I’ve been tearing my gadgets apart for as long as I can remember. Consoles, phones, printers, whatever — I’ve always needed to see what makes it all work. Sometimes they even work when I put them back together.
As soon as Google announced that the new Pixel 4 had friggin’ radar built-in for detecting hand gestures, I needed to see under the hood. While I haven’t picked up a Pixel 4 yet, our friends over at iFixit busted out the heat guns and did what they do best, tearing the Pixel 4 XL down to parts and uncovering the Project Soli radar chip along the way.
Image Source: iFixit
That board you’re looking at contains a good amount of stuff beyond the Soli chip — it’s also where you’ll find the earpiece speaker and the ambient light sensor, for example. The Soli chip seems to be that little greenish box in the upper-right area.
Alas, there’s… not a ton to learn just from looking at it. Google has spent the last few years working on this, and they’ve ended up with something that’s honestly a bit wild. With no moving parts, and without line of sight, these chips are able to do things like detect when people are near the device (and how many), whether they’re standing or sitting, how they’re moving their hands and more. As iFixit so succinctly puts it, “TL;DR: magic rectangle knows your every move.”
For anyone looking to tear apart the Pixel 4 XL themselves, be it to make repairs or just out of curiosity, make sure you know what you’re getting into. iFixit gives the device a relatively paltry 4 out of 10 on its repairability score, citing easily breakable pull tabs and particularly strong adhesives as obstacles along the way. You can find their full teardown here.
Image Source: iFixit
Rhino was founded in 2017 with the goal of getting back to renters the billions of dollars that are locked up in cash security deposits, all while protecting landlords and their property. As it stands now, landlords usually take one month’s rent to cover any damage that might be done to the apartment during the lease. This is piled on top of first and sometimes last month’s rent, and even at times a broker’s fee of one month’s rent, which adds up to an incredibly steep cost of moving.
Because of certain regulations, this money is held in an individual escrow account and can’t really generate interest, which results in billions of dollars zapped out of the economy and instead sitting dead in some account.
Rhino is looking to give renters the option to pay a small monthly fee (as low as $ 3) to cover an insurance policy for the landlord. Rhino is itself a managing general agent, allowing the company to both sell and create policy plans for landlords through partnerships with carriers.
Thus far the startup has saved renters upwards of $ 60 million in 2019, with users in more than 300,000 rental units across the country.
“The greatest challenge is working against legacy and industry norms,” said Rhino CEO and co-founder Paraag Sarva. “That start has begun, but there is a huge amount of inertia behind the status quo and that is far and away what we are most challenged by day in and day out.”
To help speed up the process, Rhino is working alongside policymakers to enact change on a federal level.
Alongside the funding announcement, the company is announcing its new policy proposal that was created in collaboration with federal, state and local government officials. The policy essentially allows for renters to be given a choice when it comes to cash deposits, including allowing residents to cover security deposits in installments or use insurtech products like Rhino to cover deposits.
Rhino says it will be sharing the policy proposal with 2020 presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle.
Rhino is one of a handful of companies that has been incubated by Kairos, a startup studio led by Ankur Jain with the goal of solving the biggest problems faced by everyday Americans. The studio focuses on housing and healthcare, with companies such as Rhino, June Homes, Little Spoon, Cera and a couple of startups still in stealth.
Fredrik Thomassen as a consultant used to have the resources to offload the annoying project tasks — like making PowerPoint presentations — but now that it’s gone, he and his team wanted to make that available for everyone.
Now the startup, called Konsus, wants to turn that around even faster. Konsus is a design marketplace where companies can quickly post design projects that they need for various parts of their jobs, like presentations, and designers can pick up those jobs and submit their work back — a task that could take up a lot of unnecessary time for an employee that might be better spent working on other parts of their job. Konsus said it is compressing that even further by now looking to provide a 12-hour turnaround for those companies. The company launched out of Y Combinator in 2016.
“[Employees] want to be valuable and spend time on core tasks,” Thomassen said. “The average knowledge worker, depending on various specifics, spends around 40 percent of that time on non-core tasks that should be outsourced. That’s the 40 percent we’re going after, and people quite readily understand it. Some companies have in-house design agencies and so on, and they are 3 or 4 times as expensive as we are, and they typically want to work on these larger or more grand projects and don’t want to work on the small projects that range from 10 hours to 15 hours. Most of the projects we do are these small, nominal projects that people would have had to do themselves.”
Konsus hires account managers and project managers handling the relationships with the customers to ensure that they’re getting the quality they need when they are posting projects like PowerPoint presentations onto the site. But Thomassen also said there are plenty of examples of those firms finding designers and contractors that they’ve decided to bring on full-time, and he’s fine with the startup being seen as a springboard for contractors that want to polish their skills for working with western clients — and even end up with a full-time job after that. A lot of the designers are coming in from eastern Europe, southeast Asia and other parts of the world that aren’t necessarily on the radar of these western firms.
Like many other modern services and marketplaces, Konsus hopes to come in at the bottom of a company and work its way up. One person or a team from a larger corporation will discover it, start using it and then eventually the startup might track that firm down and start talking about a custom team and dedicated emails. Then the outsourcers working for that firm goes through a background check, signs confidentiality agreements and goes through training on corporate branding material. Konsus’ revenue comes partly from subscriptions and people pre-paying to get a team, and the other half a pay-as-you-go model where firms get a rate and Konsus takes a commission.
“If you look at [big consulting firms], they have a similar solution as we have, and you can get support for all kinds of services — data entry, PowerPoint, various graphic design tasks — that make life much, much easier,” Thomassen said. “You go home from work and then you get it back in the morning, it becomes part of your workflow. That’s what we wanted to build for everyone else. Freelancers come to us from all corners of the world, they apply on our website, and we have our own recruiter work with them. We get around 5,000 to 10,000 people who apply, and we accept 10-20 depending on how many we need. The bar is extremely high.”
Of course, given that these are the kinds of tasks that firms might outsource without such a platform, Konsus has to potentially deal with larger consulting firms like Accenture, and there are plenty of startups looking to create an online labor marketplace that might not be targeting design just yet. But as those platforms start to put together a lot of potential customers, they’ll likely start asking for tools like Konsus — which means the company is going to have to figure out ways to outcompete early.
The company has raised $ 1.7 million from Sam Altman, the Slack Fund, Acequia Capital, Paul Buchheit, Geoff Ralston, John Collison and Liquid2 Ventures.
Boston-based private equity shop Berkshire Partners announced this afternoon that it is acquiring Accela — a nearly 20 year old startup that sells regulatory management solutions to government clients. Accela has gone through a troika of CEOs in the last year. Previously acting CEO Mark Jung replaced Maury Blackman last October who had managed the company for about a decade. We… Read More
Enterprise – TechCrunch
The Skyscraper Art Deco Watch is a new crowdfunded piece by horologist Mark Carson and designer Richard Paige. Based on Art Deco skyscraper decoration – think the Empire State Building’s handsome arches or the swooping buttresses of Gotham city – this watch is interesting for a few reasons. First, this team has made some nice watches before. Their DouFace dual face watch… Read More
Dell is reportedly investing in wearable tech, with an eye to developing smartwatch devices, according to a report from The Guardian. Dell itself is saying that it’s looking closely at the wearable tech trend, with the aim of predicting what personal computing will look like in five years’ time. It’s a smart move sure, but also an obvious one: if there’s a computer company out there with an R&D department that isn’t at least exploring wearables, they should probably just pack it in.
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