One of the popular use cases for Dropbox, which just this month hit 200 million users, is photo storage. In addition to saving photos from your desktop to Dropbox by way of drag-and-drop, the company also added automatic photo uploads to its mobile application back in 2012. Today, a new service called Printhug lets you do something useful with your expanding Dropbox photo collection – by simply dropping photos into a select folder, Printhug will automatically print and ship photos to any address of your choosing.
Printhug is the first product to publicly launch out of Israeli startup Token Labs, which was founded this March by Nir Buschi, who previously spent three-and-a-half years as VP of Business Development at Wibiya (acquired by Conduit), and Shachar Tal, formerly the CTO at Equitick and Gamescale.
However, the service was not the first product the team had actually built. “We stumbled across the need of a simple photo printing solution while working on the other products,” explains Buschi.
Token Labs’ other photo products are still in private beta, he says, and are more social in nature. He declined to provide further details about these products, but says that it’s possible that Printhug could connect with one of the company’s other offerings in the future.
“The more we researched and spoke to people about it, we understood there were many barriers to printing photos. It’s a time-consuming task, uploading, downloading, driving, waiting in line – it’s a hassle,” says Buschi. “Many people do not have the time for that, and for that reason they just don’t print even though photo prints have a special and personal touch to them.”
So the team decided they wanted to come up with a way to offer a simpler solution. Like Dropbox itself, using Printhug isn’t much difficult than dragging and dropping items into a folder. To get started, you authorize the application, which creates a “Printhug” folder within your Dropbox “Apps” folder to which you add the photos you want to have printed. This allows Printhug to work on any platform where Dropbox works – web, mobile, tablets, or desktop.
Printhug watches that folder in real time and then automatically sends an email invoice after you finish shuffling around your photos. You receive the invoice, pay online, and then the photos ship out in the standard 4×6 format. The company is working with a handful of printing partners in Israel and the U.S., and is working to make connections in Europe, too. The photos are $0.39 each, and the shipping cost is a flat $3.00 worldwide for now, at least.
In addition, Printhug includes a few hacks for sending photos to new addresses, requesting more copies, or soon, specifying different sizes, too. In the case of the former, you can create a sub-folder in the Printhug folder, throw in a text file or doc with a different address or addresses from the one you set up in your Printhug account, and the service will automatically ship photos to those addresses instead. As for requesting more copies or different print sizes, you can again use a new folder, or edit a file name to include the request. For example, you could make a folder called “8 Copies” or rename a file “5x7_photoname.jpg” or “8copies_photoname.jpg” as a way of communicating your request.
Doing this makes using the Printhug service a bit more hands-on than maybe originally intended, but it is a straightforward enough method which would work fine for the occasional one-off request.
A number of companies have tried to go into the photo-print business, competing with giants like Shutterfly, launching as standalone web and mobile applications, or offering prints in conjunction with a variety of photo products like photo gifts and books. But Printhug’s support for working right within Dropbox could be a draw for those who aren’t interested in adopting an entirely new product, and just want to stick with something they already know.
The company is currently based just outside of Tel Aviv and is a bootstrapped team of just the two founders. You can try out Printhug for yourself here.
3D printing is all the rage and it’s hard to know just where to start. If you have a budding manufacturing magnate on your Christmas list we’ve got a few fun things for them to check out. One word of advice? Don’t buy cheap 3D printers. I’ve tested a few so far and a number of the “cheap” open source models and some of the models you find at Office Depot are unusable at best. It hurts me to say this but there is really a race to the bottom when it comes to 3D printing right now. Things may be expensive, but like any early-adopter you should save your pennies and pick the right model for the job.
First, I’d recommend the Makerbot Replicator 2X, an “experimental” Makerbot that can print using corn-starch-based PLA and plastic ABS. Being able to print in both materials is vitally important if you want to make high quality items and each material has its different qualities. For example, you can print translucent objects with PLA but not ABS and ABS objects are far more resilient than PLA objects.
At $2,799 it’s not a cheap toy, but if you’ve been planning to jump into 3D printing there’s no time like the present. I actually make a little money using MakeXYZ, a market for 3D printed objects. By printing things for other people you can actually pay for the ‘bot and the printing material in a few months.
