Google is buying Fossil’s smartwatch tech for $40 million

Rumors about a Pixel Watch have abounded for years. Such a device would certainly make sense as Google attempts to prove the viability of its struggling wearable operating system, Wear OS. Seems the company is finally getting serious about the prospect. Today Fossil announced plans to sell its smartwatch IP to the software giant for for $40 million.

Sounds like Google will be getting a nice head start here as well. The deal pertains to “a smartwatch technology currently under development” and involves the transfer of a number of Fossil employees to team Google.

“Wearables, built for wellness, simplicity, personalization and helpfulness, have the opportunity to improve lives by bringing users the information and insights they need quickly, at a glance,” Wear OS VP Stacey Burr said in a statement. “The addition of Fossil Group’s technology and team to Google demonstrates our commitment to the wearables industry by enabling a diverse portfolio of smartwatches and supporting the ever-evolving needs of the vitality-seeking, on-the-go consumer.”

Like the Pixel before it, a Google -created smartwatch could ultimately serve as a proving group for the company’s open operating system. Wearables in general have struggled recently, and Wear OS is certainly not an exception. A rebrand and redesign haven’t done much to shake loose the cobwebs. In fact, Fossil has remained a rare constant, developing reasonably priced, fitness-focused products sporting the software.

The smartwatch category continues to be dominated by Apple’s offerings, and top competitors Fitbit and Samsung have opted to go different routes, supporting the Pebble-based Fitbit OS and Tizen, respectively. All of this has left Google struggling to differentiate itself and its partners’ offerings. Fossil’s team certainly has the know how to build solid watch hardware, so this could prove a solid match.

Fossil is quick to note, of course, that it’s still got a team of 200 working on R&D, and while the company is no doubt losing some quality employees, it’s still committed to wearable tech.

“Fossil Group has experienced significant success in its wearables business by focusing on product design and development informed by our strong understanding of consumers’ needs and style preferences,” Fossil EVP Greg McKelvey said in a statement. “We’ve built and advanced a technology that has the potential to improve upon our existing platform of smartwatches. Together with Google, our innovation partner, we’ll continue to unlock growth in wearables.”

From the outside, at least, this looks to be a similar (albeit much smaller scale) deal to the one Google struck with HTC to help bolster its smartphone offerings.

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These are all the federal HTTPS domains that’ll expire soon because of the US government shutdown

We like to think of ourselves as nerds here at TechCrunch, which is why we’re bring you this.

During the government shutdown, security experts noticed several federal websites were throwing back browser errors because the TLS certificate, which lights up your browser with “HTTPS” or flashes a padlock, on many domains had expired. And because so many federal workers have been sent home on unpaid leave — or worse, working without pay but trying to fill in for most of their furloughed department — expired certificates aren’t getting renewed. Renewing certificates doesn’t take much time or effort — sometimes just a click of a mouse. But some do cost money, and during a government shutdown there isn’t any.

Depending on the security level, most websites will kick back browser errors. Some won’t let you in at all until the expired certificate is renewed.

We got thinking: how many of the major departments and agencies are at risk? We looked at the list of government domains (not including subdomains) from 18F, the government’s digital services unit, which updated the list just before the shutdown. Then we filtered out all the state domains, leaving just the domains of all federal agencies and the executive branch. We put all of those domains through a Python script that pulls information from the TLS certificate of each domain and returns its expiry value. Running that for a few hours in a bash script, we returned with a few thousand results.

In other words, we poked every certificate to see if it had expired — and, if not, when it would stop working.

Why does it matter? Above all else, it’s an inconvenience. Depending on how long this shutdown lasts, it won’t take long before some of the big federal sites might start throwing errors and locking users out. That could also affect third-party sites and apps that rely on those federal sites for data, such as through a developer API.

Security, however, is less of a factor, despite claims to the contrary. Eric Mill, a security expert who recently left 18F, the government’s digital agency, said that fears over expired certificates have been overblown.

“The security risk to users is actually very low, since trusting a recently expired cert doesn’t in and of itself allow traffic to be intercepted,” he said in a recent tweet. Mill also noted that there’s little automation across the agencies, leading to certificates expiring and eventual downtime — especially when sites and departments are understaffed, especially given that each federal agency and department is responsible for their own website.

