Gadgets – TechCrunch Romain Dillet

French startup Ledger has been working for a while on a brand new app to manage your crypto assets on your computer. The company is designing and manufacturing one of the most secure hardware wallets out there.

While it’s clear that security has always been the first focus of the company, the user experience has been lacking, especially on the software front. The company launched a new app called Ledger Live to handle everything you used to do with Chrome apps before.

That’s right, before today, the company relied on Google Chrome for its desktop apps. You had to install the browser first, and then install a new app for each cryptocurrency. There was also a main app to update the firmware. It could quickly become a mess.

Now, everything is centralized in a single app. After downloading and installing the app on Windows, macOS or Linux, you can either configure the app with an existing Ledger device or configure a new Ledger wallet.

The app first checks the integrity of your device and then lets you manage the device. You can upgrade the firmware and install apps on your Ledger Nano S or Ledger Blue from the “Manager” tab.

More interestingly, you can now add all your wallets to the Ledger Live app. You won’t have to switch from one app to another to view your wallets. When you click the add button, the app will try and retrieve existing wallets on your device. You can also generate a new set of keys (and a new wallet) from there.

Once you’ve added all your wallets, you can get an overview of your entire portfolio. The app gets historical pricing information from popular exchanges, such as Kraken and Bitfinex. You can also click on individual accounts to see how a specific cryptocurrency has evolved over time.

The portfolio interface looks like a Coinbase account. It’s well-designed and it’s a great way to get a quick look of your accounts.

Many Ledger users have been using tracker websites and apps. These services let you enter a cryptocurrency and the amount you own to get an overview of everything you own independently of the wallet.

Ledger’s new app partially replace tracker services. If you don’t need to check your balance from your phone, you can get enough information with the Ledger app. You can see your balance without having to plug your Ledger device.

The company is already working on new features. You’ll be able to view and manager ERC20 tokens in the future. So if you invested in a bunch of obscure ICOs, your tokens will be there too.

Ledger also told me that you could imagine an integration with decentralized exchanges eventually. This way, you would be able to send tokens to an address and get another set of tokens back on another Ledger-generated address. It would be a great way to exchange cryptocurrencies without signing up to a centralized exchange and leaving the Ledger app.

Gadgets – TechCrunch Ingrid Lunden

Nokia has closed the books on its unlucky foray into digital health devices and services, and with it, a business is marking its return to the world of startups. Today, the Finnish telecoms giant announced that it has closed the sale of its digital health division, along with 200 employees, to Eric Carreel, the former chairman and co-founder of Withings. Now Carreel plans to relaunch the business once again under the Withings brand by the end of this year, with products focused on preventive health.

Withings had formed the core of Nokia’s digital health business after it acquired the company, famous for its smart scales, in 2016 for €170 million. Nokia later rebranded the business as Nokia Digital Health.

“I am delighted to start working again with the brilliant teams that made the brand such a great success” said Carreel in a statement. “We have an exciting challenge ahead of us as we continue to push the boundaries of connected health.”

The deal comes less than a month after Nokia announced that it had entered into exclusive negotiations with Carreel for the sale, part of a larger reorganization at the company to refocus away from unprofitable businesses.

There were no financial terms revealed in the sale, nor any details about how the new Withings will be financed. (We are asking.) In its previous incarnation as a startup before its exit to Nokia, Withings had raised just under $34 million with investors including Bpifrance, Ininvest and and Ventech starting in 2008. The new startup will be based out of Paris with operations also in the U.S. and Asia.

Alongside the news about Withings, there are some executive changes at Nokia, too.

Gregory Lee — who joined the Nokia Technologies division in part to restructure the business by hiving off unprofitable operations like digital health — is now leaving the company altogether. Maria Varsellona, who is the company’s Chief Legal Officer, will now also be the president of Nokia Technologies.

