Google Is Working With LG To Bring Project Tango To Consumers Next Year

During a session about its ATAP unit, Google today announced that it is working with LG to bring Project Tango, its effort to bring 3D-sensing to phones and tablets — to consumers early next year. This first consumer device will be a tablet, though Google wasn’t all that clear about what exactly this first partnership would look like and didn’t talk about the exact timing or pricing.

The company also said that it is working with the Unity and Unreal game engines, as well as Qualcomm to bring this project to the market.

While Google already shipped limited numbers of its Tango phone prototype to developers earlier this year and launched a 7-inch tablet-based Tango device using Nvidia’s Tegra K1 processor to developers who were willing to pay $1,024, the company had never publicly talked about a potential consumer launch.


Tango clearly isn’t quite ready for a consumer launch today, but the team is clearly working hard on this project and the kind of applications this enables are starting to emerge. During a demo of the technology at I/O today, ATAP’s Technical Program Lead  Johnny Lee showed a Unity-based game based on Tango’s ability to understand where you are in the room, for example. 

As far as the technology goes, Lee noted that the sensor array on the current Tango tablet allows for very high precision. The team found that the drift generally remains under 1 percent and chances are that number will be even lower in a few months. Given that the device doesn’t use GPS and just uses its various 3D sensors, accelerometers and gyros to track users in an enclosed space, that’s a pretty astonishing number.

Read more here: Google Is Working With LG To Bring Project Tango To Consumers Next Year

The Pirates of Silicon Valley: Google’s ATAP team is ‘trying to do epic shit’

At the Google I/O ATAP session this morning, ATAP Lead Regina Dugan told the assembled audience that is was going to “Glimpse at a small band of pirates trying to do epic shit.”

Silicon Valley is full of hyperbole. It’s the world of “disruptive” apps and “game changing” services. Most are neither and when someone takes the stage and informs the audience that they will see something that’s actually awesome, it should be expected that skepticism is the first reaction. But unlike the average startup hoping to get acquired by the giants of the valley, the ATAP team actual delivered.

All ATAP projects last for two years. It’s a quick-moving system designed to accomplish in months what usually takes years. Only two years old itself, ATAP has born 11 projects including VivaLnk, a digital tattoo that lasts for five days. The tattoo creates a wearable authenticator to unlock a phone. Of course, it can be expanded beyond your phone in the future to doors, computers and other items that require non-transferable security for a short term.

But today belonged to three projects; Tango, Project Ara and Spotlight Stories.

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Project Tango

Project Lead Johnny Lee announced that the first consumer Project Tango tablet will be coming next year in a partnership with LG. The consumer tablet will be able to do a real-time estimation of 3D space.

It does this with the motion sensing and multiple cameras without the aid of GPS, Bluetooth or Wi-FI. Two cameras (one traditional and the other fish-eyed) recreate a human’s peripheral vision while a Depth Sensor sees shapes instead of colors. The entire package currently has an error and drift rate while mapping of one percent.

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Onstage he demoed the tablet re-creating the stage in real time. A demo video showed the team recreating a stair case including an accurate representation of the developer ascending the descending the staircase.

It did this entirely without GPS, which is what Tango was made to do. Recreate a 3D facsimile of an indoor where GPs can’t penetrate. It’s one of the reasons it’s being deployed on the International Space Station. To help robots navigate an indoor area without the help of GPS. It was all very impressive, but still not good enough for the team.

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“We have a tremendous amount of new work to do,” said Lee. But like all ATAP projects, they are moving quickly. The developer unit he previewed onstage was the fourth version of the device and would act as a developer kit. Developers can sign up to be notified when the dev kit goes on sale later this year. For the rest of us, we’ll just have to wait until next year to digitally map our homes.

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Project ARA

The modular Project Ara phone has the potential to upend the current smartphone ecosystem. Instead of purchasing a new phone every year, you could upgrade o modules you want (camera, display, etc) without having to buy an entirely new device.

At today’s event, Project Lead Paul Eremenko talked about how the design of the phone was meant to be inviting instead of the boxy feeling associated with modular devices. He also demoed the phone booting up for the first time in public. Well, almost booting up. It got to the Android startup screen and just as it was loading Android proper, it froze.