There’s a silver lining. Any website that’s hosted on, or won’t go down as they rely on Let’s Encrypt certificates that automatically renew every three months.

We’ve compiled the following list of domains that have and will expire during the period of the shutdown, from December 22 onwards — while removing dead links and defunct domains that no longer load. Some domains redirect to other domains that might have a certificate that expires next year, but the first domain will still fail on its expiry date.

Remember, if you see a domain that’s working past its expiry, check the certificate and it’s likely been renewed. If you see any errors, feel free to drop me an email.

In all, we’ve counted five expired federal domains already, 13 domains will expire by the end of the month, and another 58 domains that’ll expire by the end of February.


Expiring in January:

Federal domains that will expire by mid-February

Federal domains that will expire by the end of February

All information was accurate as of January 17.

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Researchers ran a simulator to teach this robot dog to roll over

Advanced robots are expensive, and teaching them can be incredibly time consuming. With the proper simulation, however, roboticists can train their machines to learn quickly. A team from the Robotic Systems Lab in Zurich, Switzerland have demonstrated as much in a new paper.

The research outlines how training a neutral a neural network using simulation taught the Boston Dynamics-esque ANYmal robot how to perform some impressive feats, including the ability to roll over, as a method for recovering from a fall.

Using the simulation, researchers were able to train more than 2,000 computerized version of the quadrupedal robot simultaneously in real time. Doing so made it possible for researchers to examine different methods in order to determine the best way to execute certain tasks.

Once collected, those learnings can then be transferred to the robot. As Popular Science notes, this is all similar to to the ways in which many company test and refine self-driving systems.

“Using policies trained in simulation,” the team writes in the paper, “the quadrupedal machine achieves locomotion skills that go beyond what had been achieved with prior methods: ANYmal is capable of precisely and energy-efficiently following high-level body velocity commands, running faster than before, and recovering from falling even in complex configurations.”

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Dreaming of Mars, the startup Relativity Space gets its first launch site on Earth

3D-printing the first rocket on Mars.

That’s the goal Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone set for themselves when they founded Los Angeles-based Relativity Space in 2015.

At the time they were working from a WeWork in Seattle, during the darkest winter in Seattle history, where Ellis was wrapping up a stint at Blue Origin . The two had met in college at USC in their jet propulsion lab. Noone had gone on to take a job at SpaceX and Ellis at Blue Origin, but the two remained in touch and had an idea for building rockets quickly and cheaply — with the vision that they wanted to eventually build these rockets on Mars.

Now, more than $35 million dollars later, the company has been awarded a multi-year contract to build and operate its own rocket launch facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

That contract, awarded by The 45th Space Wing of the Air Force, is the first direct agreement the U.S. Air Force has completed with a venture-backed orbital launch company that wasn’t also being subsidized by billionaire owner-operators.

By comparison, Relativity’s neighbors at Cape Canaveral are Blue Origin (which Jeff Bezos has been financing by reportedly selling $1 billion in shares of Amazon stock since 2017); SpaceX (which has raised roughly $2.5 billion since its founding and initial capitalization by Elon Musk); and United Launch Alliance, the joint venture between the defense contracting giants Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing Defense.

Like the other launch sites at Cape Canaveral, Launch Complex 16, where Relativity expects to be launching its first rockets by 2020, has a storied history in the U.S. space and missile defense program. It was used for Titan missile launches, the Apollo and Gemini programs and Pershing missile launches.

From the site, Relativity will be able to launch its first designed rocket, the Terran 1, which is the only fully 3D-printed rocket in the world.

That rocket can carry a maximum payload of 1,250 kilograms to a low earth orbit of 185 kilometers above the Earth. Its nominal payload is 900 kilograms of a Sun-synchronous orbit 500 kilometers out, and it has a 700 kilogram high-altitude payload capacity to 1,200 kilometers in Sun-synchronous orbit. Relativity prices its dedicated missions at $10 million, and $11,000 per kilogram to achieve Sun-synchronous orbit.

If the company’s two founders are right, then all of this launch work Relativity is doing is just a prelude to what the company considers to be its real mission — the advancement of manufacturing rockets quickly and at scale as a test run for building out manufacturing capacity on Mars.