This change makes some (disheartening) sense: Nokia has a huge trove of patents from its long history, which included helping forge and for a long time leading the mobile phone industry. While Nokia’s mobile phone business eventually collapsed, quite dramatically, it has held on to a number of patents, and has added to that in recent years. And this is why it is unsurprising to have Nokia’s legal head also leading its Technologies division: it shows where the company’s priorities are today. 

Back at Withings, in addition to connected scales, the company today makes activity tracking watches, blood pressure monitors, a smart thermometer, and a sleep tracking pad, which work with an app it calls Health Mate. The focus on preventive health sounds like it will keep all of these in place.

The story of hardware startups is one of many optimistic and often exciting ideas, but also a lot of failures, as the realities set in of developing supply chains, trying to find the right economies of scale and of course finding customers for your shiny new gadgets. Withings is some way out of the initially hard part of simply getting products designed, working, made and out into the market, but it will still have to contend with keeping the business operating and growing — challenges that Nokia clearly could not surmount.

One thing in its favor is the rise of AI and the general expansion of possibilities that come with all the data that can now be collected. Putting aside clunkers like Theranos, a number of startups — such as Ava, which is focusing on women’s health — have been exploring not just what kind of data they can gather from wearables and other devices, but how to “read” that data and match it up with new understanding about disease pathology and health, to gain more insights about us and how we work.

This seems to be the direction that Withings hopes to go, too.

“We are still only just starting to discover what connected health can really bring to people,” said Carreel in a statement. “From now on we must concentrate our efforts on developing tools capable of advanced measurements and the associated services that can help prevent chronic health conditions. Today’s technologies allow us to imagine solutions that have the potential to benefit the lives of millions of people, and our ambition is to ensure that we, as Withings, lead the way with technological advances and intuitive designs.”

Gadgets – TechCrunch Natasha Lomas

The UK has announced new stop-gap laws for drone operators restricting how high they can fly their craft — 400ft — and prohibiting the devices from being flown within 1km of an airport boundary. The measures will come into effect on July 30.

The government says the new rules are intended to enhance safety, including the safety of passengers of aircraft — given a year-on-year increase in reports of drone incidents involving aircraft. It says there were 93 such incidents reported in the country last year, up from 71 the year before.

And while the UK’s existing Drone Code (which was issued in 2016) already warns operators to restrict drone flights to 400ft — and to stay “well away” from airports and aircraft — those measures are now being baked into law, via an amendment to the 2016 Air Navigation Order (ahead of a full drone bill which was promised for Spring but still hasn’t materialized yet).

UK drone users who flout the new height and airport boundary restrictions face being charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or any person in an aircraft — which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison or an unlimited fine, or both.

Additional measures are also being legislated for, as announced last summer — with a requirement for owners of drones weighing 250 grams or more to register with the Civil Aviation Authority and for drone pilots to take an online safety test.

Users who fail to register or sit the competency tests could face fines of up to £1,000. Though those requirements will come into force later, on November 30 2019.

Commenting in a statement, aviation minister Baroness Sugg said: “We are seeing fast growth in the numbers of drones being used, both commercially and for fun. Whilst we want this industry to innovate and grow, we need to protect planes, helicopters and their passengers from the increasing numbers of drones in our skies. These new laws will help ensure drones are used safely and responsibly.”

In a supporting statement, Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick Airport’s COO, added: “We welcome the clarity that today’s announcement provides as it leaves no doubt that anyone flying a drone must stay well away from aircraft, airports and airfields. Drones open up some exciting possibilities but must be used responsibly. These clear regulations, combined with new surveillance technology, will help the police apprehend and prosecute anyone endangering the traveling public.”

Drone maker DJI also welcomed what it couched as a measured approach to regulation. “The Department for Transport’s updates to the regulatory framework strike a sensible balance between protecting public safety and bringing the benefits of drone technology to British businesses and the public at large,” said Christian Struwe, head of public policy Europe at DJI.

“The vast majority of drone pilots fly safely and responsibly, and governments, aviation authorities and drone manufacturers agree we need to work together to ensure all drone pilots know basic safety rules. We are therefore particularly pleased about the Department for Transport’s commitment to accessible online testing as a way of helping drone users to comply with the law.”