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It’s not so much a set back as a learning experience. When you’re moving quickly, you don’t have time to dwell on problems and instead need to work on solutions. The solution to the startup difficulty will most likely be solved when a version of Android with modular support is released in the fall.

The support will push the limits of Android. “Ara is a stress test to what Android can do beyond the regular OS,” says Eremenko. The team is also working to reduce the area needed in each module that is occupied by elements need to run the module from 65-70 percent 25 – 30 percent. to If there’s something the smartphone space needs right now it’s a push towards innovation beyond syncing with wearables.

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For developers, Eremenko announced Project Ara Developer Prize Challenge to create a module that has a feature that is currently not available on any smartphone. The module does need to actually work when submitted. The grand prize winner and two runner ups will receive all expense paid trips to Ara events. the grand prize winner will also receive $100,000. Entry forms are due September 1 and completed modules are due September 30.

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Spotlight Stories

The Windy Day animation that shipped on the Moto X was the first project from the Spotlight Stories Project. The animation was whimsical and took advantage of the phones motion sensors. As you moved the phone in real space, it presented a window into an animated world. The next projects looks more impressive.

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Teaming with Animator and Director Glen Keene–who helped create Disney’s Little Mermaid, the Beast from Beauty and the Beast and Tarzan from the movie of the same name–the next Spotlight Story, The Duet looks magical because it doesn’t look like CG. That’s because Keene hand drew the entire short.

The result is looks more organic that anything else in the CG animation world. But, unlike traditional animation that is shown at 24 frames per second, smartphones display at 60 frames per second. Keene says that he found the challenge as a opportunity because he had more frames to create with.

All those frames added up to 10,055 original drawings that had to be scanned in and the team used a “graphite stardust” image process that gave every tiny mark it’s own graphic image without making the finished work pixelated. The result looks like a pencil drawing with all the value, tone and white space found in pencil drawings.

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When Keene was first approached by Dugan to work with the ATAP team he was initially skeptical. But Dugan told him, “Make something beautiful and emotional,’ this is music to the ears of any artist.” he says. A year later, he screened The Duet to us at Google I/O. It looks amazing.

The Duet will available in all its interactive glory later this year.

Follow this link: The Pirates of Silicon Valley: Google’s ATAP team is ‘trying to do epic shit’

Please Join Us For The 9th Annual August Capital Party In Silicon Valley

TechCrunch’s annual summer soirée is almost here. As in years past, August Capital will host TechCrunch and hundreds of local investors, founders and developers at its sunny office on Sand Hill Road. All are welcome to the August 1 event, but space is very limited.

Tickets, which you can buy here, are $80 each and include drinks and food. We also have a number of sponsorship opportunities available, and inquiries can be sent to If tickets are sold out now, be on the lookout for our next ticket release.

TechCrunch parties have a history of being the place you want to meet your future investor, acquirer or co-founder. Case in point, back when TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington used to hold these ragers in his Atherton back yard, Box founders Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith met one of their first investors, DFJ. And in 2010, we spotted 500 Startups’ Dave McClure writing a check to then-stealthy startup Tello, which was bought by Urban Airship.

Hope to see you all there this year!!

About the 9th Annual Summer Party at August Capital

  • August 1, 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • 2480 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park CA 94025
  • Get Tickets here, $80 based on availability. Tickets will be released in batches. Stay tuned to TechCrunch for releases, as they sell out quickly.

Our sponsors help make TechCrunch events happen. If you are interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact our sponsorship team here


Highlights From The 2013 August Capital Party

Read the rest here: Please Join Us For The 9th Annual August Capital Party In Silicon Valley

The Ring Of Fire: Of Pirates, Popcorn Time And Dynamic Pricing

Editor’s note: Razmig Hovaghimian is co-founder and CEO of Viki, Inc., a global TV streaming site with crowdsourced subtitles. He’s also Global Head of Video for Rakuten and former SVP of NBC Universal’s international division. This article reflects his opinions and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of either Viki or Rakuten. 

