And with that, the biggest TV event in recent years is now officially a memory. Eight seasons of Game of Thrones came to a close with Sunday night's broadcast of the sixth and last episode of the show's final season (*Spoilers* to follow, of course). The decision to appoint Bran as king of Westeros may have been a turn of events few saw coming -- fitting, in a way, given that this series has frequently taken the road less traveled when it comes to the story and given us one surprise after another over these many years. Everyone will now be taking stock, since Sunday night also marked a milestone moment in the history of pop culture and television as a medium, but it's worth remembering: The looming threat that winter is coming, all those battles, deaths, beheadings, a Night King and his inscrutable motives, power plays for a throne made of swords -- what was it all, if not the digital equivalent of a campfire around which we all sat to hear the slow unspooling of George R.R. Martin's dense and daunting fantasy. It's like Tyrion said Sunday night. The storytellers are the most powerful people in the world, a truth HBO knows as well as anyone.
It was only about two months ago that Richard Yu, the CEO of Huawei's consumer products division, was telling a German newspaper that the beleaguered Chinese smartphone brand had been prepping a mobile OS as a kind of Plan B if the company ever got cut off by Google from relying on Android.
He probably didn't expect the turn of events to lead to that outcome so soon, but it appears that day may have nevertheless suddenly arrived. Google has reportedly decided to cut ties with Huawei, which means the company has just lost its Android license, and its devices will no longer receive Android updates -- nor will its future handsets be able to access Google apps as well as the Google Play Store.
Just like today, people who lived hundreds of years ago had rituals and traditions associated with death. Methods of burial or tributes to deceased individuals often vary greatly from one culture to the next, and archaeologists are learning more about one of the more mysterious ancient customs originating in present-day Laos.
Researchers from the Australian National University recently discovered over a dozen new locations in Laos where thousand-year-old jars were once used in some kind of death ritual that remains poorly understood. The team documented the existence of over a hundred of the so-called "jars of the dead," but the discovery ultimately creates more questions than it answers.
The final episode of Game of Thrones airs on Sunday night on HBO, and millions of people are going to watch it in spite of how bad the final season has been so far. Millions more are going to be late for work before it, because, let’s face it, it’s the biggest TV show there ever was.
I decided I wasn’t going to wait until it airs, and having just seen it, I can say that it’s about as satisfying as you’d expect from the finale of a series that kept us on the edges of our seats for almost a decade. That’s not to say it was perfect — no series finale ever is — but it sure got us to end of this massive tale, leaving us wondering where things will head next in Westeros. Mind you, some spoilers will obviously follow below so stop reading if you want to be surprised.
We're reaching the end of the month, which means the Netflix release schedule is starting to thin out a bit. Other than the return of Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It, there aren't many obvious hits here when it comes to originals. If you're looking for a great movie to watch though, the Best Picture winner Moonlight joins the service this week. The seventh season of Arrow is streaming on Tuesday as well, along with a comedy special from Wanda Sykes.
The three movies leaving the service this week are something of a mixed bag, but if you have just been dying to see Alec Baldwin play an animated baby, be sure to stream The Boss Baby before Wednesday.
Fandom is an odd thing. Often times, the people who claim to love something more than anyone else are the exact same folks who can't help but nitpick and dwell on the most trivial of things. For these fans, complaining is something of a badge of honor, and it's a dynamic we see time and time again across sports, the tech realm, and of course, TV.
With that said, the final season of Game of Thrones has been nothing short of controversial. As you've likely heard by now, many of the most ardent Game of Thrones fans have been beyond disappointed with the eighth and final season of the acclaimed show. Underscoring the complete lunacy of the show's more extreme fans, there's even been a petition -- which now has more than 1 million signatures -- calling on HBO to remake the final season.
If you want to completely transform your TV watching experience without spending a fortune on a new TV, you have to check this out. Pick up a SPE LED Lighting Strip for HDTVs on Amazon, and use the self-adhesive back to stick it to the back of your television. Then plug it into the open USB port on the back of your TV, and it’ll cast a gorgeous glow onto the wall behind your TV anytime your TV turns on. It really extends the viewing experience beyond the edges of your TV screen, and you can even change the color to suit your mood!
