Apple’s next iPhone might be able to wirelessly charge other devices

Huawei and Samsung recently introduced a helpful feature in some of their latest phones — the ability charge other devices wirelessly off of the new phones, allowing you to share a bit of your battery life in a pinch. Japanese blog Macotakara (via 9to5Mac) reports that Apple’s next iPhone might include the feature.

The blog cites Chinese suppliers, which back up an earlier report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that claimed that the the 2019 iPhone would get such a feature, along with upgraded cameras and a bigger battery. The site also notes that the forthcoming iPhone might come with a new charging cable and the 18W charging port that comes with the iPad Pro, although it won’t utilize USB-C.

Being able to wirelessly charge off of an iPhone would be useful, especially after Apple that the second generation of AirPods would come with a wireless charging case (as well as rumors that wireless Beats Powerbeats earbuds are coming) — a feature that would be extremely useful if your headphones or Apple Watch die while you’re out and about and away from a charger.

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12 new trailers you should watch this week

On Monday, Apple is supposed to unveil its take on a movie and TV streaming service. It’s not clear if it’ll be a full-on Netflix competitor, or if it’ll basically be a digital take on the cable bundle with some bonus Apple-made original content thrown in. But either way, we’re about to get another major player in the streaming battles.

On one hand, the emergence of all these streaming services has been amazing for content — there are way more companies willing to pay way more money for TV shows and movies than there were just a couple years ago. On the other, it means piecing it all together as a viewer is harder than ever, with great shows and movies locked into services you may only have a limited interest in subscribing to.

It’s not the worst problem to have. But it’s going to get even harder to trust that everyone’s on the same page about what new streaming release we’re all watching this week.

Check out 12 new trailers below.

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Stranger Things

The first trailer for Stranger Things season 3 is here, and for the most part, it just shows the gang having a well-deserved good time. At least, until the end, when things start to get a little creepy, and, obviously, there is a giant monster because this is still Stranger Things. But I think we’re all on the same page that the Hawkins kids deserve to have some fun one of these years. The new season debuts July 4th.

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Toy Story 4

Pixar released the first full trailer for Toy Story 4 this week, giving a look at how a spork with glued on googley eyes changes things up for the usual group of toys. It’s a cute premise that seems to drive Woody down a relatively familiar path (given that there’s been three other movies), but the road trip format seems like it should leave Pixar plenty of room to infuse some new energy. The movie comes out June 21st.

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Lucy in the Sky

Lucy in the Sky looks a little bit like the fictionalized alternative to First Man. The film has Natalie Portman starring as an astronaut who, after returning from space, starts to feel isolated and lost. That said, the film is also said to be loosely based on the experiences of astronaut Lisa Nowak, whose story gets much darker and wilder than what’s teased here. The film doesn’t appear to have a release date just yet.

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John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum

I got bored and turned off the original John Wick halfway through, but something about watching the trailers for these films still makes me happy for Keanu Reeves, who really just deserves a nice franchise. This trailer for Chapter 3 is all the better thanks to Reeves getting to quote one of his classic lines from The Matrix. It comes out May 17th.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

We got a first look this week at Quentin Tarantino’s next film, and, probably for the best, it doesn’t look outrageously Tarantino-y. The film is described as having an ensemble cast and multiple storylines, and it’s not quite clear yet how all of this is going to tie together. The film comes out July 26th.

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The Last Black Man in San Francisco

This very pretty, very musical, and just a little twee looking film got its start on Kickstarter, made a splash at Sundance, and is now heading to theaters through A24. The film is broadly about gentrification in San Francisco, and more specifically about the things one person does to try to recapture the feeling of home. It comes out June 14th.

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Unicorn Store

Brie Larson makes her feature directorial debut with this quirky belated-coming-of-age story about a woman in her 20s who’s starting to face the drudgery of the workplace when she encounters a strange, seemingly magical store run by an eccentric character played by Samuel L. Jackson. It comes to Netflix on April 5th.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Netflix’s very stylish take on Sabrina the Teenage Witch is coming back for another season. I don’t really know what’s going on here because I haven’t seen the show, but it looks like something cool is happening in basically every shot of this trailer. The new season debuts April 5th.

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Our Planet

There can never be enough gorgeously shot, David Attenborough-narrated nature films. I cannot keep any of them straight, but it hardly matters. Look at the polar bears! Our Planet comes out April 5th.

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Deadwood: The Movie

I never got around to watching Deadwood, so I have no idea what’s going on in this trailer. But I know people loved the show, so here’s hoping this long-awaited revival is everything people have been waiting for. It debuts on HBO on May 31st.

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Rilakkuma and Kaoru

This is adorable.