Last fall the UK government also announced it plans to legislate to give police more powers to ground drones to prevent unsafe or criminal usage — measures it also said it would include in the forthcoming drone bill.

Gadgets – TechCrunch Mike Butcher

The Europas Unconference & Awards is back on 3 July in London and we’re excited to announce more speakers and panel sessions as the event takes shape. Crypto and Blockchain will be a major theme this year, and we’re bringing together many of the key players. TechCrunch is once again the key media partner, and if you attend The Europas you’ll be first in the queue to get offers for TC events and Disrupt Europe later in the year.

You can also potentially get your ticket for free just by sharing your own ticket link with friends and followers. See below for the details and instructions.

To recap, we’re jumping straight into our popular breakout sessions where you’ll get up close and personal with some of Europe’s leading investors, founders and thought leaders.

The Unconference is focused into zones including AI, Fintech, Mobility, Startups, Society, and Enterprise and Crypto / Blockchain.

Our Crypto HQ will feature two tracks of panels, one focused on investing and the other on how blockchain is disrupting everything from financial services, to gaming, to social impact to art.

We’ve lined up some of the leading blockchain VCs to talk about what trends and projects excite them most, including Outlier Ventures’ Jamie Burke, KR1’s George McDonaugh, blockchain angel Nancy Fenchay, Fabric Ventures’ Richard Muirhead and Michael Jackson of Mangrove Capital Partners.

Thinking of an ICO vs crowdfunding? Join Michael Jackson on how ICOs are disrupting venture capital and Ali Ganjavian, co-founder of Studio Banana, the creators of longtime Kickstarter darling OstrichPillow to understand the ins and outs of both.

We’ve also lined up a panel to discuss the process of an ICO – what do you need to consider, the highs, the lows, the timing and the importance of community. Linda Wang, founder and CEO of Lending Block, which recently raised $10 million in an April ICO, joins us.

We are thrilled to announce that Civil, the decentralised marketplace for sustainable journalism, will be joining to talk about the rise of fake news and Verisart’s Robert Norton will share his views on stamping out fraud in the art world with blockchain. Min Teo of ConsenSys will discuss blockchain and social impact and Jeremy Millar, head of Consensys UK, will speak on Smart Contracts.

Our Pathfounders Startup Zone is focused purely on startups. Our popular Meet the Press panel is back where some of tech’s finest reporters will tell you what makes a great tech story, and how to pitch (and NOT pitch them). For a start, TechCrunch’s Steve O’Hear and Quartz’s Joon Ian Wong are joining.

You’ll also hear from angels and investors including Seedcamp’s Carlos Eduardo Espinal; Eileen Burbidge of Passion Capital; Accel Partners’ Andrei Brasoveanu; Jeremy Yap; Candice Lo of Blossom Capital; Scott Sage of Crane Venture Partners; Tugce Ergul of Angel Labs; Stéphanie Hospital of OneRagtime; Connect Ventures’ Sitar Teli and Jason Ball of Qualcomm Ventures.

Sound great? You can grab your ticket here:

Early bird ticket sales end on Friday! Remember, you can end up getting your ticket for free.

All you need to do is share your personal ticket link. Your friends get 15% off, and you get 15% off again when they buy.

The more your friends buy, the more your ticket cost goes down, all the way to free!

The Public Voting in the awards ends 11 June 2018 11:59: https://theeuropas.polldaddy.com/s/theeuropas2018

We’re still looking for sponsor partners to support these editorially curated panels.

Please get in touch with Petra@theeuropas.com for more details.

