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| April 21, 2019

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No one knows how to hire, plus brand design and African tech

April 21, 2019 |

Editor’s Note: No one knows how to hire

Hiring is the lifeblood of the world. Few people do truly singular work; instead, nearly every facet of our civilization is built by groups of humans (and increasingly machines) working in tandem.

Image by PeopleImages via Getty Images

That presents quite the puzzle though: if teamwork is so critical to the functioning of, well, everything, why are we so god awfully bad at building teams?

Minus a couple of high functioning teams of course, the evidence for team rot is all around us. Startups go bust when teams of two (i.e. founders) can’t make simple decisions about the future of their business. Large companies exsanguinate cash while their teams spend eons debating the minutia of a pixel in the checkout flow. At even larger scale, massive infrastructure projects like California’s HSR fail because the right people weren’t planning and building it (plus ten other issues of course).

How do we get this so wrong, so consistently?

The first reason, and the one most challenging to overcome, is that human endeavors are fundamentally built upon aspirations. A startup is a dream, no different than improving Excel’s formula editor or adding traffic signals to an intersection. Action cannot happen without aspiration, and so we tend to be far more optimistic with all facets of a plan before execution.

TechCrunch

Notes from the Samsung Galaxy Fold: day four

April 20, 2019 |

Apologies for skipping day three. This kept me extremely busy yesterday. Though the Galaxy Fold remained a constant companion.

Before you ask (or after you ask on Twitter without having read beyond the headline), no it’s hasn’t broken yet. It’s actually been fairly robust, all things considered. But here’s the official line from Samsung on that,

A limited number of early Galaxy Fold samples were provided to media for review. We have received a few reports regarding the main display on the samples provided. We will thoroughly inspect these units in person to determine the cause of the matter.

Separately, a few reviewers reported having removed the top layer of the display causing damage to the screen. The main display on the Galaxy Fold features a top protective layer, which is part of the display structure designed to protect the screen from unintended scratches. Removing the protective layer or adding adhesives to the main display may cause damage. We will ensure this information is clearly delivered to our customers.

I’ll repeat what I said the other day: breakages and lemons have been known to happen with preproduction units. I’ve had it happen with device in a number of occasions in my many years of doing this. That said, between the amount of time it took Samsung to let us reviewers actually engage with the device and the percentage of problems we’ve seen from the limited sample size, the results so far are a bit of a cause for a concern.

The issue with the second bit  is that protective layer looks A LOT like the temporary covers the company’s phones ship with, which is an issue. I get why some folks attempted to peel it off. That’s a problem.

At this point into my life with the phone, I’m still impressed by the feat of engineering went into this technology, but in a lot of ways, it does still feel like a very first generation product. It’s big, it’s expensive and software needs tweaks to create a seamless (so to speak) experience between screens.

That said, there’s enough legacy good stuff that Samsung has built into the phone to make it otherwise a solid experience. If you do end up biting the bullet and buying a Fold, you’ve find many aspects of it to be a solid workhorse and good device, in spite of some of the idiosyncrasies here (assuming, you know, the screen works fine).

It’s a very interesting and very impressive device, and it does feel like a sign post of the future. But it’s also a sometimes awkward reminder that we’re not quite living in the future just yet.

Day One

Day Two

TechCrunch

Boston Dynamics debuts the production version of SpotMini

April 19, 2019 |

Last year at our TC Sessions: Robotics conference, Boston Dynamics announced that SpotMini will be its first commercially available product. A revamped version of the product would use the company’s decades of quadrupedal robotics learnings as a basis for a robot designed to patrol office spaces.

At today’s event, founder and CEO Marc Raibert took to the stage to debut the production version of the electric robot. As noted last year, the company plans to produce around 100 models this year. Raibert said the company is aiming to start production in July or August. There are robots coming off the assembly line now, but they are betas being used for testing, and the company is still doing redesigns. Pricing details will be announced this summer.

New things about the SpotMini as it moves closer to production include redesigned components to make it more reliable, skins that work better to protect the robot if it falls and two sets of cameras on the front and one on each side and the back, so it can see in all directions.

The SpotMini also has an arm (with a hand that’s often mistaken for its head) that is stabilized in space, so it stays in the same place even when the rest of the robot moves, making it more flexible for different applications.

