Alex Selig grew up with hearing loss, using hearing aids for most of his life. After studying engineering at Stanford University, he teamed up with Varun Srinivasan, a CMU computer science to build SoundFocus. Right now, SoundFocus is simply an app that tests your hearing capacity and tunes your music accordingly. But there are bigger dreams in the pipeline.
“This really started because, in doing some research, I found out that 600 million people in the world have hearing loss, yet only one in five people who need a hearing aid actually own one,” said Selig. “But getting a hearing aid isn’t like when you have bad vision and can stop into a drug store and pick up a pair of reader glasses. It’s much more difficult.”
The SoundFocus app lets you pull in music from your iTunes library on your phone, as well as your Spotify collection, as long as you have the premium mobile account on Spotify.
The folks behind the Humble Bundle have announced the Humble Origin Bundle, a set of games for EA’s Origin platform for which customers can pay whatever price they choose. In contrast to the indie-oriented bundles, Origin is giving the entirety of its share to charity.
The Origin Bundle includes a handful of high-profile titles, including Mirror’s Edge, Crysis 2 Maximum Edition, Medal of Honor, Dead Space, Dead Space 3, and Burnout Paradise. Customers who pay more than the average also get a copy of Battlefield 3 and The Sims 3, plus “some DLC." Those who pay more than a penny get a copy of the soundtracks for Battlefield 3 and The Sims 3.
Cloud telephony has brought big benefits for companies, many of which can now trash their complex on-premises infrastructure in favor of cheaper cloud options.
But making that change is more complicated for large companies. Many cloud telephony providers require customers to use a telecommunications carrier that they provide. That’s a problem for enterprises that have already built infrastructure with another carrier. They also often are locked into contracts with these carriers. It’s analogous to consumers who are locked into mobile plans, except companies changing to another carrier often have to make big changes, moving many phone numbers and phone lines.
To address this, Y Combinator startup Plivo is launching its “Bring Your Own Carrier” model. Now large companies can bring a carrier they already work with, and use their existing phone numbers and outgoing phone routes.
Isn't a baby monitor effectively a waste of technology? With a bit more thought and an operating system, couldn't it do much more with its components than just scope your infant? That's the premise behind Y Combinator-backed ixi-play, an Android-powered robot that just launched on the Crowdhoster crowdfunding platform. On top of Android 4.2, a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 CPU, 1GB RAM and a 720p camera, the owlish 'bot has face, card and object detection, voice recognition, a touch-sensor on the head, eye displays for animations, a tweeter/woofer speaker combo and child-proof "high robustness." For motion, the team adopted a design used in flight simulators, giving ixi-play "agile and silent" 3-axis translation and rotation moves.
All that tech is in the service of one thing, of course: your precious snowflake. There are currently three apps for ixi-play: a baby monitor, language learning and animal-themed emotion cards. As the video shows (after the break), the latter app lets your toddler flash cards to the bot to make it move or emote via the eye displays, matching the anger or happiness shown on the card. In baby monitor mode, on top of sending a live (encoded) video stream to your tablet, it'll also play soothing music and sing or talk your toddler to sleep. The device will also include an SDK that includes low-level motion control and vision programming, providing a way for developers to create more apps. As for pricing, you can snap one up starting at $299 for delivery around July 24th, 2014, provided the company meets its $957,000 funding goal (pledges are backed by Crowdtilt). That's exactly the same price we saw recently for far less amusing-sounding baby monitor, so if you're interested, hit the source.
GoComm, a Y Combinator startup, is releasing an app to streamline communication and task management during high-pressure events. With a passive news feed, easy login and task assignments, GoComm aims to be a mobile-optimized Yammer for teams that need immediate collaboration and action.
Before an event, users download GoComm and login to the system with a secret password distributed to all participants. After being approved by the administrator, each user can fill in basic contact information including phone number and email for one-on-one contact. The app uses a passive news feed so people can check in with what is happening, but only get notifications when they are tagged in a post. Once in GoComm, you can view posts, tasks, participants and uploaded documents.
If you’re looking to hire a bad ass programmer, fielding resumes can start to feel like an exercise in futility. They’re good for quickly filtering out folks who are clearly applying to everything — but when everyone in the industry has some crazy made-up senior ninja/rockstar/space cadet title, when everyone considers themselves a coder, and when “Proficient with C” can mean two entirely different things based on a person’s ego, that’s about all they’re good for.
Hackermeter, part of the most recent Y-combinator class, thinks they have a better alternative: a coder score.
Hackermeter is based around the concept of coding challenges. The better you perform on each challenge, the higher your score. The higher your score, the more enticing you’ll be to a potential employer.
