Ring brings back the Peephole Cam, now starting at $129

In 2019, Ring launched the Peephole Cam, a camera that fits over existing door peepholes to record goings on outdoors, in apartment building hallways and so on. Priced at $199, the Peephole Cam failed to catch on, leading Ring to discontinue it in 2021.

But now, Ring’s giving it another go — the Peephole Cam made a return this morning at CES 2023. While the same model, it now starts at $129 and ships with software that brings its capabilities in line with the rest of Ring’s product portfolio.

“After removing the Peephole Cam from our inventory, we heard from a number of customers who still were interested in this device and wanted to secure their front door with a Ring Doorbell but were not able to install one of Ring’s existing doorbells,” Ring CTO Josh Roth told TechCrunch in an email interview. “We are pleased to be able to offer the Ring Peephole Cam at a lower price than before to better serve our customers.”

Ring Peephole Cam

Image Credits: Ring

The Peephole Cam — which Ring insists can be installed without permanent modifications to a door — offers motion detection, a doorbell button, 1080p video, two-way talk, real-time streaming video and Privacy Zones (areas users can designate to black out from their camera’s field of view). Exclusive to the Peephole Cam is an adjustable impact sensor to detect when a door is being “physically interacted with”; when the Peephole Cam senses vibrations, it’ll alert that someone’s knocking on the door and begin recording.

Predictably, the Peephole Cam works with Alexa, letting owners send announcements or sound effects to Alexa-enabled devices when a knock, motion or doorbell ring is detected. A Peephole Cam-detected knock or motion can also be set to trigger smart home routines, for example switching on connected lights and closing motorized window blinds.

Ring Peephole Cam

Image Credits: Ring

When asked about the Peephole Cam’s privacy features, Roth noted that the doorbell has built-in cover slides to prevent a passerby from looking through the peephole and a toggle for audio recording. But that probably won’t allay the fears of consumer advocates who’ve argued that the company’s devices are a security threat. As TechCrunch previously reported, Ring has a history of sharing footage with the government without users’ permission, working closely with police departments around the U.S. and being generally reluctant to disclose its connections with law enforcement.

Those willing to look past Ring’s trangessions can buy a Peephole Cam starting today in the U.S. at retailers including Amazon and the Ring store. It comes in one finish, Satin Nickel.

Read more about CES 2023 on TechCrunch

Ring brings back the Peephole Cam, now starting at $129 by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

Here’s a roundup of the top AI-powered products we saw at CES 2023

This year, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) — the celebration of all things tech and then some — brought what it usually brings to the Vegas Strip: AI-powered gadgets. Of course, AI comes in many forms, and not all that’s advertised as AI is in fact true AI. But there’s always diamonds in the rough, like an AI-equipped oven from Samsung that automatically adjusts cooking settings for the perfect bake.

As my colleagues on the ground traverse the show floor (I’m covering CES remotely this year), they’re highlighting the most interesting AI-powered tech they come across. I’ve compiled each into a handy list, which is far from definitive, but which aims to give an idea of the top AI trends this year at CES.

AI-powered oven

Samsung Bespoke Home AI Oven

Samsung’s new AI-powered “smart” oven, complete with food-detecting sensors and a companion app.

Samsung kicked off CES 2023 with a new oven and fridge in its Bespoke Home smart appliances lineup.

Not just any oven, the Bespoke AI Oven features an internal camera and sensors that proactively recognize more than 80 dishes and ingredients to optimize cooking settings. It can send a warning notification if it detects food might be burning. And if you’re stumped on what to cook, the Bespoke AI Oven recommends meals based on ingredients at home.

The Bespoke AI Oven’s camera, by the way, can stream a live feed of what’s cooking in the oven to streaming platforms like Twitch. It’s not an AI feature exactly, but eye-catching all the same.

As for the 4-Door Flex, Samsung’s newest smart fridge, it packs an AI-powered camera that scans food labels to keep track of what’s in stock — and not in stock. Samsung’s previous-gen fridge had the same (as do rival models from LG), but the novelty of this year’s 4-Door Flex is a larger touchscreen on one of the doors.

AI-powered TVs

Samsung Neo QLED TV

New TVs from Samsung convert non-HDR footage to HDR.

Not to be outdone, Samsung also introduced a new lineup of TVs with an AI-powered “auto-HDR” mode.

The company’s Neo QLEDs offer Auto HDR Remastering, which Samsung says “uses AI deep learning technology to analyze and apply real-time high dynamic range (HDR) effects on standard dynamic range content on a scene-by-scene basis.” (HDR increases the contrast between the brightest whites and darkest blacks a display can produce.) The system compares non-HDR content with HDR material and uses machine learning to analyze the differences and then make the conversion.