Raibert says he hopes the SpotMini becomes the “Android of robots” (or Android of androids), with navigation software and developers eventually writing apps that can run in and interact with the controls on the robot.

SpotMini is the first commercial robot Boston Dynamics is set to release, but as we learned earlier, it certainly won’t be the last. The company is looking to its wheeled Handle robot in an effort to push into the logistics space. It’s a super-hot category for robotics right now. Notably, Amazon recently acquired Colorado-based start up Canvas to add to its own arm of fulfillment center robots.

Boston Dynamics made its own acquisition earlier this month — a first for the company. The addition of Kinema will bring advanced vision systems to the company’s robots — a key part in implementing these sorts of systems in the field.

TechCrunch

PathAI raises $60 million for its computer vision-based pathogen detection technology

April 18, 2019 |

With a clinical version of PathAI‘s computer vision-based pathogen detection service still at least one year from coming to market, the diagnostic technology developer has snagged $ 60 million in its latest round of financing.

The company’s tech is used by doctors to analyze cell samples taken from patients to determine the presence or absence of bacterium, viruses, cancerous cells or other disease causing agents.

These days, PathAI’s technology is used less in hospitals for patient care and more by pharmaceutical companies developing new drugs,  according to the company’s co-founder and chief executive, Dr. Andy Beck.

Our biggest focus today is a research platform we use it to examine new therapeutics for serious diseases,” Beck says. “We see that as a really important problem for patients… accelerating how we get safe and effective medicines to patients.”

That’s an attractive market given that pharmaceutical companies have more money to spend on new technology than hospitals.

When the company does work with pathologists, they’re using the technology for research purposes, says Beck. Any clinical diagnostic work would have to go through trials and be approved by regulators, he says.

“For this direct clinical use it’s in the one to two year timeframe,” he says. 

General Atlantic led the company’s latest round with additional capital coming from previous investors General Catalyst, 8VC, DHVC, REfactor Capital, KdT Ventures, and Pillar Companies.

PathAI has grown its staff to over 60 employees in the past year, and the company has signed partnerships with Bristol-Myers Squibb and Novartis .

As a result of the financing, General Atlantic managing director, Dr. Michelle Dipp will take a seat on the company’s board.

“PathAI’s work could radically improve the accuracy and reproducibility of disease diagnosis and support the development of new medicines to treat those diseases,” said David Fialkow, Managing Director at General Catalyst, in a statement. 

 

TechCrunch

TED raises $280M to help nonprofits battle climate change, online sex abuse and more

April 17, 2019 |

TED is unveiling the eight participants in the second year of The Audacious Project, a program aimed at helping nonprofits pursue their most ambitious goals.

TED’s Chris Anderson told reporters yesterday that this is “an attempt to solve one of the most annoying things about the nonprofit world” — the fact that organizations have to raise money “one bloody meeting at a time.” And since often they can’t get all the money they need, “they end up cutting back their dreams.”

So The Audacious Project (which TED runs with support from social impact advisor The Bridgespan Group) asks nonprofits to lay out their “biggest dream” on the TED stage. Comparing this to an IPO, Anderson said this is an “Audacious Project Offering designed to attract — not investment to make money out of shares, but investment to make change.”

Anderson also contrasted this approach with traditional philanthropy, which has been criticized with the question, “Why should rich people get to decide what to do about the world?”

“You can argue about that topic all day, but The Audacious Project has been specifically designed from the ground up to avoid that criticism,” he said. “This is a scenario where anyone in the world can apply” to participate, with the winners selected based on “what actually has a chance of working” and “how effective are the leaders.”

TED says the eight recipients were chosen from more than 1,500 applications. And even before taking the stage tonight, The Audacious Project helped them raise $ 280 million in funding.

Anderson said he doesn’t expect the funding to increase “massively” after the nonprofitstake the stage, “but we think that in terms of the number of people engaged, it will increase a lot.” And that could also translate into more fundraising down the road.

