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The biggest news from CES 2022

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The biggest news from CES 2022

Be it virtual, in-person, or some mix of the two, CES is a beast. How could you keep up with all of the news flooding out of the show? You can’t, really. The big outlets each put a small army on CES coverage and only really scratch the surface.

With that in mind, and with CES 2022 now wrapped, we figured it was worthwhile to bring it all together in one neat little box — a recap of our top stories of the week, the trends we noticed, and some of our favorite bits. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it’ll give you a good sense of the show if you were too busy to pay attention in realtime.

The top stories:

We wrote up many, many, many news items from CES. Can’t read them all? Here’s some of the stuff that folks read and shared the most:

Image Credits: BMW

BMW shows off a color-changing car

It’s like something out of a sci-fi flick: push a button, and your car changes color. Based on E Ink tech along the same lines as a Kindle screen, it’ll only flip between black/white/shades of grey… but still — wow. Don’t go looking for a pre-order page, though… for now, it’s just a tech demo.

Image Credits: Nvidia

Nvidia launches the $249 GeForce RTX 3050

Between crypto miners, resellers, and chip shortages, good graphics cards are hard to come by right now — especially if you don’t want to pay a huge markup. So it makes sense that a great card meant to ship at a budget-friendly price would grab a lot of eyes… but will resellers just gobble up all of these ones, too?

Image Credits: Nvidia

Nvidia expands its GeForce Now game streaming ecosystem

Nvidia had a good bit of news around its game streaming service, GeForce Now: new games, free subscriptions for select AT&T customers, and plans to build it right into Samsung TVs.

Nvidia had quite the CES; while it didn’t break the top stories list, its announcement that it is opening up its Omniverse tech to more creators also pulled a ton of eyes.

Image Credits: Daan Tech

Meet Bob, a cute little dishwasher that saves water and zaps bacteria

Want a dishwasher, but dont have space and/or don’t want to deal with ripping out cabinets or installing water lines? Bob lives on your counter and you add the water with a pitcher. Plus you can use its water-free UV-C mode to disinfect things like phones, or keys, or other things that can’t get wet. Plus it’s hella cute.

Image Credits: Scanbo

How sweet is your blood? Scanbo gives an answer without poking holes in you

“How sweet is your blood?” writes Haje in a wonderfully-Haje headline. It’s early days, but AI company Scanbo is aiming to do glucose monitoring without the painful, exhausting, never-ending finger pricks

Image Credits: Sony

Sony gives first details on next-gen PS VR2 headset for PS5

We’ve known for a while that Sony has been working on a new VR headset for the PS5, but now we know a lot more… like that it’s called PS VR 2, has a much improved display, supports foveated rendering, and more.

Image Credits: GAF Energy

GAF Energy takes on Tesla’s Solar Roof

“GAF Energy, a division of the roofing giant, claims its new solar shingles are simple enough to install that no special equipment or knowledge is required, making home renewable energy that much more accessible.” writes Devin Coldewey.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Power1 is an iPhone battery case with a spot for your AirPods

Ever wished you could just cram your AirPods right into your iPhone instead of carrying around an extra little widget? This case makes it happen. Brian Heater goes hands on with a prototype.

Image Credits: Hyundai

Spot goes into the metaverse

“By connecting robots to the metaverse, we will be able to move freely between both the real world and virtual reality,” says Hyundai Motor Group President Chang Song in a sentence that explodes my brain a little. Will traveling the planet — or, as Hyundai’s promo video suggests, Mars — in a robot avatar be a totally normal thing at some point?

Image Credits: Sony

Sony explores building electric cars

Sony has been experimenting with cars for a few years now, showing new prototypes at each of the last two CES. Now they’ve announced the formation of a new company, Sony Mobility Inc., just to figure out how to commercialize their EV efforts.