Want to spend a little less? Take a look at the Afinia H series, a $1,599 printer with a smaller build plate than the Makerbot but, in some ways, superior resolution. I tested the rugged little Afinia and came away impressed. You can order the printers here.
Don’t want to spend too much? 3D Systems has released the Sense scanner, a $399 model that requires you to move the scanner around an object in 3D space. They’re beginning to ship now and we’ll have a full review shortly, but that’s the gist of it.
Finally, you could probably use some filament. While Makerbot sells their own excellent filament, I’ve had good luck with Monoprice. You may have to mess around with the spool holder for your printer – Monoprice’s spools don’t fit the stock Makerbot spool holder – but you will save about $25 off of Makerbot’s prices.
Be sure to leave plenty of room under the tree for your printers – these things aren’t tiny – and enjoy entering the amazing 21st century.
Originally posted here: Gift Guide: Gadgets For Budding 3D Printing Fans
We are about to embark on amazing adventure and we need your help. In January we are holding our first Hardware Battlefield in Las Vegas, Nevada to coincide with CES. We will bring 15 great hardware startups, a gaggle of amazing judges, and a 3D-printed trophy of your design.
We need 3D designers to build us an amazing, open source trophy that Shapeways will print for us. If your model is chosen you will receive a Makerbot Digitizer and our unending appreciation as well as a link to your work.
How do you enter? Create a 3D model taller than six inches and submit it to Shapeways with the tag “Techcrunch.” Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, when you’ve uploaded your model and we will pick a winner at the end of November. You will receive a print and we will use another copy as our Hardware Battlefield trophy.
What are we looking for? Anything as long as it looks great as a trophy, is sufficiently regal-looking, and is amazing. We want robots, planetoids, and 3D printer nozzles blown up to maximum resolution. We want something that epitomizes the spirit of adventure, fun, and hard work that it takes to make a cool hardware startup.
So enter today. We need you and we want our Hardware Battlefield winner to go home with an amazing trophy of your design.
Read more from the original source: We Need You To Design The Hardware Battlefield Trophy
Fans of outré 3D prints like the Liberator or trademark-protected Mechwarrior robots can now obfuscate their prints using Disarming Corruptor, a system that temporarily scrambles 3D objects and allows authorized users to descramble them with a key. Created by Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, the program is a commentary on the censorship of 3D objects and an interesting way to trip up folks who might be snooping through your print files.
“In a time of prolific online espionage, crackdowns on file-sharing, and a growing concern for the 3D printing of illegal items and copyright protected artefacts, DC is a free software application that helps people to circumvent these issues,” wrote Plummer-Fernandez. “Inspired by encryption rotor machines such as the infamous Enigma Machine, the application runs an algorithm that is used to both corrupt STL files into a visually-illegible state by glitching and rotating the 3D mesh, and to allow a recipient to reverse the effect to restore it back to its original form. The file recipient would need both the application and the unique seven digit settings used by the sender, entering the incorrect settings would only damage the file further.”
Companies like Create It Real are already working on databases of “forbidden” objects. DC, then, works as a counter to these censorship systems. It also acts as a form of copy protection, ensuring people can download your STL files and unlock them with your permission.
“When patent trolls and law enforcement agencies find these files on sharing sites they will only see abstract contortions, but within the trusting community these files will still represent the objects they are looking for, purposely in need of repair,” he wrote.
You can download the program here for OSX and Windows and Linux versions are forthcoming. It doesn’t seem to work on Mavericks yet, so downloader cavete.
See the article here: Disarming Corruptor Can Temporarily Scramble 3D Models To Confuse Snoops
Helen Foley is Marketing Executive at Elanders, a global printing group with production units in nine countries on four continents.
Love it or hate it, 3D printing is here to stay. It is considered the future of print and manufacturing, and is set to dramatically change the way we buy and produce products in the future.
Over the years, experts have been researching and developing different concepts, printing designs and processes and several breakthroughs have been made — including a working 3D kidney made in 2002 by the Wake Forest Institute and a prosthetic leg, inclusive of the knee and foot, etc. made in 2008 by Bespoke Innovations.