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A newly published interview between Rolling Stone and Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, no surprise, touches at one point on the intense fandom around the series, which is taking a bow on Sunday with the sixth episode of the show's eighth and final season.
It's a degree of fandom that has many fans so upset at the surprises that have been thrown at them this season, that more than 876,000 of them as of the time of this writing have signed a petition essentially begging HBO to remake season 8 with new writers (which is obviously never going to happen).
Shoppers soon might see a lot more robots in Walmart stores -- but not toy robots or even human assistant gadgets that are available for purchase. Walmart's new robots will be taking over repeatable, predictable and manual tasks that up to now have been carried out by human employees. At Walmart stores, robots will scan shelf inventory and track boxes as part of the retail chain's inventory management. Walmart is hardly alone in deploying robots or artificial intelligence to handle these mundane tasks, however.
Budgeting apps come in all sizes and shapes. Budget apps for Linux are part of a software category that has been all but abandoned. But take heart. A number of Web-based solutions will more than meet your budget-tracking needs. If you still insist on finding a pure Linux-based application, do not mix the concept of open source with free. If you want an actual free budget program that works well with your flavor of Linux OS, a Web-based offering may your only option. A few of these non-Linux solutions are proprietary products.
The high-tech industry once again is in a tizzy over flaws discovered in Intel CPUs -- four new microarchitectural data sampling vulnerabilities. MDS is a sub-class of previously disclosed vulnerabilities that sample data leaked from small structures within the CPU using a locally executed speculative execution side channel. The four newly identified flaws: Zombieload, Fallout, CVE-2018-12127 and CVE-2018-11091. Zombieload, Fallout and CVE-2018-12127 have a medium severity rating, while CVE-2018-11091 is considered low severity.
Any retailer that wants to be competitive knows it must offer a seamless omnichannel experience to its customers. However, many retailers aren't aware that the key to powering that customer experience is IT system performance. Why? Omnichannel retailers must process, analyze and use huge amounts of data for a multitude of equally important functions. An omnichannel strategy creates and executes a seamless shopping experience across mobile, online, and brick-and-mortar stores.
I just dumped US Mobile after less than four months, setting a new speed record for hitting my tolerance-for-b.s. ceiling. I'd had high hopes for this relatively new MVNO, but it turns out I chose poorly. Switching wireless service providers is one of those things I don't relish doing, but every few years I find that I'm in a one-way relationship with my carrier: I'm a loyal customer who's taken for granted. When my provider isn't willing to offer me the same deal it's extending to new customers, my loyalty soon vanishes.
Walmart has announced free one-day delivery for 220,000 of its most-frequently purchased items. The service will be available first in Phoenix and Las Vegas, because "these locations are major metro markets served by our fulfillment center in Southern California ... where we expect strong customer adoption of our NextDay delivery offering," a Walmart spokesperson said. NextDay Delivery soon will serve Southern California customers as well, and it will roll out to 75 percent of the U.S. population by year end.
Flexa has launched a new digital payment network that uses cryptocurrencies to cut processing costs, eliminate fraud and preserve users' privacy. The network uses Flexa's Spedn app to process consumer transactions at cooperating merchants. The new payment platform makes it possible to spend Bitcoin, Ether, Bitcoin Cash and the Gemini dollar at any of the merchants currently accepting payments on the Flexa network. Flexa partnered with Gemini, a regulated and secure cryptocurrency exchange and custodian based in New York City.
Jeb Bush's love of Apple products has been widely documented, and the Republican presidential candidate continues to wear his Apple Watch on the campaign trail. Yesterday, in a meeting with The Des Moines Register editorial board documented by USA Today, Bush stumbled upon a feature he didn’t realize his smartwatch was capable of: taking phone calls. Somehow Bush managed to take a call without picking up his iPhone, and the sound of a person’s voice saying hello breaks through the meeting noise, to which Bush responds, “My watch can’t be talking.”
Pope Francis gets the social media treatment upon arriving in the U.S. Tuesday. As Pope Francis’s flight touched down in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Twitter unveiled a new batch of emojis created for the highly anticipated papal visit. Until his departure from the United States on Sunday, Twitter users chronicling the Catholic leader’s East Coast journey will be able to include a cartoon image of the Pope’s face in front of the American flag on all Pope-related tweets by using the hashtag #PopeinUS.
