The Kubo is a uniquely designed vehicle that brings together the best of both worlds from scooters and cars: It has a small two-wheeled form factor, but a nice amount of storage space. Lit describes it as “combining the beautiful design of Apple and Vespa with the basic utility of a pickup truck.” I’d liken it to a modern two-wheeled version of the El Camino, only much more beautifully designed (and eco-friendly!) Either way, it’s a very nifty piece of work. Once you see it, you wonder why something like it hasn’t been made already.
Lit Motors is hoping to crowdfund the initial production of the Kubo through a Kickstarter campaign launched last month. So far, the company has a ways to go — a little over $45,000 has been pledged out of the $300,000 goal, so with nine days left in the campaign the clock is certainly ticking. As sleek as the Kubo is, it might have been a bit ambitious to expect dozens of people to each put down $5,000 to reserve a yet-to-be-built scooter from a small startup.
But whatever happens with this particular Kickstarter campaign, Lit’s chief marketing officer Ryan James tells me that the company will figure out a way to get the Kubo into production for all the people who want it. There are lots of people rooting for Lit, and it will be exciting to see how its designs are made into a reality (and eventually come to our roads.)
We swung by Lit Motors HQ to get a first-person look at the Kubo and watch Lit’s CMO Ryan James take it for a spin. Check it out in the video embedded above.
Video credits: Shooting: John Murillo and Yashad Kulkarni, Editing: Yashad Kulkarni, Production: Felicia Williams
Technology and nature seem in constant conflict, but they can be better together. And being a tech enthusiast isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive with loving the outdoors, which is why we’ve put together a whole gift guide featuring stuff that scratches that techie itch but also should help you conquer (or live in peaceful harmony with, if that’s what you’re into) nature.
AR Drone 2.0 ($299)
Soon, drones will be everywhere, and we’ll need to retreat to the forests just to escape their interminable whirring. But until then, nature is the perfect harbor for them. The AR Drone 2.0 by Parrot is a smartphone-controlled quadcopter that you’ve probably seen on TV, the web or at a trade show, and it’s a great device for winging around the forest for some easy outdoor aerial photography. Bonus points if you can buzz a deer.
Nike+ Fuelband SE ($149.95)
The woods doesn’t count if you can’t quantify what you did there, and that’s where Nike’s new Fuelband device comes into play. Upgrading with much-improved activity tracking that can distinguish between biking, running, and even tennis and more. The Fuelband SE can also track sleep for you while you’re toughing it out on the cold, hard ground, but it’s only an on/off state, so if you’re more concerned about that, look to something like the Jawbone UP24.
Oru Kayak ($1,095)
An entire kayak that folds up into a convenient suitcase sized carrying package. That’s the only pitch you should need to hear with the Oru Kayak. Made of durable corrugated plastic, it comes with a number of options, including a two-pack for the outdoor-loving couple. It’s well-reviewed by many kayakers, packs up smaller and is in many ways easier to assemble than most other so-called folding kayaks. Plus, as far as kayaks go, it’s not even actually all that expensive.
Olympus TG-2 iHS ($379.99)
If you want a camera ready for the wilderness, the Olympus TG-2 iHS is the best one that will still fit in your pocket. Dust, shock, water and freeze proof, it also offers a very wide maximum aperture and good image quality all around. This is the prevailing leader when it comes to the pocket toughcam market, and you can usually pick it up at a discounted price if you look around a little.
Boombot Rex ($119.99)
You go to nature to enjoy the silence, not rock out to sick beats, but sometimes it’s okay to combine those two. And the Boombot Rex can hold up to adverse weather conditions, including mud and dust, and it doubles as a very capable Bluetooth speakerphone with a long-lasting battery.
Google has just released a white version of the Nexus 7 tablet, in white and packing 32GB of storage, available now for $269 on the Google Play Devices store, so long as you’re in the U.S., U.K. or Japan. There’s no LTE version and no 16GB model, unlike with the black Nexus 7, but if you’re looking for a color match tablet for your white Nexus 5 you’re now in luck.
The bezel retains the same black paint scheme, and there’s no change beyond the back panel color job in terms of performance or specs. The Nexus 7 is a fairly capable Android tablet, however, and most likely the best deal available at that particular price point depending on your needs. If you’re looking to grab one, it’s probably a good idea to pull the trigger on that order, quickly, since these are probably going to be in fairly limited supply at launch.
You do have a little more choice, however, as LG has just announced a Google Play edition of the G Pad Android tablet, which has an 8.3-inch screen and costs just a little more at $349.
Well, that was fast. LG inadvertently outed a G-Pad tablet that would be getting the Google Play Edition treatment earlier today, and Google has just followed up with a confirmation, a price tag ($349) and another device to add to the mix. Sony’s $649 Z Ultra is also available in the Google Play store, much to the chagrin of rumormongers who have long claimed that Sony would soon get a crack at crafting a Nexus device.
Alas, global gadget fiends won’t be able to join in the fun just yet — like the Google Play Edition HTC One and Galaxy S 4 before it, these devices aren’t yet slated for an international launch.
The spec sheet on the G Pad 8.3 hasn’t changed since last we saw it, but the announcement of the Sony Z Ultra was largely unexpected. If that name sounds mildly familiar, it’s because the X Ultra is a lightly modified version of the Xperia Z Ultra smartphone that debuted to positive critical feedback earlier this year. The exclusion of the Xperia branding is honestly a little confusing though — it’s not like the brand couldn’t use a publicity boost in the United States, and Samsung’s Galaxy moniker is still slapped on its Google Play Edition phone.