At 36,007 feet up in the air, somewhere between Alaska and Russia, with the Aleutian Islands someplace below us, my child and I are sharing a blissful moment.

My one-year-old is sleeping peacefully and I finally have an opportunity to catch up on Game of Thrones. I’m four episodes behind, and I need to see what happened in that trial by combat. I would pay dearly for each episode during this rare window of time, high above the Aleutians, but that’s not even an option. It should be, though.

It’s high time to bridge the gap between the needs of passionate fans and business. It’s not a zero-sum problem, so:

Dear Studio Heads:

I know you’re not fans of disrupting your tried and tested distribution model: international geo-blocks and distribution holdback windows for releasing new TV shows and movies. I don’t blame you. After all, a whole industry was built on carefully parsing out content rights.

But technology and passionate fandom can be punishing, and it has led to an MPAA reported $20+ billion a year piracy problem for the top U.S. studios alone. Twenty-five percent of all Internet traffic now goes to piracy — 5X growth in the last five years — and that pace of growth is picking up fast.

You’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars on ad campaigns teasing out your latest releases, and you’ve left us fans needing our fix. Your stuff is good! But instead of embracing pirates as fans, some of you turn to intimidation, threats of 10 years in jail, crackdowns, raids, eclipse attacks, hijacking browsers of paying customers, and on and on. Fun stuff. Pretty much all of your content is available online within a five-minute search anyway. Before bringing out the big guns, why not at least give fans the option to pay? The idea is simple: Think Popcorn Time, with dynamic pricing.

What if we give fans a choice to access what they want, when, where, and how they want it, but pay what you want to charge them?

I won’t get into how Apple nailed it or the headway that many other startups in the space are making, but it’s clear by now that access means a drop in piracy, and net growth in sales. Let’s briefly look at the possible macro implications of working with fans.

An NBC Universal-funded study with NetNames discovered that 432 million people worldwide “explicitly sought” copyright infringing content online. This was in January 2013, when the Internet population was a third smaller than it is today. Adjust for Internet adoption and about 10 percent growth in piracy every year, and we could be looking at 750 million fans a month. This doesn’t include those who searched for illegal content but didn’t go through with it. 750 million. And growing. That’s a third of the global online population. You don’t even have to find them. They find you. That’s the beauty of treating “pirates” as fans: untapped and concentrated demand. Beautiful.

Now assume you convert 5 percent of them to pay users (some would argue that the number is closer to 50 percent). Besides the NBCU study, a great deal of data shows that pirates would consider paying if they had a reasonably priced option, Australia aside as of now—don’t ask. That’s 37.5 million people. We’re talking about the size of Netflix here. Now imagine if each of them generates a $5 ARPU (some can pay $1, and some $100) per month, and the revenues go into the billions. Even at 1 percent conversion, it’s huge. Geo-block and leave out the 15 percent of them that are in the U.S., and that’s still huge; and additive, where you don’t trade volume for margin.

From Pirates to Gladly Paying Fans

Popcorn Time is a manifestation of this massive demand, for what people really want. The platform is clean-cut, with one-click streaming of top shows. The kicker is that all the effort is crowdsourced for the fans, by the fans. You don’t have to search for torrent files or figure out how to play them anymore. It’s simpler than Netflix or HBO Go even. Pirates are even disrupting themselves.

Why not use a Popcorn Time-like technology and add dynamic pricing to create a market-clearing price for your content? At a product level, think of Popcorn Time, but with variable prices and holdback windows that you get to control. Fans just pay for what they want per video stream. No ads, no subscriptions, and you can block any country you want, especially where theatre chains and cable companies still take you hostage. As an out, you can also choose to leave out some of your flagship titles (or recent seasons) until the economics make sense.

If you want to be adventurous, you can even start with content that is already illegally available online and just gate it.

The idea is neither a first nor is it novel. It’s just the right time. Dynamic pricing isn’t that complex, either. Take a page out of the e-commerce playbook and adjust for dozens of variables, from content recency, to country of viewership, to competitor pricing, to social chatter, to the number of torrents seeded or leeched, to the quality of the original video file, among many others. You can also track search terms and adjust prices in anticipation, or even involve the search giants to seed pay users and give them a cut. Both sides would win. You’d need kick-ass data scientists, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you get a world-class team of volunteers lined up to work on it.