Here are this year’s recipients:

  • The Center for Policing Equity plans to use data capture technology to bring measurable behavior change to police departments.
  • Educate Girls is partnering with 35,000 volunteers to persuade parents and elders in remote Indian communities to register girls who are out-of-school and to support them so they stay enrolled.
  • The Institute for Protein Design is trying to design new proteins to create new medicines and materials.
  • The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is working to make plants more effective at capturing and storing carbon in their roots.
  • The END Fund plans to bring treatment for parasitic worms to 100 million people, while also providing access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene education.
  • The Nature Conservancy aims to protect 4 million square kilometers of the ocean by buying up the debt of 20 island and coastal nations — in exchange for government commitments to protect their marine areas.
  • Thorn is building tech products to fight child sexual abuse online, for example by making it easier to locate the victims.
  • Waterford UPSTART aims to help 250,000 children prepare for kindergarten by providing proactive family coaching and personalized learning.

TechCrunch

Journalist Carole Cadwalladr says ‘the gods of Silicon Valley’ have broken democracy

April 16, 2019 |

On the same day that she became a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her work bringing the Cambridge Analytica scandal to light, journalist Carole Cadwalladr took the stage at TED to “address you directly, the gods of Silicon Valley.”

Cadwalladr began her talk by recounting a trip she took after the Brexit referendum, back to her hometown in South Wales.

She recalled feeling “a weird sense of unreality” walking around a town filled with new infrastructure funded by the European Union, while being told by residents that the EU had done nothing for them. Similarly, she said they told her about the dangers of immigration, even though they lived in a town with “one of the lowest rates of immigration in the country.”

Cadwalladr said she began to understand where those sentiments were coming from after her story ran, and someone contacted her about seeing scary, misleading ads about Turkey and Turkish immigration on Facebook . Cadwalladr, however, couldn’t see those ads, because she wasn’t targeted, and Facebook offered no general archive of all ads that had run on the platform.

Eventually, Facebook began building that archive of ads. And the pro-Brexit campaign was found guilty of breaking British election laws by breaching campaign spending limits to fund campaigns on Facebook.

Meanwhile, Cadwalladr said her interest in these issues led her to Christopher Wylie, whose whistleblowing about Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook user data helped prompt broader scrutiny of the social network’s privacy practices.

Cadwalladr described Wylie as “extraordinarily brave,” particularly since Cambridge Analytica repeatedly threatened them with legal action. The final threat, she said, came a day before publication, and it came from Facebook itself.

“It said that if we published, they would sue us,” Cadwalladr said. “We did it anyway. Facebook, you were on the wrong side of history on that, and you are on the wrong side of history in this.”

The “this” in question is what she characterized as a failure by the social media platforms to fully reckon with the extent to which they’ve become tools for the spread of lies and misinformation. For example, she pointed to CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s refusal thus far to appear before parliaments around the world that have asked him to testify.

Calling out executives like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Alphabet/Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey (who’s scheduled to take the stage tomorrow morning), Cadwalladr insisted that the stakes could not be higher.

“This technology you have invented has been amazing, but now it’s a crime scene, and you have the evidence,” she said. “It is not enough to say that you will do better in the future, because to have any hope of stopping this from happening again, we have to know the past.”

She went on to declare that the Brexit vote demonstrates that “liberal democracy is broken.”

“This is not democracy,” Cadwalladr said. “Spreading lies in darkness, paid for with illegal cash from God knows where — it’s subversion, and you are accessories to it.”

And for those of us who don’t run giant technology platforms, she added, “My question to everybody else is: Is this what we want? To let them get away with it, and to sit back and play with our phones as this darkness falls?”

TechCrunch

Mutiny at HQ Trivia fails to oust CEO

April 15, 2019 |

This week’s banishment of host Scott Rogowsky was merely a symptom of the ongoing struggle to decide who will lead HQ Trivia. According to multiple sources, over half of the startup’s staff signed an internal petition to depose CEO Rus Yusupov who they saw as mismanaging the company. But Yusupov then fired some core supporters of the mutiny, leading to a downward spiral of morale that mirrors HQ’s plummeting App Store rank.