Rival LG debuted TVs with AI, too. The 2023 Z3, G3, and C3 OLED TVs feature a mode that can automatically detect and refine certain objects and like faces, to have more “lifelike,” colorful qualities. Another mode, AI Sound Pro, attempts to emulate a surround sound setup using only the built-in stereo TV speakers.

Upscaling GPUs

Nvidia RTX Video Super Resolution

Nvidia is using AI to upscale videos on the web, even old ones.

Nvidia’s using AI to upscale old, blurry YouTube videos.

During its CES presser, the company demoed RTX Video Super Resolution, a feature coming next month to all Nvidia 30- and 40-series GPUs. When enabled, It’ll upscale videos played in Chrome and Edge on a PC to the equivalent of 4K, similar to the AI upscaling feature that’s long been available on the Shield TV and Shield TV Pro.

According to PCGamer (via The Verge), RTX Video Super Resolution — which also sharpens and reduces artifacts in videos — will support any video with a resolution of between 360p and 1440p up to a frame rate of 144Hz.

Fatigue-battling watch

Citizen CZ Smart Watch

Citizen’s AI-powered, sleep-tracking smartwatch.

Wearable brand Citizen dipped its toes into the AI space this year with its second-gen CZ Smart watch.

The 2023 CZ Smart — which runs Wear OS 3, the newest release of Google’s firmware for wearables — sports what Citizen’s calling a “self-care advisor” driven by AI. Leveraging tech from IBM Watson (IBM’s AI research division), the CZ Smart attempts to determine a wearer’s “chronotype” after collecting roughly a week’s worth of sleep data to provide tips that help to combat fatigue.

To improve the relevancy of the recommendations, users can take gamified tests based on NASA’s Psychomotor Vigilance Test, which was originally developed to give astronauts on the International Space Station feedback on their fatigue levels. The CZ Smart tabulates the results to calculate an “alert score” capturing the wearer’s level of tiredness at a particular moment.

It’s worth noting that the CZ Smart isn’t the first wearable to track sleep and give suggestions to improve it — far from it. Samsung, Apple and Fitbit among others offer features on their various wearables to analyze and track sleep. But Citizen’s making the case that the CZ Smart is more holistic than most.

Flashy lighting

Govee AI Gaming Sync Box Kit

Govee’s AI powers connected smart lighting.

For gamers in pursuit of a more immersive experience, Govee introduced the AI Gaming Sync Box Kit at CES 2023.

It’s a bit of a mouthful, but the tech behind the AI Gaming Sync Box Kit — Govee’s answer to the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box and Nanoleaf’s recently launched Sync+ — sounds promising. Using AI trained on footage of “dozens” of different video games, the set-top box syncs (via HDMI and Wi-Fi) Govee-branded smart lights to whatever games you’re playing. One of 30 or so lighting effects trigger for certain in-game achievements and on-screen events.

As the company explains in a press release: “For example, when accomplishing a ‘triple kill’ in a competitive shooting game, a customized corresponding in-game lighting effects will show at once with near-zero delay. With Govee AI, products don’t transfer data to the cloud but instead directly transmit it back locally in real time, ensuring the utmost protection of user privacy.”

Govee says that its AI-based tech mitigates the issues typically experienced by lighting sync boxes, like “low color-capture accuracy” and slow performance. The jury’s out on that. But in any case, it’s certainly one of the more innovative approaches we’ve seen.

Bird-friendly feeder

Image of the bird buddy feeder in a sunny backyard.

Bird Buddy’s new AI-powered bird feeder is for the birds.

Bird Buddy, the startup my colleague Devin Coldewey covered a number of years ago, is back with a new and improved model of its “smart” feeder that snaps photos of bird visitors and beams them to a companion app.

Equipped with a high-speed camera, the next-gen Smart Hummingbird Feeder can take photos and videos of birds with wing speeds of up to 60 mph. The camera’s triggered by motion and sends photos through an AI system trained on millions of photos to identify around 1,000 species of birds.

Future owners of the Smart Hummingbird Feeder — it’s a prototype currently, and hasn’t yet been priced — will also benefit from what Bird Buddy’s calling Heartbeat Map, which lets people track bird sightings in real time. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Bird Buddy companion app allows owners to build out their collection of identified birds, track birds’ visits over time, learn about their habits and share photos with the community.

Self-driving stroller

Glüxkind Ella smart stroller

Glüxkind’s Ella smart stroller can drive — and park — itself.

You’ve heard of self-driving cars, but what about self-driving strollers?