While everyone figures out what they think of the Game of Thrones finale, HBO has pitched a reason to stick around with its first trailer for the third season of Westworld. This one doesn't take us back to the Old West, India or an age of Shoguns and...
Google's Pixel 3a might have been good news for fans of mid-range phones, but it marked the death knell for one of the company's signature phone features: its customizable cases. The 9to5Google crew has discovered that Google axed the personalized M...
The UK's move to treat revenge porn as a specific crime was supposed to catch perpetrators who'd otherwise slip through the cracks, but that doesn't appear to have worked out in practice. The Revenge Porn helpline has collected police data showing t...
You don't have to spring for the Galaxy Watch Active to put Samsung's latest software features on your wrist. The company is rolling out an update that brings the Active's One UI interface, health features and other optimizations to the regular Gala...
Online account hijackers received a taste of ironic punishment this week. KrebsOnSecurity has learned that hackers stole the database from the popular hijacker forum OGusers on May 12th, obtaining email addresses, hashed passwords, IP addresses and...
Some governments might have fallen out of love with Linux, but South Korea appears ready to start a torrid affair. The country's Ministry of the Interior and Safety has outlined plans to switch government computers from Windows to Linux due to both...
Chevy has talked about producing more electric crossovers besides the Bolt EV, and it now appears much closer to fulfilling that goal. Our sister site Autoblog has obtained photos and video of Chevy testing a more utility-focused crossover, rumored...
Blizzard is holding its third Overwatch anniversary event on May 21st, and this year the focus appears to be on welcoming in as many as people as possible. The occasion will revive many seasonal cosmetics, Arcade brawls, emotes and skins, but it'll...
Is The Global Internet Disintegrating? 'The global internet is disintegrating," argues BBC Future, calling Russia "one of a growing number of countries that has had enough of the Western-built, Western-controlled internet backbone...aided as much by advances in technol
Bitcoin 'Roars Back', Surges 50% in 30 Days A week ago bitcoin was trading at $6,000. Today Forbes reports bitcoin "which has been swinging wildly throughout this week, has suddenly rallied back to over $8,000 per bitcoin, somewhat putting to rest investor and trader fears
In WeChat -dominated China, there’s no shortage of challengers out there claiming to create an alternative social experience. The latest creation comes from ByteDance, the world’s most valuable startup and the operator behind TikTok, the video app that has consistently topped the iOS App Store over the last few quarters.
The new offer is called Feiliao (??), or Flipchat in English, a hybrid of an instant messenger plus interest-based forums, and it’s currently available for both iOS and Android. It arrived only four months after Bytedance unveiled its video-focused chatting app Duoshan at a buzzy press event.
Screenshots of Feiliao / Image source: Feiliao
Some are already calling Feiliao a WeChat challenger, but a closer look shows it’s targeting a more niche need. WeChat, in its own right, is the go-to place for daily communication in addition to facilitating payments, car-hailing, food delivery and other forms of convenience.
Feiliao, which literally translates to ‘fly chat’, encourages users to create forums and chat groups centered around their penchants and hobbies. As its app description writes:
Feiliao is an interest-based social app. Here you will find the familiar [features of] chats and video calls. In addition, you will discover new friends and share what’s fun; as well as share your daily life on your feed and interact with close friends.
Feiliao “is an open social product,” said ByteDance in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “We hope Feiliao will connect people of the same interests, making people’s life more diverse and interesting.”
It’s unclear what Feiliao means by claiming to be ‘open’, but one door is already shut. As expected, there’s no direct way to transfer people’s WeChat profiles and friend connections to Feiliao, and there’s no option to log in via the Tencent app. As of Monday morning, links to Feiliao can’t be opened on WeChat, which recently crossed 1.1 billion monthly active users.
On the other side, Alibaba, Tencent’s long-time nemesis, is enabling Feiliao’s payments function through the Alipay digital wallet. Alibaba has also partnered with Bytedance elsewhere, most notably on TikTok’s Chinese version Douyin where certain users can sell goods via Taobao stores.
In all, Flipchat is more reminiscent of another blossoming social app — Tencent-backed Jike — than WeChat. Jike (pronounced ‘gee-keh’) lets people discover content and connect with each other based on various topics, making it one of the closest counterparts to Reddit in China.