TechCrunch spoke to multiple sources familiar with HQ Trivia’s internal troubles to piece together how the live video mobile game went from blockbuster to nearly bust. Two sources said HQ recently only had around $ 6 million in the bank but was burning over $ 1 million per month, meaning its runway could be dwindling. But its early investors are reluctant to hand Yusupov any more cash. “

Employees petitioned to remove HQ Trivia’s CEO Rus Yusupov

HQ reimagined gaming and mobile entertainment with the launch of its 12-question trivia game in August 2017 where players all competed live in twice-daily shows with anyone who got all the answers right split a cash jackpot. The games felt urgent since you could only participate at designated times, fun to play against friends or strangers, and winning carried a significance no single-player or non-stop online game could match.

When TechCrunch wrote the first coverage of HQ Trivia in October 2017, it had just 3500 concurrent players. But by January it had climbed to the #3 game and #6 overall app in the App Store, and grown to 2.38 million players by March. Quickly, copycats from China and Facebook entered the market. But they all lacked HQ’s secret weapon — its plucky host comedian Scott Rogowsky. Affectionately awarded nicknames like Quiz Daddy, Quiz Khalifa, Host Malone, and Trap Trebek from the “HQties” who played daily, he was the de facto face of the startup.

Yet HQ had some shaky foundations. Co-founder Colin Kroll, who’d also started Vine with Yusupov and sold it to Twitter, had been fired from Twitter after 18 months for being a bad manager, Recode reported. He’d also picked up a reputation of being creepy around female employees, as well as Vine stars, TechCrunch has learned. Rapid growth and an investigation by early HQ investor Jeremy Liew that found no egregious misconduct by Kroll paved the way for a $ 15 million investment. The round was led by Founders Fund’s Cyan Bannister, and it valued HQ at over $ 100 million.

Yusupov failed to translate that cash into sustained growth and product innovation. His public behavior had already raised flags. He yelled at a Daily Beast reporter after the outlet’s Taylor Lorenz interviewed Rogowsky without Yusupov’s approval, threatening to fire the host. “You’re putting Scott’s job in jeopardy. Is that what you want? . . .  Please read me your story word for word,” Yusupov said. When he learned Rogowsky had expressed his preference for salad restaurant chain Sweetgreen, Yusupov shouted “He cannot say that! We do not have a brand deal with Sweetgreen! Under no circumstances can he say that.” The next day, Yusupov falsely claimed he’d never threatened Rogowsky’s job.

With HQ’s bank account full, sources say Yusupov was extremely slow to make decisions, allowing HQ to stagnate. The novelty of playing trivia for money via phone has begun to wear off, and people increasingly ignored HQ’s push notifications to join its next game. But beyond bringing in some guest hosts and the option to buy a second chance after a wrong answer, HQ ceased to evolve. HQ fell to the #196 game on iOS and the #585 overall app as concurrent players waned.

That’s when things started to get a bit Game Of Thrones.

Pawns In A CEO War

Liew pushed for HQ to swap Kroll into the CEO spot in September 2018 while moving Yusupov to Chief Creative Officer, which was confirmed despite an HR complaint against Kroll for aggressive management. However, three sources tell TechCrunch that Yusupov pushed that HQ employee to file the complaint against Kroll. As the WSJ reported after Kroll’s death, that employee later left the startup because they felt that they’d been exploited. “There was definitely what felt like manipulation there, and that’s also why that employee resigned from the company.” one source said. Another source said that staffer “believed Rus used their unhappiness about work to use them as a pawn in his CEO war and not because Rus actually cared about resolving things.”

Cyan of Founders Fund stepped down from HQ’s board after the decision to swap out Yusupov due to her firm’s reputation of keeping founders in control, Recode’s Kurt Wagner reported. Sources say that despite Kroll’s reputation, the staff believed in him. “Colin loved HQ and was dedicated to all the employees more than Rus. Rus cares about Rus. Colin cared about the content” a source tells me. 

Three sources say that in a desperate ploy to retain power and prevent Kroll’s rise, Yusupov suggested Rogowsky, a comedian with no tech or management experience, be made CEO of HQ Trivia. He even suggested the company film a reality show about Rogowsky taking over. That idea was quickly shot down as preposterous.

“It was a very personal desperation tactic not to have Colin be CEO. It was not a professionally thought-out idea” a source tells me, though another said it was always hard to tell if Yusupov’s crazy ideas were jokes. Both Yusupov and HQ Trivia declined to respond to multiple requests for comment, but we’ll update if we hear back.