Outside of professional and engineering circles, consumers have been able to get their hands on the first affordable devices that are powerful enough to produce small 3D printed objects, mainly through Kickstarter projects. Those who have had their eyes on the slightly larger machines for bigger objects can buy 3D printers like The Buccaneer.
More commercially, leading retail businesses such as grocery giant Tesco have declared their interest in integrating a 3D printing service into their stores in the future.
So, to help you get inspired by the “next big thing” in tech and design, we’ve gathered the 15 of the best 3D-printed items from 2013.
If you’re not in the US or your idea wasn’t noticed by Google during their “#ifIhadglass” Twitter campaign earlier this year, there is an alternative! Chinese entrepreneur Sunny Gao proved this by printing a fully functioning pair of Google Glasses at a hackathon event in Shanghai.
Unfortunately the 3D printed version of the glasses doesn’t boast Wi-Fi or Bluetooth support, unlike the real thing – but they look awfully close. On the plus side, you have an option to choose your preferred colour, which will please the more fashion-conscious amongst us!
Chinese students from the School of Automobile and Mechanical Engineering at Changsha University of Science and Technology constructed their first race car, “FNX-13,” using 3D-printed parts. The race car took the brains and brawn of 40 students, and uses a Honda 600CC motorcycle engine, allowing it to reach speeds of 150km per hour (95 mph).
Despite being a manufacturing marvel, the project is still a long way from becoming affordable for the masses, with as much as $37,570 spent on printing materials and equipment, since the cost of 3D printing is still reasonably high.
Easton LaChappelle, a 17-year-old high school student from Colorado, used free online resources for 3D printers to construct a fully functional prosthetic arm and hand. The high school student found inspiration from one of his past projects which involved building a robotic hand, made entirely of Lego when he was 14. His creation was able to open and close its fingers using two things: fishing line and servo motors.
LaChappelle has already visited The White House and demonstrated his new invention to US President Barack Obama. Now, the high school student is working at NASA on the Robonaut team.
Layers in Design have finally found a use for your collection of old water bottles. This new contraption, “Screw You Vase,” is priced at €130 (£110) and transforms 12 water bottles (all of a similar size) into a large vase.
The 3D-printed model is available in green or black and uses the cap on the top of the bottle. It then balances the three bottles from the centre to form the base of the vase before expanding out in a circular formation.
Finnish designer Saad Alayyoubi, AKA SaGaDesign, hasn’t just created a perfectly good stand for your iPad, but in fact, a work of art. The €161 (£136) miniature muscle-man, reminiscent of the Greek titan Atlas, not only looks impressive, but uses every bit of his 3D-printed strength to hold your iPad at the perfect viewing angle.
As mentioned on the product’s Shapeways page, it also appears to defy gravity as the mini man holds an object that is much taller than him. The product, named “Sisu” roughly translates to “determination” or “grit.”
Bespoke Innovations, mentioned in the introduction for being the makers behind the first 3D-printed prosthetic leg, can also be credited for the first 3D-printed acoustic guitar.
Why print a guitar? Well, there is a little-known fact that the supplies of exotic woods are running considerably low, so manufacturers of instruments need to start researching for alternative materials.
Scott Summit, co-founder of Bespoke Innovations says that the good news is, there is no Gold Standard for guitars compared to other stringed instruments like the violin, so they can be made of anything. In addition, guitarists prefer to have their own unique sound in addition to a customised guitar face, something that will be available with a truly original, 3D-printed guitar.
Andy Hudson-Smith and team, of The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at the University College London, discussed the design and construction process of building 3D printed mechanical clock on their blog.
Using the MakerBot Replicator 2, the team printed the clock pieces, consisting of cogs and connectors. Each cog took around two hours to print. Meanwhile, the frame sections took around three to four hours to print using the same settings.
To demonstrate the clock in action, creators use a 600g weight which requires winding every 48 hours.
If you’re on the road and your phone battery dies, you can’t always run the risk of using your car battery to charge it. So, the hand cranked power generator may be just what you need for your next trip.
