Hologroup’s MR Guide makes Microsoft’s HoloLens your new tour guide

Russian startup Hologroup recently released MR Guide for HoloLens developers. The software gives anyone the ability to make a holographic tour for Microsoft’s mixed-reality headset, with no programming necessary. Currently the HoloLens hardware is available to the public only in a costly developer’s edition, but it’s already seeing useful software. MR Guide gives early adopters the tools to create experiences directly in the HoloLens’ native interface, without the need for any additional software. According to Holograph CEO Alex Yakubov: With the help of MR Guide, creating a holographic tour is no more difficult than making a PowerPoint presentation. Now, museums, showrooms,…

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Bowers & Wilkins PX Review: Beautiful sound – after I got a haircut

Bowers and Wilkins’ PX are among the best Bluetooth headphones I’ve tried in recent memory. It’s just weird it took a trip to the barber to get the best sound out of them. The PX are a $400 pair of noise cancelling headphones that launched to rave reviews for their classy looks and pristine sound. Unfortunately, my experience out of the box was not quite the same. The sound seemed to lack body, especially when noise cancelling was off, and more importantly, sound was dramatically better with it on. And then I got a haircut. It turns out my somewhat…

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Facebook, Google, and Microsoft gurus say AI will help workers, not replace them

“In general, AI will not replace jobs, but it will transform them. Ultimately, every job is going to be made more efficient by AI,” says Facebook’s Yann LeCun. Reports of the demise of human labor may be hyperbolic, if you believe the likes of LeCun, Google’s Peter Norvig, and Microsoft’s Eric Horvitz. The trio, each heads of research for the tech giants who employ them, participated in an “ask me anything” (AMA) session on Reddit earlier this week to discuss artificial intelligence. All three are members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and as such weren’t…

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Twitter users cry foul when asked to verify their identities

Some Twitter users woke up to an unpleasant surprise this morning: Upon attempting to access their Twitter accounts, they were told they were temporarily locked out of their accounts. Shortly after this, the hashtag #TwitterLockout began trending, as users began to complain of being censored or persecuted by the site. That wasn’t all of it. Upon logging in, they discovered they had lost a number of followers. Some users have speculated that the loss of follower numbers is part of a “bot purge.” Trumpers try to understand; the followers you are losing tonight are not real people. They were bots…

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Read the official FCC net neutrality repeal document and weep

The US government’s official journal, the Federal Register, today revealed the FCC’s net neutrality repeal paperwork in an “unpublished” version ahead of the unveiling of the official version set for 22 February. The document is titled “Restoring Internet Freedom.” This name, we can only guess, is meant to continue former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai’s trend of lying to the American people. It’s available at the Federal Register’s website. We’ve also republished it here: In the document you’ll find such gems as “We find the Title II classification likely has resulted, and will result, in considerable social cost, in terms of foregone investment…

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SpaceX gears up again for its first Starlink satellite launch after winds force delay

Falcon 9
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket stands ready to launch Spain’s Paz satellite and two Starlink prototype satellites at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (SpaceX via Twitter)

SpaceX is resetting the countdown to put two of its prototype Starlink broadband satellites and a Spanish radar imaging satellite into orbit on Thursday, a day after concerns about upper-level winds forced a postponement.

Wednesday’s scrub, based on data from weather balloons, came only about 10 minutes before SpaceX’s Falcon 9 was due to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

“High-altitude wind shear data shows a probable 2 percent load exceedance,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk explained in a tweet about the no-go decision. “Small, but better to be paranoid.”

The launch was rescheduled for 6:17 a.m. PT Thursday. Because the opportunity for liftoff is instantaneous, SpaceX has to have everything go right, to the second.

Assuming all systems are go, SpaceX will fire up a webcast of the proceedings about 15 minutes before launch.

Putting Hisdesat’s Paz spacecraft into orbit is the primary objective for this mission. It’s designed to follow the same orbit as Europe’s TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X radar satellites, providing high-resolution radar coverage for government and commercial applications over the next five and a half years.

But it’s the secondary objectives that are really interesting. Riding along with Paz are the first two prototypes for what’s expected to become a SpaceX constellation of thousands of satellites. The constellation, known as Starlink, is designed to provide low-cost, low-latency broadband internet service from low Earth orbit.

