Trying on clothes in the changing rooms always gives a better idea of whether an item is a good fit, but sourcing advice from friends isn’t easy if they’re not there to see it in person. While we’ve already seen Amsterdam’s Karl Lagerfeld Store has already used changing room tablets to enable shoppers to snap their new look and share it with friends, France-based Pixglass now wants to make the process easier, with a camera-enabled mirror that digitally captures whatever is in front of it.
The system uses a one-way sheet of glass with a mirror on one side, concealing the camera on the other side. Users can connect their mobile device to the mirror using wifi and control it with the Pixglass app. The camera is capable of taking photos, panoramas, photo bursts and video in a variety of aspect ratios chosen by the user. When they’ve finished, the photos and videos are saved to their device.
Rather than relying on someone else to take a photo or relying on awkward selfie angles, Pixglass replicates pretty much exactly what’s reflected in the mirror. This means the mirror acts as a kind of photo ‘preview’, giving users more control over the final image. The mirror could be installed in changing rooms, enabling shoppers to instantly take a photo of their outfit and share it with friends, or also at event functions, allowing groups to take a photo without leaving anyone out.
Watch the video below (in French) to find out more about Pixglass:
Obviously, there are privacy concerns involved with the system, most notably how the photos and video are stored once they’ve been captured. It remains to be seen how Pixglass will overcome these issues, but the technology is currently being trialled in various locations around Paris. Are there other ways to integrate technology into otherwise ‘dumb’ objects?
Many people in the US are looking for ways in which they can lose weight at the same time that others struggle to get access to or afford food. Schemes such as Halfsies have already joined the two together with half-size restaurant portions matched with donations to charity. Now FoodTweeks is an app that gives users small suggestions to tweak their diet, with each calorie cut rewarded with support for local food banks.
Losing weight is simple in principle — either cut down calories taken in through meals and snacks, or increase the calories lost through exercise. However, in reality it’s much harder. FoodTweeks lets users search for the food they’re about to cook or order and offers small changes that will contribute to calorie loss. For example, if they’re cooking some pasta, the app will recommend perhaps refraining from sprinkling parmesan on the top. If they’re buying a Big Mac, it may suggest they order it without the middle bun. Over time, these small changes could help reduce calorie intake and keep users healthy while enabling them to enjoy the foods they like.
The app makes a record of the calories it’s saved its users and matches the number with donations in the form of food to local food banks. FoodTweeks is partnered with food banks from 44 different locations around the US.
Another year, another birthday.
For the past fifteen years, I’ve been spending my birthday on the beach with my family. That seems like the ideal way to do it. I hope that tradition lasts as long as I do.
The weather has been spectacular on the east end of long island this week and we spent most of yesterday afternoon on a boat in Sag Harbor.
Today, I plan to do some yoga, play some golf with my son, and have a family dinner tonight.
I don’t really enjoy receiving presents. The best present for me is to be somewhere awesome surrounded by my family. I’ve already received that present.
But if you feel that you must send me something, please make a small donation to CSNYC here. I would appreciate that very much.
Cooked up over a weekend in a room thronged with programmers, a blood-testing kit for smartphones won the first ever YC Hacks competition in Mountain View, CA this month. With a simple, improvised demonstration involving an iPhone and a toilet paper roll, the project entitled Athelas swayed judges and onlookers alike by presenting a cheap, pocket-sized method for detecting malaria and other maladies.
In brief, Athelas’ contest application proposes using lens attachments with camera phones to magnify and document blood samples and an app to analyze the images. Tanay Tandom, the project’s creator and a high-school senior in Cupertino, CA, explains that, significantly, his product “implement[s] computer vision to algorithmically count and identify cells in the bloodstream to automatically diagnose disease/conditions.” The lens attachment, a 1mm ball lens with an estimated production cost of $5, currently supplies images which allow for an accuracy rate of 70-75% with “live blood samples.” When supplied with training data, the diagnosis program is reported as having an accuracy rate of of 90-95% with cell identification.
Tandon further explains via collaborative problem solving community ChallengePost that his goal for the project is to provide “a malaria test that requires no expertise, takes a few seconds, and costs next to nothing,” with a large live-saving potential; he hopes that, “through predictive cell counting, Athelas can mimic the process conducted in lab-grade environments in rural areas.” Tandon tells The Next Web:
I strongly believe that artificial intelligence and research can be used to drive innovative changes in society, and my goal as I enter college and the workforce will be to continue working on products such as Athelas that can enact positive changes through the power of computer science.