HQ Trivia co-founder Colin Kroll passed away in December

Then tragedy struck in December. Kroll, then CEO, was found dead in his apartment from a drug overdose. Employees were distraught over what would happen next. “Colin’s plan was to ship fast, and get new things out there” a source says, noting that Kroll had pushed for the release of HQ’s first new game type HQ Words modeled after Wheel Of Fortune. “He wasn’t perfect but in the time he was in charge, the ship started to turn, but when Rus took over again it was like the 9 months where we did nothing.”

Coup d’éHQ

By February 2019, HQ’s staff was fed up. Two sources confirm that 20 of the roughly 35 employees signed a letter asking the board to remove Yusupov and establish a new CEO. With HQ’s download rate continuing to sink, they feared he’d run the startup into the ground. One source suggested Yusupov might rather have seen the whole startup come crashing down with the blame placed on the product than have it come to light that he played a large hand in the fall. The tone of the letter, which was never formally delivered but sources believe the board knew of, wasn’t accusatory but a plea for transparency about the company’s future and the staff’s job security.

At a hastily convened all-hands meeting in late February, HQ investor Liew told the company his fund Lightspeed would support a search for a new CEO to replace Yusupov, and provide that new CEO with funding for 18 more months of runway. Liew told the staff he would step down from the board once that CEO was found, but the search continues and so Liew remains on HQ’s board.

Mostly everyone was on Jeremy’s side as no one wanted to work under Rus. Jeremy wasn’t trying to screw him over the way Rus would screw other people over. He just wanted to do what was right, getting behind what everyone wanted” a source said of Liew. 

Instead, HQ’s board moved forward with instituting a new executive decision-making committee composed of Yusupov, HQ’s head of production Nick Gallo, and VP of engineering Ben Sheats. Yusupov would remain interim CEO, and he continued to cling to power and there’s been little transparency about the CEO replacement process. Until a new CEO is found, HQ must subsist on its existing funds. The staff is “always worried about running out of runway” and are given vague answers when they ask leadership about how much money is left.

On March 1st, the committee emerged from a meeting and fired three employees — two who had spearheaded the petition and been vocal about Yusupov’s failings.

One who wasn’t fired was Rogowsky, despite sources saying at one point he’d tried to organize the staff to go on strike. Other employees had been cautious about standing up to Yusupov. “Everyone was terrified of retaliation. Their fears have totally been validated” a source explains. Engineers and other staffers with strong employment prospects began to drain out of the company. Those left were just trying to hold onto their jobs. Without inspiring leadership or a strategy to reverse user shrinkage, recruiting replacements would prove difficult.

Yusupov remains on the board, along with Tinder CEO Elie Seidman who Yusupov appointed to his additional common seat. Liew retains his seat until the new CEO is found and given that seat. And Kroll’s seat appears to have gone to Lightspeed partner Merci Victoria Grace. Lightspeed and Cyan of Founders Fund declined to respond to requests for comment.

[Update: Seidman tells TechCrunch that the he sees the internal struggle for the CEO role as over now that Yusupov has accepted that a new CEO will be installed. That search is moving along, and the CEO chosen will report to the board but otherwise be given full autonomy to run the company as they choose. That includes having hiring and firing power over Yusupov. He did not dispute any other claims from this article. Seidman rightly believes HQ has contributed important ideas to the mobile gaming ecosystem, and now it’s the startup’s responsibility to turn those ideas into a steady business.]

Losing Face

Tensions at HQ and a desire to diversify his prospects led Rogowsky to pick up a side gig hosting baseball talk show ChangeUp on the DAZN network, TMZ reported this week. He’d hoped to continue hosting HQ during its big weekend contests. But tensions with Yusupov and the CEO’s desire for the host to remain exclusively at HQ led negotiations to sour causing Rogowsky to leave the startup entirely. TechCrunch was first to report that he’s been replaced by former HQ guest host Matt Richards, who Yusupov bluntly told me Friday had polled higher than Rogowsky in a SurveyMonkey survey of HQ’s top players.