Musk said Starlink would provide connectivity for those “least served” by currently available networks. “If anyone is curious, the name was inspired by ‘The Fault in Our Stars,’” he said in a tweet, referring to a romantic novel written by John Green.

SpaceX’s team in Redmond, Wash., has been playing a lead role in developing the hardware and the satellite communications technology for Starlink.

When SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled the multibillion-dollar project in 2015 in Seattle, he said the revenue from the operation would be a key source of funding for SpaceX’s vision of building a city on Mars. Financial documents that leaked out to the Wall Street Journal last year suggest that Starlink is meant to be a key source of funding for SpaceX, period.

SpaceX’s Redmond office is the center for its satellite operations. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Because the satellite market is so competitive, SpaceX has said little about Starlink beyond what’s required by regulatory filings. According to those filings, the test mission involves having the satellites communicate with several of SpaceX’s ground and mobile stations, in Redmond as well as at SpaceX facilities in California and elsewhere.

SpaceX plans to start launching operational satellites next year, with an eye toward starting limited service by 2020. It has plenty of competitors in the developing market for low-Earth-orbit satellite internet access, including the OneWeb consortium, Telesat and perhaps even Boeing.

Beyond the satellite deployments, there’s one more big objective: an attempt to recover the fairing, or nose cone, that protects the Falcon 9’s payloads during ascent.

Falcon 9 fairings have typically been thrown away, but Musk figures that if they can be recovered and reused, SpaceX could save $6 million in mission costs. That represents almost 10 percent of the $62 million list price for a standard Falcon 9 launch.

For this launch, the two halves of the fairing have been equipped with attitude-control thrusters and parachutes. SpaceX has sent out a specially equipped ship, dubbed Mr. Steven, with a net that’s designed to serve as a “catcher’s mitt” for at least one of the falling pieces.

SpaceX’s first-stage boosters have typically been recovered. In fact, the booster for today’s launch previously flew last August, landed on a drone ship and was refurbished. That won’t happen this time. Because SpaceX is upgrading its Falcon 9 first stage, it has no intention of recycling the soon-to-be-outdated model.

Instead, the booster may end its career with a test aimed at seeing how it descends to the Pacific with a three-engine rocket blast to slow it down. That’s what SpaceX did last month in similar circumstances.

This report was first published at 12:15 a.m. PT Feb. 21 and has since been updated several times.

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NASA fires shuttle rocket engine to the max during test for Space Launch System

RS-25 rocket engine
Exhaust billows out from a rocket test tower at NASA’s Stennis Space Center during a test firing of an RS-25 rocket engine. (NASA via YouTube)

Like a “Spinal Tap” guitarist, NASA turned the dial up to 11 today on a souped-up rocket engine from the bygone space shuttle program.

The 260-second engine firing at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi represented the toughest test yet for hardware that’s destined to go on the Space Launch System, NASA’s heavy-lift rocket.

NASA plans to use sets of Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 rocket engines left over from the shuttle program in the main propulsion systems on the first four SLS rockets, four at a time. Fourteen of the 16 hydrogen-fueled engines were previously installed on the shuttle orbiters, which were retired in 2011 and are now on display in museums.

The recycled RS-25s have been upgraded with new seals as well as 3-D printed parts that are designed to serve as shock absorbers during the engines’ thunderous firings.

Stennis’ test firings are aimed at certifying that the upgrades work as planned, and that the engines can perform at the higher power ratings required by the SLS. Today’s test hit 113 percent of the engine’s original design thrust level, the highest mark ever achieved.

Computer modeling already had determined that the engines can reach those levels, but today’s test provided valuable ground truth — and will guide Aerojet Rocketdyne as it makes more RS-25s.

“Increased thrust requirements for the RS-25 are just one of the many changes in the SLS rocket’s performance that will facilitate our nation’s deep-space exploration goals and objectives,” Dan Adamski, RS-25 program director at Aerojet Rocketdyne, said in a news release.

The first SLS flight, known as Exploration Mission 1, aims to send an uncrewed Orion capsule to the far side of the moon and back in 2020. Astronauts are due to get on board for a similar round-the-moon odyssey in 2023.

The SLS has been controversial because of its estimated $10 billion development cost, its operational cost of roughly $1 billion per launch, and a relatively low projected flight rate of one to two launches per year.

