French VC firm Ring Capital raises $170 million fund

Meet Ring Capital, a brand new VC firm based in Paris. The firm just raised a new $170 million fund (€140 million) and might still be raising another $10 million or so for this fund.

Many new VC firms tend to focus on seed rounds at first. Ring Capital thinks there’s a Series A and Series B gap in France. That’s why Ring Capital plans to invest around €5 to €10 million ($6 to $12 million) in each company — sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less.

Ring Capital has already invested in one company and plans to invest in around 15 companies using this fund. Of course, there might be more funds down the road.

“We’ve been investing in tech startups for 15 years,” Nicolas Celier told me. “When growth picks up, that’s when you need to sell the company because you’re already thinking about the next fund.”

Ring Capital wants to reverse this trend and invest a bit later. The fund even says that it is willing to buy back some shares to partially cash out founders, early employees and early investors.

Celier says that many private equity firms are looking at tech startups because it’s a big opportunity right now. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that private equity firms have the technical knowledge to bet on winners.

From day one, Ring Capital has put together a team of investors who don’t share the same background and can provide additional value.

Geoffroy Bragadir was both an investor and an entrepreneur. Nicolas Celier is a venture capitalist at heart. Alban de La Breteche has a technical background and worked on research and development projects at Criteo. Marie-Capucine Lemétais was Head of Marketing Western Europe for the Danish Fintech Saxo Bank. Nicolas Bailly worked with Bragadir as an analyst. Thomas Marsal worked on data operations for Stuart. Hagera Sendabad was Operations Manager at Mention.

“Beyond the technical background of the team, when you’re in the tech industry, you can see that most companies that gain long-term value have technological assets,” Bragadir told me. “We think we have an ability to understand complex tech challenges. We can leverage that and foster those technological assets.”

Limited partners include Bpifrance through the “Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir”, AG2R La Mondiale, BRED, Danone and Tikehau Capital. Around 75 business angels, such as Morgane Sézalory (Sézane), Hugues Le Bret (Compte Nickel), Thierry Petit (Showroomprivé), also invested in Ring Capital and are willing to help portfolio companies with introductions and advice.

Many of those mentors were CTOs or engineers. The firm tried to invite as many technical people as possible, even if they could only invest a limited amount of money in the fund. So it’s clear that Ring Capital is going to be looking at tech startups with a strong tech product.

This tiny robot moves so fast it’s just a blur on camera

Researchers at Harvard have created a new robot that’s the smallest, fastest, and most precise of its kind. It’s called the milliDelta, and can move so quickly — up to 75 motions a second — that on camera it’s just a blur. The bot could be put to a range of uses, says its creators, from working in assembly lines for making tiny circuitboards to assisting in delicate microsurgeries.

The milliDelta is an extreme example of what’s usually called a “delta robot.” This is a design of robot that was invented in the 1980s, and is usually found in factories doing “pick and place” work. This is exactly what it sounds like, and involves selecting items off a conveyor belt and slotting them into place. The first ever delta robot was actually built to work in a chocolate factory, and placed pralines into their packaging.

Delta robots are fast and precise thanks to a few clever engineering decisions. Unlike industrial robot arms, which have motors located in their joints, delta robots are controlled by motors in a central base station. This means their arms (which are arranged in a triangular formation, hence the name) can be extremely lightweight, so moving them about doesn’t require much force.

This leads to more speed and precision. Just think of the difference between waving a cardboard tube around in the air and waving a broom handle. You can see some standard delta robots in action in the video below, picking and placing salami:

[embedded content]

The milliDelta takes this same basic configuration, but uses new components to shrink in size while retaining the characteristics that make delta bots useful. Instead of the usual electric motors, its motion is powered by piezoelectric actuators. Piezoelectric materials respond to electric voltage by shrinking or expanding, and the milliDelta’s arms are made from sandwiches of the stuff, one side positively charged, and the other, negative. Running a current through the milliDelta’s arms will make them bend back and forth.And because of its size and weight, it’s extremely quick.

“Delta robots are pretty fast, but ours basically blows those ones out of the water,” Harvard researcher Hayley McClintock, co-first author of a new paper describing the milliDelta, told Science Robotics. “Most currently available delta robots are around a couple of hertz, so a couple of picks per second, and our delta robot can move up to 75 hertz — so it’s 15 to 25 times higher frequency than anything that’s currently available.”