The Trends:

Schlage Encode Plus Smart WiFi Deadbolt

Why Matter Matters

Smart home devices can be great… once you get them up and running. But for most people, just figuring out what works together is a chore. A lot of the biggest tech companies (Apple, Amazon, Google, etc.) have banded together to build a protocol called Matter, and Christine Hall has a look at how those efforts are going so far

Image Credits: Yukai Engineering

Robots roll out

Are we close to having Rosie the robot roaming our homes? Or are we forever stuck with puck shaped robo-vacuums that eat our socks? In last weeks Actuator newsletter, Brian Heater gave us a look at where consumer robotics are today, and how it has moved forward over the years. Plus there’s a robot cat that nibbles on your finger for some reason?

Image Credits: Blink Charging

EV Chargers charge up

Electric vehicles tend to grab most of the headlines… but what about the boxes that you plug them into to give’m juice? There’s growing competition in the space, and Rebecca Bellan has the overview about what each team is doing differently.

Image Credits: Cake

E-Bikes and Scooters take charge

What’s left to build in the world of e-bikes and scooters? How can one fancy electric scooter differentiate itself from another? Our mobility team took us on a ride through all of the micro-vehicle news from the show.

Image Credits: wacomka (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

VR Simmers

Rather than any one headset or “killer app” making VR an overnight ubiquitous thing, its story so far has been one of incremental progression — and CES this year moved it a few more steps down the road.

 

Image Credits: Samsung

Metaverses metaversed the metaverse

Metaverse? Metaverse! “Metaverse” was by far the buzziest word at CES this year, even if a few companies’ use of the word was… questionable.

Image Credits: TP-Link

Gadgets galore

The organization behind CES might not want anyone to call it “Consumer Electronics Show” anymore (as it aims to broaden its scope to all of technology, not just the electronic bits) but there are still lots, and lots, and lots gizmos and gadgets to be found. Heater took a look at some of the most interesting ones.

BOCCO emo robot

Elder tech can help everyone

As much as we’d love to pretend otherwise, we all get old. Before we know it, we’ll have a generation of seniors that grew up from day one with the Internet always within reach. How can tech evolve to help older people live more comfortably? From robot companions to lightbulbs that might help detect falls, Catherine Shu rounded up the latest advancements in elder tech.

Our favorite bits:

We spent the last week with our heads buried in CES news — and, for much of the CES team, it was our 7th or 8th or zillionth time doing so. What stood out to us? Here’s some of the stuff we’re still thinking about.

John Deere’s self driving tractor

The average age of the American farmer is 57.5 years. Field work is backbreaking, intensive and increasingly difficult to staff. Farming is one of those roles that makes a lot of sense to automate, something John Deere has been working for several years to perfect. Available later this year in select U.S. Markets, the 8R finally brings full autonomy to the company’s popular tractor line, with a number of features currently in the works.

— Brian Heater

Mercedes-Benz’s Vision

This isn’t just a concept car that will never see the light of day. Mercedes tapped the expertise of its R&D department, Formula 1 and Formula E teams to develop advanced components for this concept that will show up in future models, starting in 2024.

Of note, they improved the energy density of the battery by making “significant progress” in the chemistry of the anodes, which has higher silicon content and advanced composition that allow it to hold considerably more energy than commonly used anodes. Translation: More range packed into a tinier package. Another item that will show up in 2024 includes ultra-thin roof panels that feed the battery system for some extra range.

— Kirsten Korosec

BMW’s color changing concept car

Will you be able to buy BMW’s color-shifting car any time soon? Probably not. Is it super practical? Nope! Who knows how much it’ll cost to replace a door panel when someone bumps this thing with a full grocery cart. But one thing I dearly miss about in-person CES is the absurd, “we made this mostly just to flex” aspect of it all, and this one fits squarely in that category.

—Greg Kumparak

The Labrador robot

We hear a lot about the promise of robotics, but the most useful robots for people aren’t going to look like us.

