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Main article: Qualcomm

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Announcing the final agenda for Robotics + AI — March 3 at UC Berkeley

21:45 | 19 February

TechCrunch is returning to U.C. Berkeley on March 3 to bring together some of the most influential minds in robotics and artificial intelligence. Each year we strive to bring together a cross-section of big companies and exciting new startups, along with top researchers, VCs and thinkers.

In addition to a main stage that includes the likes of Amazon’s Tye Brady, U .C. Berkeley’s Stuart Russell, Anca Dragan of Waymo, Claire Delaunay of NVIDIA, James Kuffner of Toyota’s TRI-AD, and a surprise interview with Disney Imagineers, we’ll also be offering a more intimate Q&A stage featuring speakers from SoftBank Robotics, Samsung, Sony’s Innovation Fund, Qualcomm, NVIDIA and more.

Alongside a selection of handpicked demos, we’ll also be showcasing the winners from our first-ever pitch-off competition for early-stage robotics companies. You won’t get a better look at exciting new robotics technologies than that. Tickets for the event are still available. We’ll see you in a couple of weeks at Zellerbach Hall.

Agenda

8:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Registration Open Hours

General Attendees can pick up their badges starting at 8:30 am at Lower Sproul Plaza located in front of Zellerbach Hall. We close registration at 4:00 pm.

10:00 AM – 10:05 AM

Welcome and Introduction from Matthew Panzarino (TechCrunch) and Randy Katz (UC Berkeley)

10:05 AM – 10:25 AM

Saving Humanity from AI with Stuart Russell (UC Berkeley)

The UC Berkeley professor and AI authority argues in his acclaimed new book, “Human Compatible,” that AI will doom humanity unless technologists fundamentally reform how they build AI algorithms.

10:25 AM – 10:45 AM

Engineering for the Red Planet with Lucy Condakchian (Maxar Technologies)

Maxar Technologies has been involved with U.S. space efforts for decades, and is about to send its sixth (!) robotic arm to Mars aboard NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Lucy Condakchian is general manager of robotics at Maxar and will speak to the difficulty and exhilaration of designing robotics for use in the harsh environments of space and other planets.

10:45 AM – 11:05 AM

Automating Amazon with Tye Brady (Amazon Robotics)

Amazon Robotics’ chief technology officer will discuss how the company is using the latest in robotics and AI to optimize its massive logistics. He’ll also discuss the future of warehouse automation and how humans and robots share a work space. 

11:05 AM – 11:15 AM

Live Demo from the Stanford Robotics Club 

11:30 AM – 12:00 PM

Book signing with Stuart Russell (UC Berkeley)

Join one of the foremost experts in artificial intelligence as he signs copies of his acclaimed new book, Human Compatible.

11:35 AM – 12:05 PM

Building the Robots that Build with Daniel Blank (Toggle Industries), Tessa Lau (Dusty Robotics), Noah Ready-Campbell (Built Robotics) and Brian Ringley (Boston Dynamics)

Can robots help us build structures faster, smarter and cheaper? Built Robotics makes a self-driving excavator. Toggle is developing a new fabrication of rebar for reinforced concrete, Dusty builds robot-powered tools and longtime robotics pioneers Boston Dynamics have recently joined the construction space. We’ll talk with the founders and experts from these companies to learn how and when robots will become a part of the construction crew.

12:15 PM – 1:00 PM

Q&A: Corporate VC, Partnering and Acquisitions with Kass Dawson (SoftBank Robotics America), Carlos Kokron (Qualcomm Ventures), and Gen Tsuchikawa (Sony Innovation Fund)

Join this interactive Q&A session on the breakout stage with three of the top minds in corporate VC.

1:00 PM – 1:25 PM

Pitch-off 

Select, early-stage companies, hand-picked by TechCrunch editors, will take the stage and have five minutes to present their wares.

1:15 PM – 2:00 PM

Q&A: Founding Robotics Companies with Sebastien Boyer (FarmWise) and Noah Ready-Campbell (Built Robotics)

Your chance to ask questions of some of the most successful robotics founders on our stage

1:25 PM – 1:50 PM

Investing in Robotics and AI: Lessons from the Industry’s VCs with Dror Berman (Innovation Endeavors), Kelly Chen (DCVC) and Eric Migicovsky (Y Combinator)

Leading investors will discuss the rising tide of venture capital funding in robotics and AI. The investors bring a combination of early-stage investing and corporate venture capital expertise, sharing a fondness for the wild world of robotics and AI investing.

