From ICO to SEC: Join us for a panel on regulation at TechCrunch Disrupt

Capital, crypto, and regulation go together like bread, peanut butter, and jelly. And what better way to make a great sandwich than to bring them all together at TechCrunch Disrupt. I’ll be leading a panel with Avichal Garg of Electric Capital, Arianna Simpson of Autonomous Partners, and Valerie Szczepanik of the SEC in San Francisco.

Garg is a longtime investor and former product head at Facebook. He’s currently at Electric Capital where he’s a managing partner. Simpson is a skilled crypto investor and is currently managing director at Autonomous Partners. Szczepanik has had a long career at the SEC and was recently named Associate Director of the Division of Corporation Finance and Senior Advisor for Digital Assets and Innovation. All three of them will help us navigate the new world of investment we are no all coming to face.

The future of investment is currently up in the air. With the rise of token sales, fundraising seems like a needless task for most founders. But where will they be with the token world fizzles out? Can the new funding tricks stack up to VC and angel investment?

We’ll explore these concepts in our wide-ranging discussion and hopefully Szczepanik can shed some light on these new forms of investment.

The full agenda is here. Passes for the show are available here.

The Palette 2 lets any 3D printer output color

The Mosaic Manufacturing Palette 2 – an upgrade the original Palette – is a self-contained system for full color 3D printing. It works by cutting and splicing multiple filament colors and then feeding them through as the object is printed. The system uses a unique and internal cutter called the Splice Core that measures and cuts filament as it prints, ensuring the incoming filament can change colors quickly and easily.

The printer can out items in four colors and it can print any amount of any color. It extrudes excess color into a little object called a tower, allow it to print as much or as little of a color as necessary. It also has automatic runout detection which lets you print larger objects over a longer period.

It works with a number of current 3D printers and the printers require no real updates to use the Palette or its more robust brother, the Pro. A new piece of software called Canvas allows users to plan their color prints and send the instructions to both the Palette and the printer for printing.

The Palette 2 costs $449 while the Pro costs $699. The Pro lets you print faster than the Palette 2.

It’s a very clever hack – instead of making the printer do all the work you instead make the filament do the work. Because it is a self-contained system you can use the Palette with nearly any printer although the team is working on native support for many popular printers. They are able to print lots of interesting stuff including 3D printed phone case models, rubbery watch bands using stretchable materials, and even educational objects. Most impressive? They were able to print a scan of a brain with evidence of a tumor visible in yellow. While it’s not completely full color – yet – the Palette is a great solution for those looking to print color on a budget.

Google faces potential class action, FTC penalties for ‘surreptitious’ location tracking

A California resident named Napoleon Patacsil has filed a lawsuit against Google in federal court (Patacsil v. Google, Inc.) seeking class action status. The suit alleges personal injuries in the form of various California privacy violations stemming from “surreptitious monitoring” of user location.

The suit was filed after an AP article identified the fact that Google location capture still occurs on mobile devices even when Location History is turned off. Following the report, Google changed help language to clarify that location is still used, even though Location History is disabled.

The new language reads:

This [Location History] setting does not affect other location services on your device, like Google Location Services and Find My Device. Some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps. When you turn off Location History for your Google Account, it’s off for all devices associated with that Google Account.

The litigation was first reported by Reuters.

There are a number of privacy-related claims in the lawsuit, one of which is that Google’s conduct violates California penal code section 637.7, which prohibits the use of “an electronic tracking device to determine the location or movement of a person.” There are two exceptions: for user consent and for valid uses by law enforcement (e.g., with a search warrant).

Litigation firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein is apparently representing plaintiff Patacsil. Should the suit achieve class action status, it could make the case very expensive for Google. However, Google’s liability is not certain, nor are damages.

Unless provided by statute, the damages aspect of the case is challenging for the plaintiff to prove. Google could and likely would argue that location services make phones perform better and that he and any potential class members can’t show they were harmed by Google Search or Maps’ use of location.

In parallel with the litigation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission claiming that the facts in the AP article constitute a violation of a consent decree (.pdf) the company agreed to in 2011. EPIC told the FTC:

[Location tracking] clearly violates Google’s 2011 settlement with the FTC. Google is not permitted to track users after they have made clear in their privacy settings that they do not want to be tracked. This privacy violation affects all Android users and iPhone users who use Google Maps or search. EPIC urges the Commission to enforce its Order and hold Google accountable.

The consent decree was tied to Google’s ill-fated Buzz social network (remember that?). The claim in that case was that Google used “deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers.” This is what EPIC is saying Google has done in the present case.