The rotor spins up to 4,000 rpms and produces about 40 volts without any load; sufficient to charge the small gadgets we all carry around with us on a daily basis.
Erichsen, the designer behind the 3D-printed hand cranked power generator, was awarded the place of first runner up in CGTrader’s 3D printing competition, where he showcased his new creation.
Other 3D-printed items you might want to consider taking with you on your next trip are Gear Wraps. These small, strong and lightweight cable wraps are printed from the material ABS and were designed by Eddie Licitra.
Gear Wraps help you keep your ear phones, chargers and USB cables organised; removing the possibility of them being tangled with each other in your bag. The fact that they can now be printed on demand means you should never again run out of these handy little cable organisers.
This isn’t as much a 3D-printed item as it is a printer itself. 33-year-old Kodjo Afate Grikou wanted to help his community in West Africa, so they can use it to print utilities that they aren’t able to source locally, such as kitchen utensils for cooking.
The structure of the printer uses very little in terms of new parts, as it is mostly made up of e-waste and scrap metal. Before building, he set up his project on the European social funding website, ulule. The project received more than €4,000 (£3,400), despite the printer only costing him €73 (£62), which was mostly through purchasing new parts that he wasn’t able to source locally.
Grikou hopes that his innovation will inspire teenagers and young people in his community to attend school and gain an education so they can make further life changing developments that will benefit not only their lives, but also others around them.
The European Aerospace and Defence Group (EADS) printed this bicycle which weights 65 percent less than the traditional bicycles on the market today.
It is grown, rather than constructed, from nylon power using a process called additive layer manufacturing – which is similar to 3D printing. EADS combined this with another process called laser sintering to reinforce the structure and make the frame robust, yet light. The result: a product they are calling “Airbike.”
A similar process to laser sintering is also used by NASA. They have recently performed successful tests of their rocket injector, printed using a process called direct metal laser sintering.
The printed injector withstood a pressure of 1,400 pounds per square inch and 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Such figures signal huge progress in 3D printing and are too significant for future printers not to consider, when building their next creation.
Printed rockets might be too ambitious a project for you if you’re just starting out with 3D print, so perhaps try designing your own unique smart phone case first. There is a range of templates online for the latest smartphones regardless of whether you own an iPhone, Samsung, HTC or Nokia.
The case we’ve featured is from the Shapeways community, designed by user Genghis. It is printed using a strong and flexible plastic, starting at $20 (£12).
Of the various creations we’ve covered so far, the bionic ear is perhaps one of the most unusual. To construct the ear, Princeton University researchers print the polymer gel onto an approximate ear shape and implement calf cells onto the matrix. The sliver nanoparticles fuse together to create an antenna which picks up radio signals before being transferred to the cochlea, which translates the sound into brain signals.
Despite all of this, researchers have yet to draw up plans to attach the ear to the human head.
Drivers of older cars, such as the classic Aston Martin DB4, can often be heard saying ‘They don’t make them like this anymore!’ Well, with 3D printers available to consumers, plus a little bit of computer aided design (CAD) knowledge, you could effectively ‘make them like they used to’ once more and end up with a fully functioning life size car.
Ivan Sentch is currently building his very own Aston Martin DB4, made from a variety of plastics which can be bought for $30 per kilogram. He will then use plywood to hold the structure in place until every module is complete.
His estimations calculate that the finished product will cost $1,800 (£1,100), after installing parts such as the engine, drive train and suspension, taken from a Nissan Skyline.
Did we miss any of your favorites? Discuss in the comments.
Follow this link: 15 of the best 3D-printed items from 2013
This summer, the Y Combinator-backed startup Lob launched a new developer API which lets companies easily integrate printing and shipping services into their applications. Today, the company is announcing $2.4 million in seed funding from various YC partners and angel investors. Participating in the round were Kevin Hale, Dalton Caldwell, Sam Altman, Joshua Schachter, Alexis Ohanian, Paul Buchheit, Garry Tan, Polaris Partners, and other undisclosed investors.