They’re going to be things like Labrador, which is essentially a mobile table. It’s intended for elderly  folks and those who may have trouble with everyday tasks, for example, carrying a plate and a drink from the kitchen to the dining room, or bringing the laundry hamper to the washer. With built-in voice controls you should be able to tell it “wait in the bedroom” or “come to me.” It’s the kind of thing that could make a lot of people’s lives easier, and something I hope we see more of in robotics.

— Devin Coldewey

Mui Lab’s “calm” smart home device

One of the more interesting smart home devices at CES was the Mui Labs Matter-ready “muiPlatform” that turns smart home devices into “calmer ones.”

The more devices we add to our home, the more we have cluttering up our furniture. Mui Labs lets you embrace a minimalist lifestyle while also enabling your Amazon Alexa to function more like a piece of art on your wall with a visual interface.

— Christine Hall

Bob

To me, some of the most interesting technologies at CES are about how we can use our limited resources better. With California being in perma-drought, Bob caught my eye.

Bob is a tiny dishwasher aimed at households of 1-2 people, and uses a lot less water than washing dishes by hand. It even has an UV mode to clean items without using any water at all.

— Haje Jan Kamps

Source: Tech

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Spendesk is the fifth French startup to reach unicorn status this month

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Fintech startup Spendesk is announcing that it has raised an extension to its Series C round. Tiger Global is investing $114 million (€100 million) in the startup. Following today’s funding round, the company says that is has reached a valuation of more than $1.14 billion (more than €1 billion).

In other words, Spendesk is a new unicorn in the French tech ecosystem. Funding news has been accelerating over the last few months in France. In January alone, five startups announced that they have crossed the threshold to reach unicorn status — PayFit, Ankorstore, Qonto, Exotec and Spendesk.

Back Market, an e-commerce marketplace focused on refurbished smartphones and electronics devices, has also raised a mega round and reached a $5.7 billion valuation.

Let’s go back to Spendesk. The startup offers an all-in-one corporate spend management platform for medium companies in Europe. Originally focused on virtual cards for online payments, the company has expanded its product offering to tackle everything related to corporate spending.

Spendesk customers can order physical cards for employees, team members can use the platform to pay outstanding invoices, file expense reports, manage budgets and generate spending reports. By offering everything in a single service, Spendesk wants to simplify accounting and approvals in general so that money moves more freely.

The startup defines its platform as a “7-in-1 spend management solution”, meaning that Spendesk is no longer just a product that lets you order debit cards for your employees.

“We have had this goal since the beginning — we really want to become this platform, this operational system to manage your spending,” co-founder and CEO Rodolphe Ardant told me. “When we started working on the product, we looked at each use case and designed the right workflow for that.”

In particular, Spendesk helps you formalize your internal processes. You can define team budgets, set up complicated approval workflows for expensive payments, automate some pesky tasks, such as VAT extraction.

“We target mid-market clients. Those are customers with 50 to 1,000 employees. We have a few clients that are bigger than that and a few clients that are smaller than that,” Ardant said.

And the company currently has 3,500 clients — around half of them are based in France while other clients are mostly based in Germany and the U.K. Clients have spent €3 billion through Spendesk in 2021 alone.

With its central positioning in the financial stack, Spendesk needs to interface perfectly with other financial tools — banks on one side and ERP products on the other side.

The startup currently supports many of the popular accounting tools used by European companies, such as Xero and Datev. Spendesk customers can also export transaction batches and import them into Sage, Cegid and other accounting software solutions.

Spendesk is also working on automating the integrations with your bank accounts, which could be particularly useful for companies with multiple bank accounts. For instance, you could imagine setting up a rule that automatically triggers a transfer between your German bank account and your Spendesk account when you want to pay a German supplier.

Image Credits: Spendesk

Spend management in Europe

Spendesk isn’t the only spend management solution in Europe. There are some competitors, such as Pleo, which recently reached a $4.7 billion valuation, and Soldo — another well-funded competitor as it has raised $180 million last year.

In the U.S. as well, companies like Brex and Ramp have reached sky-high valuations. And yet, Spendesk doesn’t think it has the same positioning as American startups.