Jike’s CEO Wa Nen has taken noticed of Feiliao, commenting with the emoji on his Jike feed, saying no more.
Screenshot of Jike CEO Wa Ren commenting on Feiliao
“I think [Feiliao] is a product anchored in ‘communities’, such as groups for hobbies, key opinion leaders/celebrities, people from the same city, and alumni,” a product manager for a Chinese enterprise software startup told TechCrunch after trying out the app.
Though Feiliao isn’t a direct take on WeChat, there’s little doubt that the fight between Bytedance and Tencent has heated up tremendously as the former’s army of apps captures more user attention.
According to a new report published by research firm Questmobile, ByteDance accounted for 11.3 percent of Chinese users’ total time spent on ‘giant apps’ — those that surpassed 100 million MAUs — in March, compared to 8.2 percent a year earlier. The percentage controlled by Tencent was 43.8 percent in March, down from 47.5 percent, while the remaining share, divided between Alibaba, Baidu and others, grew only slightly from 44.3 percent to 44.9 percent over the past year.
Over 2 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. And while the diagnosis doesn’t have to be a death sentence for women in countries like the United States, in developing countries three times as many women die from the disease.
And the WHO blames these low survival rates in less developed countries on the lack of early detection programs, which result in a higher proporation of women presenting with late-stage disease. The problem is exacerbated by a lack of adequate diagnostic technologies and treatment facilities, according to the WHO.
A group of Johns Hopkins University undergraduates believe they have found a solution. The four women, none of whom are over 21-years-old, have developed a new, low-cost, disposable core needle biopsy technology for physicians and nurses that could dramatically reduce cost and waste, thereby increasing the availability of screening technologies in emerging markets.
They’ve taken the technology they developed at Johns Hopkins University and created a new startup called Ithemba, which means “hope” in Swahili, to commercialize their device. While the company is still in its early days, the women recently won the undergraduate Lemelson-MIT Student Prize competition, and has received $60,000 in non-dilutive grant funding and a $10,000 prize associated with the Lemelson award.
Students at Johns Hopkins had been working through the problem of developing low-cost diagnostic tools for breast cancer for the past three years, spurred on by Dr. Susan Harvey, the head of Johns Hopkins Section of Breast Imaging.
While Dr. Harvey presented the problem, and several students tried to tackle it, Ithemba’s co-founders — the biomedical engineering undergrads Laura Hinson, Madeline Lee, Sophia Triantis, and Valerie Zawicki — were the first to bring a solution to market.
Ithemba co-founders Laura Hinson, Madeline Lee, Valerie Zawicki and Sophia Triantis
The 21-year-old Zawicki, who grew up in Long Beach, Calif., has a personal connection to the work the team is doing. When she was just five years old her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the cost of treatment and toll it took on the family forced the family to separate. “My sister moved in with my grandparents,” Zawicki says, while her mother underwent treatment. “When I came to college I was looking for a way to make an impact in the healthcare space and was really inspired by the care my mom received.”
The same is true for Zawicki’s co-founder, Triantis.
“We have an opportunity to solve problems that really need solving,” says Triantis, a 20-year-old undergraduate. “Breast cancer has affected so many people close to me… It is the most common cancer among women [and] the fact that women in low resource settings do not have the same standard of diagnostic care really inspired me to work on a solution.”
What the four women have made is a version of a core-needled biopsy that has a lower risk of contamination than the reusable devices that are currently on the market and is cheaper than the expensive disposable needles that are the only other option, the founders say.
“We’ve designed a novel, disposable portion that attaches to the reusable device and the disposable portion has an ability to trap contaminants that would come back through the needle into the device,” says Triantis. “What we’ve created is a way to trap that and have that full portion be disposable and making the device as easy to clean as possible… with a bleach wipe.”
The company is currently in the process of doing benchtop tests on the device, and will look to file a 510K to be certified as a Class 2 medical device. Already a clinic in South Africa and a hospital in Peru are on board as early customers for the new biopsy tool.
At the heart of the new tool is a mechanism which prevents blood from being drawn back into a needle. The team argues it makes reusable needles much less susceptible to contamination and can replace the disposable needles that are too expensive for many emerging market clinics and hospitals.
Zawicki had been working on the problem for a while when Hinson, Lee, and Triantis joined up. “I joined the team when the problem was presented,” says Zawicki. “The project began with this problem that was pitched three years ago, but the four of us are really those that have brought this to life in terms of a device.”