The Ella smart stroller by Canadian startup Glüxkind is a “hands-free” motorized buggy that uses AI to detect obstacles and danger on the pavement. Packed with sensors including cameras, the Ella can drive itself when empty, keep up with parents while they hold their infants and stop automatically if it encounters an obstacle.

The buggy’s cameras track moving and stationary objects such as people and bikes, alerting parents to potential collision dangers through sounds and flashing lights in the handle. As for the Ella’s motors, they aid when manually pushing the stroller, assisting with inclines and automatically braking when going downhill or stationary.

The Ella isn’t lacking in creature comforts, either, featuring an automatic “rock-my-baby” feature that sways the carriage back and forth on the stroller’s wheels and a built-in, customizable white noise machine. There’s even a companion phone app that tracks the Ella’s routes and distance and can locate the stroller if lost.

Pepper-picking robot

Agrist pepper picking robot

This robot picks peppers.

Gather ’round, pepper growers. There’s a new robot in town that promises to make your life a bit easier.

Developed by Japanese agritech startup Agrist, the robot can identify and pick “harvest-ready” bell peppers even when those peppers are covered by a thick layer of leaves. Using a combination of cameras and computer vision models trained for different parts of the pepper, the robot can identify each pepper’s position, size and maturity as well as its clipping point.

The robot moves along suspension wires that can be retrofitted to existing farms. A mechanical arm does the picking and clipping, placing harvested peppers into a collection box. Agrist claims that, over time, the robot’s software can begin to predict crop volume and offer suggestions on how to optimize growth by collecting data and analyzing the number of days required for peppers to mature.

Read more about CES 2023 on TechCrunch

Here’s a roundup of the top AI-powered products we saw at CES 2023 by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

MeetKai launches new room-scanning tech and metaverse builder

Not everyone believes that the metaverse — social, VR-centric worlds — has staying power. But MeetKai is among the steadfast optimists. Founded in 2018, the startup initially focused on conversational AI, aiming to build cutting-edge, top-of-the-line voice recognition and speech synthesis tech. It soon broadened its focus, introducing products to help developers build components of metaverse worlds, including “intelligent” NPCs and (less excitingly) ads.

This year at the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show, MeetKai is launching several new platforms geared toward metaverse creators and users, including a way to digitize 3D spaces and buildings using any internet-connected device with a camera.

The 3D-digitizing service, called MeetKai Reality, can bring various objects and spaces from the real world into the metaverse, says MeetKai. After tapping a camera-equipped device to record a few seconds of video, users upload the footage to MeetKai Reality, which renders the captured space in VR.


MeetKai’s room-rendering tech. Image Credits: MeetKai

While not novel — platforms like Coohom, Matterport and even Zillow could already render spaces from photos — MeetKai CEO and co-founder James Kaplan asserts that MeetKai Reality is the first photo-to-rendering solution tailored for metaverse use cases. “We want to unlock the same cost and time savings for everyone else looking to build in the metaverse,” he said in a statement, noting the potential applications in real estate, interior design, architecture, engineering and retail.

MeetKai’s second new product, MeetKai Metaverse Editor, is a bit more differentiating. It allows users without coding experience to build structures and spaces in the metaverse, optionally collaborating with others in real time as they do so. Metaverse-building tools exist, to be sure — startups like Tripolygon provide them. But not all are no-code and some remain vaporware, Kaplan currently points out.


Image Credits: MeetKai

“MeetKai’s metaverse tools can be used a la carte … We want to unlock the same cost and time savings for everyone else looking to build in the metaverse,” Kaplan said.

To round out the new product suite, MeetKai is launching MeetKai Cloud AI, which allows developers to plug a cloud-driven voice assistant into an existing virtual environment. Kaplan claims these assistants — which take the form of avatars that can converse on any number of predefined topics — have “real time reasoning capabilities” (although the jury’s out on that) and can “leverage any form of multimedia to instantly interact with end users.”

MeetKai CES 2023

Image Credits: MeetKai

In the future, MeetKai plans to develop its own AI language system along the lines of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which it expects will vastly improve the quality of conversations with its avatars.

“I’m very happy to see our company deliver the world’s leading metaverse and AI technology products, which set a new mark and raise the technology bar in a very competitive industry,” MeetKai co-founder and executive chairwoman Weili Dai said in a press release. “Our vision and mission for MeetKai is to deploy these capabilities to the masses by offering groundbreaking and affordable solutions, accessible from web browsers and any device — like phones, tablets, computers, large screens, not just VR — available anywhere in the world for greater impact and better lives for all.”

