Dishcraft launches with a massive robotics-powered dishwashing system

Bay Area-based robotics startup Dishcraft has unveiled a massive robotics and AI-powered dishwashing system. Like much of the rest of the industrial robotics industry, the company’s looking to automate a dull task with a high turnover rate, which amounts to about a month of employment on average.

It’s a beast of a system from the looks of it. Employees drop dishes off into stacks, which are then loaded into the robotic system up to 90 at a time. It uses a vision-based AI system to inspect the plates, cleaning them again if it finds any food remnants left.

It’s probably over the top for a vast majority of kitchens — and while we don’t have quote, it’s almost certainly price-prohibitive, as well. But the startup’s got an interesting pedigree — co-founded by Linda Pouliot and Paul Birkmeyer, who were also involved in the founding of Neato and Dash Robotics, respectively.

Dishcraft has also raised a decent chunk of capital, with more than $25 million in VC, led by Baseline Ventures, First Round Capital and Lemnos. Apparently some of the investors have a personal interest in automating kitchens.

“One of my first jobs was as a dishwasher, so I’ve seen first-hand how outdated and inefficient dishrooms are today and how important they are to the overall operations in a kitchen,” Baseline Ventures founder Steve Anderson said in a press release. “Dishcraft is bringing entirely new thinking, technology, and processes to tackle this problem, and it is long overdue.”

Dishcraft joins a growing number of robotics startups, including Zume and Miso Robotics, that are attempting to automate kitchens with the help of robotic arms. The company is currently selling  customized versions of the solution to kitchen, but has not publicly released pricing.

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MongoDB gets a data lake, new security features and more

MongoDB is hosting its developer conference today and unsurprisingly, the company has quite a few announcements to make. Some are straightforward, like the launch of MongoDB 4.2 with some important new security features, while others, like the launch of the company’s Atlas Data Lake, point the company beyond its core database product.

“Our new offerings radically expand the ways developers can use MongoDB to better work with data,” said Dev Ittycheria, the CEO and President of MongoDB. “We strive to help developers be more productive and remove infrastructure headaches — with additional features along with adjunct capabilities like full-text search and data lake. IDC predicts that by 2025 global data will reach 175 Zettabytes and 49% of it will reside in the public cloud. It’s our mission to give developers better ways to work with data wherever it resides, including in public and private clouds.”

The highlight of today’s set of announcements is probably the launch of MongoDB Atlas Data Lake. Atlas Data Lake allows users to query data, using the MongoDB Query Language, on AWS S3, no matter their format, including JSON, BSON, CSV, TSV, Parquet and Avro. To get started, users only need to point the service at their existing S3 buckets. They don’t have to manage servers or other infrastructure. Support for Data Lake on Google Cloud Storage and Azure Storage is in the works and will launch in the future.

Also new is Full-Text Search, which gives users access to advanced text search features based on the open-source Apache Lucene 8.

In addition, MongoDB is also now starting to bring together Realm, the mobile database product it acquired earlier this year, and the rest of its product lineup. Using the Realm brand, Mongo is merging its serverless platform, MongoDB Stitch, and Realm’s mobile database and synchronization platform. Realm’s synchronization protocol will now connect to MongoDB Atlas’ cloud database, while Realm Sync will allow developers to bring this data to their applications. 

“By combining Realm’s wildly popular mobile database and synchronization platform with the strengths of Stitch, we will eliminate a lot of work for developers by making it natural and easy to work with data at every layer of the stack, and to seamlessly move data between devices at the edge to the core backend,”  explained Eliot Horowitz, the CTO and co-founder of MongoDB.

As for the latest release of MongoDB, the highlight of the release is a set of new security features. With this release, Mongo is implementing client-side Field Level Encryption. Traditionally, database security has always relied on server-side trust. This typically leaves the data accessible to administrators, even if they don’t have client access. If an attacker breaches the server, that’s almost automatically a catastrophic event.

With this new security model, Mongo is shifting access to the client and to the local drivers. It provides multiple encryptions options and for developers to make use of this, they will use a new ‘encrypt’ JSON scheme attribute.

This ensures that all application code can generally run unmodified and even the admins won’t get access to the database or its logs and backups unless they get client access rights themselves. Since the logic resides in the drivers, the encryption is also handled totally separate from the actual database.

Other new features in MongoDB 4.2 include support for distributed transactions and the ability to manage MongoDB deployments from a single Kubernetes control plane.

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Anti-spam service Truecaller adds free voice calling feature

Truecaller, an app best known for helping users screen calls from strangers and spammers, is adding yet another feature to its service as it bolsters its super app status. The Stockholm-based firm said today that its app can now be used to place free VoIP-powered voice calls.