This is a developing story, please refresh for updates.
Last week, the media world was abuzz with the news that e-commerce giant Amazon was experimenting with a new program dubbed “Amazon Prime Air,” which would use small automated “drone” aircraft to make customer deliveries. But while Jeff Bezos’ primetime television announcement of Amazon’s drone ambitions certainly attracted a lot of attention, it’s important to note that he is not the first person to express interest in the drone delivery space.
A small Silicon Valley startup called Matternet has been developing drone delivery technology for several years now. The company’s co-founder and CEO Andreas Raptopoulos’ TED talk from this past summer about the potential to use small drones for delivery purposes has garnered more than 200,000 views since it was posted online last month — and perhaps helped to inspire Bezos himself, as Bezos used some of the same language used in Raptopoulos’ TED talk when unveiling the concept of Amazon Prime Air on 60 Minutes.
An image from Matternet’s drone delivery pilot in Haiti
One very interesting thing about Matternet is that the company believes drone delivery technology should be first used in the developing world, to deliver food, medicine, and other necessities to areas that are less accessible by car or truck. Often, consumer technologies start by serving a higher end market and trickle down to attain widespread utility — think computers, cell phones, automobiles, and the like. Matternet says its approach is to introduce drone delivery technology to the “people who need it the most,” and build the network from there.
It was a pleasure to have Raptopoulos and his Matternet co-founder Paola Santana stop by TechCrunch’s San Francisco headquarters last week to talk more about how their technology is progressing, the unique technical and regulatory challenges that drones face, and their reaction to learning that Amazon is working in the space as well. Watch that in the video embedded above.
And in the video embedded below, you can see footage from one of Matternet’s drone delivery pilot programs in Haiti.
Jakub Krzych, founder of Estimote, has announced a $3.1 million seed round raise from Innovation Endeavors, Betaworks, Bessemer Venture Partners, Birchmere Ventures, Valiant Capital Partners and others. The company is already shipping its small Bluetooth products, called Beacons, to retailers and they expect a huge rush in orders as they line up large clients next year.
“In the future apps will not be designed just for smartphones. They will also be developed and installed on top of retail stores and other real world locations – like airports, museums or hospitals,” said Krzych. “We are shipping thousands of beacons per week and more than 10,000 developers around the world are already experimenting with Estimote beacons in contextual computing applications.”
Macy’s is already experimenting with the technology while Apple plans to add iBeacon to 254 of their retail stores. Estimote is poised to grab hundreds of those locations with its low-cost devices. They are also building a digital platform for handling iBeacon interaction with cellphones as well as improved wireless payment solutions. Estimote won Best Hardware Startup at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco.
“Estimote is bringing on Steve Cheney as SVP of Business Operations, who will open a New York office and build out Estimote’s business and operations teams,” said Krzych. The company already has headquarters in Krakow, Poland and San Francisco. The company hopes to announce further partners over the coming months.
Google and LG have been getting awfully cozy lately — the web giant tasked the Korean company with delivering its two most recent Nexus smartphones, and if you’re the type to put stock in rumors, it seemed like a new Nexus tablet (bearing the model number “LG-V510″) would be the next fruit of their union.
Well, according some files posted to LG’s own site, it isn’t. Not exactly, anyway. Some industrious redditors (via Droid-Life) discovered that LG posted a source code update for that very device on its Open Source Code Distribution page, and a little bit of unzipping revealed the truth of the matter. The tablet in question isn’t a shiny new Nexus model, it’s a version of the company’s 8.3-inch G-Pad that’s getting the Google Play Edition treatment.
Google launched the Google Play Edition initiative earlier this year with special versions of the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S 4 that featured nearly-stock versions of Android instead of the highly-customized builds that their cousins ship with. I’d argue the benefits only really appeal to the real nerds and tinkerers among you — being SIM unlocked is nice, but more importantly those GPE phones generally get updates awfully quickly to boot. Granted, the update process isn’t quite as fast it is for members the Nexus line since their software build contains small additions to power non-standard features like the One’s BoomSound speakers.
Still, this is a pretty big deal for a company that doesn’t have much experience in crafting tablets. Like the One and the Galaxy S 4 before it, the G-Pad is no slouch: it sports an 8.3-inch IPS display running at 1920 x 1200, along with a Snapdragon 600 chipset, and early reviews of the thing are generally positive. If anything, it’s been dinged for its relatively lofty price tag, but we’ll see what (if anything) Google does with that. I’ve reached out to Google for comment, and will update this story if/when they respond.
Slowly but surely, Google’s Chromecast devices is beefing up with content partners. The company just announced 10 new apps landing on the $35 smart TV dongle, including VEVO, Revision 3, PostTV, and Songza, to name a few.
Here’s what Google had to say about the new apps:
Beginning today you can enjoy action sports, news, music videos, and more with the addition of VEVO, Red Bull.TV, Songza, PostTV, Viki, Revision 3 and BeyondPod.
And for those many holiday gatherings, you can also cast your personal media straight to your TV using Plex, Avia, or RealPlayer Cloud apps. There’s no need to huddle around small screens when you can share your own photos and videos using your phone, tablet, or laptop.
To learn more about Google Chromecast, click here.
Along with the launch on Chromecast, Songza is also launching new Holiday Playlists.
Or perhaps they were just hard at work on bringing a variety of holiday-related playlists to the apps. Songza has developed over 75 different Christmas playlists ranging from Drunken Christmas Party to Christmas on the Beach.
You can check out the app here.