MeetKai is competing with hundreds of companies for dominance in the metaverse space, but it appears to be holding its own, claiming that over 50 million people actively use its tech. Recently, the startup announced a deal with the Los Angeles Chargers to develop new in-stadium and at-home experiences, including an “AI-based” locker room tour.

To date, MeetKai has raised over $20 million in venture capital (per VentureBeat) and has roughly 40 employees.

Read more about CES 2023 on TechCrunch

MeetKai launches new room-scanning tech and metaverse builder by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

Meta, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Unity and others form Metaverse Standards Forum

As more tech companies develop virtual and augmented reality products, some oversight groups are trying to keep the industry on the same page. The newest of these is the Metaverse Standards Forum, which aims to drive open interoperability, which could make it easier for developers to build across platforms.

As announced today, the forum already has some major players on board, such as Meta, Microsoft, Epic Games, Adobe, NVIDiA, Sony, Unity and others. But there are also some glaring absences, including companies like Niantic, Apple, Roblox and Snapchat, which are building consumer “metaverse” products as well.

The Metaverse Standards Forum is free to join and plans to focus on “pragmatic, action-based projects” like hackathons and open-source tooling.

“There won’t be a Meta-run metaverse, just as there isn’t a ‘Microsoft internet’ or ‘Google internet’ today,” explained Meta president of global affairs Nick Clegg in a blog post last month. “Like the internet, the metaverse will be an interconnected system that transcends national borders, so there will need to be a web of public and private standards, norms and rules to allow for it to operate across jurisdictions.”

Consortiums like these are only effective if enough companies adopt their standards, though.

Tiffany Xingyu Wang, chief security officer at AI content moderation company Spectrum Labs, launched the Oasis Consortium earlier this year. In an effort to promote greater commitments to safety from gaming and social companies, the Oasis Consortium developed a list User Safety Standards, which it hopes will become an industry standard.

“If the metaverse is going to survive, it has to have safety in it,” Wang told the Technology Review.

Content moderation is especially tricky in virtual reality, when online harassment or abuse can feel even more frightening due to the immersive nature of the technology. And in some cases, it seems like companies are prioritizing product development over robust safety tools.

Similar to the Metaverse Standards Forum, some key players are missing from the Oasis Consortium, like Meta. And in the past, groups like this have become smaller and smaller once internal conflict inevitably arises.

The Metaverse Standards Forum is led by the Khronos Group, a nonprofit consortium working on AR/VR, artificial intelligence, machine learning and more. Khronos has already tried to set a standard for VR APIs with its similarly named VR Standards Initiative in 2016, which included companies like Google, NVIDIA. Epic Games and Oculus, which is now part of Meta.

3 views on CES 2022

For fifty-four years, big and small hardware manufacturers that hoped to reach their target audiences rolled out new products at the Consumer Electronics Show.

The first CES event in June 1967 drew 17,500 attendees, where many in the crowd were absolutely dazzled by GE’s new 24-pound color television. In the intervening decades, the conference grew so much, it essentially created its own gravity. The last in-person CES held in 2020 attracted a total verified attendance of 171,268, according to organizers.

The trade show shifted to online-only in 2021, but CES returned last week, even though many exhibitors and publications (including this one) declined to send representatives, citing the ongoing omicron surge. “It’s time we return to making the world better rather than living in fear,” wrote Consumer Trade Association president and CEO Gary Shapiro in an opinion column.

But just 40,000 people attended, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. That’s a 75% decline.

If an event only attracts 25% of its usual crowd, for whom is it essential? Today, TechCrunch Transportation Editor Kirsten Korosec, Hardware Editor Brian Heater and reporter Haje Jan Kamps shared their thoughts on CES 2022:

  • Kristin Korosec: CES hasn’t lost its automotive luster
  • Brian Heater: Hardware startups should reconsider their media strategies
  • Haje Jan Kamps: I missed it sorely this year

Kristin Korosec: CES hasn’t lost its automotive luster

Somewhere around 2014 or so, CES turned into a car show. And even with the latest variant of COVID derailing in-person plans for many companies, CES 2022 didn’t lose its automotive luster.

This year was different in a few respects, signaling that the automotive industry has taken a few cupfuls of we-really-need-revenue punch. Technology that is further away from commercialization showed up, but not in the same force as in previous years. CES 2022 was not the year for evtols, hyperloop, and to a lesser degree, autonomous vehicle technology.

“The weeks following CES have traditionally been a desert for hardware news. Fill that vacuum.”