The milliDelta could be put to work doing the same sort of pick and place tasks that regular delta robots do, just at a much smaller scale. McClintock and her team also suggest a more intriguing use for the bot: assisting in delicate medical operations.

“One we were thinking of was eye surgery,” says McClintock. “You have problems with tremors when you’re operating in such a small area, so the milliDelta could be used as a tremor-counteracting end-effector for eye surgery.” In other words, it would be placed on the end of surgical tool, with its movements cancelling out the natural wobbles of the surgeon’s hands — like a small version of the self-stabilizing spoons used by Parkinson’s sufferers to compensate for tremors while eating.

That’s the milliDelta: mini, but mighty.

A fully extended milliDelta next to a penny.
Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

South Korea, Italy also calling out Apple for slowing iPhones

Apple continues to get into hot water over a power management feature that throttles performance on older iPhones to avoid unexpected battery shutdowns.

A South Korean consumer group has now filed a complaint, though it’s not clear whether the complaint will trigger a formal investigation (via Reuters).

The group, Citizens United for Consumer Sovereignty, had already filed a lawsuit against the company.

This is just the latest in a series of complaints Apple is facing over the issue around the world. Earlier this week a consumer group in China wrote to company with concerns.

While the French government is investigating whether Apple’s actions constitute ‘programmed obsolescence’ (which is illegal in the country).

US senator John Thune has also written to Apple to express concerns and raise questions.

And yesterday Italy’s antitrust body opened a formal investigation into iPhone ‘performance-gate’. Though its probe is wider as it’s also investigating whether Apple rival Samsung has used software updates to slow its phones to drive consumer upgrades — as is alleged.

At the time of writing neither company had responded to a request for comment.

The watchdog suspects Apple and Samsung of orchestrating “a general commercial policy taking advantage of the lack of certain components to curb the performance times of their products and induce consumers to buy new versions”, according to Reuters.

Earlier this week Apple CEO Tim Cook said it’s working on an iOS update that will inform iPhones users if their phone is being performance throttled because of the age of its battery. It will also be giving users the ability to switch off the power management feature if they wish (though Apple does not advise doing so).

It’s not clear when the update will drop for all iPhones users but it’s slated to ship to developers sometime next month.

WhatsApp launches a separate app for small businesses

WhatsApp has launched a separate app designed for use by small businesses to more easily connect with customers. WhatsApp Business adds key features like dedicated business profiles for details like email address, business description, store addresses, and website; smart messaging tools like greetings, quick replies, and away messages; and metrics for how many messages were sent, delivered, and read.

For those who use a business number and a personal one, both the WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Messenger apps can be used on the same device and registered with your different numbers. WhatsApp Business is also compatible with WhatsApp Web, the app’s desktop web browser client.

The quick replies feature
Image: WhatsApp

Business accounts will be clearly listed as such. WhatsApp says over time, businesses that have confirmed their account phone number matches their business one will receive a confirmation badge on their profile. That’s similar to WhatsApp adding green verification badges to select business accounts last year in the standard app. WhatsApp says other users can continue to use the standard app as usual and will still have full control over the messages they receive like blocking numbers and reporting spam.

WhatsApp Business is free and available to download now for Android users, though there’s no mention of an iOS release yet. WhatsApp Business is currently available in Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the UK, and the US, with a global rollout scheduled in the coming weeks.

Guy Pearce thinks we’re right to be scared by artificial intelligence

Guy Pearce has some concerns about the way technology is headed.
Guy Pearce has some concerns about the way technology is headed.

Image: Rich Fury/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

It’s almost 11pm in Australia, but Guy Pearce is full of energy. He’s talking about robots.

The star of Memento and L.A. Confidential has just been in a film called Donny the Drone — a post-apocalyptic short in which an initially friendly-looking robot (voiced by Pearce) is given a humanitarian award.

It’s a beautifully-shot, Black Mirror-esque dive into a debate that’s been terrifying Stephen Hawking, the entire tech industry and pretty much everyone who’s ever seen a single sci-fi film: what is going to happen to us if technology keeps advancing at its current, near light-speed rate?

Pearce, it turns out, is just as obsessed as the rest of us.

“I’m so fascinated by our fascination with technology,” he tells me on our call.

“You know, you look at the scale, you look at the progression of this, and you think, well, how far can we go?”