With Lob, whose early adopters include CrowdTilt, ZenPayroll, LendUp, LocalOn, and others, developers can automate or print a variety of products on demand, including postcards, photos, flyers, posters, bills, checks, invoices, and more.
The company says it now has over 1,000 paying customers, and just hit $40,000 in revenue at the end of last month. It has also printed a million dollars worth of checks. On the horizon, there’s the potential for Lob to grow even larger, with now two Fortune 500 companies testing the service on a smaller scale. If those trials come to fruition, they could be multi-million dollar deals, the founders tell us.
A graduate of Y Combinator’s summer 2013 program, Lob was started earlier this year by University of Michigan grads Harry Zhang and Leore Avidar. Zhang had been inspired to create the service after previously working as a product manager at Microsoft, where he saw the difficulties involved with customer mailings – the company had interns stuffing envelopes in a mailroom for weeks, at times.
Today, Lob’s use cases go beyond your typical printed materials, like postcards, invoices or promotional mailings, for example. The company already offers tools like address verification, and “Smart Packaging” (where it picks the best packaging type automatically), and now it’s also working to enable printing of other products, too, including photo albums/photo books, and even t-shirts and mugs. Longer term, the team is considering moving into physical books as well, given customer demand.
“When we think of printed products, it’s anything that ink can touch,” explains Zhang. He wants Lob to be a one-stop shop where companies can manage all their printings. And although it’s still early days, the solution is growing in popularity. Customers generally come in with a single request, but then realize how they can use Lob in other areas, too. Today, almost every customer is using two products at the minimum, even though over half had arrived seeking just a single solution.
The team was also surprised to see international sign-ups, given its U.S. focus, with customers arriving from South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, then opting to have Lob print and ship items overseas. “A lot of international companies don’t have local ways to do this, so they’re willing to pay a little more,” Avidar says.
In terms of its pricing, Lob has been competitive, but maybe not the cheapest option, though that’s changing as it begins to scale. In a few months’ time, Lob’s pricing will drop by an average of 10% across the board, we’re told. (Some products might not change, while others may drop by as high as 20%-30%, to give you an idea).
But Lob’s advantage hasn’t necessarily been one based just on price – it’s about the model. Competitors have traditionally required businesses to pay large amounts upfront, or even pre-pay for their entire order, but Lob lets its customers pay as you go.
“The fact that it’s a variable expense and you can do everything on a minimum quantity of one – that’s really the differentiator,” says Avidar. “You can’t really go anywhere and say: ‘I want to print one postcard’,” he adds.
With the additional funding, Lob is working to add new product categories and hire engineers to help build out its API. The company wants to double (or more) its four-person team over the next few months, and support for photo albums and t-shirts is arriving soon.
Go here to see the original: Cloud Printing & Shipping Service Lob Raises $2.4 Million Seed Round
In the kennel of 3D printers, I’d equate the oddly-shaped and homegrown RepRap printers to lovable mutts. The Makerbot is a golden retriever, ready to please. And the $1,599 Afinia H-Series is a solid, scrappy Jack Russell terrier, willing to get dirty and able to take on all comers.
The H-Series looks like it was built by the same industrial design team that built the original metal-clad Apple IIs. The device is almost entirely self-contained and there are none of the familiar cables running up and down the various arms and cams. The print head is connected via a large wire ribbon to the control board and shielded by a 3D-printed plastic screen that keeps the .15mm print head protected. The spool sits on a fairly solid hook on the side of the machine and the plastic runs through a guide into the extruder. In short, there are very few visible moving parts, which is a good thing and a bad thing.
The H-Series is a great beginners’ printer and the rugged case makes it an excellent contender for a true classroom 3D printer. It looks and feels as solid as, say, an industrial educational microscope or similar lab gear and, given a choice, I’d far prefer it over a similarly outfitted but more exposed system like the many RepRap hardware. That said, the home hobbyist may be put off by the lack of visible access to the extruder and motors, two points of failure that often require maintenance. This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get into the extruder and pull out broken filament, for example, but it’s definitely a bit of a hindrance.