“On the American market, it shouldn’t be called the spend management industry — it’s the corporate card industry. Players like Brex and Ramp position themselves as a payment method,” Spendesk co-founder and CEO Rodolphe Ardant told me. “Europe’s corporate culture is a culture of debit — not credit. We don’t provide payment methods, we provide a process.”

It’s a slight difference in product positioning, so it’s going to be interesting to see if a European spend management startup can successfully enter the U.S. and vice versa.

When it comes to business model as well, Spendesk considers itself as a software-as-a-service company with recurring subscriptions. The startup didn’t want to share any hard numbers for its revenue. Its CEO just said that Spendesk’s revenue “more than doubles every year.”

With today’s funding round, Spendesk plans to triple the size of its team over the next two years. The company plans to have 1,000 employees by the end of 2023.

Source: Tech

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Crypto.com expands venture arm to $500 million to back early-stage web3 startups

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Crypto.com, a popular cryptocurrency exchange, has extended its venture arm’s fund size to $500 million as it looks to more aggressively back early-stage startups to help the nascent ecosystem grow, following similar moves by rivals Binance, Coinbase and FTX.

The broadening of Crypto.com Capital comes less than a year after the Singapore-headquartered firm unveiled its maiden fund of $200 million. The fund, unlike those of many of its rivals, has no LPs (meaning, it’s fully financed by the firm’s balance sheet.)

The maiden fund, whose individual checks run up to $10 million in size, has been so far deployed to back about 20 startups including YGG SEA, multi-chain crypto portfolio tracker DeBank, cross-chain token infrastructure Efinity and Ethereum scaling solution Matter Labs.

Crypto.com will continue to focus on backing early-stage startups, said Jon Russell, who joined the firm as a general partner this month, in an interview with TechCrunch.

With the fund, Crypto.com is broadly focusing on gaming, decentralized-finance and startups innovating on cross-chain solutions. But he cautioned that the industry could change and expand, as it has in recent years, to areas “we don’t know about,” hence the firm is keeping an eye out on everything.

Tuesday’s announcement also further illustrates the growing involvement of cryptocurrency exchanges in being the rainmaker – and beneficiary – of the ecosystem which encompasses the industry in which they operate.

FTX, which has backed over 15 startups, last week announced a $2 billion crypto fund. Its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, also owns Alameda Research, a venture firm that has backed close to 100 web3 startups.

Coinbase Ventures, the investment arm of the only crypto exchange that is publicly traded, and Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, are also among the most prolific investors in the web3 space.

Venture investment in crypto / web3 in 2021 by category (Image credits: Galaxy Digital)

The funding activity in the space, even as most of the aforementioned names often co-invest in startups, is at an all-time high. VCs invested more than $33 billion in crypto/web3 startups in 2021, more than all prior years combined, Galaxy Digital, another prolific investor in the space, wrote in a recent report.

“Valuations in the crypto/blockchain space were 141% higher than the rest of the venture capital space in Q4, highlighting a founder-friendly environment and the intense competition among investors for deal allocations,” the report added.

Scores of venture capital firms have also raised new funds for their crypto investments. Just last year, Andreessen Horowitz added a $2.2 billion crypto fund, Paradigm unveiled a $2.5 billion fund, and Hivemind Capital Partners announced a $1.5 billion fund. Katie Haun, who co-led a16z’s $2.2 billion crypto fund, has left the firm to launch her own crypto-focused fund.

Russell – a former journalist who previously had stints at TechCrunch, The Next Web, and The Ken – said Crypto.com is backing startups to help the ecosystem grow.

“If you’re in the industry, it’s in your interest to help companies grow in the ecosystem and the ecosystem itself to grow,” he said. (Worth pointing out that Solana, Avalanche, Polkadot — as well as some of their major investors — are also aggressively backing startups that are building applications for the native blockchains.)

The startups Crypto.com backs are under no obligation to list their tokens on Crypto.com over any of its rivals or offer the exchange any other preferential treatment, he said. The exchange team similarly doesn’t have a soft spot for the investment arm’s portfolio firms, he added.

