All posts in “technology”

Markforged announces two 3D printers that produce items as strong as steel


Markforged, a 3D printer manufacturer based in Boston, has just announced two new models – the X3 and the X5. Both of these printers are designed to create carbon-fiber infused objects using a standard filament printing system and both can produce items that can replace or are stronger than steel objects.

Both printers have auto-leveling and scanning systems to ensure each printed object is exactly like every other. Further, the printers use Markforged’s special thermoplastic fiber filament while the X5 can add a “strand of continuous fiberglass” to create objects “19X stronger and 10X stiffer than traditional plastics.” This means you can print both usable parts and usable tools using the same machine and thanks to the fiberglass weave you can ensure that the piece won’t snap on use. For example, one customer printed a custom valve wrench in ten minutes using one of these printers.

Now for the bad news. The X3 costs a mere $36,990 while the X5 costs $49,900. These are aimed at what Markforged calls “local manufacturers.” Luckily you’re not stuck with the printer if you outgrow it. The X3 can easily be upgraded to work with X5’s filament and both are aimed at manufacturing shops that need to product finished products on the fly.

“Customers can now, with ease, print same-day parts that optimize strength and affordability for their specific needs,” said CEO Greg Mark.

These printers are part of Markforged’s effort at creating a real “teleporter.” Thanks to the complex scanning and measurement systems built into these units, users can receive a 3D printer model and print it to exacting specifications. The system also has a failsafe mode that restart at any time as the laser scanner can check to see exactly where the print stopped. The company is also hard at work at some impressive metal printing technologies that turn out parts that are usable in complex machines.

Motorola patent reveals designs for a phone screen that heals itself

Motorola wants to put an end to all those expensive smartphone screen repairs. The company recently applied for a patent on a phone screen that can heal its own cracks and damages. 

The patent, which was filed in February and awarded last week, explains how a phone screen made out of shape memory polymer could heal itself. The screen would have “thermal elements” in it that could detect deformations in the screen. Then heat would be applied to the memory polymer screen as the solution to reversing the damage that has been done.

A new Motorola patent application shows a self-healing screen.

A new Motorola patent application shows a self-healing screen.

Image: united states patent and trademark office

According to the patent, the heat reaction on the polymer screen can’t promise to fix all of the damages caused by users’ clumsy behavior. But it will fix as much as it can. 

But before you get too excited, remember that this is just a patent application. The patent hasn’t actually been granted to Motorola, yet. And even if it is, it’s not a sure thing that Motorola will ever actually create the self-healing screen. 

There are also some questions involved if the patent really is approved and manufacturing moves ahead on the project. How will this memory polymer look and feel compared to the glass phone screens that we’ve become accustomed to. Also, what will the price tag on this look like? Not having to take your phone in for a repair every time you drop it could be a real money saver, but is it going to cost a lot more up front to get that technology?

Whatever happens, this looks like a step in the right direction for mobile phones. Self-healing screens could be an absolute game changer for all the uncoordinated folks out there. Just image a day when your heart doesn’t drop as your pricey phone plummets down to the concrete sidewalk. That sounds pretty nice.

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Fancy smart locks marketed to Airbnb hosts permanently broken by software update

Why. Isn't. This. Working.
Why. Isn’t. This. Working.

Image: mikkel william/Getty Images

The Internet of Things continues to amaze, but unfortunately for all the techno-utopians of the world, it’s for exactly the wrong reasons. 

The latest case study in why connecting every little thing to the internet might not be such a good idea is brought to us by Lockstate — a company that manufactures, among other things, a Wi-Fi enabled smart lock marketed to Airbnb hosts around the world. The device allows for keyless entry and remote monitoring, along with the charming ability to be remotely bricked.

And, surprise, that’s exactly what happened on Aug. 7 when Lockstate pushed an errant firmware update that left a number of its locks permanently busted. Whoops.

“We are sorry to inform you about some unfortunate news,” CEO Nolan Mondrow wrote in an email to those unfortunate enough to be stuck with a nonfunctioning LS-6i. “Your lock is among a small subset of locks that had a fatal error rendering it inoperable. After a software update was sent to your lock, it failed to reconnect to our web service making a remote fix impossible.”

