All posts in “Gadgets”

These Bluetooth earbuds double as a charging cord

As I write this, I’m somewhere in Asia, with a bag full of assorted cables and devices. I’ve gotten better at packing light, but I’ve still got a ways to go. Certainly there’s something to be said for those products that can pull double duty — take the new Huawei phone or most recent iPad Pro update, all of which double as device chargers.

The Changer looks to be a clever take on the concept for the perpetually low on battery. The $89 yolked Bluetooth earbuds double as a charging cable. Snap the headphone bits off and you’ll find USB-C, microUSB and Lightning connectors.

The headphones sport a 12-hour battery, according to the company, and can be plugged directly into the wall. The cable can also be used to plug a mobile device into a battery pack or plugged into two different devices to share a charge.

I’ll admit I’m a bit skeptical about the efficacy of all this at this point, and the fact that its manufacturer, 49101, is opening up pre-orders through Indiegogo. The headphones are set to start shipping early next year.

EnduroSat CEO to talk about making satellites more affordable at Disrupt Berlin

It has never been easier to launch a satellite into space. But EnduroSat wants to make it even easier by making CubeSats more affordable thanks to a unique platform. That’s why I’m excited to announce that EnduroSat CEO Raycho Raychev is coming to TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin to talk about his platform.

Many industries have gone through a standardization revolution. Decades ago, shipping stuff from one continent to another was costly because it was a manual process. Exporters now put everything into containers so that you can carry them seamlessly from a port to a cargo ship, a train or a truck.

Similarly, it became much easier to create a new data center thanks to standardized server racks. You can fit servers, routers, or disk arrays into a metal frames, and line all the server racks in a warehouse.

The same is happening with satellites. Thanks to CubeSats, you get to choose the list of components that you want to put in your satellite and they’ll all fit nicely in a cubical package.

EnduroSat is working on next-generation CubeSats. You first choose the frame of your CubeSat. You can then buy different modules to build the perfect satellite for your use case.

The company now has over 30 clients and the EnduroSat One is currently flying above our heads. If you want to hear Raychev tell you more about what they’ve been working on, you should come to Disrupt Berlin. The conference will take place on November 29-30 and you can buy your ticket right now.

In addition to fireside chats and panels, like this one, new startups will participate in the Startup Battlefield Europe to win the highly coveted Battlefield cup.

Raycho Raychev

CEO, EnduroSat

Raycho Raychev works in the field of space science, tech and business.

He founded EnduroSat – a fast-growing satellite company with unique market approach in the space sector. Prior to the company Raycho founded massive space educational platform – Spaceport and practice-oriented space course – Space Challenges.

His education includes Master of Science from International Space University and Innovation and Growth Program from Stanford University and Endeavor.

Google is closing its Schaft robotics unit after failing to find a buyer

Sad news for anyone into giant robots: Google is closing down Schaft, its secretive unit that develops bipedal robots aimed at helping out in disaster efforts and generally looking badass.

The news was first reported by Nikkei, but Google confirmed to TechCrunch that the business will be shuttered. It said it is helping staff find new roles, most of which will likely be outside of Google and its Alphabet parent.

Firstly up, many people — myself included — might have forgotten that Google owns Schaft .

The company was scheduled to be sold to SoftBank alongside Boston Dynamics — another of Google’s robotics ventures — through a deal that was announced last year. Boston Dynamics made the transition but Schaft didn’t. Softbank never shouted that omission from the rooftops, but a source with knowledge of the deal told us that certain conditions agreed for the deal were not fulfilled, hence Schaft remained with Google.

Our source explained that Google’s robotics focused shifted away from Schaft and instead to non-humanoid robots and industry-led solutions such as robotic arms. The departure of Andy Rubin, the controversial robotics evangelist who reportedly got a $90 million payout to leave amid sexual misconduct allegations, seemed to speed up its demise inside the organization.

Google shopped the Schaft business fairly widely — since 2016 and after the SoftBank deal collapsed — but to no avail, we understand. That left closing it down as the last remaining option.

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Schaft was founded in 2012 by a group led by University of Tokyo professor Yuto Nakanishi.

Alphabet acquired Shaft and Boston Dynamics in 2013, the former was part of a group of seven acquisitions, in undisclosed deals.

There’s been plenty of attention on Boston Dynamics and its crazy, even scary, robots which can trek across all terrains and get up instantly when knocked over, but Schaft maintained a fairly quiet presence. Indeed, its first major prototypes weren’t revealed until some two years after its acquisition.

Legrand acquires smart home startup Netatmo

French hardware startup Netatmo got acquired by the biggest manufacturer of switches and sockets in the world, Legrand. Terms of the deal are undisclosed.

Legrand and Netatmo already collaborated together on some products. Back in 2017, the company announced that it would work with industrial groups to connect everything in your home, starting with Legrand and Velux.

With Legrand’s “Céliane with Netatmo” switches and power outlets, you could build a house with a smart electrical installation from day one. This way, you could have a wireless master switch near your entrance, activate some outlets using Amazon Alexa and control your home from Messenger.

“Our strategy is the connected home. But there are some connected features that we can’t sell to consumers because those products are sold to professionals directly,” Netatmo founder and CEO Fred Potter told me at the time of the original announcement.

Netatmo’s team is going to be integrated into Legrand. Legrand plans to release more connected objects in the future. Netatmo founder and CEO Fred Potter is becoming CTO of Legrand’s research & development division. According to the announcement, Netatmo was generating $51 million (€45 million) in annual revenue.

Netatmo’s first product was a weather station. It works over Wi-Fi and was one of the first weather stations that you could check from your phone.

More recently, the company released security products, such as a connected camera that identifies faces on the device itself, a similar camera that works outdoor and a connected smoke alarm. Some people called Netatmo the “Nest of Europe” as the company also released smart thermostats and radiator valves.

No display for your Mac Mini? No problem.

Astropad’s Luna Display isn’t just for your MacBook. It turns out that you can take advantage of that tiny little red dongle to turn your iPad into your one and only Mac Mini display.

The Luna Display was designed to extend your laptop display. Many desktop users who travel tend to feel limited with a 13-inch or 15-inch display. That’s why the Luna Display turns any iPad into a second monitor. It works wirelessly and pretty well.

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But the team behind the device tried a fun experiment. Many Mac Mini users tend to use the Mac Mini as a headless server. It sits below your TV, near your router or in a closet. In that case, there’s no display connected to your Mac Mini.

You can control it using screen sharing or a VNC client. And of course, you can also enable SSH access to control it using the command line or even an SSH app on your phone.

But it also works as expected with the Luna Display. After plugging the dongle into a Thunderbolt 3 port, you can launch the Luna app on your iPad and see what’s happening on your Mac. If your Mac Mini is connected to a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, you’ll see your actions on the screen.

And because Luna’s dongle works over Wi-Fi, you can even control your Mac Mini from your couch. It’ll feel like you’re running macOS on an iPad. The Luna adapter was first released on Kickstarter and is now available for $80.

This isn’t the ideal setup if you plan on using your Mac Mini for multiple hours per day. But if you just need to quickly fix something, that could be enough.