The company told TechCrunch on Tuesday that it has started to roll out the free voice calling feature to its Android users. It expects the rollout to reach all Android users in the coming days. The feature, which currently only supports calls between two users, will arrive on its iOS app soon.

In emerging markets such as India, where 100 million of Truecaller’s 140 million users live, free voice calls has been a long-sought after feature. Until late 2016, voice calls were fairly expensive in India, with telecom operators counting revenue from traditional calls as their biggest profit generator.

But in last two and a half years, things have changed dramatically for hundreds of millions of people in India after Reliance Jio, a telecom operator owned by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, launched its network with free voice calls and low-priced data services. Reliance Jio has already amassed over 300 million users to become one of the top three telcos in the nation.

Yet, the quality of network still leaves much to be desired in India as traditional calls drop abruptly and run into quality issues more often than one would like. Truecaller said that its voice calls rely on data services — mobile data and Wi-Fi — and claimed that they can work swiftly even on patchy network.

The addition of voice calling functionality comes as Truecaller aggressively looks to expand its business. The service, which offers both ad-support free tier and subscription bundle, has added messaging, mobile payments, and call recording features in recent years. Earlier this year, it also added a crediting option, allowing users in India to borrow a few hundred dollars.

A representative with the company said Truecaller began exploring the free voice calling feature a few months ago. It began testing the new functionality with alpha and beta test group users four weeks ago. It now plans to introduce group voice calling support soon, the company said.

With the new feature, Truecaller now competes even more closely with WhatsApp . The Facebook-owned app has become ubiquitous in India with more than three-quarters of India’s smartphone base using the app. WhatsApp added voice calling feature to its app in 2015. Last year, Facebook said users around the world were spending 2 billion minutes per day on WhatsApp video and audio calls.

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Who is this see-through alien?

Image: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)

“Who is this alien?” is Mashable’s enduring series about the exceptionally peculiar critters that inhabit a relatively small, ocean-dominated world in the outer realms of the Milky Way galaxy, called Earth. Many of these lifeforms, you’ll find, are quite alien. 

California’s Monterey Bay teems with whales and vivacious seals. But, over 1,000 feet beneath the surface, swim the little-seen “glass squids.” 

They are transparent, except for their guts, arms, and bulbous eyes. 

“They’re very alien looking,” said Stephanie Bush, a marine ecologist who closely studied these creatures while working at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). “They have different body structures than what we’re used to.” 

Two particularly curious types of see-through squids residing in the crescent-shaped bay are the genuses Taonius and Galiteuthis — both from the same squid family.

A  squid videotaped at 600 meters beneath the surface.

A  squid videotaped at 600 meters beneath the surface.

Image: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)

In the dingy, almost lightless (or even completely dark) ocean depths, the squids’ translucence is crucial. “It’s one of the common ways to hide yourself from predators in the deep, open ocean,” noted Bush, who is now an invertebrate researcher at the Smithsonian Institution.

Deep sea predators are extremely sensitive to any light that penetrates through 1,000 or 2,000 feet of water. So, if something (like a squid) swims above a predator and alters the lighting or creates a silhouette — however faint — that something will likely soon be gulped up. “The idea is you have a very limited silhouette,” said Bush. That’s also why the glass squids often hold their pair of tentacles and eight arms up in the water, as if they’re reaching for the sky — to limit their silhouette or shadow.

“They hold their arms and tentacles together in a bunch — like a cockatoo,” said Bush.  

It’s not easy to catch a glimpse of these see-through creatures. MBARI spots them using underwater robots, known as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), that dive down to the inhospitable ocean depths to observe the alien life therein

While there’s still much to grasp about these elusive deep sea lifeforms, Bush and other marine ecologists have observed a decent amount from these transparent squids. The Taonius, for example, is often found between some 1,300 and 2,620 feet beneath the surface (400 to 800 meters) in Monterey Bay, though they’ve been spotted in other oceans around the globe, too. They’re about as long as the width of a sheet of paper (8.5 or so inches). It’s unknown, however, what exactly they eat. But it’s probably “whatever they can get their tentacles and arms on,” said Bush.

An orange Galiteuthis spotted in 2001.

An orange Galiteuthis spotted in 2001.


The Taonius’ relative, the Galiteuthis, is especially unique in that the organism can inject ink into its transparent body, making it appear even darker — likely to better disguise itself from nearby predators. “They puff their body up and turn themselves into an opaque animal for a short amount of time,” explained Bush.   

In the deep, dark, eerie sea, both Taonius and Galiteuthis rely on big eyes to see through their blackened world. It’s absolutely vital for finding a meal. And a mate.

“Their eyes are huge,” said Bush. “They have to find a mate, too, or bye-bye to the species.”