Autonomous vehicle technology wasn’t absent from the show, and there were some key announcements and activities. A few of the notable ones included the head-to-head autonomous racecar competition at the Las Vegas Speedway, GM CEO Mary Barra’s intention to sell personal autonomous vehicles by mid-decade (although some key details were missing) and Intel subsidiary Mobileye’s plan to bring a new supercomputer to market designed to give passenger cars, trucks and SUVs autonomous driving powers. When automated driving did come up, it was often in the form of future promises, narrowly defined autonomous features like parking — or both.The Mobileye announcement points to one of the themes at CES 2022: compute.

Amazon expands its Sidewalk IoT network with an enterprise-grade bridge

Back in 2019, Amazon first announced its Sidewalk network, a new low-bandwidth, long-distance wireless protocol and network for connecting smart devices — and keeping them online when your own WiFi network, for example, goes down, by piggybacking on your neighbor’s network. Since last year, Amazon has been turning its Echo devices into Sidewalk bridges and select Ring and Tile devices can now access the network. Now, Amazon is launching its first professional-grade Sidewalk device meant to cover large areas like a university campus or park.

The full name for the new device is a mouthful: the Amazon Sidewalk Bridge Pro by Ring. It could be installed inside but is mostly meant to be set up outside — and ideally on a high spot — and can cover hundreds of devices up to five miles away (depending on the local circumstances, of course).

To test the devices, Amazon partnered with Arizona State University, which will install these new Sidewalk bridges on light poles on its Tempe campus. The University Technology Office plans to use it as a proof-of-concept with plans to connect sunlight and temperature sensors, CO2 detectors and particle counters.

Image Credits: Amazon

Amazon is also partnering with Thingy, an IoT company that specializes in environmental monitoring, to install its air quality monitoring tools to alert first responders of potential wildfires.

“Amazon Sidewalk Bridge Pro brings us the power of [Long Range] in a massive number of needed locations, easy integration with our existing applications in AWS, and trusted security for the devices and applications. We are very excited to work with Amazon Sidewalk to measure air quality and wildfires with our sensors and help solve the connectivity challenges for these critical applications,” said Scott Waller, CEO and co-founder of Thingy.

But beyond the device itself, it’s the fact that Amazon continues to invest in the Sidewalk ecosystem that’s most important here.

“We’re building a network, we’re enabling actors to help the IoT industry,” Stefano Landi, the director of Amazon Sidewalk, told me. “At the end of the day, if we want to drive the proliferation of smart and connected devices everywhere, you need to have the right network. If you talk to IoT developers today, yes, there are many options, but either it’s very expensive, from a connectivity perspective vs. cellular, or the range is limited, or it’s draining the battery, or it’s just that the overall development cycle is too complex. So we felt that we should invest and that’s what we’ve done and we continue to invest in enabling these networks so that the IoT community can build any type of application: consumer, enterprise, public sector. ”

Landi noted that only a few months after launching the network, the company now has very strong residential coverage in more than 100 major U.S. metro areas. In part, of course, that’s because there are a lot of Echo devices in America’s homes and unless users opt out, most modern Echo smart speakers now have Sidewalk enabled by default. Not everybody is comfortable with that, though Amazon would argue that it designed its network to be privacy-first and that it won’t use a lot of bandwidth (it’s mostly for passing alerts, not your Ring camera’s video feed, after all). But it’s a fair guess that most users aren’t even aware of Sidewalk to begin with.

Covering a residential area is one thing, though. With the Sidewalk Bridge Pro, businesses can now also cover entire swaths of land to connect their sensors. There seems to be some demand for this, because Landi noted that “more than a few thousand companies” have already reached out to Amazon to ask about commercial use cases — mostly in connection with AWS IoT, the company’s cloud-based managed IoT service. A lot of this interest, Landis said, is coming from companies that want to build public sector solutions, mostly around smart city services.

“The Sidewalk Bridge Pro is a professional-grade bridge that is exactly tailored to be deployed outside of those [residential areas],” explained Landis. “So that now you have coverage pretty much everywhere. Think about commercial centers, parks, city parks, state parks, municipal parks, wildness areas, commercial area, and so on. Now you really bring that ubiquitous connectivity, so when you’re there, building a solution, you know that coverage is going to be pretty much anywhere that you need it.”

Landis noted that while he expects most users to install the bridge outdoors, it can also used indoors to cover a warehouse or a large store. And even though it’s explicitly called the ‘Pro,” we shouldn’t expect the company to launch a consumer-style “non-pro” version anytime soon. That’s what the Echo and Ring devices are for, after all.

AARP Innovation Labs takes a holistic approach to age-tech at CES

When young (or youngish) people think of age-tech, they may picture mostly clinical solutions—telemedicine platforms, for instance. Growing older, however, doesn’t just have a physical component. Isolation, for example, is a serious issue for elderly people, especially during the pandemic. And older people still have to manage their day-to-day routines and finances, not just plan estates and wills.