1:50 PM – 2:15 PM

Facilitating Human-Robot Interaction with Mike Dooley (Labrador Systems) and Clara Vu (Veo Robotics)

As robots become an ever more meaningful part of our lives, interactions with humans are increasingly inevitable. These experts will discuss the broad implications of HRI in the workplace and home.

2:15 PM – 2:40 PM

Toward a Driverless Future with Anca Dragan (UC Berkeley/Waymo), Jinnah Hosein (Aurora) and Jur van den Berg (Ike)

Autonomous driving is set to be one of the biggest categories for robotics and AI. But there are plenty of roadblocks standing in its way. Experts will discuss how we get there from here. 

2:15 PM – 3:00 PM

Q&A: Investing in Robotics Startups with Rob Coneybeer (Shasta Ventures), Jocelyn Goldfein (Zetta Venture Partners) and Aaron Jacobson (New Enterprise Associates)

Join this interactive Q&A session on the breakout stage with some of the greatest investors in robotics and AI

2:40 PM – 3:10 PM

Disney Robotics

Imagineers from Disney will present start of the art robotics built to populate its theme parks.

3:10 PM – 3:35 PM

Bringing Robots to Life with Max Bajracharya and James Kuffner (Toyota Research Institute Advanced Development)

This summer’s Tokyo Olympics will be a huge proving ground for Toyota’s TRI-AD. Executive James Kuffner and Max Bajracharya will join us to discuss the department’s plans for assistive robots and self-driving cars.

3:15 PM – 4:00 PM

Q&A: Building Robotics Platforms with Claire Delaunay (NVIDIA) and Steve Macenski (Samsung Research America)

Join this interactive Q&A session on the breakout stage with some of the greatest engineers in robotics and AI.

3:35 PM – 4:00 PM

The Next Century of Robo-Exoticism with Abigail De Kosnik (UC Berkeley), David Ewing Duncan, Ken Goldberg (UC Berkeley), and Mark Pauline (Survival Research Labs)

In 1920, Karl Capek coined the term “robot” in a play about mechanical workers organizing a rebellion to defeat their human overlords. One hundred years later, in the context of increasing inequality and xenophobia, the panelists will discuss cultural views of robots in the context of “Robo-Exoticism,” which exaggerates both negative and positive attributes and reinforces old fears, fantasies and stereotypes.

4:00 PM – 4:10 PM 

Live Demo from Somatic

4:10 PM – 4:35 PM

Opening the Black Box with Explainable AI with Trevor Darrell (UC Berkeley), Krishna Gade (Fiddler Labs) and Karen Myers (SRI International)

Machine learning and AI models can be found in nearly every aspect of society today, but their inner workings are often as much a mystery to their creators as to those who use them. UC Berkeley’s Trevor Darrell, Krishna Gade of Fiddler Labs and Karen Myers from SRI will discuss what we’re doing about it and what still needs to be done.

4:35 PM – 5:00 PM 

Cultivating Intelligence in Agricultural Robots with Lewis Anderson (Traptic), Sebastian Boyer (FarmWise) and Michael Norcia (Pyka)

The benefits of robotics in agriculture are undeniable, yet at the same time only getting started. Lewis Anderson (Traptic) and Sebastien Boyer (FarmWise) will compare notes on the rigors of developing industrial-grade robots that both pick crops and weed fields respectively, and Pyka’s Michael Norcia will discuss taking flight over those fields with an autonomous crop-spraying drone.

5:00 PM – 5:25 PM

Fostering the Next Generation of Robotics Startups with Claire Delaunay (NVIDIA), Scott Phoenix (Vicarious) and Joshua Wilson (Freedom Robotics

Robotics and AI are the future of many or most industries, but the barrier of entry is still difficult to surmount for many startups. Speakers will discuss the challenges of serving robotics startups and companies that require robotics labor, from bootstrapped startups to large scale enterprises.

5:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Unofficial After Party, (Cash Bar Only) 

Come hang out at the unofficial After Party at Tap Haus, 2518 Durant Ave, Ste C, Berkeley

Final Tickets Available

We only have so much space in Zellerbach Hall and tickets are selling out fast. Grab your General Admission Ticket right now for $350 and save 50 bucks as prices go up at the door.