Why do law firms spend, collectively, billions of dollars on commercial legal research databases, when what they are looking up is law — which is in the public domain? How are these databases able to erect these enormously profitable paywalls? The answer is that they provide more than just the raw text of the law. They provide search tools and additional, value-added content on top of the law itself. The two legal research titans, Lexis and Westlaw, employ lawyers to read cases and other legal materials, categorize them, add commentary, and link them together. These services have legitimate value because they all save lawyers time, and time is money — especially in a profession that largely bills its clients in six-minute increments. That’s why these expensive tools exist, even in the Internet age. As one lawyer put it, after trying to get by on only free legal research tools, he tried Westlaw and was an immediate convert who now happily pays for the service.
Two young lawyers thinks they can disrupt the legal research giants by applying the lessons of Wikipedia and crowdsourcing their own comparable set of annotated law.
Joanna Huey attended Harvard Law School, where she was president of the Harvard Law Review, and Jacob Heller attended Stanford Law School, where he was president of the Stanford Law Review. They later served together as clerks for Judge Michael Boudin at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, and worked at law firms. Both were dissatisfied with the available research tools and their hefty price tags, which put the poor at a competitive disadvantage in the justice system.
Unlike many lawyers, neither Huey nor Heller are afraid of technology, so they decided to do something about it. Huey’s undergraduate degree is in physics, and Heller was a web developer before law school. They applied to Y Combinator, and were accepted. They’re now emerging from the program and ready to launch their company: Casetext.
While traditional analytics detail what users tap in an app, they don’t show what happens in between. If only developers could watch their users in action. With Y Combinator-backed Watchsend, developers can get a peek by remotely recording users’ screens, and learn how to refine their apps.
Whether the app is in beta or live, Watchsend users can specify exactly what pages they want to record, which are then encrypted and secured in its data base. All recordings come with screen annotations of taps, swipes and presses, as well as a timeline of the user’s actions. App developers can then go in and view them, using very specific search terms to navigate the vast number of videos collected.
Watchsend is meant to complement traditional app testing methods such as conversion rates and A/B testing, not replace them. ”There’s a lot of stuff that you get from traditional analytics that’s absolutely indispensable, and we don’t claim to be able to give you any of that,” Gulrajani says. “But there’s a lot of stuff that analytics misses out on, stuff that you didn’t think to track.”
Instead, it’s offering an alternative solution for apps where user progress is harder to track. For example, analyzing data from mobile gaming apps can show at what level users are dropping off, but its a lot more difficult to determine exactly what the user is doing wrong. Maybe the ladder to the next level is blocked by in-game shrubbery, or that last gem to be collected is too hard to find. Analytics also show which pages are reached by users, but not how far down they scroll before clicking “next” or “buy”.
Over a year after the announcement Of Google Glass, many folks I talk to still seem to be misunderstanding what Glass can actually do.
“It’ll be great for Augmented Reality!” they say, assuming that Glass can render objects directly into your full view of the world (it can’t.) “Ooh! It’ll be like Minority Report!”, expecting Glass’ camera to pick up your every hand wave (it doesn’t.)
Then they try on a pair and realize that… well, that’s not what Glass is. But it’s what Meta is aiming to be — and their first (read: still a bit rough) version is going on sale to the public starting today.
To picture the Meta, picture a pair of glasses — or, more accurately in its current stage, a pair of safety goggles. Put a translucent, reflective surface in each eye piece, displaying images on top of your field of view as piped out of a tiny projector built into each arm of the frames. Take a couple tiny RGB/Infrared cameras — essentially a miniature Kinect — and strap them to the frame. That’s the Meta.
The Meta then plugs into another device to help it with the data crunching; right now, that’s a laptop. Moving forward, it’ll be your phone.
After flying under the radar for a bit over a year, Meta debuted itself to the world on Kickstarter back in May. By the end of their campaign, they’d nearly doubled their original goal of $100,000. They promised to ship those units to their backers by the end of this month, and they say they’re on track to meet that deadline — so now they’re opening up pre-sales of the next iteration to everyone.
To be clear, the hardware they’re launching today is still quite early. It’s perhaps a bit past the “Developers Only” level, but it’s still mostly meant for the hardcore early-adopters and tinkerers. Hell, its early state is reflected in its very name; this model is called the META.01, suggesting many a revision to come. The META.01 units are going up for sale at $667, with plans to begin shipping in November.
Also watch the behind-the-scenes review by Reddit (YC S05) cofounder Steve Huffman as he uses the META.01 prototype...