In comparison, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk estimates the cost of creating his company’s Falcon Heavy rocket at upwards of $500 million. The list price for a Falcon Heavy launch is $90 million.

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which made its debut this month, is currently the world’s most powerful rocket in operation with 5 million pounds of liftoff thrust. But the SLS is designed to exceed that performance.

The initial version, known as SLS Block 1, aims to deliver 8.8 million pounds of liftoff thrust — more than the 7.5 million pounds that the Saturn V rocket mustered for Apollo moon shots. SLS Block 2 would turn the dial even higher, to 9.2 million pounds.

In terms of payload lift capacity, Block 1 could put 70 metric tons in low Earth orbit, and Block 2 takes that figure up to 143 tons. Falcon Heavy’s comparable lift capacity is 64 metric tons.

NASA intends to use the SLS for missions to the moon, Mars and other deep-space destinations. But the rocket’s critics say other heavy-lift launch vehicles such as the Falcon Heavy or Blue Origin’s yet-to-be-built New Glenn could be configured to do what needs to be done less expensively and more frequently.

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Seattle region invites mobility companies to pilot shared employer shuttles for commuters

King County Metro’s new pilot program paves the way for companies like Chariot to grow in Seattle. (Photo by Colin Miller)

King County Metro — which covers Seattle, Bellevue, and surrounding communities — is launching a pilot program for commuter shuttles shared by employers.

Mobility companies will be allowed to offer a micro-shuttle service for employees of two to five employers per route. Only employees of a designated consortium of employers will be allowed to use the shared shuttles. Each approved service will be permitted to operate for one year under the pilot.

Mobility companies can submit proposals to participate in the pilot through April 3. Metro plans to reach agreements with companies around mid-April.

Metro isn’t disclosing which companies have expressed interest in the pilot but Ford’s Chariot is a safe bet. The company is already operating its enterprise service in Seattle, allowing a handful of companies to ferry their employees back and forth from work in 14-seat Ford Transit Wagons. What’s novel about the King County Metro pilot is the ability for multiple employers to join together to offer commuting routes for employees. Chariot has expressed ambitious expansion plans for Seattle.

Companies like Chariot need Metro’s authorization to operate in Seattle because Washington state law defines the agency as the sole provider of public transportation in King County.

“Metro is exploring these partnerships to find new ways to connect people to transit service and provide customers with mobility options,” Metro’s General Manager Rob Gannon said in a statement. “This is the first of several steps as we build out the mobility network that our long-range plan demands.”

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2Morrow launches pain management app, as tech industry addresses opioid crisis

2Morrow’s new app-based chronic health program uses principals of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to help users manage chronic pain. (2Morrow Photo)

In 2016, more than 16,000 people died from an opioid overdose related to a prescription drug. That’s more than 46 people every day.

Much of the opioid crisis in America isn’t rooted in street drugs like heroin but in legal, prescription drugs. As the healthcare system scrambles to find new ways to treat patients without opioids, technology companies are stepping in with alternatives.

Seattle startup 2Morrow Inc. on Wednesday announced the latest tech alternative for pain relief: An app that draws on behavioral psychology to help people manage chronic pain. The app uses the same scientific foundations as 2Morrow’s smoking cessation and weight loss programs.

The app was developed by 2Morrow researchers, along with Dr. Kevin Vowles, a clinical psychologist and pain expert at the University of New Mexico. It uses the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to help patients cope with pain, an approach that has been studied extensively.

Each day, the app’s users will unlock short programs that help them manage pain and the anxieties that come along with it. The app isn’t like most of the ones we use on smartphones every day — it’s designed to engage patients through a long-term program that they engage with constantly, not something they open when they feel pain.

The program’s focus is to help users set manageable goals and learn how to live with pain instead of trying to eliminate it, which normally isn’t possible for chronic patients.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center clinical psychologist Jonathan Bricker, whose work formed the basis for 2Morrow’s smoking cessation app, described in a past interview how app staples like push notifications and gamification can keep users engaged and encourage them to stick to their treatment plan.

2Morrow says the apps’ users can expect a higher quality of life and that the app could lower “pain-related anxiety, pain-related medical visits, and number of classes of prescribed analgesics,” or pain medications.

The app isn’t a replacement for opioids, but rather a new tool in a physician’s toolbox. The CDC recently recommended chronic pain sufferers use three treatments to manage pain: Non-opioid medications, physical therapy and behavioral therapy. The app fills that behavioral therapy need without patients needing to see a counselor or therapist.