As for print quality, it was a mixed bag but erred on the side of excellent. On very simple prints everything worked swimmingly. The .15mm size produces a smooth, solid print in objects that fit within the fairly limited 5-inch square print envelope. However, bigger objects are problematic as you have to slice them a bit to get them to fit and, unlike the Makerbot, you don’t have much room to print multiple objects on one plate.
In terms of torture testing the printer I came away sufficiently impressed, but if you’re printing very complex objects this is probably not for you. This is my printer torture test object. It’s 100 layers tall and consists of a number of very fiddly little shapes that throw off most printers. The Makerbot can barely complete this without artifacts. How did the Afinia do? The results, while not perfect, were more than acceptable given the price and the materials available. No amount of fine-tuning could force the printer to create a better version of this print.
The Torture Test model, on the other hand, printed just fine. In general the printer can produce some very solid output but it is stymied by the limitations imposed by additive printing and the problems associated with ABS filament.
Given that the H-Series is facing a number of competitors in the 3D printing space, it’s important to understand how this model stacks up. It has a very small build envelope, which could be problematic, but because we’re not talking about an industrial printer here this can be forgiven. It’s half the price of similarly outfitted 3D printers but you are limited to ABS printing and it only includes one extruder. However, because it’s quite small it’s far easier to store than other models and can sit unobtrusively on a desk where others systems hulk menacingly.
I ran into a few problems with the software, however, which should give Mac users pause. The OS X versions of the software worked intermittently and the app didn’t work at all on Windows 8. It works best on Windows 7, which I ended up running in a virtual machine on my Mac just to get anything to print.
Compared to other software packages I’ve used the phrase “Better than nothing” comes to mind when I look at Afinia’s solution. There is no interactive scaling – to scale an object you select a size multiplier (.8, 1.2, etc) and press scale. The same unintuitive system is used to move and rotate objects on the bed. However, when all you want to do is print something small it works just fine. The 3D printer software is often an afterthought and, while I wasn’t impressed by its utility, I was able to use it and print with it without much trouble.
Is this the 3D printer for you? If you’re an educator or home hobbyist, I think this is $1,500 well spent. Serious hobbyists may want to consider a printer that does PLA and ABS, however, and the build envelope is very small on this machine, thereby limiting what you can print in one piece. However it is very quiet, sturdy, and usable and I was very impressed with the build quality and utility. It’s not the best 3D printer out there, but in many respects it comes very close.
Click to enlarge
View original post here: Hands On With The Afinia H-Series 3D Printer, A Rugged Printing Rig For Home And School
Google today announced the launch of KitKat, the latest version of its Android operating system. The reveal comes at the same time as the launch of the Nexus 5 smartphone. The company bills KitKat as something that will deliver a “smarter, more immersive” Android experience that puts the content you’re viewing right at the center of your attention.
Some examples of what’s new in KitKat are features such as making phone calls easier – it has enhanced the way in which you search for contacts not only across your address book, but also by nearby places and even through Google Apps. It also includes the new Hangouts app, which Google’s Vic Gundotra announced earlier this week, bringing in all your SMS and MMS messages together in a single app.
Here’s the list of other features that come with Android 4.4:
Being able to print on the go
KitKat will now enable users to print documents, files, images, and other content right from their phone or tablet. By connecting your printer to Google Cloud Print or HP ePrint printers, or any other printer tied to Google Play apps, it’s possible to make hard copies of whatever is on your phone…wirelessly.
In an age where people want to monitor how fit they are, KitKat includes a battery-friendly pedometer to count how many steps you take.
Open any file
Google is now making it possible to open and save files right into your Google Drive account, any other cloud storage service, or even to the device itself.
Multitasking made faster
With Android 4.4, the system has been optimized to enable users to run more of their apps at the same time and switch between them more quickly.
KitKat also offers Near Field Communication (NFC) through Host Card Emulation to help deal with payments, loyalty programs, card access, transit passes, and other custom services. App developers can take advantage of its Reader Mode tool to enable card readers to integrate with their software.
So how exactly is KitKat going to create an “immersive” experience? Google says that the newest version will enable app developers to take advantage of every pixel on the screen while also creating “full-bleed UIs” while also hiding the system interface such as the navigation and status bar. This idea will hopefully cast a bigger spotlight on photos, videos, maps, books, and games.