Meet Donny: the terrifyingly smart drone with some slightly sketchy ambitions.

Meet Donny: the terrifyingly smart drone with some slightly sketchy ambitions.

Image: stink films

When it comes to machines like the artificially intelligent drone featured in the film, though, Pearce has mixed feelings.

“I think we have this very dark and strange compulsion to reproduce ourselves,” he says. “And not just in the natural way of having children but in the idea of creating a robot and being able to communicate with that robot, and then have that robot do things for us.”

On the one hand, Pearce says, it’s exciting and brilliant that we’ve managed to create these things. But it does raise some big questions.

“Can we develop the brain of this computer or this robot that we’re creating to the point where we actually become equals?” Pearce wonders. “Or where perhaps this robot surpasses our own intelligence?”

Donny the Drone and the society’s fear of AI

[embedded content]

Directed by 26-year-old film-maker Mackenzie Sheppard, Donny the Drone tells the story of a super-smart drone that’s managed to win the Person of the Year award for his humanitarian work. 

Donny has a sweet little face and a soothing voice. He buzzes around the stage and describes, with the aid of some scenic video footage, the journey across the world that’s led him to this point. The whole thing starts off wholesomely enough, but — as this is artificial intelligence we’re talking about — the fear of the future (and machines) is lurking right around the corner.

Donny describes meeting people across the world on his travels.

Donny describes meeting people across the world on his travels.

Image: stink films

Donny's talk eventually takes on a slightly more ominous tone.

Donny’s talk eventually takes on a slightly more ominous tone.

Image: stink films

“I think our fear of what we’re capable of – and therefore meaning what we’re capable of creating – probably scares us,” explains Pearce.

“Are we going to turn in on ourselves?”

“And I think for most of us, who sort of sit at home and go to our fairly standard jobs and do what it is that we do — that aren’t governments creating military-style machines and computers, etc. — we’re probably sitting here going, ‘What are they creating next?’ 

“‘Are we going to implode? Are we going to turn in on ourselves?'”

It’s all very exciting to watch TV shows about technology and marvel at robots that can vacuum the house, says Pearce, but how far is it all going to go?

“I do think that society’s fear about it is valid,” he says. “I think probably it’s complex and it’s confused, because it’s also infused with the excitement about potential and possibility. 

“But you look at how depressed the world can be, how much we’re destroying in the world, on this planet, on this green and blue planet that we live on… so all of this wonderful technology we’re creating, we know that we’re destroying ourselves with it.”

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WhatsApp targets small businesses with new app for better communication

WhatsApp, if you didn’t already know it, has a massive user base. Chances are that you’re part of it.

More than a billion people around the world fire up the messaging app every day, with a growing number of people using the service to converse with businesses.

The Facebook-owned startup has decided to lend the smaller outfits a hand, launching a new app called, would you believe, WhatsApp Business. Its main goal is to improve the app’s ease of use for companies dealing with a large number of WhatsApp messages on a daily basis.

Specifically, WhatsApp said the app is aimed at making it easier for businesses to respond to customers, and separate customer and personal messages. Overall, it should help them to create a more official presence on the platform.

One obvious difference to the regular app is the addition of business profiles that let companies include more information about their business, such as a description, address, and website details.

The free app also comes with smart messaging tools designed to offer fast answers to FAQs, as well as greetings messages that introduce a potential customer to the business, and “away” messages so customers know you’re busy. Potentially useful messaging stats are also part of the package.

WhatsApp Business is available now for businesses in the U.S., U.K., Italy, Mexico, and Indonesia, and is coming to the rest of the world in the next few weeks. But take note, at launch the app is an Android-only offering.

WhatsApp edges toward monetization

Perhaps the only surprise about WhatsApp launching the new business-oriented app is that it’s taken it this long to do so. The move will be seen by many as a notable step toward the company monetizing its service, something that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been hinting at doing pretty much ever since he bought the startup for $19 billion in 2014, five years after it launched.

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum and Zuckerberg have been happy to play the long game when it comes to making money out of the messaging app, which has always been cautious about introducing revenue-generating schemes such as ads.

Instead it’s been trying over the years to get regular users comfortable with interactions with businesses, with a possible view to charging brands for the valuable contact opportunity.

As far back as 2015, Zuckerberg insisted the slow approach could prove lucrative in the long run, telling investors: “The long-term bet is that by enabling people to have good organic interactions with businesses, that will end up being a massive multiplier on the value of the monetization down the road.”