RELATED: Health Tech Podcast: Psychologists become app developers to help people kick addictions

“I think of apps as really allowing behavior science to have a renaissance,” Bricker told GeekWire on a past episode of its Health Tech podcast. “You carry a smartphone with you all the time, so here’s an opportunity to be able to reach someone with useful skills for staying motivated, for dealing with cravings, or dealing with habits that are not helpful to them.”

The app is now available to health plans, employer groups and healthcare providers to offer to their members. 2Morrow said the cost of the program would be covered by the organizations who choose to use it. It won’t be open to the general public, but the company is allowing 200 people to freely register for the program as part of its launch.

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Startup Spotlight: PeopleMaven helps you create and share personal ‘who’s who’ lists

Team PeopleMaven, from left to right: Katelyn Wattendorf, Marnee Chua, Lewis Lin, Daanish Khazi and Gerard Galvin. (PeopleMaven Photo)

For all of the times a friend asks on social media, “Can someone suggest a person for (fill in the blank) job or task?” Lewis Lin has a solution.

Last year, Lin launched PeopleMaven, a Seattle-based startup that allows users to create lists of people, linking to profiles and other mentions on sites including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

“It’s a curation tool, a collection tool, and it can mean different things for different people,” said Lin. “The biggest pain point that I’ve got is I’m running a business and trying to scale and we need help, and help can come in different forms.”

Anyone can create a publicly-accessible “who’s who” list on the site. Users cannot add to existing lists, but Lin wants to build a tool that would let people suggest additional entries. Many lists are newsy and pop-culture focused, as opposed to collating a city’s best plumbers. Some recent roundups are “2018 Winter Olympics athletes to watch,” “Amazing men who support women’s careers” and “Donald Trump sexual assault accusers.”

Lin calls himself “an avid collector of contacts” such as talented employees, real estate pros and inexpensive home renovation professionals.

The site currently is not generating revenue, and Lin said he’ll likely add advertising once he’s built up enough users.

We caught up with Lin for our Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “PeopleMaven is a new social network that helps people discover, save and share the world’s most amazing people.”

Lewis Lin, CEO and founder of PeopleMaven. (PeopleMaven Photo)

Inspiration hit us when: “We realized that as people zigzag around the Web, they constantly stumble across interesting people and experts for bucket-list projects. But we think that PeopleMaven can help solve problems that people often discover on the web. Google or LinkedIn does an awesome job of showing you what you’re looking for if you know what it is. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, there’s so much else that comes up and gets in the way. Search is not a great way to discover things. PeopleMaven empowers users to save people and organize them into lists. PeopleMaven users can then follow each others’ lists to find more amazing people.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Today we are a fully bootstrapped business. This is my third startup, and I successfully sold the first two. With PeopleMaven, I’m putting all of my experience and knowledge into building the business and perfecting our product.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our goal setting. We use the 10x principle when we set goals. We’d rather set an insanely big goal and miss, than set a realistic goal and nail it. We cannot be afraid to fail. Instead, we strive to fail fast and get better every day.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Picked a space we’re passionate about. Growing up, I loved reading a series of kid-centric biographies on Beethoven, Mozart, and Edison. I don’t remember who wrote it, but the stories seemed so magical. I’m lucky that I now work for a company that uncovers the next generation of amazing people and share their stories.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “The tech industry’s mantra is engineering, engineering, engineering. It’s important, but attending to marketing objectives is just as critical.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “We are building a new social network, so the logical pick for PeopleMaven would probably be Zuckerberg. Facebook helps the world stay connected to important people in their lives. Our goal is to help people find important people for their projects, hobbies, goals and professional pursuits. Zuckerberg is a pioneer who taught the world about the power and enjoyment of social networking online. It’d be pretty cool to have him on speed dial at the office.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “Board games! Our favorite is Grandpa Beck’s Cover Your Assets.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Alignment with our values and culture. We’re really proud of them.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Expect to hear feedback all the time. Some will be positive, and some will be negative. You have to develop the ability to listen, even when it’s difficult or you disagree. Use feedback to learn how you can get better, and take everything people say with a grain of salt. Some feedback is golden, and some is not. Listen to all of it, and then keep what helps make you and your company better.”

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