SPEAKERS SO FAR:

Jamie Burke, Outlier Ventures


Jeremy Millar, ConsenSys


Linda Wang, Lending Block


Robert Norton, Verisart


George McDonaugh, KR1


Eileen Burbidge, Passion Capital


Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp


Sitar Teli, Connect Ventures


Michael Jackson, Mangrove Capital Partners


Min Teo, ConsenSys


Steve O’Hear, TechCrunch


Joon Ian Wong, Quartz


Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures


Nancy Fechnay, Blockchain Technologist + Angel


Candice Lo, Blossom Capital


Scott Sage, Crane Venture Partners


Andrei Brasoveanu, Accel


Tina Baker, Jag Shaw Baker


Jeremy Yap


Candice Lo, Blossom Capital


Tugce Ergul, Angel Labs


Stéphanie Hospital, OneRagtime


Jason Ball, Qualcomm Ventures

The Europas Awards
The Europas Awards are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. But key to the daytime is all the speakers and invited guests. There’s no “off-limits speaker room” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs and speakers.

Vote for your Favourite Startups

Public Voting is still humming along. Please remember to vote for your favourite startups!

Awards by category:

Hottest Media/Entertainment Startup

Hottest E-commerce/Retail Startup

Hottest Education Startup

Hottest Startup Accelerator

Hottest Marketing/AdTech Startup

Hottest Games Startup

Hottest Mobile Startup

Hottest FinTech Startup

Hottest Enterprise, SaaS or B2B Startup

Hottest Hardware Startup

Hottest Platform Economy / Marketplace

Hottest Health Startup

Hottest Cyber Security Startup

Hottest Travel Startup

Hottest Internet of Things Startup

Hottest Technology Innovation

Hottest FashionTech Startup

Hottest Tech For Good

Hottest A.I. Startup

Fastest Rising Startup Of The Year

Hottest GreenTech Startup of The Year

Hottest Startup Founders

Hottest CEO of the Year

Best Angel/Seed Investor of the Year

Hottest VC Investor of the Year

Hottest Blockchain/Crypto Startup Founder(s)

Hottest Blockchain Protocol Project

Hottest Blockchain DApp

Hottest Corporate Blockchain Project

Hottest Blockchain Investor

Hottest Blockchain ICO (Europe)

Hottest Financial Crypto Project

Hottest Blockchain for Good Project

Hottest Blockchain Identity Project

Hall Of Fame Award – Awarded to a long-term player in Europe

The Europas Grand Prix Award (to be decided from winners)

The Awards celebrates the most forward thinking and innovative tech & blockchain startups across over some 30+ categories.

Startups can apply for an award or be nominated by anyone, including our judges. It is free to enter or be nominated.

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with 1,000 of the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the Speakers

• Key Founders and investors speaking; featured attendees invited to just network

• Expert speeches, discussions, and Q&A directly from the main stage

• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players on vertical topics

• The opportunity to meet almost everyone in those small groups, super-charging your networking

• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters

• A parallel Founders-only track geared towards fund-raising and hyper-networking

• A stunning awards dinner and party which honors both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene

• All on one day to maximise your time in London. And it’s sunny (probably)!

europas8

That’s just the beginning. There’s more to come…

europas13

Gadgets – TechCrunch Romain Dillet

French startup Snips has been working on voice assistant technology that respects your privacy. And the company is going to use its own voice assistant for a set of consumer devices. As part of this consumer push, the company is also announcing an initial coin offering.

Yes, it sounds a bit like Snips is playing a game of buzzword bingo. Anyone can currently download the open source Snips SDK and play with it with a Raspberry Pi, a microphone and a speaker. It’s private by design, you can even make it work without any internet connection. Companies can partner with Snips to embed a voice assistant in their own devices too.

But Snips is adding a B2C element to its business. This time, the company is going to compete directly with Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers. You’ll be able to buy the Snips AIR Base and Snips AIR Satellites.

The base will be a good old smart speaker, while satellites will be tiny portable speakers that you can put in all your rooms. The company plans to launch those devices in 18 months.

[gallery ids="1646039,1646040,1646041,1646042,1646043,1646044"]

By default, Snips devices will come with basic skills to control your smart home devices, get the weather, control music, timers, alarms, calendars and reminders. Unlike the Amazon Echo or Google Home, voice commands won’t be sent to Google’s or Amazon’s servers.

