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It’s Friday, so here’s a rap video about scooter startup Bird

August 31, 2018 Alex 0

Listen, if you’re the kind of person who wants to watch a rap video about scooters, here’s a rap video about scooters. Don’t let me stop you.

Also, if you make it to the end, you might as well stick around for the credits. For one thing, you’ll learn that it was directed by Andrew Oleck, the man who created that fake Mark Zuckerberg video, “A World Without Facebook.”

And then there’s the disclaimer: “This video is not an advertisement. It is comedic satire. Bayview Drive Films is not endorsed, affiliated or otherwise sponsored by Bird .”

It’s the kind of message that raises more questions than it answers. Like: What’s the joke here? Is the video pro-scooter, anti-scooter, neither, both? Was I supposed to laugh? I mean, I chuckled a little at the rubber chicken, but mostly I cringed. Is that normal? Would I have gotten more out of it if I listened to more rap? Or if I’d ever been on a scooter? Right now, in the year 2018, is “satire” even possible?

In related news, here’s a a synth-..

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Google and AISense will talk voice at Disrupt SF 2018

August 31, 2018 Alex 0

Only a few years ago, talking to your phone or computer felt really weird. These days, thanks to Alexa, the Google Assistant and (for its three users) Cortana and Bixby, it’s becoming the norm. At this year’s Disrupt SF 2018, we’ll sit down with AISense founder and CEO Sam Liang and Google’s Cathy Pearl to discuss the past, present and future of voice — both for interacting with computers but also as a way to help us capture and organize information.

It’s probably a fair guess that you’ve heard of Google, and Cathy Pearl has literally written the book on designing voice user interfaces. You’re probably also quite familiar with the Google Assistant.

AISense, on the other hand, may not be a household name yet, but it’s flagship product, Otter.ai, is quickly gaining a following. Otter.ai is a mobile and web app that automatically transcribes phone calls, lectures, interviews and meetings in real time. The team built its own voice recognition tech that can distinguish between speakers, m..

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Twitter hints at new threaded conversations and who’s online features

August 31, 2018 Alex 0

Twitter head Jack Dorsey sent out a tweet this afternoon hinting the social platform might get a couple of interesting updates to tell us who else is currently online and to help us more easily follow Twitter conversation threads.

“Playing with some new Twitter features: presence (who else is on Twitter right now?) and threading (easier to read convos),” Dorsey tweeted, along with samples.

Playing with some new Twitter features: presence (who else is on Twitter right now?) and threading (easier to read convos) https://t.co/aCVRxVDfy0

— jack (@jack) August 31, 2018

The “presence” feature would make it easier to engage with those you follow who are online at the moment and the “threading” feature would allow Twitter users to follow a conversation easier than the current embed and click-through method.

However, several responders seemed concerned about followers seeing them online.

@pandemona Not a fan of presence in this kind of space so would prefer opt-in if it happens. The reply..

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Skullcandy aims upscale with two new headphones

August 31, 2018 Alex 0

Skullcandy has always been an odd brand. Aimed at a younger, hipper audience, the headphones always featured wacky graphics and a lower price point. Now, facing competition from multiple players, they’ve decided to step up their game in terms of quality and style.

Their two new models, the noise-cancelling Venue and the bass-heavy Crusher 360, are designed to hit the Bose/B&O/Sony quality point while still maintaining a bit of Beats styling. The Venue are the most interesting of the pair. They are true over-ear noise cancelling headphones that cost a mere $179 – over $100 less than Bose’s best offerings.

The Venue’s noise cancellation was excellent as was the sound quality. The headphones were solidly built and last for two five-hour flights, a first for me when it comes to wireless or wired noise-cancelling headphones. Usually in almost every model I’ve tested I’ve had to charge or change the battery after about eight hours. This is a vast improvement.

As for audio quality I was qu..