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Upscaled: NVIDIA’s RTX ray tracing put to the test

Welcome to the first episode of our new explainer series, Upscaled. We’re going to be examining the components and gadgets that are helping move technology forward, and in this first episode, we’re looking at graphics cards.

Five months after Nvidia announced its RTX graphics cards, we finally have a game that really shows off this new technology. Metro: Exodus is the first game to use the RTX cards to enable ray-traced global illumination. This is a lighting system that promises to get us closer to photorealistic light and shadows in the game. But how exactly does ray tracing work in Metro, and is it worth all the fuss? We take a close look at how RTX is implemented, but you’ll have to decide for yourself whether it’s worth a new graphics card.

If you want more deep dives into the bits of tech that make our world run, be sure to subscribe on YouTube, we’ll have new episodes out regularly.

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How Nuro plans to spend Softbank’s money

Autonomous delivery startup Nuro is bursting with ideas since SoftBank invested nearly $1 billion in February, new filings reveal.

A recent patent application details how its R1 self-driving vehicle could carry smaller robots to cross lawns or climb stairs to drop off packages. The company has even taken the step of trademarking the name “Fido” for delivery services.

“We think there’s something neat about that name,” Nuro founder Dave Ferguson told TechCrunch. “It’s friendly, neighborly and embodies the spirit of a helper that brings you things. It wasn’t intended to extend towards literal robot dogs, although some of the legged platforms that others are building could be very interesting for this last 10-foot problem.”

Another section of Nuro’s patent shows the R1 delivering piping hot pizza and beverages, prepared en route in automated kitchens.

“We tried to build a lot of flexibility into the R1’s compartment so we could serve all the applications that people will be able to think of,” Ferguson said. “A coffee machine is actually a pretty good one. If you go to your local barista, those machines are incredibly expensive. Amortizing them over an entire neighborhood makes sense.”

As automated technologies mature, companies are focusing less on simply getting around and more on how services will connect with actual customers. Delivering goods instead of passengers also means fewer regulations to navigate.

That opportunity has prompted a number of companies, including e-commerce and logistics giant Amazon, FedEx, and numerous startups to explore autonomous delivery.  At CES this year, Continental unveiled a prototype dog-shaped robot for last-yard deliveries, while Amazon has unveiled a sidewalk robot called Scout that is already delivering packages to homes.

The first company to scale automated driving and delivery could start building revenue while those aiming for autonomous taxis are stuck in a maze of laws, safety concerns and consumer skepticism.

Origin story

Softbank’s capital allows Nuro’s founders to run with its many ideas. But even in its earliest days, they benefited from an early injection of cash.

Nuro was founded in June 2016 by Ferguson and another former Google engineer, Jiajun Zhu, after they received multi-million dollar payouts from the company’s infamous Chauffeur bonus plan. Chauffeur bonuses were intended to incentivize engineers who stuck with Google’s self-driving car project. However, the plan’s structure meant that anyone who left after the first payout in 2015 would also receive a large lump sum.

Lead engineer Anthony Levandowski appears to have earned over $125 million from the plan. He used some of the money to start Otto, a self-driving truck company that was acquired by Uber and subsequently became the focus of an epic patent and trade secrets theft lawsuit.

Court filings from that case suggest that Ferguson and Zhu received around $40 million each, although Ferguson would not confirm this. (Another Chauffeur alum, Russell Smith, got a smaller payout and quickly joined Nuro as its hardware lead).

Nuro completed its first Series A funding round in China just three months later, in a previously unreported deal that gave NetEase founder Ding Lei (aka William Ding) a seat on Nuro’s board. Ding was China’s first Internet and gaming billionaire, and was reportedly once the wealthiest person in China. However, his business empire, which spans e-commerce, education and pig farming, recently laid off large numbers of staff.

“William has been a board member and a strong supporter from the very start. But he’s not directing company decisions,” says Ferguson.

A second, U.S.-based round in June 2017 raised Nuro’s total Series A funding to $92 million.

A Nuro spinout

Nuro started pilot grocery deliveries last summer with a Kroger supermarket affiliate in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale. The pilot initially used modified Toyota Prius sedans and transitioned in December to its R1 vehicle. “We’re super excited about the application area,” says Ferguson. “87 percent of commerce is still local and 43 percent of all personal vehicle trips in the U.S. are for shopping and running errands.”

Meanwhile, Uber’s self-driving truck program, which had begun with the acquisition of Otto, was on its last legs. Although the program was not publicly canned until July 2018, many of its key personnel left in May. The LinkedIn profiles of engineers Jur van den Berg, Nancy Sun and Alden Woodrow show them going straight from Uber to found Ike, another self-driving truck startup, the same month.