Developers will be able to create skills and publish them on a marketplace. That marketplace will run on a new blockchain — the AIR blockchain.

And that’s where the ICO comes along. The marketplace will accept AIR tokens to buy more skills. You’ll also be able to generate training data for voice commands using AIR tokens. To be honest, I’m not sure why good old credit card transactions weren’t enough. But I guess that’s a good way to raise money.

Gadgets – TechCrunch Steve O'Hear

Klevio, a smart home startup out of the U.K., is officially launching its first product: a smart intercom system that lets you control your front door lock via an iOS and Android app on your phone and remotely.

Dubbed “Klevio One,” the device is designed to be retrofitted to existing electric strike-enabled locks, and also interfaces with intercom systems found on the communal doors of apartment blocks. This, say its makers, means that it is better suited to flats than smart locks already on the market.

In a call with Klevio co-founder and CEO Aleš Špetič, he explained that the approach the London-based company has taken is different to smart locks that typically use a motor to turn the lock and require tearing out and replacing your existing lock. In contrast, if you already have an electric strike as part of your lock — which a lot of apartments do — the Klevio One can simply be wired to interface with it. If you don’t, a Klevio installer can fit one to your existing lock for you.

This major upside of this approach is that Klevio isn’t re-inventing the whole wheel, but taking years old, tried and tested electric strike technology, and simply adding smart connectivity to it.

It means the Klevio One works with multiple doors and there’s no need to modify the communal area of apartment buildings when installing it, since the device is located within an individual apartment. You can also still use your old physical keys as a backup, and the company says the use of Klevio won’t be obvious to anyone outside the building.

And as you’d expect, the Klevio system is cloud-connected so that you can control your lock remotely, and issue virtual and one-time use keys. It comes in a WiFi only version, and a subscription version with added 4G.

The startup’s back story is noteworthy, too. The Klevio’s original concept and eureka moment came at Onefinestay, the ‘upscale Airbnb’ acquired by Accor in 2016. After the exit, Onefinestay co-founder Demetrios Zoppos teamed up with CubeSensors’ Aleš Špetič and Marko Mrdjenovič to start the new company, including purchasing the needed patents from Onefinestay.

In addition, Onefinestay co-founder Greg Marsh is an investor in Klevio, alongside LocalGlobe’s partner Robin Klein (who I’m told has invested in a personal capacity). To date Klevio has raised £1.2 million in funding.

Meanwhile, Špetič tells me that prior to today’s wider launch — where it can be ordered via the Klevio website — the Klevio One has been piloted with 1,000 users across London.

Gadgets – TechCrunch Mike Butcher

Excited to announce that this year’s The Europas Unconference & Awards is shaping up! Our half day Unconference kicks off on 3 July, 2018 at The Brewery in the heart of London’s “Tech City” area, followed by our startup awards dinner and fantastic party and celebration of European startups!

The event is run in partnership with TechCrunch, the official media partner. Attendees, nominees and winners will get deep discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.
The Europas Awards are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. But key to the daytime is all the speakers and invited guests. There’s no “off-limits speaker room” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs and speakers.

What exactly is an Unconference? We’re dispensing with the lectures and going straight to the deep-dives, where you’ll get a front row seat with Europe’s leading investors, founders and thought leaders to discuss and debate the most urgent issues, challenges and opportunities. Up close and personal! And, crucially, a few feet away from handing over a business card. The Unconference is focused into zones including AI, Fintech, Mobility, Startups, Society, and Enterprise and Crypto / Blockchain.

We’ve confirmed 10 new speakers including:


Eileen Burbidge, Passion Capital


Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp


Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures


Sitar Teli, Connect Ventures


Nancy Fechnay, Blockchain Technologist + Angel


George McDonaugh, KR1


Candice Lo, Blossom Capital


Scott Sage, Crane Venture Partners


Andrei Brasoveanu, Accel


Tina Baker, Jag Shaw Baker

How To Get Your Ticket For FREE

We’d love for you to ask your friends to join us at The Europas – and we’ve got a special way to thank you for sharing.