In tweets, Rogowsky revealed that that “Sadly, it won’t be possible for me to continue hosting HQ concurrently as I had hoped” noting, “I wasn’t given the courtesy of a farewell show.” Finding a way to preserve Rogowsky’s ties to HQ likely would have been best for the startup.  TechCrunch had raised the concern a year ago that unless Rogowsky was properly locked in with an adequate equity vesting schedule at HQ, he could leave. Or worse, he could be poached by Facebook, Snapchat, or YouTube to host an HQ competitor.

“Rus is a visionary but not a good leader. He is extremely manipulative in an unproductive way. He’s a dude who just cares a lot about his reputation” a source noted. “A lot of the negative sentiment amongst staff is the belief that he cares more about his reputation than the company itself.”

HQ’s next attempt to revive growth appears to be HQ Editor’s Picks, is described as “a new live show on your phone where our host shows funny viral videos and you decide on who gets paid.” Finally it seems willing to embrace the potential of interactive live video entertainment outside of trivia and puzzles. HQ Editor’s Picks will face an uphill battle, since HQ dropped out of the top 1500 iOS apps last month, according to App Annie. Sensor Tower estimates that HQ saw just 8 percent as many downloads in March 2019 as March 2018.

After the loss of its spirit animal Rogowsky, the employees’ chosen leader Kroll, the supervision of veteran investor Cyan, and its product momentum, tough questions are what remain for HQ Trivia. The company’s struggles have paralyzed its progress towards finding a new viral mechanic or game format that attracts users. While HQ Words is fun, it’s too similar to its trivia competition to change the startup’s trajectory. And all of the in-fighting could scare off any talent hoping to turn HQ around. Unfortunately, securing an extra life for the game will take a more than a $ 3.99 in-app purchase.

TechCrunch

Tesla is raising the price of its full self-driving option

April 14, 2019 |

In a few weeks, Tesla buyers will have to pay more for an option that isn’t yet completely functional, but that CEO Elon Musk promises will one day deliver full autonomous driving capabilities.

Musk tweeted Saturday that the price of its full self-driving option will “increase substantially over time” beginning May 1.

Tesla vehicles are not self-driving. Musk has promised that the advanced driver assistance capabilities on Tesla vehicles will continue to improve until eventually reaching that full automation high-water mark.

Musk didn’t provide a specific figure, but in response to a question on Twitter, he said the increase would be “something like” around the $ 3,000+ figure. Full self-driving currently costs $ 5,000.

The price hike comes amid several notable changes and events, including an upcoming Investor Autonomy Day on April 22 meant to explain and showcase Tesla’s autonomous driving technology. On Thursday, Tesla announced that Autopilot, its advanced driver assistance system that offers a combination of adaptive cruise control and lane steering, is now a standard feature.

The price of vehicles with the standard Autopilot is higher (although it should be noted that this standard feature is less than the prior cost of the option).  Buyers previously had to pay $ 3,000 for the option and examples given by Tesla suggest a $ 500 savings.

Tesla also announced it would begin leasing the Model 3 vehicles.

The more robust version of Autopilot is called Full Self-Driving, or FSD, and currently costs an additional $ 5,000. FSD includes Summon as well as Navigate on Autopilot, an active guidance system that navigates a car from a highway on-ramp to off-ramp, including interchanges and making lane changes. Once drivers enter a destination into the navigation system, they can enable “Navigate on Autopilot” for that trip.

Tesla continues to improve Navigate on Autopilot and the broader FSD system through over-the-air software updates. The company says on its website that FSD will soon be able to recognize and respond to traffic lights and stop signs and automatically driving on city streets. 

The next major step change is a new custom chip called Hardware 3 that Tesla recently began producing. The Tesla-built piece of hardware is designed to have greater processing power than the Nvidia computer currently in Model S, X, and 3 vehicles.

Musk tweeted Saturday that Tesla will begin swapping the new custom chip into existing vehicles in a few months.

Musk has been promising full self-driving for years now. In late 2016, when Tesla started producing electric vehicles with a more robust suite of sensors, radar and cameras that would allow higher levels of automated driving, it also started taking money from customers for FSD. Musk said at the time, it would become available if and when the technical challenges were conquered and regulatory approvals were met.