AARP Innovation Labs, the incubator program, highlights the many facets of aging in its CES’ virtual presentation with a roster of startups that were divided into five groups: community, clinic, wellness, financial services and housing.

The program included fintech startups because of the pandemic’s economic impact, focusing on three companies that “are helping aging populations better manage finances and budgets, and effectively plan for the future.” Originally created to teach kids and teenagers financial literacy, Goalsetter is expanding its reach to more people with savings and investment management tools. Genivity creates customized financial projections based on users’ health and lifestyle habits, medical conditions and retirement goals, showing them how many years they might need to work before retiring and and what point they may need extended care. Trust & Will, meanwhile, makes it easy for families to create guardianship plans, wills and trusts.

Isolation was a serious problem for older adults even before COVID-19 and the pandemic has made loneliness worse. AARP Innovation addresses that problem with its selection of “community” startups. While many people already rely on other video chat apps, Kinoo wants to tailor the experience for families with elderly relatives living away from them. It IoT toys for kids that let them play games and do projects with their grandparents and other family members through Kinoo’s app.

A tabletop console gaming system, Gameboard, also lets family members enjoy fun time, instead of just chat time, with one another. It hosts hundreds of games, including role-playing games. Beeyonder is a marketplace for live virtual expert-led tours around the world, and can help alleviate the boredom of staying at home while the pandemic drags on.

Many of the startups in AARP’s incubator focus on aging in place, or helping older people stay in their homes instead of moving into a care facility. Its “Housing” section included three companies focused on personal mobility. Camino Robotics is creating “e-rollators,” or smart walkers with features that help people walk over slopes and uneven surfaces, brake automatically when going downhill and folds into “compact mode” for navigating tight spaces. Braze Mobility says it can turn any wheelchair into a smart wheelchair with patent-pending blind spot sensors that warn about obstacles through lights, sounds and vibrations. Meanwhile, De Oro Devices’ NexStride, created for people with Parkinson’s, is a small device that can be attached to canes and walkers and uses audio and visual cues to help users overcome freezing episodes and go on longer walks.

Meanwhile, Tellus is a startup that helps people live on their own with small wall-mounted sensors that can track biometric data, including heart rate, breathing, sleep and falls, from up to five meters away, and sends alerts to caregivers and family members through an app.

In its wellness category, AARP Innovation presented three startups focused on overall health and well-being. These included Zibrio, which was also part of AARP’s CES line-up last year. Zibrio is a scale that not only measures weight, but also gauges a person’s balance and fall risk. The company says Zibrio’s balance scale can predict if you are at risk of falling within the next 12 months, and its app then gives personalized care recommendations. While many people track their nutrition and exercise with apps like MyFitnessPal or Noom, Mighty Health was developed specifically for people over 50 years old. It connects users with a health coach and features nutrition and workout plans created for older adults.

Mental wellbeing is also incredibly important. Ompractice was started to help people who “experience geographic, economic and inclusivity barriers” get access to health, wellness and mindfulness features by partnering with fitness studios and working with large organizations, including health systems, to make their services accessible to users.

Of course, improving healthcare and the delivery of health services for older adults is extremely important, especially in the United States with its fragmented healthcare system. Included under AARP Innovation’s “clinic” section, Folia Health is a health “individual operating system” that lets patients answer multiple choice questions each day, when are then reviewed by their providers to help with diagnostic and care plans. It can be used to manage several conditions and communicate with multiple care providers. Telemedicine startup Tembo, on the other hand, partners with senior care communities, enabling them to provide remote medical services to their residents or clients. Embleema was created to make pharmaceutical studies easier by making the evidence generation and regulatory review processes faster.

For individuals, the clinic section included two startups. MindMics are smart earbuds that analyze biometrics, including heartrate, and send them to an app. JoyLux specifically addresses menopause with a roster of products, including devices for pelvic floor exercises, lubricants, supplements and cooling pads.

Read more about CES 2022 on TechCrunch

Only 3 startup demo booths left at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

Listen up mobility mavericks. TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 is right around the corner of your calendar (June 9). If you want to place your ground-breaking, edge-cutting, envelope-pushing (no extra charge for clichés) early-stage startup in front of the world’s leading mobility movers, shakers and makers you gotta hustle. You have just one week left to buy one of our remaining three Startup Exhibitor Packages.

Here’s what the $380 package includes, plus a few suggestions on ways to take full advantage of the virtual platform’s capabilities and boost the opportunity factor. Note: Exhibitors must be pre-Series A, early-stage startups in the mobility field.