Crucially for the team, Johns Hopkins was fully supportive of the women taking their intellectual property and owning it themselves. “We received written approval from the tech transfer office to file independently,” says Zawicki. “That is really unique.”
Coupled with the Lemelson award, Ithemba sees a clear path to ownership of the intellectual property and is filing patents on its device.
Zawicki says that it could be anywhere from three to five years before the device makes it on to the market, but there’s the potential for partnerships with big companies in the biopsy space that could accelerate that time to market.
“Once we get that process solidified and finalize our design we will wrap up our benchtop testing so we can move toward clinical trials by next summer, in 2020,” Zawicki says.
Life is short, difficult and, most likely, ultimately meaningless. In this age of immediate fan service, it’s important to remember that you can’t always get what you want. That goes double when it comes to the final season of a beloved television series (I’m looking at you, The Wire). TV, like life, rarely has a satisfying ending.
As the petition has cruised past one million signatures, its creators have penned a prediction and spoiler note to let signers know where things stand. Tempering expectations for the possibility of a reshoot, it notes that the state of the world demands escapism via sci-fi and fantasy like GoT and Star Wars.
“I didn’t make this petition to be an entitled, whiny fan,” the petition’s creator writes. “I made it because I was immensely disappointed and needed to vent. Do I have a solution? I’ve got plenty of ideas, but no, I’m not a Hollywood writer. But you don’t need to be a mechanic to know your car is broken.”
Who knows, maybe tonight’s final episode will make everything right. Perhaps it will be so good that the world’s corporations and governments will join forces to end war, obliterate poverty and create a diet soda that doesn’t taste like a liquified pencil eraser. Or maybe we’ll all go back to work to work on Monday knowing that it, like all of us could have been better. And maybe, just maybe true change starts with us, beginning with canceling that HBO account.
The Trump administration Huawei ban is sure to have wide-ranging and long lasting effects for all parties. In the meantime, it seems, a number of those involved in the periphery are treading lightly in hope of not burning bridges on either side. Google has taken accidental center stage, in its role providing Android and a variety of apps for the embattled handset maker.
According to a new report from Reuters, the U.S. software giant has taken some steps toward disentangling itself. Word comes from unnamed sources, who say the company has suspended all businesses with Huawei, aside from those covered by open-source licenses. The list appears to include updates to Android and popular apps like Gmail.
From the sound of it, Google is still attempting to wrap its head around how to proceed with the matter. Huawei, too, is assessing its options. Given the complexity of smartphone hardware and software, handsets routinely utilize components source from a variety of different locations. This fact has complicated things as trade tensions have begun to rise, hitting ZTE particularly hard over accusations that the company had violated U.S.-Iran sanctions.
Huawei has called the ban bad for all parties, but has continued to be defiant, noting its plans to become “self-reliant.” The company has no doubt been preparing for the seeming inevitability of heightened trade tensions, but its determination has some industry observers unconvinced that it can carry on with without any input from Google or U.S. chipmakers like Qualcomm.
For all of the swirling conversations of tech regulation that have continues the past several years, few of those waxing poetic on the topic likely assumed that Apple would be the first tech giant to capture the government’s ire, but a Supreme Court ruling this week cleared the way for an anti-trust reckoning for Apple’s walled garden App Store.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Apple on Monday, determining that a group of iPhone users will be allowed to bring an antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant. The group is alleging that Apple’s 30 percent cut in the App Store passes on an unfair cost to users that have no other options to get the apps onto their phone.
The ruling is decidedly not great for Apple, which has long-enjoyed a monopoly on app sales on its devices, with, to be fair, some very clear benefits for users along the way. If Apple were forced to allow other stores on its platform or significantly shape how it monetized app sales, this could have pretty significant effects on how platforms like iOS operate.
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While this ruling won’t impact Apple in the near-term obviously, it could have some massive effects if and when other lawsuits in this vein pop up against Apple, especially given the company’s renewed reliance on software services as its iPhone sales slow.
Trends of the week
Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context.
Bitcoin bites back
After a nice lengthy free fall, the bear cryptocurrency market began showing some strength as Bitcoin brought a number of popular coins back with substantial gains. Bitcoin passed above $8,000 this week and is still hovering in that range. What’s the reason? There are a lot of theories, we detailed some of them here.
