GBatteries let you charge your car as quickly as visiting the pump

A YC startup called GBatteries has come out of stealth with a bold claim: they can recharge an electric car as quickly as it takes to full up a tank of gas.

Created by aerospace engineer Kostya Khomutov, electrical engineers Alex Tkachenko and Nick Sherstyuk, and CCO Tim Sherstyuk, the company is funded by the likes of Airbus Ventures, Initialized Capital, Plug and Play, and SV Angel.

The system uses AI to optimize the charging systems in electric cars.

“Most companies are focused on developing new chemistries or materials (ex. Enevate, Storedot) to improve charging speed of batteries. Developing new materials is difficult, and scaling up production to the needs of automotive companies requires billions of $,” said Khomutov. “Our technology is a combination of software algorithms (AI) and electronics, that works with off-the-shelf Li-ion batteries that have already been validated, tested, and produced by battery manufacturers. Nothing else needs to change.”

The team makes some bold claims. The product allows users to charge a 60kWh EV battery pack with 119 miles of range in 15 minutes as compared to 15 miles in 15 minutes today. “The technology works with off-the-shelf lithium ion batteries and existing fast charge infrastructure by integrating via a patented self-contained adapter on a car charge port,” writes the team. They demonstrated their product at CES this year.

Most charging systems depend on fairly primitive systems for topping up batteries. Various factors – including temperature – can slow down or stop a charge. GBatteries manages this by setting a very specific charging model that “slows down” and “speeds up” the charge as necessary. This allows the charge to go much faster under the right conditions.

The company bloomed out of frustration.

“We’ve always tinkered with stuff together since before I was even a teenager, and over time had created a burgeoning hardware lab in our basement,” said Sherstyuk. “While I was studying Chemistry at Carleton University in Ottawa, we’d often debate and discuss why batteries in our phones got so bad so rapidly – you’d buy a phone, and a year later it would almost be unusable because the battery degraded so badly.”

“This sparked us to see if we can solve the problem by somehow extending the cycle life of batteries and achieve better performance, so that we’d have something that lasts. We spent a few weeks in our basement lab wiring together a simple control system along with an algorithm to charge a few battery cells, and after 6 months of testing and iterations we started seeing a noticeable difference between batteries charged conventionally, and ones using our algorithm. A year and a half later of constant iterations and development, we applied and were accepted in 2014 into YC.”

While it’s not clear when this technology will hit commercial vehicles, it could be the breakthrough we all need to start replacing our gas cars with something a little more environmentally-friendly.

Flexit lets you pay for gym time on demand

A new company called Flexit lets you pay for gym time by the minute, allowing you to walk into a nearby gym when you’re traveling, for example, and slam out thirty minutes of sweet glute action before dinner. The service is like Uber for gyms in that you only pay for the time you are inside the gym and you don’t need to pay monthly fees or a flat rate per visit.

Created by Michael Rojas, the co-CEO of Iron Grip Barbell Company, the service already has 400 gyms in the United States and plans to expand over the next year. They’ve raised $750,000 in notes.

The company launched today.

“FlexIt’s corporate team has superior industry reach, best-in-class technology and a concept unlike that of its competition,” said CEO Austin Cohen. “FlexIt’s corporate team has deep industry experience in fitness sales and marketing, fitness club ownership, and early-stage venture and venture capital aspects of the business. It’s relationships with C-level leaders at the largest gym chains in the country provide FlexIt with industry insights and access to best position it for success. These relationships have resulted in FlexIt having on-boarded a meaningful club base at a faster rate than any of the competition.”

The fact that Rojas has been selling barbells to gyms for 26 years definitely helped them scale up and the company has gyms in New York, DC, New Jersey, and Illinois as well as three other markets. They are launching an eighth market in two weeks.

Rojas has found that most modern gyms are amenable to the idea and they’re offering everything from classes to personal training via the app. Because it is paid by the minute they also get interesting new data that traditional gym membership plans don’t offer.

“Consumers seek more choice and control over how, when and where they consume, FlexIt is the logical solution to this pain point in the fitness space,” he said.

New Apple voice phishing scam looks just like a real support call

A new voice phishing scam is going after iPhone users with in a clever new way: by making calls seem like they are coming directly from Apple Support.

Brian Krebs reported today that a user, Jody Westby, got a call from Apple Support asking for her to call back. The contact information that came along with the number appeared to be Apple Inc.’s in the identity screen for the call. When she called the 866 number, however, something was clearly amiss.

KrebsOnSecurity called the number that the scam message asked Westby to contact (866-277-7794). An automated system answered and said I’d reached Apple Support, and that my expected wait time was about one minute and thirty seconds. About a minute later, a man with an Indian accent answered and inquired as to the reason for my call.

Playing the part of someone who had received the scam call, I told him I’d been alerted about a breach at Apple and that I needed to call this number. After asking me to hold for a brief moment, our call was disconnected.

No doubt this is just another scheme to separate the unwary from their personal and financial details, and to extract some kind of payment (for supposed tech support services or some such). But it is remarkable that Apple’s own devices (or AT&T, which sold her the phone) can’t tell the difference between a call from Apple and someone trying to spoof Apple.

The exploit is unique because it allows callers to masquerade as other callers essentially by polluting search results with junk information that makes one number look like the contact number for a real company. The number Westby was told to call is a known phishing source. Remember: if anyone calls you claiming that your computer is broken they are most probably lying. After all, support people will never be proactive when it comes to problems with your computers, only reactive (if that).