However, as the BBC reported, the possibility of the app producing false positives — or incorrect diagnoses — is a major concern among experts. Dr. Mike Chapman of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Haematology cited “no problem with it in principle – but in reality, these need to be carefully calibrated around the right type of diseases.” He also explains that, while other projects have successfully involved the sending of pictures of blood cells to lab technicians, some diseases are much easier to detect than others: “[i]n a laboratory diagnosis, there is a lot of regulation that goes on behind the scenes to make sure that your results are meaningful.”
Dr. Amar Safdar, director of transplant medical diseases at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, echoed this sentiment: “[t]his app will create more confusion then alleviate anxiety,” he explained to the BBC. “The major limitation for this approach is that most viruses require electron microscopic exams to see them.”
For his prize, Mr. Tandon won an interview with YC’s team of industry leaders to be included in its next group of funded start-ups. The California-based project accelerator has fueled such start-ups such as Airbnb, Reddit, and Dropbox, each having since reached the billion-dollar mark.
While he is currently the sole contributor to his project, he explained by phone that he is in the process of finding laboratory and other facilities to support further research and testing. As he tells The Next Web, “[C]urrently I’m pursuing the work in a more research-oriented fashion, validating the algorithm accuracy as well as testing the microscope attachment on a variety of blood smears and diseased tissue.”
[h/t] The Next Web
Images: Carter Center, Getty Images, Athelas, The Next Web
Australian mixed-media artist Andy Thomas uses bird sound recordings to create digital sound sculptures or 3D animations that appear as abstract shapes that move and respond to the sounds of the birds.
The artist’s latest digital art consists of bird sound animations that were created using bird sound recordings from the archives of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, as well as the artist’s own sound recordings. The project was commissioned by the Europeana Creative and was funded by the EU.
Thomas’s digital sound sculptures, or audio life forms as they are described, are created using various software tools including 3ds Max, After Effects, Vray, and emPolygonizer.
For his latest project, the artist drew inspiration from life forms such as insects, orchids, and birds to create the animations. He posted a couple of his sketches for the animations and a few screenshots of the animation process on his website.
Andy Thomas completed a graphic design course at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He is known for experimenting with visualizations that integrate nature and technology. He takes photographs of things in nature and then digitally combines them with forms created using various 3D modeling software. His recent work has to do with audio life forms, created using sounds from nature and digital audio software and 3D software.
The audio life forms in the video below were created with bird sound recordings of a nightingale, recorded in Egmond, the Netherlands by Luc de Bruijn in 2007, and the sound recordings of a canary in cage, recorded in Hilversum by Sound and Vision in 1986.
Below is one of the artist’s test of a sound sculpture. The 3D animation below was created using bird sound recordings of a whip bird, which the artist recorded himself at Olinda in Victoria Australia in 2013.
The traditional wallet is under threat. Last year, we wrote about Coin, the credit card-sized device that stores up to 8 cards at once and can be used in their place. Now Shift has introduced a card that lets users pay with both traditional bank accounts, loyalty points and virtual currencies.
The card appears and operates much like a standard debit card, except it’s tied to a Shift account, rather than a traditional bank account. Users can load a number of their money sources onto the card — whether it’s their bank account, digital currency wallet, ripple account or loyalty membership. The card can be used to pay for groceries with real cash in one shop, and moments later used to hand over Bitcoin for a coffee in another. It can handle payments in different fiat currencies and comes with an app to show exactly what’s been purchased with the card.
At the moment, the Shift card is being trialled by 100 users in the San Francisco Bay Area. It currently only works with virtual currencies and the team is hoping to clear the legal hurdles of integrating loyalty points and real money. Co-founder Meg Nakamura remained positive while speaking to TechCrunch, saying: “It’s just going to take time. U.S. banks are engaged and excited about the technology and its potential. They’re watching regulatory direction closely.”
Are there other ways to make switching between consumers’ various accounts simpler?
During the height of the Arab Spring, the Tunisian government banned crowds from gathering at games played by the soccer team C.S Hammam-Lif. To enable fans to continue supporting their team, the Mobilizing the 12th Man campaign translated virtual clapping and cheering from an app into real sound played through speakers in the stadium. Although these were special circumstances, the average fan can also be locked out of supporting their teams in person thanks to extortionate ticket prices and the cost of traveling to away games. The UK’s Fanmode is an app that enables stay-at-home sports fans to have their support broadcast at the game venue.