The new WhatsApp Business app is another step toward that goal.

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NASA’s Jeanette Epps won’t be joining the space station as its first African-American crew member this year

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps was on track to become the first African-American crew member on the International Space Station this year, but the space agency announced today that she has been pulled from her mission for unspecified reasons. She was supposed to launch as part of Expedition 56/67 in June 2018.

Instead, NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor will be taking Epps’ place. Like Epps, Auñón-Chancellor was one of the 14 astronaut candidates that NASA selected out of 3,500 applicants in 2009. Epps came to NASA by way of a PhD in aerospace engineering and seven years at the CIA as a technical intelligence officer. Auñón-Chancellor is medical doctor with certifications in internal and aerospace medicine.

NASA’s announcement didn’t explain why the agency pulled Epps from the mission. “A number of factors are considered when making flight assignments; these decisions are personnel matters for which NASA doesn’t provide information,” said Brandi Dean, a spokesperson for NASA, in an email to The Verge. Now, instead of taking what would have been her first flight to orbit, Epps will be working out of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. She could still be assigned to future missions, the space agency said in a statement.

Other African-American astronauts have visited the Space Station, including Leland Melvin who encouraged Epps to apply for NASA’s 2009 class. But Epps would have been the first to become a long-term crew member, living and working on the ISS for months at a time.

Tile lays off dozens after a disappointing holiday

Tile, one of the best known item-tracking gadgets out there, has laid off some 30 people and reportedly stopped the potential hires of another 10, TechCrunch has learned. This comes less than a year after the company raised a $25 million B round last May. The layoffs are reportedly due to disappointing sales over the holidays.

When reached for comment, Tile offered the following statement:

As part of our 2018 planning process, the Tile leadership team determined that a recalibration of our priorities was necessary so that the company can focus on the development of our Tile Platform business and core hardware products. Unfortunately, this means that we had to say goodbye to roughly 30 Tile colleagues. Tile remains the leader in smart location, and we will continue creating a world where everyone can find everything that matters.

The roughly 30 employees being recalibrated weren’t solely from any one area, according to information provided to TechCrunch, so it seems as the company says to be a general cost saving measure. A Tile representative pointed out that a hiring freeze was not announced, so the 10 hires that were reportedly prevented from taking place are still a bit of a question mark.

Tile revamped its product line late last summer, improving range and adding two new “Pro” units: a sporty one for active types and a fancy white-and-gold “Tile Style.” Perhaps it was too little, too late, or perhaps Tile has become too popular for its own good and everyone already has all the Tiles they need.

At CES, it announced a handful of new partners that will integrate Tile tech into their products. This is reportedly the new focus of the company — being a platform-first rather than a hardware-first company. No doubt the devices will still be made and sold, of course, but it won’t be the totality of the Tile offering.

Here’s hoping it works and these layoffs are the last we hear of.

Why wait? Here are 10 new gadgets from CES 2018 that you can buy right now

Generally speaking, all the gear and gadgetry that is unveiled at CES every year is just a preview. Most stuff doesn’t hit the market for a couple months — and that’s if we’re lucky. It’s far more likely that the amazing gizmo you saw on the show floor will either hit the market in the year’s fourth quarter or never even make it past production. But there are always exceptions to that rule. Each year, there is a small handful of stuff that you can buy right after it’s unveiled in Las Vegas — and lucky for you, we went ahead and rounded up all that stuff. Here is the best CES 2018 tech you can buy right now.

Root — $199

Robots that teach you how to code are a dime a dozen these days. Most are just a slightly different take on the same exact idea, but Root is special. Of all the coding robots we have ever seen, it’s arguably one of the best. Why? Well, in addition to being outrageously simple and intuitive to use, it is also designed to teach you more than just the basics. It’s a full-spectrum, interactive coding teacher that can take you from beginner (or intermediate) to seasoned pro — all at your own pace.

Linksquare — $299

Linksquare is essentially a handheld device that allows you to scan and identify virtually anything — foods, drinks, medicines, or anything else composed of physical matter in a liquid or solid state. How? The device uses an age-old method of materials analysis known as near-infrared spectroscopy. Basically, this process involves shining a near-infrared light onto the surface of a given material, which causes the molecules to vibrate and bounce back light in their own unique way. This reflected light is then collected and passed through a spectrometer (think of it like a prism) that separates the light out into all the different wavelengths it contains. By analyzing the unique optical signature of the scanned material, Linksquare can determine what it is made out of.