ZombieLoad is coming for you If you recall the pandemonium of Spectre and Meltdown, you should probably keep an eye on a new Intel exploit that emerged onto the scene this week, ZombieLoad. The bug allows hackers to effectively exploit design flaws as opposed to injecting malicious code onto affected systems. Intel is already on it, but you should read up some more on it from my much more in-the-know colleague Zack Whittaker.
Trump takes on Twitter with his full presidential might Trump’s war on Silicon Valley’s most popular social media sites took an aggressive turn this week, when the president… shared a survey. The 16-part Typeform survey is aiming to gather some very scientific data about Americans who have had their social media accounts banned for perceived “political bias.”
TikTok won’t stop
I’m very intrigued by the success of TikTok, turns out a lot of other people are intrigued by the social app given that it’s topped the App Store for the last five quarters now. The next few popular apps for the first quarter were YouTube and four Facebook apps, so it definitely looks like Chinese tech giant ByteDance is beating Silicon Valley’s best in the app game lately.
How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of awfulness:
Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. This week, we published a deep dive into world of startups aiming to build affordable housing solutions. It’s a terrific deep dive, that’s certainly academic in nature but gets to a lot of the root problems and solutions at play.
“Innovations have reduced costs in the most expensive phases of the housing development and management process. I explore innovations in each of these phases, including construction, land, regulatory, financing, and operational costs…”
Here are some of our other top reads this week for premium subscribers, this week IPOs and public company sagas were front of min for a lot of the TechCrunch writers…
Part of closely following tech is the often mistaken belief that newer, better technologies can help right some of the wrongs older ones caused in the first place. Behold the Wii and the Fitbit — two perfect examples of technologies designed to right some of technologies’ previous wrongs.
It’s tricky because, in some cases, these things do work. We’ve all read the success stories, and for many of us, that’s enough to keep us trying out new things. Some much ultimately relies on our own individual hang ups. If we’re lucky, the right piece of technology at the right time can be legitimately transformative of those things we’d like to change about ourselves.
With something like the June, the hope is two-fold. There’s all of the built-in features and the promise of better baking, coupled with the simple motivating factor of spending $599 on a glorified toaster oven. I’ll admit that test driving it only addresses only the first of those two key things, but my hopes were still pretty high that it could help wean me off of my takeout food dependency.
Thing is, I travel a lot for work. Couple that with a long time living in one of the world’s best and most diverse food cities, and that’s a recipe for picking up food nearly every night. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what that means for my wallet and waste line, not to mention the packing waste that tends to generate. Bad news all the way around.
Often life gets in the way, as it has with my own testing. This one’s been a little cursed. After a prolonged delay on review units (the second gen oven was announced 10 months ago), I was finally able to get started late last month. Well, after the company sent me a second unit when I discovered the hard way that the first had been damaged in shipping, sending up sparks during my first attempt to cook. I mention that only to say double-check the filaments when you take it out of the box. Perhaps some kind of automotive-like oven health check is in the cards for some future update.
One other thing worth mentioning here, at the risk of offering up TMI, is the fact that I rarely left my bed the week before last, over a particularly bad bout with the stomach flu. The nausea and everything else have been bad enough to put me off of the idea of handling raw meat for the intervening week — something that could hopefully be a boon for my longtime flirtations with vegetarianism.
As someone who’s never been especially enamored with cooking, the June did help fire up those synapsis in my brain a bit. There’s something in being able to cook something decent with minimal effort, and the June does a good job on that front. Locate a recipe with only a handful of ingredients and a stated five to 10 minute prep time, and that’s a solid baby step. Of course, you can only go outside of June’s suggested recipes, but coloring inside the lines is a probably the best place for a beginner to start.
Simplicity, coupled with data collection are where the June really shines. Between the constant heat monitoring, the camera and the inclusion of a meat thermometer, the oven is pulling a lot of data to assure you get the right cook. It’s not idiot-proof (sadly for this culinary dummy), and the first time I tried (the working oven), I’d stuck the thermometer too far in, touching the bottom pan and shortening the cooking time to a too brief five minutes (down from 22).