Student tickets are just $50 and can be purchased here. Student tickets are limited.

Startup Exhibitor Packages are sold out!

 


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Join the Q&A with top speakers at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI (March 3)

00:00 | 19 February

Over the past four years, TechCrunch has brought together some of the biggest names in robotics: founders, CEOs, VCs and researchers for TC Sessions: Robotics+AI. The show has provided a unique opportunity to explore the future and present of robotics, AI and the automation technologies that will define our professional and personal lives.

While the panels have been curated and hosted by our editorial staff, we’ve also long been interested in providing show-goers and opportunity to engage with guests. For this reason, we introduced the Q&A stage, where some of the biggest names can more directly engage with attendees.

This year, we’ve got top names from Softbank, Samsung, Sony’s Innovation Fund, Qualcomm, NVIDIA and more joining us on the stage to answer questions. Here’s the full agenda of this year’s Q&A stage.

11:30 – 12:00 Russell Book signing
Stuart Russell

12:15 – 1:00 Corporate VC, Partnering and Acquisitions
Carlos Kocher (Qualcomm)
/> Kass Dawson (Softbank)
Gen Tsuchikawa (Sony Innovation Fund)

1:15 – 2:00 Founders
Sebastien Boyer (FarmWise)
Noah Campbell-Ready (Built Robotics)

2:15 – 3:00 VC
Jocelyn Goldfein (Zetta Venture Partners)
/> Rob Coneybeer (Shasta Ventures)
Aaron Jacobson (New Enterprise Associates)

3:15 – 4:00 Building Robotics Platforms
Steven Macenski (Samsung)
Claire Delaunay (Nvidia)

$345 General admission tickets are still on sale – book yours here and join 1000+ of today’s leading minds in the business for networking and discovery. The earlier you book the better as prices go up at the door.

Students, save big with a $50 ticket and get full access to the show. Student tickets are available to current students only. Book yours here.

 


0

Qualcomm faces fresh competition scrutiny in Europe over RFFE chips for 5G

13:35 | 6 February

Qualcomm is facing fresh antitrust scrutiny from the European Commission, with the regulator raising questions about radio frequency front-end (RFFE) chips which can be used in 5G devices.

The chipmaker has been expanding into selling RFFE chips for 5G devices, per Reuters, encouraging buyers of its 5G modems to also buy its radio frequency front-end chips, rather than buying from other vendors and integrating their hardware with its 5G modem chips.

A European Commission spokeswomen confirmed the action, telling us: “We can confirm that the Commission has sent out questionnaires, as part of a preliminary investigation into the market for radio frequency front end.”

We’ve reached out to Qualcomm for comment.

The chipmaker disclosed the activity in its 10Q investor filing — where it writes that the regulator wrote to request information in early December: “notifying us that it is investigating whether we engaged in anti-competitive behavior in the European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA) by leveraging our market position in 5G baseband processors in the RFFE space”.

Qualcomm says it’s in the process of responding to the request for information.

It’s not yet clear whether the investigation will move to a formal footing in future. “Our preliminary investigation is ongoing. We cannot comment on or predict its timing or outcome,” the EC spokeswoman told us.

“It is difficult to predict the outcome of this matter or what remedies, if any, may be imposed by the EC,” Qualcomm also writes in the investor filing, adding: “We believe that our business practices do not violate the EU competition rules.”

If a violation is found it also warns investors that the EC has the power to impose a fine of up to 10% of its annual revenues, and could also issue injunctive relief that prohibits or restricts certain business practices.

The preliminary probe of Qualcomm’s 5G modem business is by no means the first antitrust action the chip giant has faced in Europe.

Last summer Europe’s competition commission fined Qualcomm close to $270M — following a long-running antitrust investigation into whether it used predatory pricing when selling UMTS baseband chips, with the regulator concluding Qualcomm had used predatory pricing to force a competitor out of the market.

Two years ago the Commission also fined the chipmaker a full $1.23BN in another antitrust case related to its dominance in LTE chipsets for smartphones, and specifically related to its relationship with iPhone maker, Apple.

In both cases Qualcomm is appealing the decisions.

It is also battling a major competition case on its home turf: In 2017 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed charges against Qualcomm — accusing it of using anticompetitive tactics in an attempt to maintain a monopoly in its chip business.