In the new mode, the system UI stays hidden, even while users are interacting with your app or game — you can capture touch events from anywhere across the screen, even areas that would otherwise be occupied by the system bars. This gives you a great way to create a larger, richer, more immersive UI in your app or game and also reduce visual distraction.
In this new mode, to display the hidden UI, users can swipe from the top or the bottom of the screen — similar to what you do on iOS 7. To revert back, Google states that users can touch the screen outside of the bar or wait for a short period of time for it to once again disappear.
The goal is to put the content at the forefront and help you ignore all the distractions from notifications, battery life, cell reception, and more.
Android 4.4 comes with support for international users as well. Google says that app developers can take advantage of RTL scripting that enables certain versions of the content to be displayed instead of duplicating efforts, potentially helping aid in app localization.
It also includes closed captioning for those that need or prefer it. Users can go to Settings > Accessibility > Captions to set their preference. This will help app developers who also want to incorporate this feature when they have a video to share with their end users. It also includes a VideoView feature that will utilize Google’s API to pass captioning along with the video for rendering.
The latest version of Android came about through a partnership with Nestle. It marks a departure from its traditional naming conventions when all its operating system versions were defined by a dessert: Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, and Jelly Bean. It’s also the first commercial partnership on Android.
Now live, it will begin its drive to become the sole Android operating system that will work across all smartphones and tablets. It’s billed as being designed in a way that will make running applications and operations smoother, faster, and more responsive on all devices, even those with as little as 512MB of RAM.
KitKat comes with the Nexus 5, but it will also be available for the Nexus 4, 7, 10, the Samsung Galaxy S4, and HTC One in the coming weeks.
You can find more about KitKat here.
Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
One of the challenges for startups going after the weddings space is that they must constantly acquire new users – at least before the word-of-mouth momentum kicks in, as brides, grooms and guests tell their soon-to-marry friends about the various wedding-related services they used last. A Raleigh, N.C. area startup called WedPics now believes it has found its footing, having hosted 75,000 weddings to date since its launch last August, and claims to now be seeing around 3,000 weddings on its platform every weekend.
This platform, which allows couples and guests to document every aspect from their weddings from engagement through the honeymoon, originally emerged from the team’s previous efforts in collaborative photo-sharing with an app called Deja Mi, started back in early 2011. That app had seen some early success – for instance, a partnership with IBM for three of their conferences even helped the company generate revenue in its first six months of operation.
But the team decided to go after a more specific use case, especially as it became ever more apparent that Instagram had won the generic, mobile photo-sharing space, at least for the time being.
WedPics initially begin as a photo-sharing app for iOS and Android as well as a web service which could aggregate photos from the couples’ big day, But almost immediately after launch, the team realized it was being used well ahead of – and after – the actual event itself, and adjusted its marketing approach to match. Today, users tend to adopt the app on average around 6 months before the wedding, and around 35% of WedPics’ content is derived after the wedding wraps.
According to founder Justin Miller, roughly 20% of the U.S. market uses apps like WedPics today, and of that market WedPics accounts for 45% of that usage, he explains, citing his own investigations using AppAnnie data. To date, WedPics has seen over 5 million photos and videos added to its service, with over 200,000 uploads every week, he adds. And it has been used by over 600,000 guests and 120,000 couples. “One in every ten weddings now in the U.S. is using WedPics,” claims Miller.
It’s difficult to validate how any given mobile wedding app compares to another because in Apple’s iOS App Store – of the key platforms for analyzing traction – the apps end up ranked in different categories. For example, WedPics’ top competitor Wedding Party is ranked highly (top 100) for “Social Networking” while WedPics is ranked highly (in and just barely out of top 100) for “Photo and Video.” Even with visibility into “active” users, it would depend on when that data was gathered, because the wedding season has its own peaks and dips, not only in terms of months out of the year, but also days of the week.
However, for a point of comparison, according to Wedding Party co-founder Ajay Kamat, his app has seen more weddings to date than WedPics. “We’ve done hundreds of thousands of weddings in 2013 and are on pace to double that next year,” Kamat told us.