Would some fans pay $100 for a season of Game Of Thrones in a country where HBO is not available? Maybe. Would fans pay $50 for a simulcast of a new release if they’re in Asia? Likely. How about $10 for a six-month-old title still not on Netflix? Yeah, for sure. Or two dollars in India? Yes, if not more.

Here’s a fairly fresh example for just one show: BBC’s Happy Valley was the No. 1 global trending topic on Twitter recently, yet one couldn’t see it outside of the UK. Six million people watched it in a week. That’s 10 percent of the UK population. How would it have done had it been available with dynamic pricing, even after the UK broadcast ended, at $30 for the series of six episodes? Probably way more than they will make from the DVD (hint) sales that will be available this week.

Don’t Let Fear Be Your Zugzwang

In order for it to work, when and where you choose to make the content available, you have to go all in — with your latest and greatest shows, starting at the head of the curve. Make some of your long tail shows, which you’re not monetizing anyway, available for free even, so you can up-sell fans on your newer shows. When you fine-tune this model, no part of it would be net cannibalizing to your existing revenue base. Let technology help you reduce theft, reach new fans, and in the process, increase the size of the revenue pie for all involved in making your great content.

There are convenient reasons to say no, from the fear of setting a precedent of negotiating with pirates, to “breaking” what’s working, or creating price transparency. You may even view this as your Zugzwang (in chess terms, as I know you play the long game); you’d rather pass when it’s your turn, than make a move that would put you at a disadvantage. Coming from both the studio and technology sides, let alone as a fan, I worry that the only wrong move here is not moving at all. You are fighting your adoring fans, especially fans that on average pay far more for your content than any other group. You turn them off, and that could be catastrophic.

When we spoke about this in L.A. last month, Mr. Head of Antipiracy at “Studio X”, I felt we agreed, at least privately, that with calculated availability, not only can you eat into piracy, but also unlock significant revenues in the process. You know who you are.

Take the leap, man. Open this up. It may take just one “yes” to start. Okay, don’t open up U.S. rights, and don’t even shrink the international distribution windows for your core markets, but at least give us the rest of the world. I don’t even mind waiting weeks for what I love. Studios and fans *are* actually on the same side. We’ve discussed this for years, and I’ve seen your cards. It’s time. This “winter” is coming.

To the rest of us: keep embracing the madness and connecting the dots.

Signing out from the northernmost part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, where the Aleutians, Silicon Valley and Hollywood connect.

More here: The Ring Of Fire: Of Pirates, Popcorn Time And Dynamic Pricing

Sports Illustrated Unveils A New Web Design And A Fantasy Sports App

It’s been a busy few months for Time Inc. Not only has the publishing company spun out from Time Warner, it has also revamped the websites for its publications Time, Money, and Fortune. Now Sports Illustrated is launching a new website, and new products, too.

I got a quick tour of the website last week, and the change struck me as a bit more dramatic than the company’s other recent redesigns. Jim Delorenzo, vice president and general manager of described it as a “soup to nuts” rebuild (based on Drupal’s content management system) of both the website you see and the backend publishing tools. Instead of a standard magazine landing page, the Sports Illustrated homepage has been transformed into an endless stream of customizable modules that can feature different kinds of content, like sports scores and video highlights.

Naturally, it’s also a responsive design that will adjust the layout to accommodate different screen sizes, including those of a smartphone or tablet. Publisher Brendan Ripp said it’s designed to incorporate a variety of different ad formats, including native ads, as well. (You can see a sample expanding ad in the screenshot below.)

Even though this comes a few weeks after the spinout, Paul Fichtenbaum, editor of the Time Inc. Sports Group, said the timing is actually just “a great coincidence.”

“We started this process before anything related to the spinout was announced,” Delorenzo added.

Beyond that, the spinout (which has attracted significant skepticism) wasn’t a big topic during our conversation. Instead, we focused more on Sports Illustrated itself — the team says its online traffic, as reported by comScore, is up 49 percent year over-year.