Last year a US court sided with the FTC, agreeing the chip giant had violated antitrust law — and warning that such behavior would likely continue, given Qualcomm’s key role in making modems for next-gen 5G cellular tech. But, again, Qualcomm has appealed — and the legal process is continuing, with a decision on the appeal possible this year.

Its investor filing notes it was granted a motion to expedite the appeal against the FTC in July — with a hearing scheduled for February 13, 2020.

Most recently, in August, the chipmaker won a partial stay against an earlier court decision that had required it to grant patent licenses to rivals and end its practice of requiring its chip customers sign a patent license before purchasing chips.

“We will continue to vigorously defend ourself in the foregoing matters. However, litigation and investigations are inherently uncertain, and we face difficulties in evaluating or estimating likely outcomes or ranges of possible loss in antitrust and trade regulation investigations in particular,” Qualcomm adds.

 


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Five reasons you (really) don’t want to miss TechCrunch’s AI and Robotics show on March 3

00:00 | 29 January

TechCrunch’s fourth Robotics and AI show is coming up on March 3 at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. If past experience is any guide, the show is sure to draw a big crowd (cheap student rates here!) but there’s still time to grab a pass. If you’re wondering why you want to take a day out to catch a full day of interviews and audience Q&A with the world’s top robotics and AI experts, read on.  

It’s the software / AI,  stupid. So said (in so many words) the legendary surgical robotics founder Dr. Frederic Moll at Disrupt SF last year. And this year’s agenda captures that reality from many angles. UC Berkeley’s Stuart Russell will discuss his provocative book on AI – Human Compatible, and the deeply important topic of AI ‘explainability’ will be front and center with SRI’s Karen Myers, Fiddler Labs’ Krishna Gade and UC Berkeley’s Trevor Darrell. Then there is the business of developing and sustaining robots, whether at startups, which is where Freedom Robotics’ Joshua Wilson comes in, or at large enterprises, with Vicarious’ D. Scott Phoenix

Robotics founders have more fun. That’s why we have a panel of the three top founders in agricultural robotics as well as another three on construction robotics and two on human assistive robotics, plus a pitch competition featuring five additional founders, each carefully chosen from a large pool of applicants. We’ll also bring a few of those founders back for a separate audience Q&A. Meet tomorrow’s big names in robotics today!

Big companies do robots too. No one knows that better Amazon’s top roboticist, Tye Brady, who already presides over 100,000 warehouse robots. The editors are eager to hear what’s next in Amazon’s ambitious automation plans. Toyota’s robotics’ focus is mobility,  and Toyota Research Institute’s TRI-AD CEO James Kuffner and TRI VP of Robotics Max Bajracharya will discuss projects they plan to roll out at the Tokyo Olympics.  And if that’s not enough, Maxar Technologies’ Lucy Condakchian will show off Maxar’s robotic arm that will travel to Mars aboard the fifth Mars Rover mission later this year. 

Robotics VCs are chill (once you get to know them). We will have three check writers on stage for the big talk about where they see the best investments emerging –  Eric Migicovsky (Y Combinator), Kelly Chen (DCVC) and Dror Berman (Innovation Endeavors) plus two separate audience Q&A sessions, one with notable robotics / AI VCs, Rob Coneybeer (Shasta) and  Aaron Jacobson (NEA) and a second with corporate VCs Quinn Li (Qualcomm) and
Kass Dawson (Softbank).

Network, recruit, repeat. Last year there were 1500 attendees at this show, and they were the cream of the robotics world – founders, investors, technologists, executives and engineering students. Expect nothing less this year. TechCrunch’s CrunchMatch mobile app makes meeting folks super easy, plus the event is in UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall – a sunny happy place that naturally spins up great conversations. Don’t miss out.

Our Early Bird Ticket sale ends this Friday – book your tickets today and save $150 before prices increase. Students can book a super-discounted ticket for just $50 right here.

 


0

Zinier raises $90M to automate filed service management

16:07 | 15 January

Zinier, a startup that is bringing automation to the field service management realm, announced today that it has raised $90 million in fresh funding as it looks to tackle new categories and court more clients.

The San Francisco-based startup said its $90 million Series C financing round was led by ICONIQ Capital and saw participation from Tiger Global Management, and existing investors Accel, Founders Fund, Qualcomm Ventures, Nokia-backed NGP Capital, and France-based Newfund Capital.