Both startups have roughly the same amount of funding, too. Wedding Party raised a million from NEA and Felicis Ventures earlier this year, while WedPics closed its $1.1 million angel-backed seed round this May, with participation from mainly local investors like Bob Young (Red Hat), Alex Osadzinski (previously of Trinity Ventures), and Jed Carlson (co-founder ReverbNation), among others. WedPics is now hoping to close its Series A before the holidays.
The company has just switched on its monetization efforts, too, through a recent partnership with Picture.com to offer hardcover photo books (8×8 books, free through this month), as well as integration with Kodak’s new developer API for handling photo prints at places like Target in the U.S. And though WedPics hasn’t yet marketed the print solution, it saw 150 orders for prints in its first weekend from people finding the feature in the WedPics app on their own.
Now a team of 13, the company plans to take on the international market next, with plans to support other English-speaking countries like the U.K. and Australia, as well as other markets where it’s seeing traction in Europe and Southeast Asia.
Miller also teases an upcoming launch, due out before year-end, which will make WedPics a “truly social wedding platform” and something that “every couple will have to have for their wedding,” but declined to provide details. Stay tuned.
A number of companies today are attempting to bring the photo album to the mobile era, often through apps which let you organize, then print and ship customizable photo books. The latest to attempt to break into this space is Palo Alto-based Kindred Prints, a mobile software company which offers photo printing apps for iPhone and Android.
The company was founded by Stanford grad students Alex Austin, Mike Molinet, and Mada Seghete just this June. Austin led development on three iPhone apps and has worked in startups before. Molinet has experience delivering consumer products to market, and Seghete was previously Director of Product for Yola.com.
Says Austin, the team was inspired to create the Kindred app because they didn’t like sending impersonal emails with attached photos to family and friends. They wanted to offer a more personalized experience, but for “the price of a latte.” Today, Kindred Prints’ books are just $5.00 each.
That price point is what makes Kindred Prints compelling – it sounds almost unsustainably cheap. Other photo printing apps cost at least twice that, if not more. However, the trick is that the books aren’t just $5.00 – Kindred Prints is actually a subscription play. The company also charges users a small monthly fee of $4.95, which allows it to lower the price on each physical book that’s being sent out. If anything, this is about reducing the psychological barriers to entry that come from seeing prices like $10, $20 or even $30+ in other photo-printing apps. Five bucks feels doable, even if you’re technically paying more.
For those who prefer not to commit to the subscription, a one-time fee per photo book is $11.95, which represents the truer cost here.
As for the books themselves, they are soft-cover 20-page creations built using photos from your phone, Facebook or Instagram. The app can also automatically put together a booklet for you of your top recent photos on Instagram and Facebook. Though I don’t have one in my hands yet to speak directly about quality, from the description and photos, they don’t look much different from the other soft-covered books I’ve ordered over the years, generally speaking.
The app itself, though, is well-designed and easy to use. It’s fairly quick to get up and running and build your first book. Kindred Prints pulls in all the photos for you and you just tap through the ones you want before sending. There aren’t a ton of customizations to slow you down, but you can tap on individual photos to add notes, if you choose. Kindred Prints will also remind you monthly to send a book so your subscription doesn’t go to waste.
During a beta period and other testing, the company shipped 250 booklets. Now that the app is live, they have committed orders for at least 300 books over the next month so far.
Going forward, the team plans to open its API to the public so any website or app can integrate with its service, similar to how Sincerely works today. They’re also working on photo book automation tools that will build book using metadata. For example, the app could automatically build books or you and your friend just ahead of their birthday and alert you when the book is ready to ship.
The company is currently bootstrapped and hoping to fund growth off the subscription revenues, but they may consider a seed round at a later point.
Kindred Prints is available for iOS and Android here.
Kindred is an Android and iOS application that brings users closer to their loved ones by helping them easily share their lives through easy-to-make, low-priced printed photo books right from their phone. Kindred photo books cost $5 including shipping with their subscription model of $4.95 a month or can be ordered one time for $11.95.