  • Virtual booth space
  • Lead generation
  • 4 conference passes
  • Full event access
  • Videos on-demand
  • Breakout sessions
  • Networking with CrunchMatch

Hopin, our virtual platform, lets you tap into your creativity. Include a product walk-through video — complete with links to your website and social media accounts — at your virtual booth. But get this. Your booth also includes live stream capability. Make the most of that opportunity. Share your screen, host a live demo or a product tutorial and moderate the chat area.

Maybe you’d like to host and live stream your own Q&A session. Go for it. Or why not establish yourself as a subject matter expert? Choose your topic and combine your virtual booth and CrunchMatch, our AI-powered networking platform, to send invitations to the people you want to impress and get the conversation started. And of course, you can always schedule 1:1 video calls.

Since you’ll have four event passes, you and your team can tend to booth business and take in a range of presentations. Here are just two examples of what’s in store. Check out the event agenda and plan your schedule now.

Supercharging Self-Driving Super Vision: Few startups were as prescient as Scale AI when it came to anticipating the need for massive sets of tagged data for use in AI. Co-founder and CEO Alex Wang also made a great bet on addressing the needs of lidar sensing companies early on, which has made the company instrumental in deploying AV networks. We’ll hear about what it takes to make sense of sensor data in driverless cars and look at where the industry is headed.

AVs: Past, Present and Future: TechCrunch Mobility will talk to two pioneers, and competitors, who are leading the charge to commercialize autonomous vehicles. Karl Iagnemma, president of the $4 billion Hyundai-Aptiv joint venture known as Motional, and Chris Urmson, the co-founder and CEO of Aurora, will discuss — and maybe even debate — the best approach to AV development and deployment, swap stories of the earliest days of the industry and provide a few forecasts of what’s to come.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 takes place on June 9, but you have just one week left to reserve your virtual demo booth. Grab this opportunity and get your startup in front of the industry’s top movers and makers.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

5 consumer hardware VCs share their 2021 investment strategies

Consumer hardware has always been a tough market to crack, but the COVID-19 crisis made it even harder.

TechCrunch surveyed five key investors who touch different aspects of the consumer electronics industry, based on our TechCrunch List of top VCs recommended by founders, along with other sources.

We asked these investors the same six questions, and each provided similar thoughts, but different approaches:

Despite the pandemic, each identified bright spots in the consumer electronic world. One thing is clear, investors are generally bullish on at-home fitness startups. Multiple respondents cited Peloton, Tonal and Mirror as recent highlights in consumer electronics.

Said Shasta Venture’s Rob Coneybeer, “With all due respect to my friends at Nest (where Shasta was a Series A investor), Tonal is the most exciting consumer connected hardware company I’ve ever been involved with.”

Besides asking about the trends and opportunities they’re pursuing in 2021, the investors we spoke to also identified other investors, founders and companies who are leaders in consumer hardware and shared how they’ve reshaped their investment strategies during the pandemic. Their responses have been edited for space and clarity.

Hans Tung, GGV Capital

Which consumer hardware sector shows the most promise for explosive growth?

For consumer hardware, offering end users a differentiated experience is extremely important. Social interactions, gamification and high-quality PGC (professionally generated content) such as with Peloton, Xiaomi and Tonal is a must to drive growth. It’s also easy to see how the acceleration of the digital economy created by COVID-19 will also drive growth for hardware.

First, services improved by the speed and reliability of 5G such as live streaming, gaming, cloud computing, etc. will create opportunity for new mobile devices and global mass market consumers will continue to demand high-quality, low-cost hardware. For example, Arevo is experimenting with “hardware as a service” with a 3D printing facility in Vietnam.

For enterprise hardware, security, reliability and fast updates are key competitive advantages. Also as a result of 5G… manufacturing automation and industrial applications. Finally IoT for health and safety may find its sweet spot thanks to COVID-19 with new wearables that track sleep, fitness and overall wellness.

How did COVID-19 change consumer hardware and your investment strategy?

One opportunity for consumer hardware companies to consider as a result of COVID-19 is how they engage with their customers. They should think of themselves more like e-commerce companies, where user experience, ongoing engagement with the consumer and iteration based on market feedback rule the day. While Peloton had this approach well before COVID, it has built a $46 billion company thinking about their products in this way.

For example, some consumers felt the bike was too expensive so instead of responding with a low-end product, the company partnered with Affirm to make their hardware more affordable with pay-as-you-go plans. A Peloton bike is not a one-and-done purchase; there is constant interaction between users, and the company that drives more satisfaction in the hardware adds more value in the business.

Entering 2021, in what way is hardware still hard?