The new financing round pushed the five year-old startup’s total raise to $120 million, and valued it above $500 million, one of its investors told TechCrunch. Zinier co-founder and chief executive Arka Dhar declined to comment on the valuation.

Zinier is helping the electricity and telecom industries automate their field services, a job that has typically innovated slowly and relied on legacy systems and manual processes, Dhar told TechCrunch in an interview.

“Field service means everything that happens from work of origination, their scheduling and dispatching, matching the right person with the right task at the right location, and at the end, verifying the task. It’s a complex, manual and disparate system. It typically sees 20% of our client’s expenses. We are optimizing these processes with AI to help these clients become more efficient and save money,” said Dhar.

Dhar declined to reveal the names of Zinier’s clients, but said some of the biggest players in the electricity and telecoms businesses work with the startup. 40% of the startup’s clients today are based in the U.S., 40% is in Latin America, and the rest is in Asia Pacific.

More to follow…

 


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US patents hit record 333,530 granted in 2019; IBM, Samsung (not the FAANGs) lead the pack

14:57 | 14 January

We may have moved on from a nearly-daily cycle of news involving tech giants sparring in courts over intellectual property infringement, but patents continue to be a major cornerstone of how companies and people measure their progress and create moats around the work that they have done in hopes of building that into profitable enterprises in the future. IFI Claims, a company that tracks patent activity in the US, released its annual tally of IP work today underscoring that theme: it noted that 2019 saw a new high-watermark of 333,530 patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The figures are notable for a few reasons. One is that this is the most patents ever granted in a single year; and the second that this represents a 15% jump on a year before. The high overall number speaks to the enduring interest in safeguarding IP, while the 15% jump has to do with the fact that patent numbers actually dipped last year (down 3.5%) while the number that were filed and still in application form (not granted) was bigger than ever. If we can draw something from that, it might be that filers and the USPTO were both taking a little more time to file and process, not a reduction in the use of patents altogether.

But patents do not tell the whole story in another very important regard.

Namely, the world’s most valuable, and most high profile tech companies are not always the ones that rank the highest in patents filed.

Consider the so-called FAANG group, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google: Facebook is at number-36 (one of the fastest movers but still not top 10) with 989 patents; Apple is at number-seven with 2,490 patents; Amazon is at number-nine with 2,427 patents; Netflix doesn’t make the top 50 at all; and the Android, search and advertising behemoth Google is merely at slot 15 with 2,102 patents (and no special mention for growth).

Indeed, the fact that one of the oldest tech companies, IBM, is also the biggest patent filer almost seems ironic in that regard.

As with previous years — the last 27, to be exact — IBM has continued to hold on to the top spot for patents granted, with 9,262 in total for the year. Samsung Electronics, at 6,469, is a distant second.

These numbers, again, don’t tell the whole story: IFI Claims notes that Samsung ranks number-one when you consider all active patent “families”, which might get filed across a number of divisions (for example a Samsung Electronics subsidiary filing separately) and count the overall number of patents to date (versus those filed this year). In this regard, Samsung stands at 76,638, with IBM the distant number-two at 37,304 patent families.

Part of this can be explained when you consider their businesses: Samsung makes a huge range of consumer and enterprise products. IBM, on the other hand, essentially moved out of the consumer electronics market years ago and these days mostly focuses on enterprise and B2B and far less hardware. That means a much smaller priority placed on that kind of R&D, and subsequent range of families.

Two other areas that are worth tracking are biggest movers and technology trends.

In the first of these, it’s very interesting to see a car company rising to the top. Kia jumped 58 places and is now at number-41 (921 patents) — notable when you think about how cars are the next “hardware” and that we are entering a pretty exciting phase of connected vehicles, self-driving and alternative energy to propel them.

Others rounding out fastest-growing were Hewlett Packard Enterprise, up 28 places to number-48 (794 patents); Facebook, up 22 places to number-36 (989 patents); Micron Technology, up nine places to number-25 (1,268), Huawei, up six places to number-10 (2,418), BOE Technology, up four places to number-13 (2,177), and Microsoft, up three places to number-4 (3,081 patents).