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Update: BlackRock voted for separation of powers at Tesla

August 31, 2018 Alex 0

Update: This post has been updated to reflect that BlackRock’s votes were cast in the last shareholder meeting.

The world’s largest investor joined the chorus of voices pushing for a separation of powers at the electric vehicle, solar panel and battery manufacturer, Tesla, during the last shareholder vote at the company, Reuters reported earlier today.

Funds managed by BlackRock, a top 10 shareholder in the electric vehicle company run by Elon Musk (and the manager of roughly $6.3 trillion in global assets), joined calls for the creation of an independent chairman position at Tesla.

The shareholder initiative, which was solidly defeated, would not have affected Musk’s standing as chief executive.

News of BlackRock’s votes comes as a new article in The Wall Street Journal further underscores the autocratic ways in which Musk manages his electric vehicle startup, and highlights the singular grip Musk has on his companies and the public’s perception of them.

Elon Musk losing his te..

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User’s Guide to Disrupt SF 2018

August 31, 2018 Alex 0

Disrupt SF (Sept 5-7) approaches with just a few days until things kick off. We have an all-star lineup that only TechCrunch can assemble, and we’re expecting our largest number of attendees yet. Check out our star-packed agenda here, and keep reading to find out everything you need to make for a stellar conference experience.

Pre-Event Badge Pick Up

Disrupt is 3x the size as previous years! Skip the Wednesday rush by picking up your badge early on Tuesday, September 4th from 12pm – 4pm at Moscone West. Please have your Universe ticket confirmation email and a government-issued photo ID on you.

You can also pick up your badge at the WeWork Welcome Reception, also on Tuesday from 5:30pm – 7:30pm at their Montgomery Street location (44 Montgomery St.). Space is limited. Please register your interest here. Please have your ticket and a government-issued photo ID on you.

Event Registration & Badge Pick Up

Universe is the official ticketing platform of Disrupt. If you signed up for a p..

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Beyerdynamic’s new earphones are designed to lie comfortably flat in your ears

August 31, 2018 Alex 0

Beyerdynamic announced a new line of earphones at IFA yesterday that are all coming soon. The Byrd line of earphones are notable for having a flat design so if you lay on your side, they supposedly won’t protrude into your ear.

First in the collection is the entry-level, in-ear, wired Beat Byrd earphones (pictured above). They have an orange cable, and they look pretty standard besides the flat casing. Beyerdynamic claims they’ll have solid bass. The Beat Byrd earphone will be sold exclusively online on the company’s website for €24.90 ($28.89) starting at the end of September.

Image: Beyerdynamic
The midrange Soul Byrd earphones.

Image: Beyerdynamic
The premium Blue Byrd earphones.

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Microsoft says its US contractors must offer paid parental leave

August 31, 2018 Alex 0

Microsoft is extending parental leave benefits to contractors, mandating that many employees who work with the company be given 12 weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. There are a number of caveats, but overall the policy starts to ensure that more people around the US have the privilege of recovering after birth and spending time with their newborn.

The policy applies to a wide range of companies whose employees perform work for Microsoft. “Examples could include people who staff our cafeterias and provide janitorial services to companies who provide professional services such as engineering consulting,” a spokesperson said.

Very few US workers have access to paid parental leave
It won’t apply to all companies,…

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NASA says it wants to save the Mars Opportunity rover, but some close to the mission doubt it

August 31, 2018 Alex 0

On Thursday, NASA announced a new plan for attempting to recover Opportunity, the Mars rover that has been unresponsive since it was caught in a major dust storm earlier this summer. But some people who work on Opportunity believe that NASA is instead preparing to give up on the longest operational Mars spacecraft because it might be too expensive to rescue.

The Opportunity rover landed on Mars in 2004 with just three months worth of planned work. Fourteen years later, the rover has traversed about 30 miles of Martian surface. Over that time it survived some scares, including a previous dust storm in 2007. But the storm it faced this summer was the most massive one Mars has seen in decades.

The storm has essentially put the rover in a…

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