“Rockets are the business model now,” Ellis told me last year at the company’s offices at the time, a few hundred feet from SpaceX. “That’s why we created the printing tech. Rockets are the largest, lightest-weight, highest-cost item that you can make.”

It’s also a way for the company to prove out its technology. “It benefits the long-term mission,” Ellis continued. “Our vision is to create the intelligent automated factory on Mars… We want to help them to iterate and scale the society there.”

Ellis and Noone make some pretty remarkable claims about the proprietary 3D printer they’ve built and housed in their Inglewood offices. Called “Stargate,” the printer is the largest of its kind in the world and aims to go from raw materials to a flight-ready vehicle in just 60 days. The company claims that the speed with which it can manufacture new rockets should pare down launch timelines by somewhere between two and four years.

Another factor accelerating Relativity’s race to market is a long-term contract the company signed last year with NASA for access to testing facilities at the agency’s Stennis Space Center on the Mississippi-Louisiana border. It’s there, deep in the Mississippi delta swampland, that Relativity plans to develop and quality control as many as 36 complete rockets per year on its 25-acre space.

All of this activity helps the company in another segment of its business: licensing and selling the manufacturing technology it has developed.

“The 3D factory and automation is the other product, but really that’s a change in emphasis,” says Ellis. “It’s always been the case that we’re developing our own metal 3D printing technology. Not only can we make rockets. If the long-term mission is 3D printing on Mars, we should think of the factory as its own product tool.”

Not everyone agrees. At least one investor I talked to said that in many cases, the cost of 3D printing certain basic parts outweighs the benefits that printing provides.

Still, Relativity is undaunted.

But first, the company — and its competitors at Blue Origin, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and the hundreds of other companies working on launching rockets into space again — need to get there. For Relativity, the Canaveral deal is one giant step for the company, and one great leap toward its ultimate goal.

“This is a giant step toward being a launch company,” says Ellis. “And it’s aligned with the long-term vision of one day printing on Mars.”

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OrCam’s MyMe uses facial recognition to remember everyone you meet

Meet the Orcam MyMe, a tiny device that you clip on your T-shirt to help you remember faces. The OrCam MyMe features a small smartphone-like camera and a proprietary facial-recognition algorithm so that you can associate names with faces. It can be a useful device at business conferences, or to learn more about how you spend a typical day.

This isn’t OrCam’s first device. The company has been selling the MyEye for a few years. It’s a wearable device for visually impaired people that you clip to your glasses. Thanks to its camera and speaker, you can point your finger at some text and get some audio version of the test near your ear. It can also tell you if there’s somebody familiar in front of you.

OrCam is expanding beyond this market with a mass market product. It features the same technological foundation, but with a different use case. OrCam’s secret sauce is that it can handle face recognition and optical character recognition on a tiny device with a small battery — images are not processed in the cloud.

It’s also important to note that the OrCam MyMe doesn’t record video or audio. When the device detects a face, it creates a signature and tries to match it with existing signatures. While it’s not a spy camera, it still feels a bit awkward when you realize that there’s a camera pointed at you.

When there’s someone in front of you, the device sends a notification to your phone and smart watch. You can then enter the name of this person on your phone so that the next notification shows the name of the person you’re talking with.

If somebody gives you a business card, you can also hold it in front of you. The device then automatically matches the face with the information on the business card.

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After that, you can tag people in different categories. For instance, you can create a tag for family members, another one for colleagues and another one for friends.

The app shows you insightful graphs representing your work-life balance over the past few weeks and months. If you want to quantify everything in your life, this could be an effective way of knowing that you should spend more time with your family for instance.

While the device isn’t available just yet, the company already sold hundreds of early units on Kickstarter. Eventually, OrCam wants to create a community of enthusiasts and figure out new use cases.

I saw the device at CES last week and it’s much smaller than you’d think based on photos. You don’t notice it unless you’re looking for the device. It’s not as intrusive as Google Glass for instance. You can optionally use a magnet if the clip doesn’t work with what you’re wearing.

OrCam expects to ship the MyMe in January 2020 for $399. It’s an impressive little device, but the company also faces one challenge — I’m not sure everyone feels comfortable about always-on facial recognition just yet.

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