In terms of technology trends, IFI looks over a period of five years, where there is now a strong current of medical and biotechnology innovation running through the list right now, with hybrid plant creation topping the list of trending technology, followed by CRISPR gene-editing technology, and then medicinal preparations (led by cancer therapies). “Tech” in the computer processor sense only starts at number-four with dashboards and other car-related tech; with quantum computing, 3-D printing and flying vehicle tech all also featuring.

Indeed, if you have wondered if we are in a fallow period of innovation in mobile, internet and straight computer technology… look no further than this list to prove out that thought.

Unsurprisingly, US companies account for 49% of U.S. patents granted in 2019 up from 46 percent a year before. Japan accounts for 16% to be the second-largest, with South Korea at 7% (Samsung carrying a big part of that, I’m guessing), and China passing Germany to be at number-four with 5%.

  1. International Business Machines Corp 9262
  2. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd 6469
  3. Canon Inc 3548
  4. Microsoft Technology Licensing LLC 3081
  5. Intel Corp 3020
  6. LG Electronics Inc 2805
  7. Apple Inc 2490
  8. Ford Global Technologies LLC 2468
  9. Amazon Technologies Inc 2427
  10. Huawei Technologies Co Ltd 2418
  11. Qualcomm Inc 2348
  12. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co TSMC Ltd 2331
  13. BOE Technology Group Co Ltd 2177
  14. Sony Corp 2142
  15. Google LLC 2102
  16. Toyota Motor Corp 2034
  17. Samsung Display Co Ltd 1946
  18. General Electric Co 1818
  19. Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson AB 1607
  20. Hyundai Motor Co 1504
  21. Panasonic Intellectual Property Management Co Ltd 1387
  22. Boeing Co 1383
  23. Seiko Epson Corp 1345
  24. GM Global Technology Operations LLC 1285
  25. Micron Technology Inc 1268
  26. United Technologies Corp 1252
  27. Mitsubishi Electric Corp 1244
  28. Toshiba Corp 1170
  29. AT&T Intellectual Property I LP 1158
  30. Robert Bosch GmbH 1107
  31. Honda Motor Co Ltd 1080
  32. Denso Corp 1052
  33. Cisco Technology Inc 1050
  34. Halliburton Energy Services Inc 1020
  35. Fujitsu Ltd 1008
  36. Facebook Inc 989
  37. Ricoh Co Ltd 980
  38. Koninklijke Philips NV 973
  39. EMC IP Holding Co LLC 926
  40. NEC Corp 923
  41. Kia Motors Corp 921
  42. Texas Instruments Inc 894
  43. LG Display Co Ltd 865
  44. Oracle International Corp 847
  45. Murata Manufacturing Co Ltd 842
  46. Sharp Corp 819
  47. SK Hynix Inc 798
  48. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Development LP 794
  49. Fujifilm Corp 791
  50. LG Chem Ltd 791

 


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Have we hit peak smartphone?

23:02 | 13 January

Last Halloween, we broke down some “good news” from a Canalys report: the smartphone industry saw one-percent year-over-year growth — not exactly the sort of thing that sparks strong consumer confidence.

In short, 2019 sucked for smartphones, as did the year before. After what was nearly an ascendant decade, sales petered off globally with few exceptions. Honestly, there’s no need to cherrypick this stuff; the numbers this year have been lackluster at best for a majority of companies in a majority of markets.

For just the most recent example, let’s turn to a report from Gartner that dropped late last month. The numbers focus specifically on the third quarter, but they’re pretty indicative of what we’ve been seeing from the industry of late, with a 0.4 percent drop in sales. It’s a fairly consistent story, quarter after quarter for a couple of years now.

 


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Qualcomm promises better voice calls over Bluetooth with aptX Voice

22:30 | 6 January

Chances are, you phone and carrier now support HD voice quality for those few times you still make a call. Those calls sound significantly better than regular calls, but if you’re using a Bluetooth headset to make those calls, you don’t get any of the benefits of HD voice because those devices don’t support that codec. Now, with aptX Voice, an evolution of its existing aptX codec, Qualcomm wants to bring high-quality calls to your Bluetooth devices, too.

With aptX Voice, devices will get 32kHz samples audio with a flat 16kHz frequency response quality as part of the Bluetooth Handsfree Profile that accessories use to connect to your phone. That makes for greater call quality, even when somebody is using a speakerphone or talking quietly.

