.

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Why investor Jalak Jobanputra is betting big on crypto

When investor and entrepreneur Jalak Jobanputra first visited a blockchain conference five years ago she got goosebumps. The experienced investor had heard of cryptocurrencies but now that they had genuinely come into maturity she was aroused. Now, five years later, she’s constructing her entire VC practice around blockchain and ensures bright days ahead for the technology.

Join us Jobanputra, the founder of FuturePerfect Ventures, as we talk about her take on crypto, the future of investment, and the direction she’s headed in terms of investment and startup innovation.

Nuros self-driving vehicle is a grocery-getter and errand-runner

Not every self-driving auto has to be able to move passengers from point A to point B. Take, for example, Nuro: The startup just disclosed their unique autonomous vehicle platform, which is more of a mobile small logistics platform than a self-driving car.

The company, which has been working away in stealth mode in Mountain View until now, has raised a $92 million Series A round led by Banyan Capital and Greylock Partners to help make its unique vision of autonomous transport take shape.

Nuro’s vehicle is a small, narrow box on wheels, which is about half the width of a regular vehicle, and which is designed to be a lightweight style to get goods from a local enterprises to a customer, or from one person to another within a neighborhood or city. The platform is just one example of what Nuro wants to do, however; the startup bills itself as a product company focused on bringing “the benefits of robotics” to everyday use and ordinary people.

Nuro’s AV also operates altogether autonomously, and looks like something you’d ensure on a Moon base in a retro-futuristic sci-fi demonstrate. There’s a pin pad for user interaction, so that only the right customer can access the contents stored under, and a top-mounted sensor array that includes LiDAR, optical cameras and radar( other sensors are located around the vehicle to enable its autonomous driving ).

The young startup’s objective is to partner with businesses to set up transportation services. You can easily imagine this slotting in nicely to something like Uber Eats, and bringing food from the local lunch place to offices around where people are hungry but can’t build the trip out to their usual places in person. Or, they are able supporting Amazon’s last mile be required for in-city delivery, for example. Nuro isn’t yet talking about specific partnerships, however.

This fit-for-purpose vehicle and dedicated focus could help Nuro achieves some of the vision that Ford has for its AV program, for example, with potentially fewer barriers to deployment in limited markets and specifically bounded surroundings. It’s still early days for the startup, however, and it’s also competing in some way with more established young companies like Starship Robotics. Still, it’s a neat first product and an interesting vision.

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Amazon is cutting hundreds of corporate jobs, according to a new report

In a rare move for the online retail giant, Amazon is laying off hundreds of corporate workers in its Seattle headquarters and elsewhere, according to a Seattle Hour report.

The corporate cuts come after an eight-year hire spree, taking the company from 5,000 in 2010 to 40,000 in its Seattle headquarters and gobbling up several retail industries throughout the country.

However, according to the report, Amazon’s rising employee numbers over the last two years left some departments over budget and with too many staff on hand. In the last few months, the company implemented hiring freezes to stem the flow of new workers, cutting the number of open positions in half from the 3,500 listed last Summer.

The layoffs will mainly focus on Amazon’s Seattle office, but there have already been cuts in some of its retail subsidiaries in other parts of the country, such as the Las Vegas-based online footwear retailer Zappos, which had to lay off 30 people recently. And the company behind Diapers.com, Quidsi, had to cut more than 250 tasks a year ago.

The moves suggest Amazon may be trying to rein in spending and consolidate some of its retail businesses.

It’s important to note that cutting out a few hundred workers at a company with tens of thousands of employees is not unusual — and is pretty small in comparison to other established tech giants that have had to lay off far more recently. For instance, Microsoft had to lay off thousands of employees starting late last year — though the majority of members of those employees affected were outside of the United States.

The cuts also don’t indicate Amazon, which employs more than half a million people globally, has any intentions of cutting more or of slowing down its hire practises elsewhere. According to its most recent quarterly earnings report, the company has upped its global workforce by 66 percent over the last year. Amazon currently has more than 4,000 task listings on its site for Seattle.

We have yet to hear back from Amazon about the latest report, but a spokesperson for the company told The Seattle Time the move was part of the company’s annual planning process and that, “We are attaining head count adjustments across the company — small reductions in a couple of places and aggressive hiring in many others.”

According to the report, several employees have already been told they’ve been laid off and those layoffs are expected to be completed in the next few weeks.

“For affected employees, we work to find roles in the areas where we are hiring, ” the spokesperson said.

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Barnes & Noble is killing itself

I’ve been chronicling the slow demise of B& N for years now, watching the company bled out, declined by fell, until it has become a shell of its former value. B& N was a cultural center in places without culture centres. It was a stopover on rainy days in New York, Chicago, and Cleveland and it was a place you could go to get your kids’ first books.

That’s mostly over now. On Monday the company laid off 1,800 people. This offered a cost savings of $40 million. But that’s particularly interesting. That entails each of those people made an average of $22,000 or so per year and minimum wage employees- hourly folks who are usually hit hardest during post-holiday downturns- would be stimulating $15,000. In fact, what B& N did was fire all full time employees at 781 stores. From a former employee 😛 TAGEND

On Monday morning, every single Barnes& Noble location told their full-time employees to pack up and leave. The eliminated positions were as follows: the head cashiers( those are the people responsible for handling the money ), the find administrators( the people responsible for bringing in product and building sure it runs where it should ), the digital leads( the people responsible for solving Nook problems ), the newsstand leads( the people responsible for distributing the magazines ), and the bargain leadings( the people responsible for keeping up the massive discount sections ). A few of the larger stores were able to spare their head cashiers and their obtain managers, but not many.

Further, the company laid off many shipping receivers around the holidays, resulting in bare shelves and a customer escape to Amazon. In December 2017, usually B& N’s key month, marketings dropped 6 percentage to $953 million. Online sales fell 4.5 percent.

It is important to note that when other big box retailers, namely Circuit City, went the road of firing all highly paid employees and bring back minimum wage cashiers, stockers, and salespeople it signaled the beginning of the end.

Streamlining a bookstore may work in theory but in practice a bookstore is far more than a depot for printed matter. It is a play place, a coffeehouse, and a browsing place. Small booksellers know this and they make their spaces interesting and welcoming.

A Barnes& Noble without a guy in a pirate suit reading stories is a Wal-Mart without the added benefit of selling more than only media. We assume that the people who dedicated their lives to selling books at B& N weren’t there for they money but instead worked there for the love of volumes. Now they’ve lost those people forever.

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Heres how to keep track of Elon Musks Roadster and Starman in space

Elon Musk’s Starman, the mannequin driver of the Tesla Roadster SpaceX launched aboard its Falcon Heavy rocket, is taking a trip around our solar system, in a large elliptical orbit that will bring him comparatively close to Mars, the Sun and other heavenly bodies. But how to track the trip-up , now that the Roadster’s onboard batteries are out of juice and no longer transmitting live footage?

Thanks to the work of Ben Pearson, a SpaceX fan and electrical technologist working in the aerospace industry, who made’ Where is Roadster, ’ a website that stimulates use of JPL Horizons data to track the progress of the Roadster and Starman through space, and to predict its path and let you know when it’ll come close to meeting up with various planets and the Sun.

The website tells you the Roadster’s current position, too, as well as its velocity and whether it’s moving towards or away from Earth and Mars at any given moment. It’s not officially affiliated with SpaceX or Tesla, but it is something Elon Musk is apparently use to assist recollect where he parked his galactic ride.