TechCrunch

Did you fly a drone over Fenway Park? The FAA would like a chat

April 13, 2019 |

Drones are great. But they are also flying machines that can do lots of stupid and dangerous things. Like, for instance, fly over a major league baseball game packed with spectators. It happened at Fenway Park last night, and the FAA is not happy.

The illegal flight took place last night during a Red Sox-Blue Jays game at Fenway; the drone, a conspicuously white DJI Phantom, reportedly first showed up around 9:30 PM, coming and going over the next hour.

One of the many fans who shot a video of the drone, Chris O’Brien, told CBS Boston that “it would kind of drop fast then go back up then drop and spin. It was getting really low and close to the players. At one point it was getting really low and I was wondering are they going to pause the game and whatever, but they never did.

Places where flying is regularly prohibited, like airports and major landmarks like stadiums, often have no-fly rules baked into the GPS systems of drones — and that’s the case with DJI. In a statement, however, the company said that “whoever flew this drone over the stadium apparently overrode our geofencing system and deliberately violated the FAA temporary flight restriction in place over the game.”

The FAA said that it (and Boston PD) is investigating both to local news and in a tweet explaining why it is illegal.

That’s three nautical miles, which is quite a distance, covering much of central Boston. You don’t really take chances when there are tens of thousands of people all gathered in one spot on a regular basis like that. Drones open up some pretty ugly security scenarios.

Of course, this wasn’t a mile and a half from Fenway, which might have earned a slap on the wrist, but directly over the park, which as the FAA notes above could lead to hundreds of thousands in fines and actual prison time. It’s not hard to imagine why: If that drone had lost power or caught a gust (or been hit by a fly ball, at that altitude), it could have hurt or killed someone in the crowd.

It’s especially concerning when the FAA is working on establishing new rules for both hobby and professional drone use. You should leave a comment there if you feel strongly about this, by the way.

Here’s hoping they catch the idiot who did this. It just goes to show that you can’t trust people to follow the rules, even when they’re coded into a craft’s OS. It’s things like this that make mandatory registration of drones sound like a pretty good idea.

(Red Sox won, by the way. But the season’s off to a rough start.)

TechCrunch

Disney+ streaming service launches on November 12, with a price of $6.99 per month

April 12, 2019 |

Disney’s direct-to-consumer streaming strategy took center stage today at the company’s investor day. That strategy includes Hulu (where the recently-closed Fox acquisition has given Disney a contyrolling stake), ESPN+ and the Indian streaming service Hotstar, but executives spent most of their time hyping the upcoming launch of Disney+.

The company said the service will launch in the United States on November 12, and will have a monthly streaming price of $ 6.99 per month.

Executives confirmed that unlike Hulu and ESPN+, Disney+ will be entire ad-free, making all its money from subscriptions. Kevin Mayer, Disney’s direct-to-consumer chairman also said the company is “likely” to offer a bundle of Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+ at a discounted product.

Mayer and other Disney executives also offered the first look at what they said is a “working prototype” of the Disney+ service. To a large extent, it looked like any other streaming app, but they made it clear that all the content will be available to download for offline viewing.

The service will also emphasize Disney’s portfolio of entertainment brands — there will be separate sections for Disney animation, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel and National Geographic. In each case, the speakers emphasized the existing library of films. Not all of those films will be available at launch, but many will be, with more added over the first couple years of operation (presumably as they’re freed up from deals with third parties like Netflix).

Disney+ rollout

Disney+ rollout

For example, Disney said that at launch, the service will include the entirety of the animation studio’s 13-film Signature collection, plus the first two Star Wars trilogies and “The Force Awakens,” plus “Captain Marvel” and other Marvel films.

In addition, Disney is creating a number of original shows for the service (much of it highlighted in clips and sizzle reals that were not included on the webcast). Those include a whole lineup of Marvel shows that Marvel President Kevin Feige said would be closely tied to the studio’s films, plus the Star Wars series “The Mandalorian” and a show about the “Rogue One” characters Cassian Andor and K-2SO.

As for when viewers will actually get to watch all this content, Disney Streaming President Michael Paull said the plan is to roll out across North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America throughout 2021.

Oh, and Disney+ will be the exclusive streaming home of “The Simpsons.”

Updated with launch date, pricing and “The Simpsons” exclusivity.

TechCrunch