“aptX technology revolutionized the Bluetooth stereo listening experience by bringing unprecedented wireless audio quality, and aptX Voice is set to do the same for voice calls,” said James Chapman, the vice president and general manager for Voice, Music and Wearables at Qualcomm . “As consumers increasingly use wireless headsets and earbuds for making and receiving calls, aptX Voice is the answer to ensuring higher clarity and quality of call experience.”

AptX Voice is now available on the Snapdragon 865 and 765 mobile platforms and will become available for accessories based on Qualcomm’s upcoming range of Bluetooth Audio SoC that will launch in 2020. Until then, you’ll just have to speak a little bit louder.

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

 


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Qualcomm launches a car-to-cloud service for over-the-air updates and telemetrics

22:30 | 6 January

Qualcomm today announced its Car-to-Cloud service, which does exactly what the name implies: it helps car companies connect their cars to their clouds. It’s the companies first product that integrates its automotive cockpit platform and Snapdragon automotive platforms with 4G and 5G support.

The platform will help automakers keep their cars up to date and allow them to update their infotainment platforms over the air. In addition, they can also use the service to gather vehicle and usage analytics, which Qualcomm argues will allow them to unlock new revenue streams as it allows carmakers to market pay-as-you-go services and unlockable features to their drivers.

As car ownership is changing, so are the drivers’ expectations. Having an updatable infotainment system is pretty standard on new cars these days, but those updates usually happen over WiFi (or at the dealership). Qualcomm argues that this service helps to make cars future proof and will lead to faster deployment timeframes for updates, as well as more cost-efficient operations. It also notes that this technology will provide for new connected services and better on-demand services for car sharing as Car as a Service companies.

For drivers, it’ll lead to more personalized experiences, which today are normal in the high-end market but only slowly trickling down to more affordable cars. But Qualcomm is definitely also pushing the fact that this will allow car companies to sell bundled content, apps and services to drivers, creating new revenue streams for them.

“The Qualcomm Car-to-CloudService, when combined with our Snapdragon Automotive 4G and 5G Platforms, and our Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit Platforms, empowers automakers and tier-1 suppliers to address new expectations of the modern and discerning car owner who is used to flexible and continuously updating technologies, while also unlocking new features capabilities over the course of a vehicle’s lifetime,” said Nakul Duggal, senior vice president, product management, Qualcomm Technologies.

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

 


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Niantic is working with Qualcomm on augmented reality glasses

01:25 | 6 December

We’ve known for a while that Pokémon GO creator Niantic feels a bit limited in what it can do with augmented reality today.

Between the latency limitations of 4G cellular networks and the need for players to wave a smartphone around to do anything in AR, the tech just isn’t where Niantic wants it to be. As I wrote in a profile of Niantic back in April, the company has been focusing a ton of its efforts on what’s possible as things like 5G and AR glasses become more readily available. Niantic CEO John Hanke is betting on AR glasses being the thing after smartphones.

It makes sense, then, that Niantic is working with Qualcomm to build 5G-ready AR glasses.

Early this morning, Qualcomm announced XR2, a new chipset platform built specifically to power augmented reality and virtual reality devices.

Shortly thereafter, Niantic CTO Phil Keslin took the stage to announce that they’ve joined Qualcomm in a “multi-year collaboration” on this project.

So what does that actually mean?

Immediately, not a ton. You’re not going to be booting up Pokémon GO on a pair of Qualcomm/Niantic AR glasses this Christmas.

Moving forward, though, it means that Niantic will be working with Qualcomm to flesh out the reference hardware for augmented reality glasses, helping them figure out exactly what it needs to do.

Meanwhile, Niantic will be tuning its Real World Platform (the architecture that powers all of its existing games, and which they’re slowly opening up to third parties) to make it play friendly with XR2. Niantic has quietly been designing any architecture its built over the last few years to ultimately be compatible with AR glasses — now they’re committing to compatibility with a specific chip, making things a bit more real. Once the tech is ready, says Keslin, it’ll all be rolled into the Real World Platform and made available to anyone in the Niantic Creator Program (which the company says should launch sometime in 2020.)

Qualcomm is a pretty solid company to partner with, here; they’re by no means strangers to the world of AR. They’ve been working on chips purpose-built for AR/VR for well over a year now, beginning with the introduction of the XR1 platform back in May of last year. They were amongst the first to really go deep on building a development platform for augmented reality with the launch of Vuforia… though they sold that project off in 2015 to focus on chips like these.

 


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