Your friend will enjoy a 15% discount off the price of their ticket with your code, and you’ll get 15% off the price of YOUR ticket.

That’s right, we will refund you 15% off the cost of your ticket automatically when your friend purchases a Europas ticket.

So you can grab tickets here.

Vote for your Favourite Startups

Public Voting is still humming along. Please remember to vote for your favourite startups!

Awards by category:

Hottest Media/Entertainment Startup

Hottest E-commerce/Retail Startup

Hottest Education Startup

Hottest Startup Accelerator

Hottest Marketing/AdTech Startup

Hottest Games Startup

Hottest Mobile Startup

Hottest FinTech Startup

Hottest Enterprise, SaaS or B2B Startup

Hottest Hardware Startup

Hottest Platform Economy / Marketplace

Hottest Health Startup

Hottest Cyber Security Startup

Hottest Travel Startup

Hottest Internet of Things Startup

Hottest Technology Innovation

Hottest FashionTech Startup

Hottest Tech For Good

Hottest A.I. Startup

Fastest Rising Startup Of The Year

Hottest GreenTech Startup of The Year

Hottest Startup Founders

Hottest CEO of the Year

Best Angel/Seed Investor of the Year

Hottest VC Investor of the Year

Hottest Blockchain/Crypto Startup Founder(s)

Hottest Blockchain Protocol Project

Hottest Blockchain DApp

Hottest Corporate Blockchain Project

Hottest Blockchain Investor

Hottest Blockchain ICO (Europe)

Hottest Financial Crypto Project

Hottest Blockchain for Good Project

Hottest Blockchain Identity Project

Hall Of Fame Award – Awarded to a long-term player in Europe

The Europas Grand Prix Award (to be decided from winners)

The Awards celebrates the most forward thinking and innovative tech & blockchain startups across over some 30+ categories.

Startups can apply for an award or be nominated by anyone, including our judges. It is free to enter or be nominated.

What is The Europas?

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with 1,000 of the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the Speakers

• Key Founders and investors speaking; featured attendees invited to just network

• Expert speeches, discussions, and Q&A directly from the main stage

• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players on vertical topics

• The opportunity to meet almost everyone in those small groups, super-charging your networking

• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters

• A parallel Founders-only track geared towards fund-raising and hyper-networking

• A stunning awards dinner and party which honors both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene

• All on one day to maximise your time in London. And it’s PROBABLY sunny!

europas8

That’s just the beginning. There’s more to come…

europas13

Interested in sponsoring the Europas or hosting a table at the awards? Or purchasing a table for 10 or 12 guest or a half table for 5 guests? Get in touch with:
Petra Johansson
Petra@theeuropas.com
Phone: +44 (0) 20 3239 9325

Gadgets – TechCrunch Devin Coldewey

Hardware isn’t easy — especially if you decline to take advantage of the global manufacturing infrastructure, build everything in a flat in London, and use only local labor and materials. But that’s what the creators of successful Kickstarter project Moon did, and they have no regrets.

Back in 2016, I got a pitch for the Moon, an accurate replica of our satellite around which a set of LEDs rotated, illuminating the face in perfect time with the actual phase. A cool idea, though for some reason or another I didn’t cover it, instead asking Alex du Prees, one of the creators, to hit me back later to talk about the challenges of crowdfunded, home-brewed hardware.

The project was a success, raising £145,393 — well over the £25,000 goal — and Alex and I chatted late last year while the team was wrapping up production and starting on a second run, which in fact they just recently wrapped up as well.

It’s an interesting case study of a crowdfunded hardware project, not least because the Moon team made the unusual choice to keep everything local: from the resin casting of the moon itself to the chassis and electronics.