Make this so idiots like me can use it is probably my main feedback here. Also, though I fully understand why it’s as large as it is, it was still bigger than expected. Which may not mean much to you, if you don’t grapple with the size restrictions of a New York City apartment.
Another minor thing, which probably couldn’t be avoided is that plasticky smell that happens with the first several sessions. Based on the June FAQ, I expected it to go away a lot sooner, but was assured it was just a normal part of the baking process.
For what it’s worth, the simple dishes came out well, which only means a lot if you know how terrible I am at cooking. It’s a weird mental block, I realize. And I did enjoy the process enough to begin experimenting with things outside of the parameters of the June recipes.
Smartphone notifications are a nice feature, though I’m not sure any of the smart features are “necessary” per se. Like, take this time-lapse footage of me slightly overcooking chicken breasts:
[Above: bon appétit?]
Ditto for the image recognition. It does an impressive job mostly identifying the foodstuffs on the tray, but I can’t really foresee a scenario in which you, the chef, is not aware of what you’re cooking before you hit start.
It’s a tricky line to walk. You want to add enough features to justify the purchase of a smart oven, while not loading it up with so many that the price becomes unmanageable. June’s definitely taken a step in the right direction with the second gen oven, but for a majority of users, the balance still isn’t quite there.
It’s been a big year for Impossible . The bay area based food startup kicked the year off with a new take on its titual burger, and just last week announced the closing of a $300 million round hot on the heels of its Burger King distribution.
What comes next for the company likely won’t come as much of a shock to anyone steeped in the world of plant-based meat replacements. Engadget got a bit of behind-the-scenes time at the startup’s Redwood City location, discovering that sausage is next up on the Impossible menu.
From the sound of things, the breakfast food will mostly be made up of the same stuff as the company’s burger patties, right down to the imitation blood. Instead, the amounts of the ingredients will be mixed up in different proportions, with potato protein removed completely. In fact, the company’s got a lot of different recipes in the work that are largely reconfigurations of its “platform” product. Imagine it as a modular menu, if you will. Heck, rotating the same few core ingredients has worked pretty well for chains like Taco Bell over the years, so why not health foodstuffs?
Timing and all that other good stuff is still TBD.
American Express (also commonly known as AmEx), a popular credit and banking company, recently announced that it purchased a company called Resy. Resy helps people get seats at restaurants, or as AmEx describes it, provides “a digital restaurant reservation booking and management platform.”
The deal might not be as big a surprise as it feels, given that the two have worked together since at least the start of 2018.
As a private company, five-year-old Resy raised a total of $45 million in its lifetime, according to its Crunchbase profile. Its investors include Lerer Hippeau, Airbnb and Slow Ventures. Resy was co-founded by Ben Leventhal, co-founder of Eater, which produces food news and dining guides. The startup is primarily focused on the United States, but it also has a presence in the United Kingdom, Europe, Canada and Australia.
In a press release, AmEx said the goal of the acquisition was to enhance its ability to help cardmembers have access to “new, notable and hard to get into restaurants across the globe, as well as help restaurants’ businesses grow and thrive.” It also noted that it’s the latest buy in a string of recent purchases “in the dining, travel and lifestyle space.”
However, this being Crunchbase News, let’s see what else we can find out about what AmEx is up to.
Swipe for all the startups
AmEx has been on a buying spree as of late. In March, we reported on its purchase of LoungeBuddy, a former partner that helped travelers with reviews of various airport lounge areas. Also this year, AmEx picked up Pocket Concierge, a firm that we wrote “helps book in-demand restaurants and is similar to OpenTable.”
The following chart details American Express’s known acquisitions over the past decade, as reported by Crunchbase:
The chart tell us two things:
AmEx is not a company with a history of buying lots of companies. For a firm of its value ($98.3 billion), buying a few companies a year is more than manageable. And, often, American Express hasn’t even done that. Indeed, in five of the last 11 years, AmEx bought zero known companies.
AmEx has picked up three companies according to Crunchbase data this year. That’s a record, and it’s only May.
So, there could be change in the wind over at the credit card giant. (And if so, I suspect there are a fair few companies that brush up against AmEx that would love to join forces.)
A different checkbook
AmEx also has a venture arm, creatively named American Express Ventures. That means it interfaces with young tech shops both while they are independent and when they are ready to be picked up.
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