Corsair K63 Wireless mechanical keyboard — $110

Corsair launched a slew of new gear at CES 2018, and luckily you don’t have to wait around to get your hands on it. Arguably the most exciting unveiling was the company’s new K63 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard — which actually won a CES 2018 Innovation Award. In addition to a claimed 75 hours of rechargeable battery life, the K63 can connect to your PC via either a 1 millisecond 2.4GHz Bluetooth connection, or a wired USB connection if you need sub-millisecond latency. Plus, as if that wasn’t cool enough already, you can also customize the backlighting on a per-key basis, and program custom macros if that is how you roll. It even has 128-bit AES encryption to protect you against keylogging.

Jlab Epic Sport wireless fitness earbuds — $100

Looking for a good pair of headphones you can work out with? If so, you’ll want to give these buds from Jlab a look. In addition to the fact that they’re wireless, Jlab’s newest Epic Sport earbuds boast an impressive 12-hour battery life, an IP66 rating (to protect them from sweat, dust, and the elements), and unique “memory wire” ear hooks that you can form to fit your ears more comfortably.  They are also equipped with Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX, which means you will be able to listen up to 30 feet away from your device, and control everything (play, pause, skip tracks, change volume, answer/hang up phone calls, etc.) via the in-line remote.

The 2018 Dell XPS 13 — $1,000

“Dell released the first XPS 13 three years ago,” says DT Senior Editor Matt Smith. “Since then, it has reigned as Digital Trends’ favorite overall laptop, without exception — yet it never saw a complete redesign. The XPS 13 sold at the end of last year looked and felt the same as one sold in January 2015. Its dominance of best-of lists is a testament to the original design, but it was starting to show its age as competitors became thinner and lighter. Thankfully, Dell hasn’t left the XPS 13 to wither. It came to CES 2018 with a full redesign that slims down its flagship 13-incher.” Check out our hands-on review for details.

Electron Wheel — $799

Promising to “electrify your bike in 30 seconds,” the Electron Wheel is designed to replace the front wheel of your bicycle and instantly transform it into a full-featured ebike. The device offers a wide variety of features, including active hill assist, a top speed of 20 miles per hour, and a battery that provides you with up to 50 miles of range. It even has Google Assistant integration, which allows riders to find directions with ease while riding, and even adjust the amount of pedal assist they get from the Electron Wheel — all using nothing but voice commands.

Uvify Draco HD racing drone — $799

Technically this thing was announced at CES 2017, but this year Uvify made a few upgrades, finalized the design, and actually launched the drone. In other words, you can finally get your hands on this beast now. If you’re unfamiliar, both the Draco and Draco HD are modular, high-performance drones designed for “racing, freestyling, and extreme aerial cinematography.” We’ll spare you the dorky details — all you really need to know is that these birds can hit 100 mph in the blink of an eye, and boast a modular design that lets you swap out subcomponents as you please. Want to upgrade the camera? Just buy a new camera module — no need to replace the whole drone.

Optoma UHD65 4K — $2,299

For those of you who aren’t super in-tune with the big, wide world of projector technology (aka, most of us), here is what’s special about the Optoma UHD65K 4K projector. First and foremost, it’s one of the only 4K UHD projectors that you can get your hands on for under $2,500 right now. As far as we can tell, there are only other two others that can claim the same. On top of that, it can also put out 2,200 lumens, produce more color than similarly priced projectors (thanks in part to HDR), and also has impressive black levels. If you don’t mind waiting around, there is a newer version coming out in a couple of months with Alexa built in.

Whill model Ci — $3,999

Whill’s Model Ci is essentially a newer, lighter, more versatile model of the company’s flagship electronic mobility vehicle. In the words of Digital Trends reporter Luke Dormehl, “[This] personal electric vehicle is about as far from the antiquated scooters and wheelchairs of yesteryear as a Tesla Model X is from a box cart. The Model Ci packs a lithium-ion battery that allows it to travel 10 miles on a single charge, with top speeds of 5 mph — roughly the equivalent of a gentle jogging speed. The device also features specially designed “omni-wheels” which employ multiple rollers for a powerful drive its creators describe as a ‘glide,’ letting you navigate proficiently whether you’re on undulating city streets, off-road terrain, or just maneuvering in the comfort of your own home.” Check out our full article for details.