[gallery ids="1622869,1622870,1622871,1622872"]

“At the time we wanted to make sure that we made them correctly, and that we didn’t spend a lot of our energy and money prototyping with a factory,” du Preez said. “We’ve seen a lot of Kickstarter campaigns go straight to China, to some manufacturing facility, and we were afraid we’d lose a lot of the quality of the product if we did that.”

The chief benefit, in addition to the good feeling they got by sourcing everything from no further than the next town over, was the ability to talk directly to these people and explain or work through problems in person.

“We can just get on a train and go visit them,” du Preez said. “For instance, there’s a bent pipe which is the arm of the device — even that part alone, we worked with a pipe-bending company and went out there like three times to have conversations with the guy.”

Of course, they weren’t helpless themselves; the three people behind the project are designers and engineers that have helped launch crowdfunding campaigns before, though this one was the first they had done on their own.

“I think Oscar [Lhermitte, who led the project] probably worked two and a half or three years on this, from ideation all the way to manufacturing,” said du Preez. “He had this idea and he contacted NASA and asked for this topographical data to make the map. He came to us because he wanted some technical and engineering input.”

The decision to do it all in the UK wasn’t made any easier by the fact that it was a demanding piece of hardware, the team’s standards were high, and despite being a great success, $200,000 or so still isn’t a lot with which to build a unique, high-precision electronic device from scratch.

The whole operation was run out of a small apartment in London, and the team had to improvise quite a bit.

[gallery ids="1622874,1622867,1622865,1622873,1622877"]

“We had this tiny little room the size of a kitchen we were producing these things out of,” du Preez recalled. “It wasn’t like a warehouse. And we were on the second floor — we’d get a delivery of like, a ton of metal, and we’d have to spend half a day hauling it up, then boxes would arrive and it would fill up the whole studio.”

They resisted the urge to get something off the shelf or ready-made from Shenzhen, choosing instead to rely on their own ingenuity (and that of nearby, puzzlingly specific artisans) to solve problems.

“One of the trickiest parts was that every single part is made with a different process,” he said. “If you want to make a piece of electronics in a plastic case,” for example a security camera or cheap Android phone, “it’s a lot quicker to develop and execute.”

Obviously the most important part to get right is the globe of the moon itself — and no one had ever made something quite like this before, so they had to figure out how to do it themselves.

“It’s quite large, so we can’t cast it in one solid piece,” du Preez explained. “It would be too heavy to ship. And it sinks — the material moves too much. So what you do is you make a mold, like a negative of the moon, and you pour the liquid inside it. And while the liquid is setting, you rotate it around, to make sure the inner surface is being coated by resin while it’s drying.”

In order to do this for their prototyping stage, they jury-rigged a solution from “wood, bicycle parts, and I think a sewing machine engine,” he said. “We had to put that together on the spot to keep costs down. We kind of replicated what we knew was already out there to test our materials and concepts. We knew if we could make this work, we just had to build or find a better one.”

As luck would have it, they did find someone — right up the tracks.

“We found this guy in Birmingham who basically has an industrial version of this, he makes molds and he has this big metal cage rotating around all day,” du Preez said. “The quality of his work is amazing.” And, of course, it’s just a short train trip away — relative to a trip to Guangzhuo, anyway.

Attention to detail, especially regarding the globe, led to delays in shipping the Moon; they ended up about four months late.

Late arrivals are of course to be expected when it comes to Kickstarter projects, but du Preez said that the response of backers, both friendly and unfriendly, surprised him.

[gallery ids="1622896,1622892,1622895,1622893,1622894"]

“It seemed quite binary. We had 541 backers, and I’d say only two were really pissed off about not having their moon, and they were irate. I mean they were fuming,” he said.

“But no one really got publicly angry with us. They’d just check in. Once they email you and you give them a response, they seem to be very understanding. As long as we kept the momentum going, people were okay with it.”

That said, four months late isn’t really that late. There are projects that have raised far more than Moon and were years late or never even shipped (full disclosure, I’ve backed a couple!). Du Preez offered some advice to would-be crowdfunders who want to keep the good will of their backers.

