All posts in “Health”

Water Abundance XPRIZE finalists compete in gathering water from thin air

Despite being a necessity for life, clean, drinkable water can be extremely hard to come by in some places where war has destroyed infrastructure or climate change has dried up rivers and aquifers. The Water Abundance XPRIZE is up for grabs to teams that can suck fresh water straight out of the air, and it just announced its five finalists.

The requirements for the program are steep enough to sound almost like science fiction: the device must extract “a minimum of 2,000 liters of water per day from the atmosphere using 100 percent renewable energy, at a cost of no more than 2 cents per liter.” Is that even possible?!

For a million bucks, people will try anything. But only five teams have made it to the finals, taking equal shares of a $250,000 “milestone prize” to further their work. There isn’t a lot of technical info on them yet, but here they are, in alphabetical order:

Hydro Harvest: This Australian team based out of the University of Newcastle is “going back to basics,” probably smart if you want to keep costs down. The team has worked together before on an emission-free engine that turns waste heat into electricity.

JMCC Wing: This Hawaiian team’s leader has been working on solar and wind power for many years, so it’s no surprise their solution involves the “marriage” of a super-high-efficiency, scalable wind energy harvester with a commercial water condenser. The bigger the generator, the cheaper the energy.

Skydra: Very little information is available for this Chicago team, except that they have created “a hybrid solution that utilizes both natural and engineered systems.”

The Veragon & Thinair: Alphabetically this collaboration comes on both sides of U, but I’m putting it here. U.K. collaboration has developed a material that “rapidly enhances the process of water condensation,” and are planning not only to produce fresh water but also to pack it with minerals.

Uravu: Out of Hyderabad in India, this team is also going back to basics with a solar-powered solution that doesn’t appear to actually use solar cells — the rays of the sun and design of the device do it all. The water probably comes out pretty warm, though.

The first round of testing took place in January, and round 2 comes in July, at which point the teams’ business plans are also due. In August there should be an announcement of the $1 million grand prize winner. Good luck to all involved and regardless of who takes home the prize, here’s hoping this tech gets deployed to good purpose where it’s needed.

Our 8 favorite startups from Y Combinator W18 Demo Day 2

Microbiome pills, gambling for one-on-one video games and potential cancer cures were the highlights from legendary startup accelerator Y Combinator’s Winter 2018 Demo Day 2. You can read about all 64 startups that launched on Day 1 in verticals like biotech and robotics, our picks for the top 7 companies from Day 1 and our full coverage of another 64 startups from Day 2. TechCrunch’s writers huddled and took feedback from investors to create this list, so click (web) or scroll (mobile) to see our 8 picks for the top startups from Day 2.

Additional reporting by Greg Kumparak, Lucas Matney and Katie Roof

ClassPass Live launches offering on-demand workouts from home

ClassPass has today announced the launch of ClassPass Live, an at-home workout platform that connects users with fitness teachers via live video.

ClassPass Live was first announced in December of last year. The company purchased a studio in Industry City, along with hiring instructors to develop a proprietary ClassPass workout for users and run classes.

Here’s what ClassPass CEO Fritz Lanman had to say at the time:

At ClassPass we’re flexing our technical capabilities to push the future of fitness, especially as it relates to interactive, immersive experiences – nowhere is that more evident than with ClassPass Live. We’ve leveraged our unparalleled data assets and reviews to create one-of-a-kind, live programming anchored in heart rate training that’s unlike anything else on the market. By expanding into an at-home digital product, we’re able to offer existing members more value and flexibility in how and when they work out while simultaneously bringing studio fitness inspired workouts to more people nationwide.

Folks that subscribe to the product will get access to a starter kit, unlimited live workouts, and a heart rate zone tracker.

ClassPass live will be available for $10/month to existing ClassPass subscribers and $15/month for standalone users, with yearly pricing at $99/year.

Part of the benefit of ClassPass Live is that the company can provide workouts to users without incurring the wholesale cost of buying spots in existing boutique classes. Plus, ClassPass Live allows the company to expand to a new market almost instantly without having to lay any groundwork.

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The launch of ClassPass Live comes at an important time for the company. ClassPass recently changed up its pricing structure again with the introduction of credits. Instead of letting users buy a certain number of classes each month, ClassPass is now selling credits that can go toward buying classes, allowing for a dynamic pricing model.

While ClassPass has said that this product was well-received during six months of testing, some Twitter users have expressed disappointment
with the new structure.

Still, ClassPass remains a dominant player in the fitness world, with $154 million in total funding.

YC-backed DearBrightly makes Rx skin care more accessible

Almost everybody wants better skin, but not everyone wants to put in all the heavy lifting required.

But DearBrightly, a Y Combinator-backed company, wants to simplify the process of making Rx retinoids accessible to everyone.

Retonoid is an umbrella term for both retinols and Rx retinoids, which are made from Vitamin A and promote rapid skin cell turnover, helping with skin issues from aging to acne. Retinols, however, can be found over the counter and are proven to be much weaker than prescription retinoids, as they’re often missing the active ingredient of retinoic acid.

In other words, retinols are far more accessible but far less effective than Rx options. On the other hand, setting aside time to see a dermatologist for purely cosmetic reasons isn’t always a priority for folks, even if they want better skin.

That’s where DearBrightly steps in.

Users simply log on to DearBrightly and answer a few questions about their skin, formulated in collaboration with dermatologists, and send in a few pictures of their skin. DearBrightly then sends that data along to one of their dermatologist partners, who determine the right prescription level and regimen.

Users are then sent their custom Rx retinoid cream without ever having to visit a dermatologist.

DearBrightly only works with PCAB-accredited pharmacies, and is currently only operational in California, as laws vary from state to state.

DearBrightly charges a service fee to both the dermatologists writing prescriptions as well as the customer receiving their new skin cream. Given how young the company is, this is subject to change. Still, cofounder and CEO Amy Chiu says the cost to consumers is less expensive than it would be to go to a dermatologist offline.

The Samsung Galaxy S9+ camera bumps the Pixel 2 for DxOMark’s top spot

You know the drill, right? A new flagship comes out and bumps the last big name out of the top spot. We’re still a couple of weeks out from the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+ release date, but the premium handset just got the DxOMark treatment, and it seems the company’s got another feather to put in its flagship’s cap.

The site posted a 99 for the S9+, edging out the Pixel 2’s very good camera by a point — and the iPhone X by two. Sure, that’s not exactly the “camera reinvented” message the company was pushing ahead of last weekend’s big announcement at MWC, but it’s certainly in line with the camera-first approach it was promising handset, besting the Galaxy Note 8’s score by five points (the site rated the S8, but not S8+, mind).

The site gives the S9+ its highest photo score for a handset so far. The video score, while note quite tops, is still up there. According to DxOMark, “The S9 Plus comes with a camera that hasn’t got any obvious weaknesses and performs very well across all photo and video test categories.”

The biggest addition this time out is a dual-aperture for low light shots, and indeed, the camera performs admirably on those. The S9+ also sports a zoom lens not found on the S9 (along with a few other features justifying the $120 price different), which significantly reduces artifacts. The phone also gets high marks for its bokeh effect (for Portrait Mode), which was pretty solid to start with on the last note handset.

There are a few small knocks, including artifacts in bright lighting situation, but all in all, the handset looks to be a standout.