When Ike came out of stealth mode in October, Nuro characterized its relationship with the new company as a partnership, where “we gave Ike a copy of our autonomy and infrastructure software and, in exchange, Nuro got an equity stake in Ike.”

In reality, Ike was more of a spinout. California and Delaware business records show that Ike was not incorporated until July, and shared office space with Nuro until at least the beginning of September. Ike’s founding engineers actually worked at Nuro after leaving Uber. Van den Berg can even be seen in a Nuro team photo that was shot in June and reproduced in Nuro’s Safety Report, wearing a Nuro T-shirt.

Ferguson confirmed that all three Ike founders had worked at Nuro before starting Ike.

“We are always looking for opportunities where the tech that we’ve built could help,” Ferguson said. “Trucking was a really good example, but we recognized that as a company, we couldn’t spread ourselves too thin. It made sense for both sides for the Ike co-founders to build their own independent company.”

Ike CEO Woodrow told TechCrunch recently that it’s using Nuro’s hardware designs and autonomous software, as well as data logging, maps and simulation systems. It raised $52 million in its own Series A in February.

Not to be outdone, Nuro quickly followed with an announcement of a $940 million investment by the SoftBank Vision Fund, in exchange for what Ferguson calls a “very, very significant ownership stake.” Nuro had been introduced to SoftBank after talks with Cruise fell through.

Thousands of bots

Apart from robotic dogs, what does the future hold for a newly cash-rich Nuro?

“We’re very excited about the Scottsdale pilot, but it’s basically one grocery store in one ZIP code,” says Ferguson. Shortly after our interview, Nuro announced that it would be expanding its delivery service to four more ZIP codes in Houston, Texas.

“Next year and onwards, we want to start to realize the potential of what we’re building to eventually service millions of people” Ferguson said. We’re aggressively expanding the number of partners we’re working with and we’re working on how we manufacture a vehicle at a large scale.”

Nuro will likely to partner with an established auto OEM to build a fleet of what Ferguson hopes will become tens or hundreds of thousands of driverless vehicles. Last week, it petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for exemptions to safety standards that do not make sense for a driverless vehicle – like having to install a windshield or rearview mirrors.

Nuro told NHTSA that it wants to introduce up to 5,000 upgraded vehicles called the R2X, over the next two years. The electric vehicles would have a top speed of 25 miles per hour and appear very similar to the R1 prototype operating in Arizona and Texas today. The R2X will have 12 high-def cameras, radars, and a top-mounted LiDar sensor. Nuro said it would not sell the vehicle but “own and centrally operate the entire fleet of R2Xs through partnerships with local businesses.”

“Providing services is also very expensive,” Ferguson explained. “Look at Uber or Lyft. As we scale up to the population we’re trying to serve and the number of verticals we’re looking at, it requires capital to operate until we’re profitable, which will not happen this year.”

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Streaming subscriptions surpassed cable worldwide in 2018

In brief: In 2015 subscriptions to streaming platforms overtook satellite packages for the first time, and the inexorable rise of platforms like Netflix, Prime Video and Hulu has continued apace. New data from the Motion Picture Association of America shows that in 2018 streaming finally surpassed cable subscriptions to become the king of televisual consumption.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) puts out an annual report, the ‘theatrical and home entertainment market environment’, or ‘THEME Report.’ Among the many topics covered, there’s an interesting section on in-home entertainment figures that illustrate how people worldwide are watching their favorite shows.

From 2017 to 2018 the number of subscriptions to online video services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu jumped by a massive 27%, increasing by 131.2 million subscriptions for a total of 613.3 million. While that jump is interesting by itself, the major achievement for the online giants is that they have toppled cable TV packages for the first time.

The MPAA report also offers some interesting context. The huge jump in online video subscriptions contrasts with a dip in the overall number of cable users. For the last four years, cable subscriptions have been consistently going down, as more and more people opt for ‘cable-cutting’. In the period of 2017 to 2018, a 2% drop meant that be the end of the year cable packages totalled 556 million.

Interestingly, cable still saw an increase in revenues, growing by $6.2 billion to $118 billion. So even with fewer people being subscribed to cable packages, total revenues still jumped by almost 6%. Cable still manages to hold the top spot for revenues for now, but the MPAA report indicates that streaming platforms are catching up, as they fast approach the $100 billion mark.

One point should be noted – according to the MPAA, most people have both a cable service and an online subscription. But this news that streaming has overtaken cable will no doubt be good news for anyone who only uses streaming platforms. If studios know that there’s a larger potential audience on Netflix or Amazon than there is on traditional cable channels, they have every incentive to make their best content available on those platforms.

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