Hardware is still hard because it takes more to iterate fast. The outcome for competitors relative to speed-to-market can be dramatic. For example, every year I look at future generation of EVs with lots of innovations and cool features from existing OEMs but see very few of these making it to market compared to Tesla and other pure players that are cranking out vehicles. Their speed of execution is impressive.

Who are some leaders in consumer hardware — founders, companies, investors?

  • John Foley, founder and CEO of Peloton. John and the Peloton team have cracked the code on the integration of community experience and hardware.
  • Sonny Vu, founder of Misfit and founder/CEO of Arevo, maker of ultrastrong, lightweight continuous carbon fiber products on demand. Experienced founder and team with 3D printing manufacturing know-how at scale are now able to offer breakthrough consumer and industrial products at competitive prices.
  • Manu Jain, head of Xiaomi’s business in India where Xiaomi is the #1-selling smart phone. He built the Indian operation from the ground up; had zero dollar marketing budget for the first three years; and localized manufacturing for all Xiaomi phones sold in India.
  • Jim Xiao, founder and CEO of Mason, a rising star who is creating “mobile infrastructure as a service.”
  • Irving Fain, founder and CEO of Bowery Farming. Irving and his team are on a mission to reimagine modern farming.

Is there anything else you would like to share with TechCrunch readers?

Worry less about trends and build products that resonate with customers.


Dayna Grayson, Construct Capital

PopSockets announces its MagSafe-compatible iPhone 12 accessories

In October, TechCrunch broke the news that PopSockets was developing its own line of MagSafe-compatible products that will support the new wireless charging capabilities of the iPhone 12 devices. Today, at the (virtual) 2021 Consumer Electronics Show, the company formally introduced its upcoming products for the first time. The new line will include three MagSafe-compatible PopGrips, a wallet with an integrated grip and two mounts.

The first of these is the new PopGrip for MagSafe, which will magnetically attach to MagSafe-compatible cases for iPhone 12 devices.

The design of this PopGrip clears up some confusion over how a PopGrip (the round, poppable dongle that people normally think of when they think of “PopPockets”) will work with a MagSafe device. Instead of attaching just at the base of the grip itself, the grip is integrated into a larger base that attaches to the case.

Image Credits: PopSockets

Meanwhile, the grip has a swappable top so you can change the style of your PopGrip whenever you want without having to buy a whole new accessory.

This grip will also be compatible with PopSockets PopMount 2 phone mounts, including the new PopMount 2 for MagSafe, introduced today.

The PopMount 2 for MagSafe will launch as two solutions: PopMount for MagSafe Multi-Surface and PopMount for MagSafe Car Vent. As described by their name, both products will magnetically attach to iPhone 12 devices either at home or while on-the-go.

For those who use the new PopGrip for MagSafe grip, they’ll be able to leave the grip on, then let the mount’s magnets attach to the base.

Image Credits: PopMount Multi Surface for MagSafe

Also new is an updated PopWallet+ for MagSafe, which is a combination wallet and grip that lets users carry up to three cards and now attaches magnetically to MagSafe-compatible phone cases for iPhone 12 devices. The wallet has an elastic sock so you can extract your cards without having to remove the wallet from the back of the device, and it now includes a shield to protect credit cards from magnetic damage. The grip here is swappable, too.

Image Credits: PopSockets

Image Credits: PopWallet+ for MagSafe

There are also two versions of the PopGrip Slide becoming available. One, the PopGrip Slide Stretch will have expanding arms that attach mechanically to the sides of most phone cases, including iPhone 12 cases. You can slide this grip to the bottom of the phone to serve as a portrait stand or to attach MagSafe accessories, without having to remove the grip.

Image Credits: PopGrip Slide Stretch for MagSafe

The PopGrip Slide for iPhone 12 is basically the same thing, but designed to fit the Apple Silicone cases for iPhone 12 devices, more specifically.

Among the first of the new accessories to hit the market will be the PopGrip for MagSafe and PopWallet+ for MagSafe in spring 2021.

The PopGrip Slide Stretch will launch March 21 on PopSockets.com and in select Target locations ahead of a broader rollout. The PopGrip Slide will launch May 1 on PopSockets.com and in Apple Stores. And the PopMount for MagSafe line will launch in summer 2021.

The company also announced a few other non-MagSafe products, including the PopGrip Pocketable, which streamlines the grip when collapsed so the surface is flat; the PopGrip Antimicrobial, which has an embedded silver-based treatment for protection; and the PopSockets x SOG PopGrip Multi-Tool, made in collaboration with SOG Speciality Knives, which includes a PopGrip with a detachable multi-tool.

The company didn’t share an exact time frame for these products besides “early 2021.”