SI ExpandingScroll 4

“Historically, the Sports Illustrated brand has taken three knocks,” Ripp said. First, there were complaints that the mobile experience was “sub par”. Second while it offered some fantasy sports-related analysis, it hadn’t created any a way for readers to play fantasy sports directly. Third, it wasn’t particularly good at offering game highlights on video.

That’s why Sports Illustrated is also launching a new mobile app called FanNation. Delorenzo said that luring people away from their existing fantasy sports leagues is tough, especially since they’d have to bring their friends or coworkers with them. Instead, FanNation offers an alternative experience, one that’s optimized for mobile phones — daily matchups, where you can assemble a fantasy team and go head-to-head with your friends based on the results of that day’s games. You can put money on those bets (as much or as little as you want), and the fees will become an additional revenue source for Sports Illustrated.

The team noted that FanNation will also feature SI content, and it will be promoted on the various digital properties. The app will start with baseball, then expand basketball, hockey, and football later this year.

As for the third point, video highlights, the company is planning to launch a new livestreaming service, 120 Sports, sometime this week.

With SI getting more aggressive online and on mobile, I was curious about where that leaves the print magazine.

“The magazine has an incredible, hardcore audience of really intelligent sports fans,” Fichtenbaum said. “It’s been rock solid for the last 30 years … On the business side, it’s another pipeline into our audience.”

Read more: Sports Illustrated Unveils A New Web Design And A Fantasy Sports App

Encrypted To The Last Drop

Everything is for sale in the dark web marketplaces. Anonymous buyers can procure everything from prescription painkillers to exotic designer drugs. You can hire sex workers and buy weapons in the same exchange. Danger lurks around every corner and Satoshis flow like water while whales make it rain on encrypted Tor gambling servers.

But not everything on the dark web can kill you or bring you down. One established drug vendor has recently branched out to sell old fashioned coffee, which they say they procure directly from farmers, roast themselves, and describe in loving language that wouldn’t be out of place in an organic grocery store.

Welcome to the nicer side of the dark web, where things look more like Whole Foods than Blade Runner.

“We are all long time coffee drinkers,” said an anonyous representative of Dark Net Roasters in an online interview. “Coffee has always been our favorite caffeinated drink.”

It may be lawful to sell caffeine, but the operation is still tied up in the sale of illegal drugs. The experiment started, in fact, as a promotion by an established seller of edible cannabis products: buy a brownie or a rice crispy treat laced with THC, get a complimentary six ounce bag of coffee. The reception was positive, the representative said, and they decided to spin Dark Net Roasters off as its own entity.

“Once we realized how much everyone was enjoying our coffee it was a natural progression to want to offer them to others,” said the representative, who told me that roasting coffee started out as a hobby that they shared with family and friends.

Why sell their coffee on the dark web, where Amazon-like marketplaces can only be accessed on the anonymizing service Tor? The Dark Net Roasters representative said it was an ideological decision to avoid what they see as unnecessary red tape and oversight—and also a bid to capitalize on a population that’s already making regular purchases on the online black market.

“The Internet is inherently a disruptive technology that fosters competition and innovation,” they said. “However, with the Internet sales tax looming, net neutrality, other noncompetitive legislation and the extent of which the government has been gathering information on its citizens, the dark net and digital currencies become the instinctive solution.”

Selling legal goods on darknet marketplaces isn’t unprecedented. On the Silk Road, an early marketplace that was shut down in a high-profile sting last year, one merchant sold caramel candies that earned positive reviews.
Dark Net Roasters-1
I needed to try this encrypted dark roast myself so I obtained four bags of Dark Net Roasters coffee, which are deep black and emblazoned with a pixelated logo, and were delivered by USPS in a nondescript parcel.

Dark Net Roasters describes their roasts in language normally associated with boutique retailers. Their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe features “deep flavors of cherry, stone fruit, violet and cocoa,” according to an official product listing, and their Zambian Terranova has “hints of apple, vanilla and citrus.” Some are advertised as Fair Trade, and others as cultivated sustainably.
JC_Dark Net Roasters_Photo1

Not all those claims are testable, but I wondered how an experienced coffee taster would feel about the product. I arranged to prepare and taste the samples with Peter Cannon, the technical director for artisanal Massachusetts roaster Barismo. In addition to his work with Barismo, Cannon has been involved for years with exacting barista competitions and, in layman’s terms, is obsessed with coffee.