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Mark Segal, the pioneer who revolutionized gay media, wants LGBTQ journalists to go local

Mark Segal is a gay pioneer, activist, and author.
Mark Segal is a gay pioneer, activist, and author.
Image: mark segal / mashable composite

Every day of Pride Month, Mashable will be sharing illuminating conversations with members of the LGBTQ community who are making history right now.

Before there was national LGBTQ media, there was Mark Segal.

Segal founded the Philadelphia Gay News — believed to be one of the earliest of its kind, an LGBTQ weekly paper — in 1976, long before most people even knew any out gay people, let alone cared about LGBTQ media. The Stonewall riots, which launched the gay rights movement, had happened just six years prior. Segal created the publication with the hopes of improving communication both within the LGBTQ community and outside of it.

Over time, Segal’s paper grew in prominence and importance. Segal believed in practicing real, serious journalism, covering communities traditionally ignored by the mainstream media. Hillary Clinton penned an op-ed in the publication as recently as 2016, marking the first time a major presidential candidate had written an op-ed for an LGBTQ newspaper. Philadelphia Gay News continues to exist today, providing value at a time when LGBTQ media can sometimes feel like it’s in a state of decline.

Segal did more than just found a weekly. He was at the Stonewall riots. He was a known LGBTQ activist as early as 1972, when he was thrown out of a televised dance competition for dancing with a male partner. After that show, Segal started to crash the sets of other televised programs, or “zap” them, as he called it. In 1973, Segal actually jumped in front of Walter Cronkite, the legendary news anchor, with a sign that read “Gays Protest CBS Prejudice.”

Later, Cronkite arranged for Segal to meet with top CBS management and discuss ways they could improve their gay coverage. One year later, Cronkite produced a whole segment on gay rights.

Segal founded both the National Gay Press Association and the National Gay Newspaper Guild, which serve LGBTQ journalists and LGBTQ newspapers, and has been inducted into the National Lesbian & Gay Journalist’s Association Hall of Fame. 

Mashable caught up with the media pioneer to talk about his record of achievement and his faith in the future.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Mashable: Tell me about your history as an activist. What are some of the moments you’ve been the most proud of?

Mark Segal: The obvious answer is being a participant at Stonewall, but for me that was the beginning of my life as a “Gay Activist.” At that time that word didn’t exist, or a salary to go with it. You did it out of passion. While many would like to make [Stonewall] my legacy, personally, my campaign against media to end LGBT invisibility is high on the list. I believe that has been a theme in my life.  

I was among those who founded Gay Liberation Front from the ashes of Stonewall [Editor’s Note: The Gay Liberation Front was formed as a gay activist group that organized marches, formed consciousness-raising groups, and published a newspaper following the Stonewall Riots]. I created a Gay Youth committee to handle issues facing LGBT youth, including a 24 hour hotline, in 1970.

Now, I’m concerned with LGBT seniors. Our first out generation, many of them cannot find affordable housing in the communities they built.  

Mashable: What issues concern you most as an LGBTQ activist? How has the political climate impacted LGBTQ activism?

MS: Andy Warhol said that everybody would be famous for 15 minutes. Social media has made that 15 tweets, or likes. With the Trump administration trying to roll back any gains our community has made, especially with trans issues, it’s time to not simply shout. We need to act.  

And like we did at Stonewall and what ACT UP did for AIDS [Editor’s note: ACT UP was an organization formed in response to the AIDS crisis that put pressure on the medical community and government to respond], we need to do again. We need to become creative with our response to bigots, bullies, and blowhards. We should be united with other communities. This battle is not just about  LGBT people, it’s about race, it’s about women’s rights, immigration rights. Social justice is not limited to one cause. 

Mashable: How did Stonewall impact you personally?

MS: It taught me to fight back and end invisibility for our community — lessons which I believe have made Philadelphia Gay News award-winning LGBT media. We believe in strong hard-hitting news and commentary.

Mashable: Since this is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, how have you seen LGBTQ media grow, decline, and grow again?

MS: Up until 1967 there was little in the way of LGBT media, mostly newsletters of the small “homosexual rights” organizations. Then, in 1967, a raid on a gay bar called the Black Cat in L.A. led to the founding of The Advocate, the first major national LGBT news publication [Editor’s note: Activists founded The Advocate after the raid inspired a groundswell of organizing]. The majority of LGBT media was born out of local activism.

It is now my hope that LGBT journalism becomes more local, local, local…. you can get national news and information from thousands of sites on the Web. We need to do original stories that we own and cannot be found elsewhere.

Mashable: Tell me about all the projects you’re currently working on.

MS: For an old man, too many.

Mashable: What are your hopes for yourself as an activist and thinker?

MS: To help my community learn that they must think big, have a big vision, and not be afraid to get into people’s faces to make it happen. That’s the spirit of Stonewall.

Read more great Pride Month stories:

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