3Drudder — $139

This is another one that debuted at CES couple years ago as an intriguing prototype but showed up to CES 2018 as a full-fledged (and fully available to purchase) product. It’s essentially a giant, hands-free, omnidirectional D-pad designed for gaming and VR. You control it with your feet. Tilt the pad in any direction, and you’ wul go in that direction — but that is not all it can do. Unlike your average D-pad or joystick, the 3DRudder gives you control over more than just directional acceleration. Twist your feet and you can adjust the orientation. Put pressure on the toe of one foot and the heel of another, and you can zoom in or out. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually fairly simple to get the hang of.

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AI voice assistant developer Rokid raises $100M Series B extension to build its US presence

Rokid founder and CEO Mingming Zhu

Rokid, a Chinese startup that makes an AI voice assistant and smart devices, just raised a Series B extension round led by Temasek Holdings, with participation from Credit Suisse, IDG Capital and CDIB Capital. The size of the round was not released, but a source familiar with the deal told TechCrunch that it is $100 million.

The company’s previous funding was its Series B round, which was announced in November 2016. Founder and chief executive officer Mingming Zhu says Rokid raised a Series B+ instead of a C round because the company, which is based in Hangzhou, China with research centers in Beijing and San Francisco that develop its proprietary natural language processing, image processing, face recognition and robotics technology, is still in its early stages. Rokid wants to focus on gathering more resources and bringing in strategic investors like Temasek Holdings before moving on to a Series C. An investment holding company owned by the Singaporean government, Temasek Holdings counts artificial intelligence and robotics among its main investment areas and its other portfolio companies include Magic Leap.

Rokid Glass

The company’s product lineup already includes smart speakers called Rokid Pebble and Alien, which are currently sold in China. During CES, Rokid debuted its newest offering, Rokid Glass, augmented glasses created specifically for consumer use, as well as an open-source platform, called the Rokid Full Stack Open Platform. Created in partnership with Alibaba, the platform gives third-party hardware developers who use Rokid’s voice assistant access to free resources, including software blueprints and content for IoT devices. Rokid hopes that both will help build its name recognition and presence in the United States.

Reynold Wu, Rokid’s director of product management, describes the Full Stack Open Platform as a turnkey solution that not only gives developers access to Rokid’s AI technology, but also hardware solutions and services. Released with Aliyun, Alibaba’s cloud computing business, the cloud platform opened to third-party developers in China earlier this year, and will launch in the U.S. soon.

Rokid wants the platform to serve as a bridge between the two countries by giving U.S. developers an easy way to enter the Chinese market and also encouraging the development of more content for devices running Rokid’s technology, which founder and chief executive officer Mingming Zhu says is vital to attracting consumers.

“AI products are born to be global, not just for local market,” explains Zhu. “The only issue for Rokid is that we’re not ready for the U.S. market because the most important thing is content and we are not ready if there is only local content or services.”

The Pebble and Alien will be up against Google Home and Amazon Echo, which have become almost synonymous with “smart speaker” in the minds of many consumers, while Rokid Glass will inevitably be compared to Google Glass. The success of the Pebble and Alien hinge not only on how well users think Rokid’s voice assistant compares to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, but also the library of content and apps that the startup is able to build for its smart speakers.

While Google Glass flopped among consumers, but saw more success as an enterprise device. Rokid hopes its smart glasses, which run on its proprietary AI voice and imaging algorithms, will be able to succeed where Google Glass wasn’t because it was designed specifically for consumer applications. Early reviews from CES say the Rokid Glass is promising and praised features like face recognition, but said it still needs work to become more responsive. Once it goes on sale, the Rokid Glass will compete with smart glasses from Vuxiz, Sony and Epson. Its price hasn’t been revealed yet, but Zhu says it will be sold at a consumer-friendlier price point than its competitors (many augmented reality smart glasses from Rokid’s rivals are currently priced in the range of $600 to $1,500).

“I think we are the only product that is really consumer-centric in not only design and weight, but also energy use,” says Wu. “A lot of players design for the enterprise market first and then try consumer opportunities, but we have developed consumer products over the past three years. All of them have entered the market successfully and we have users because of that, so we have confidence in our consumer products.”

Featured Image: Rokid