A few things jumped out at Cannon, who emphasized that he spoke only for himself and not his employer, before he even opened the packaging. Two of the bags were leaking when they arrived, which he said can allow the flavor fade more quickly than it would from a sealed container. There was also no roast date on the bags, and the coffee arrived pre-ground, both rarities in high quality coffee—though Dark Net Roasters told me later that they plan to offer whole bean coffee in the future, and that roast dates were a possibility as well.

Cannon prepared and tasted all four roasts by pouring hot water over the grounds, brewing them for four minutes and then carefully smelling and sampling each with a deep spoon, a ritual known as “cupping” in roasting and barista circles. The bottom line, he said, is that all four samples are extremely, unusually dark—though he conceded there is a deep divide in the contemporary roasting world between light and dark coffees, and that he personally prefers light roasts.

As a professional operation, Cannon said, he would have expected better. The four roasts were “incredibly uniform,” he said, grimacing. “When I taste the cup, I just get dark and ash.”

Very dark roasts, Cannon said, are frequently seen as a tactic to overwhelm delicate flavors, covering up a lack of confidence in in the bean or the roasting technique.

“I’m going to guess this is some guy in his kitchen,” Cannon said. He paused. “Or his meth lab, or whatever.”

Cannon’s best guess is that the outfit is not yet large enough that they are looking seriously at consistency between batches, which makes quality control difficult at a commercial level.

He also pointed out that direct trade hinges on transparency. Dark Net Roasters can advertise that their coffee is sourced from a specific region or that they have sought out relationship with a particular grower, but with no paper trail, those claims can’t be verified. And in any case, many coffee aficionados today expect a roaster to provide information on the origin of beans down to the specific farm and elevation where they were grown, which would be a security risk for an anonymous seller.

Would Cannon buy Dark Net Roasters on his own dime?

“I think it’s safe to say ‘no,’” he said (Cannon later revised his opinion further, tweeting that it was “the grossest coffee I’ve had all year.”)

Of course, others might feel differently, and that’s not incompatible with Dark Net Roasters’ laissez-faire philosophy: ultimately, the market will decide.

“We are merely using a new choice of market to reach coffee consumers,” the Dark Net Roasters representative said. “We can only offer our coffees to people. We cannot make them buy it. Ultimately, it is the market that will decide if there is a place for us.”

Read more: Encrypted To The Last Drop

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Tech Founders Talk About Why The New ‘Entrepreneur Barbie’ Matters

The impact of Barbie on young girls’ self-image and aspirations has been a controversial topic for decades. But this week, Mattel, the toy company that makes Barbie, took a small step in a positive direction with the official launch of Entrepreneur Barbie as its latest “career of the year” doll for 2014.

In a lot of ways, on the surface Entrepreneur Barbie looks a lot like, well, regular Barbie: She’s packaged in a pink box, with drastically unrealistic physical proportions, a glossy smile, and perpetually pointed toes. What sets her apart is that she comes with all the trappings of running a modern business, including a tiny toy smartphone, tablet, and briefcase. (With Barbie, the accessories are the message.)

Really, though, I suppose the most important thing is she’s got the backstory of being an entrepreneur. When young girls play with Barbie, they’re really just using their imaginations and telling stories — so this gives them a framework to play with Barbie as a business builder, not, say, a shopaholic.

While sales figures in recent years show that Barbie dolls are not as hot a toy as they used to be, they still have a real impact on what some young girls idolize. The launch of Entrepreneur Barbie is another role model of sorts that young girls can see in the business world. It’s a small move, but, as TechCrunch co-editor Alexia Tsotsis wrote back in February, every little bit helps.

So, why is this a TechCrunch story? For starters, the dearth of female entrepreneurs is a real issue in the technology industry. Also, Mattel enlisted a group of female founders, many of whom are in tech, to honor this week as a “Celebration of Women Entrepreneurs” alongside the launch of the new doll. So TechCrunch TV talked to a few of these women to find out why they got involved and what the new Barbie could mean to the next generation of female founders. Check that out in the video above.