In my quick analysis of Google’s potential exposure over location tracking, I had forgotten the 2011 consent decree. In many ways, that is a bigger threat than the civil litigation and could bring significant financial penalties in excess of $41,000 for single violations.


Apple could release an updated MacBook Air

According to a report from Bloomberg, Apple has been working on multiple new Macs. In particular, Apple could be planning to release a new entry-level laptop to replace the aging MacBook Air.

This isn’t the first rumor about a MacBook Air refresh. While Apple has released a 12-inch retina MacBook, it’s not nearly as cheap as the MacBook Air. It’s also not as versatile as it only has a single USB Type-C port.

And yet, the MacBook Air is arguably Apple’s most popular laptop design in recent years. Many MacBook Air users are still using their trusty device as there isn’t a clear replacement in the lineup right now. According to Bloomberg, the updated MacBook Air could get a retina display. Other details are still unclear.

After Apple updated the MacBook Air in March 2015, the company neglected the laptop for a while. It received an update in June 2017, but it was such a minor update that it looked like the MacBook Air was on life support.

It sounds like neither the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro (the one without a Touch Bar) nor the 12-inch MacBook have fostered as much customer interest as the MacBook Air.

Bloomberg also says that the Mac Mini is going to receive an update. The story of the Mac Mini is quite similar as the product has been neglected for years. Apple last updated the Mac Mini in October 2014 — it’s been nearly four years.

And the fact that Apple still sells the Mac Mini from 2014 is embarrassing. You can find tiny desktop PCs that are cheaper, smaller and more powerful. They don’t run macOS, but that’s the only downside.

It’s clear that laptops have taken over the computer market. Desktop computers have become a niche market. That’s why the updated Mac Mini could focus on people looking for a home server and who don’t want to mess around with a Raspberry Pi.

Instagram makes a play to keep users scrolling with new ‘Recommended For You’ posts

Instagram is testing a new feature that recommends posts to users based on their follower lists and photos and videos they have liked.

The recommended posts will show up in a section at the end of a user’s Feed under a “Recommended for You” label. (Per the screen shot shared by the company, there is also a “Keep Scrolling for Recommendations” message displayed below the “You’re All Caught Up” notification.)

Instagram has added the blue “Follow” button to recommended posts so that users can easily add accounts to their follower lists.

“Our goal is to make the Feed the best place to share and connect with the people and interests that matter most to you. Now, with recommended posts, you can see even more of what [is] being shared by our community,” says Instagram.

In July, Instagram a “You’re All Caught Up” feature to help users better manage the amount of time they spend on the app. This latest test feels like a step in the opposite direction from Instagram’s original efforts last month to promote digital-well being. Instead of giving users a reason to close the app, they’re encouraging them to keep scrolling through their Feed even after they’ve caught up with all the content from their followers.

Instagram says that the feature is rolling out over the next few days and that it is making product revisions based on user feedback.

Marketing Land has reached out to Instagram to ask if ads or posts from brands will be included in the recommended content but has not yet received a response.


HTC announces a wireless adapter for the Vive headset

HTC continues to bet big on VR, today announcing the launch of pre-orders for the Vive Wireless Adapter. The adapter allows Vive and Vive Pro owners to cut the cord, so to speak, and allow users to tether wirelessly to their PC.

The Base Adapter works with both the Vive and Vive Pro, though the Vive Pro requires an extra $60 compatibility pack that includes a connection cable for the Vive Pro, foam padding, and an attachment device that works with the Vive Pro.

The Vive Wireless Adapter itself retails for $299.

According to the blog post, installation works like this:

Installation of the Vive Wireless Adapter occurs in minutes by installing a PCI-e card and attaching a sensor from the PC that broadcasts to and from the newly wireless Vive headset. The adapter has a broadcast range of 6 meters with a 150 degree field of view from the sensor and runs in the interference-free 60Ghz band using Intel’s WiGig specification, which, combined with DisplayLink’s XR codec, means low latency and high performance with hours of battery life.

The Adapter is powered by the HTC QC 3.0 PowerBank, which doubles as a portable charger for a smartphone, and is included in the price with the Adapter.

This isn’t the only wireless adapter for the HTC Vive . TPCast unveiled an adapter in 2016 for $220, as well as an enterprise version of the adapter that delivers 2k content to several HTC Vive units with sub-2ms latency.

Pre-orders for HTC’s own Adapter will begin on September 5 from retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, Microsoft, NewEgg, and Vive.com.