“It’s really important to understand your pricing, who’s going to manufacture it, all the way down to shipping. If you have no game plan for after Kickstarter you’re going to be in a tricky situation,” he said. “We had a bill of materials and priced everything out before we went to Kickstarter. And you need some kind of proof of concept to show that the product works. There are so many great hardware development platforms out there that I think that’s quite easy to do now.”

Their attention to detail and obvious pride in their work has resulted in a lasting business, du Preez told me; the company has attracted attention from Adam Savage, Mark Hamill, and MOMA, while a second run of 250 has just completed and the team is looking into other projects along these lines.

You can track the team’s projects or order your own unit (though you may wish you’d gotten the early bird discount) over at the dedicated Moon website.

Gadgets – TechCrunch Devin Coldewey

All of us grew up around tech different from what we have today, and many of us look back on those devices with fondness. But can you recall the exact sound your first Casio keyboard made, or the cadence of a rotary phone’s clicks? Conserve the Sound aims to, well, conserve the sound of gadgets like these so that future generations will know what it sounded like to put a cartridge in the NES.

It’s actually quite an old project at this point, having been funded first in 2013, but its collection has grown to a considerable size. The money came from German art institution Film & Medienstiftung NRW; the site was created (and is maintained) by creative house Chunderksen.

The whole thing is suitably minimal, much like an actual museum: You find objects either by browsing randomly or by finding a corresponding tag, and are presented with some straightforward imagery and a player loaded with the carefully captured sound of the device being operated.

Though the items themselves are banal, listening to these sounds of a bygone age is strangely addictive. They trigger memories or curiosity — was my Nintendo that squeaky? Didn’t my rotary phone click more? What kind was it anyway? I wonder if they have my old boombox… oh! A View-Master!

The collection has grown over the years and continues to grow; it now includes interviews with experts in various subjects on the importance of saving these sounds. You can even submit your own, if you like. “We welcome suggestions in general, sound suggestions, stories, anecdotes and of course collaborations,” write the creators.

I for one would love to revisit all the different modems and sounds I grew up using: 2400, 9600, 14.4, 28.8, all the way up to 56.6. Not exactly pleasant noises, admittedly, but I anticipate they will bring back a flood of memories, Proust-style, of BBSes, hours-long download times and pirated screen savers.

Gadgets – TechCrunch Romain Dillet

Lego Mindstorms have paved the way for many programmable toys. And Austrian startup Robo Wunderkind is building a new kind of Lego-like programmable kit. The startup first launched on the TechCrunch Disrupt stage and just raised $1.2 million (€1 million) from SOSV, Austrian Federal Promotional Bank and multiple business angels.

Compared to many programmable toys out there, Robo Wunderkind is still a Lego-like building kit. This is key as too many toys forget that it’s fun to build something with a few bricks.

Robo Wunderkind also has special blocks to turn your dumb robot into a connected one. In addition to the usual sensors, such as proximity sensors, motion detectors and light sensors, the company also has some more sophisticated ones. You can put a tiny camera in your construction, use an IR blaster and receiver and program a tiny LED screen.

But the best part is that Robo Wunderkind also sells Lego adapters so that you can put together a sophisticated robot that uses both Lego bricks and Robo Wunderkind modules.

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The company has two different apps in the store. The first one called Robo Live lets you control your robot in real time. The other one Robo Code has a brand new user interface and now detects the blocks you’re currently using.

Robo Code is where Robo Wunderkind shines because you can put together simple algorithms by arranging virtual blocks in the iPad app. It’s a good way to introduce a kid to conditional statements and loops.

You won’t build a robot as sophisticated as a robot built using Lego Mindstorms. But Robo Wunderkind seems more accessible and good way to try robotics before switching to Arduino and Raspberry Pi when your kid grows up.

The company successfully raised a little less than $250,000 on Kickstarter back in 2015. You can now buy a starter kit for $250. Advanced and professional kits will also be available soon.