Producing, script writing, and voiceover recording for this video was done by Felicia Williams. Shooting, editing, and interviews by Steve Long.

Read the rest here: Tech Founders Talk About Why The New ‘Entrepreneur Barbie’ Matters

The Bay Lights, The LED Art Project Backed By Big Tech Names, Kicks Off $1.2M Crowdfunding Campaign

Just over a year ago, a large scale art project called The Bay Lights turned the Bay Bridge, the San Francisco Bay Area structure that’s historically been the plainer sister to the famed Golden Gate Bridge, into a glittering destination in its own right.

But as iconic as the Bay Lights have quickly become, it turns out that they’re not set to be here to stay. The original erection of the Bay Lights, a roughly $10 million project that was supported by high profile (and high net worth) San Francisco techies including Marissa Mayer, Ron Conway, Matt Mullenweg, and others, has a two year duration that will make the lights go dark in March 2015.

In order to bring the lights back and keep them going for another ten years, from 2016 to 2026, they’re going to need $12 million more. So Illuminate the Arts, the nonprofit behind the project, has turned to crowdfunding startup Crowdtilt to help raise the needed funds from a larger pool of people. The crowdfunding effort, dubbed “Keep ‘Em Lit Through 2026,” launched last night with the aim of raising $1.2 million in 45 days, which is ten percent of the ultimate goal. As of this writing, about $185,000 has been contributed.

It makes sense that the Bay Lights would seek out more tech-centered ways of raising money than your typical art exhibit, since the Lights represent a unique blend of art and technology. The piece itself consists of 25,000 low power LED lights which are attached to the 1.8 mile western span of the Bay Bridge, and switched on from dusk til dawn. All the lights are individually programmed with software algorithms that create a generative sequence making it so that the patterns never occur twice. The piece was created by artist Leo Villareal, who worked as a programmer in Silicon Valley in the 1990s before shifting his attention to art full time.

In an interview at an event Wednesday evening in San Francisco kicking off the crowdfunding campaign, Illuminate The Arts chairman Ben Davis said that The Bay Lights has reached a uniquely large audience. “More people will see the Bay Lights in its two year tenure than will visit the top 15 museums in the United States,” Davis said. “It’s fine art that people can see, without ever buying a ticket.” Not bad for a project that costs $30 per day in energy costs to run (the bulk of the project’s cost is in the insurance and labor costs of erecting and maintaining it on the bridge, and keeping it in compliance with California transit authorities.)

To contribute to the Bay Lights project, go here. And below, you can see a bit of the Lights in action, and watch a short interview that I conducted with artist Leo Villareal when The Bay Lights were first lit back in March 2013.

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Light Chaser, The Animation Studio That Wants To Be “China’s Pixar,” Raises $20M From GGV Capital

Light Chaser, the animation studio that aspires to be China’s Pixar, announced today that it has raised $20 million in series B funding led by GGV Capital, with participation from Hillhouse Capital and returning investor IDG.

The company was launched in March 2013 by Tudou founder Gary Wang after Tudou merged with Youku, creating China’s biggest streaming video site and aspires to make high-quality computer animated films with a “Chinese cultural touch.”

Light Chaser, which has spent the past year and a half filling out its art, technology, and management rosters, also said that its first 3D animated feature, “Little Door Spirits,” will be completed by July 2015 with a budget of RMB 70 million (about $12 million).

While “Little Door Spirits” won’t be released for another year at least, Light Chaser has released a short film called “Little Yeyos” as a preview of what it can do.

In a statement, Jixun Foo, managing partner at GGV Capital, said “The movie market in China is booming, and certainly there is a very significant growth space for Chinese animated feature films. We are impressed by the vision and execution capability of Light Chaser. Within a very short period of time, they have built up an excellent team and a world-class animation production pipeline. It’s very exciting that Light Chaser’s animation and CG capabilities are already at a level close to Hollywood.”

Read the original post: Light Chaser, The Animation Studio That Wants To Be “China’s Pixar,” Raises $20M From GGV Capital

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