That’s right, people who shelled out for a $469 future lock that enables them to track the comings and goings of their Airbnb clients suddenly found themselves forced to return to the old-fashioned days of metal keys and tumblers. And, unfortunately, they’re going to be stuck there for a while. 

The LS-6i looking so fancy.

The LS-6i looking so fancy.

Image: lockstate

That’s because in order to get the system working again, owners have to either completely replace the lock or send it in for repairs — a process that could take anywhere from five to 18 days. Importantly, however, that doesn’t mean people literally can’t get through their front doors that entire time. 

“Every one of our locks ships with a physical key,” explained Mondrow over the phone. “We have thought about redundancy for access.”

“We really feel for those that are affected,” he added. 

This, of course, isn’t the first time that an Internet of Things device has brought with it some unexpected risks. In April, a man had his garage door opener disabled after leaving a bad product review online, and internet-connected (and camera-enabled) vibrators have revealed themselves to be surprisingly easy to hack

Thankfully, for all involved, when it comes to Lockstate’s recent misstep, only around 500 locks were impacted. What’s more, Mondrow insisted that this was all the result of human error and that the technology itself is solid. Even so, he came close to admitting that nothing in the Internet of Things world can ever be 100 percent foolproof as humans still have to administer the tech.

“You always have to be aware of the fact that it’s people that work with customers and making sure they’re well trained.”

And, well, even well-trained people make mistakes. Something to perhaps keep in mind the next time you’re shopping for a shiny new internet-connected gadget.

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Andrew Ng is raising a $150M AI Fund


We knew that Andrew Ng had more than just a series of deep learning courses up his sleeve when he announced the first phase of his deeplearning.ai last week. It’s clear now that the turn of Ng’s three part act is a $150 million venture capital fund, first noted by PEHub, targeting AI investments.

Ng, who formerly founded Google’s Brain Team and served as chief scientist at Baidu has long evangelized the benefits AI could bring to the world. During an earlier conversation, Ng told me that his personal goal is to help bring about an AI-powered society. It would follow that education via his deep learning classes is one step of that and providing capital and other resources is another.

2017 has been a particularly active year for starting AI-focused venture capital funds. In the last few months we have seen Google roll out Gradient Ventures, Basis Set Ventures hall in $136 million, Element.AI raise $102 million, Microsoft Ventures start its own AI fund and Toyota corral $100 million for AI investment.

It’s unclear at this point how Ng’s AI Fund will differentiate from the pack. Many of these funds are putting time and resources into securing data sets, technical mentors and advanced simulation tools to support the unique needs of AI startups. Of course Ng’s name recognition and network should help ensure solid deal flow and enable Ng to poach and train talent for startups in need of scarce deep learning engineers.

I’ve sent a note to Andrew and we will update this post if and when we get more details.

Featured Image: Dawn Endico/Flickr UNDER A CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE

Yes, there’s now an app with the sole purpose of showing you dank memes

If you enjoy wasting time on the internet, you’re probably going to love Memeois, the new iOS app made solely to deliver you the hottest new memes.

The app was made by 17-year-old Anushk Mittal and is free for download on iOS. Just be warned that the only way to enter the app is by signing in through a Facebook account. We don’t see any reason to be alarmed up front, but it’s something you might want to consider before joining.

The app apparently uses machine learning to crawl your Facebook activity to determine what memes it thinks you want to see. It also surfaces different trends based on your activity within the app.

I took the app for a quick test drive this morning and can confirm Memeois does in fact deliver memes you might actually like. I saved a few of the funnier ones to my “Book” by hitting Share below the meme, and even better ones started showing up. 

The feed quickly become personalized.

The feed quickly become personalized.

Image: memeois

And if you want to become the world’s next memelord, Memeois could be the tool to take you to the next level. The app provides templates and lets you create new memes from scratch. And if you don’t quite love the look or message of your meme after it goes live, just use Quick Edit to spruce it up and keep your friends laughing. 

Scroll through memes chosen for you or create your own.

Scroll through memes chosen for you or create your own.

Image: memeois

Memeois also features a place to discover new memes in different categories. Go to “Discover” and select an image to bring you into a folder full of similar memes. You can share your funniest finds and creations to social media right from the app, or add them to your Book for friends and family to browse.

The app works on the iPhone and Apple Watch. So, the next time you find yourself with a little bit of spare time, download Memeois and get ready to ROFL.

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