Available for both iOS and Android, the app enables fans to pick their team and broadcast their emotions during a game. Users can swipe up for a cheer, down for a boo, tap to clap, or even shake their phone like a flag. After a certain number of actions have been registered, they can swipe right for a ‘Super Cheer’. Although each action doesn’t directly contribute to the noise being made by supporters in the stadium, they do get registered on the Vibeboard — a digital dashboard that fans can access through the app or online, and that’s also displayed live on the stadium big screen and in the dressing room and tunnel. This way, those using the app can actually have their support noticed by the players, increasing the sense of connectivity even though they couldn’t make it to the game.
Watch the video below to learn more about Fanmode:
Fanmode was recently trialled during the FIFA World Cup and is targeting select Premiership games. Although the premise is somewhat gimmicky, the company is looking at ways in which this kind of data can be used to predict fan sentiment, which can affect their desire to purchase club-related merchandise. Fanmode is also looking at team-branded wearables that function just like the app. Are there other ways to give fans staying at home greater interaction with live events?
QR codes are proving to be an enduring method for easily attaching digital information to physical objects, and we’ve seen them used in a variety of ways. Australia’s StrayHat has made it easier for parents to find their kids’ lost stuff with QR code labels, and now a local authority in China has now issued QR code badges to elderly people, enabling passersby to help them back to their home if they get lost.
China, much like other nations, is facing the problem of an aging population as better healthcare enables people to live longer. Diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s mean that older people can often find themselves confused and unable to find their way back. Handed out by Dingxiang Community in Anhui Province, the badges feature a QR code as well as some text that says ‘Please scan it and help me back home’. Each code holds information such as their ID card number, family contact numbers and the district they live in. Since the majority of people in China now own a smartphone, passersby who see an elderly person looking lost will be able to scan the code and find out where they’re trying to go.
The badges are made of durable plastic, and the authority has even developed a version that can be stitched onto clothes. The pilot has seen nearly 50 local residents supplied with the codes, and it hopes to expand the project to help more than 1,400 over-60s living in the region. Are there other ways that technology can help elderly people without requiring them to use it themselves?
One of the things I am going to do on this extended vacation is go back into the archives and reblog posts that I think are still fresh and relevant. I’ll start with this one from Feb 2012.
I met with a group of very experienced and sophisticated investors yesterday who make up the investment committee of a large charitable foundation that is an investor in USV. I gave them a two minute brief on our macro investment thesis (large networks of engaged users that can disrupt big markets) and then took them on a tour of some of these large networks (Lending Club, Kickstarter, Etsy, Twitter, and Codecademy). Then I took questions.
This group doesn’t spend a ton of time on AVC, Techmeme, Hacker News, or the tech industry in general. And yet the questions they asked me were as good as I ever get. I guess four decades of investing teaches you a lot.
One of the best questions I got was “when do you decide to sell?”. Such a great question and such a hard one to answer. I’ve got scars from this one.
I explained that first and foremost, we generally don’t make that call. The entrepreneur and her management team generally makes that call and the board is asked to ratify it.
But when and if we get to weigh in on the timing of the exit, my view is that you look to exit your weakest investments as soon as you can and you let your winners run as long as you can.
USV 2004 is instructive. Between 2004 and 2008, we made investments in 21 companies. So the youngest portfolio company in that portfolio is four years old now. Most are five to six years old. And a few, like Meetup and Return Path, are ten years old or more. We’ve exited six of the 21 investments, you can see them here, under past investments at the bottom.
We still have fifteen investments active in that portfolio including Zynga and Twitter and we own large blocks of stock in both of those companies. We own stakes in thirteen other portfolio companies most of which we believe are super strong companies that are building large and sustainable businesses. We will likely exit a few weaker investments in that portfolio over this year and next. But there are at least ten companies in the USV 2004 portfolio that we would be happy to own for the rest of this decade.
This does create a bit of an issue in that we raise ten year venture capital funds. So we are supposed to wind things up in the 2004 fund in another two years. But I am fairly sure that my partners and I and our limited partners will be happy to let this fund play itself out over a longer period of time.
I’ve made the mistake of exiting investments too quickly. Back in the middle of 2007, my previous firm Flatiron exited our investment in Mercado Libre at the IPO selling our entire position for about a 10x gain. In the almost five years that MELI has been public, it has gone up 5x. So had we held our position for another five years, we’d have made 50x instead of 10x. That stings. Lesson learned.
When you have portfolio companies that are category creators, category leaders, who are well managed, and growing 50% per year or more and delivering 20-30% pre-tax margins (or more), and who have no existential threats to their market leadership, you might want to hang on to them for a bit. They may be just getting going on the valuation creation thing.