(What’s up with the career move? “I’ve been crypto curious for a number of years but I wasn’t gasping to dive in full-time. This project appeals to me because Crypto.com is ambitious but yet it does things the right way. There’s certainly a lot of hype and hot air in crypto and web3 right now, but it’s impossible to ignore the talent that’s pouring into the industry,” he said.)

Crypto.com, which started its life as a blog of professor Matt Blaze (who sold the domain to the crypto exchange), has aggressively expanded in the past year as it looks to court more users. The Singapore-headquartered firm last year agreed to pay more than $700 million for the naming rights of the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The downtown Los Angeles complex has been rebranded as Crypto.com Arena for the next 20 years.

The firm, which bills itself as the “fastest-growing” crypto exchange, said at the time of the announcement that the move is positioned to make cryptocurrencies mainstream. Crypto.com, which processes trade volumes of over $2.5 billion every day, also teamed up with Hollywood star Matt Damon last year to promote the brand and cryptocurrencies.

The Damon-starring ad equated buying crypto tokens and NFTs to one of the greatest and boldest accomplishments in the history of humankind. Hyperbole, to be sure, but having the most mainstream American actor as Crypto.com’s celebrity sponsor has certainly helped bring the trading platform, and all that it sells, into the mainstream. The ad went viral and also attracted criticism for being cringeworthy.

Source: Tech

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Focused on smaller cities, Vietnamese social commerce startup Mio raises $8M Series A

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Mio, the Vietnamese social commerce platform, has raised an $8 million Series A, less than a year after announcing its seed round. The funding was led by Jungle Ventures, Patamar Capital and Oliver Jung, with participation from returning investors GGV, Venturra, Hustle Fund, iSEED SEA and Gokul Rajaram.

TechCrunch first covered Mio at the time of its $1 million seed funding in May 2021. Founded in 2020, Mio is a group buying platform that focuses on selling fresh produce and groceries in Tier 2 and 3 cities in Vietnam. The company is able to offer next day delivery because it built a logistics infrastructure that enables it to send produce directly from farms to customers.

The Series A brings Mio’s total raised to $9.1 million, and will be used to expand its logistics and fulfillment system, enter new areas in Vietnam and add new product categories like fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and household appliances.

Mio co-founder and chief executive officer Trung Huynh said that since TechCrunch first covered Mio seven months ago, it has achieved 10x gross merchandise value growth, a 10x increase in agents, or resellers, and grew its team from 60 people to 240. It now fulfills more than 10,000 pieces of fresh produce per day, operating in Ho Chi Minh, Thu Duc, Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Long An, with plans to expand into northern Vietnam.

The numbers “strengthened our conviction in this model and its potential,” he said. “We need fresh capital to accelerate hiring, product development and supply chain to keep up with the pace of growth as we deepen our presence in existing geographies and expand to new provinces.”

Mio is able to offer next day deliveries because its vertically integrated mayor layers of the value chain, including procurement, warehousing, order sorting and bulk delivery. The startup owns the majority of its logistics infrastructure and uses its own fleet of couriers. Its ability to delivery fresh produce directly from farms to customers in less than 16 hours contributed to higher customer retention and growth, Huynh said, and it will continue to shorten delivery times. .

Mio resellers are called Mio Partners. Huynh said one of the driving factors behind Mio is targeting the right people for the program, or “housewives and stay-home-moms in lower income regions who love sharing value-for-money products to their social circle of friends.”

They aggregate orders, usually from friends and family, and orders are delivered to them in batches for distribution. The startup claims Mio Partners can make up to $400 a month, including a 10% commission on each order and additional commissions based on the monthly performance of other resellers they referred to the program.

“There is a strong possibility” that Mio will expand beyond Vietnam, Huynh said, “but will only be considered at a more appropriate time after we successfully built our playbook for Vietnam.”

Source: Tech

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