Engineers can now reverse-engineer 3D models

A system that uses a technique called constructive solid geometry (CSG) is allowing MIT researchers to deconstruct objects and turn them into 3D models, thereby allowing them to reverse-engineer complex things.

The system appeared in a paper entitled “InverseCSG: Automatic Conversion of 3D Models to CSG Trees” by Tao Du, Jeevana Priya Inala, Yewen Pu, Andrew Spielberg, Adriana Schulz, Daniela Rus, Armando Solar-Lezama, and Wojciech Matusik.

“At a high level, the problem is reverse engineering a triangle mesh into a simple tree. Ideally, if you want to customize an object, it would be best to have access to the original shapes — what their dimensions are and how they’re combined. But once you combine everything into a triangle mesh, you have nothing but a list of triangles to work with, and that information is lost,” said Tao Du to 3DPrintingIndustry. “Once we recover the metadata, it’s easier for other people to modify designs.”

The process cuts objects into simple solids that can then be added together to create complex objects. Because 3D scanning is imperfect, the creation of mesh models of various objects rarely leads to a perfect copy of the original. Using this technique, individual parts are cut away, analyzed and reassembled, allowing for a more precise scan.

“Further, we demonstrated the robustness of our algorithm by solving examples not describable by our grammar. Finally, since our method returns parameterized CSG programs, it provides a powerful means for end-users to edit and understand the structure of 3D meshes,” said Du.

The system detects primitive shapes and then modifies them. This allows it to recreate almost any object with far better accuracy than in previous versions of the software. It’s a surprisingly cool way to begin hacking hardware in order to understand it’s shape, volume and stability.

3D printed gun activist Cody Wilson indicted for sexual assault

The State of Texas has indicted Cody Wilson, a 3D printed gun rights activist who fought to allow makers post and print guns, of sexual assault after he had sex with a 17-year-old girl he met on a site called SugarDaddyMeet.com. The indictment, posted on Ars, notes that he faces “four counts of sexual assault of a child, two charges of indecency with a child by contact, and two charges of indecency with a child by exposure.”

The charges are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. His company, DefenseDistributed, has dumped him as founder. The affidavit on the crime said Wilson used the name Sanjuro on the site and that he paid the 17-year-old $500 for sex.

Wilson is out on $150,000 bond and not yet in jail. He rose to prominence for supporting 3D printed guns as far back as 2013, causing a panic that reduced interest in the 3D printing industry and led to a court decision in July that found 3D printed gun plans to be legal.

MIT researchers are now 3D printing glass

While the thought of a machine that can squirt out endless ropes of molten glass is a bit frightening, the folks at MIT have just about perfected the process. In a paper published in 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing, researchers Chikara Inamura, Michael Stern, Daniel Lizardo, Peter Houk, and Neri Oxman describe a system for 3D printing glass that offers far more control over the hot material and the final product.

Their system, called G3DP2, “is a new AM platform for molten glass that combines digitally integrated three-zone thermal control system with four-axis motion control system, introducing industrial-scale production capabilities with enhanced production rate and reliability while ensuring product accuracy and repeatability, all previously unattainable for glass.”

The system uses a closed, heated box that holds the melted glass and another thermally controlled box where it prints the object. A moveable plate drops the object lower and lower as it is being printed and the print head moves above it. The system is interesting because it actually produces clear glass structures that can be used for decoration or building. The researchers take special care to control the glass extrusion system to ensure that it cools down and crystallizes without injecting impurities or structural problems.

“In the future, combining the advantages of this AM technology with the multitude of unique material properties of glass such as transparency, strength, and chemical stability, we may start to see new archetypes of multifunctional building blocks,” wrote the creators.

Put down your phone if you want to innovate

We are living in an interstitial period. In the early 1980s we entered an era of desktop computing that culminated in the dot-com crash – a financial bubble that we bolstered with Y2K consulting fees and hardware expenditures alongside irrational exuberance over Pets.com . That last interstitial era, an era during which computers got smaller, weirder, thinner, and more powerful, ushered us, after a long period of boredom, into the mobile era in which we now exist. If you want to help innovate in the next decade, it’s time to admit that phones, like desktop PCs before them, are a dead end.

We create and then brush up against the edges of our creation every decade. The speed at which we improve – but not innovate – is increasing and so the difference between a 2007 iPhone and a modern Pixel 3 is incredible. But what can the Pixel do that the original iPhone or Android phones can’t? Not much.

We are limited by the use cases afforded by our current technology. In 1903, a bike was a bike and could not fly. Until the Wright Brothers and others turned forward mechanical motion into lift were we able to lift off. In 2019 a phone is a phone and cannot truly interact with us as long as it remains a separate part of our bodies. Until someone looks beyond these limitations will we be able to take flight.

While I won’t posit on the future of mobile tech I will note that until we put our phones away and look at the world anew we will do nothing of note. We can take better photos and FaceTime each other but until we see the limitations of these technologies we will be unable to see a world outside of them.

We’re heading into a new year (and a new CES) and we can expect more of the same. It is safe and comfortable to remain in the screen-hand-eye nexus, creating VR devices that are essentially phones slapped to our faces and big computers that now masquerade as TVs. What, however, is the next step? Where do these devices go? How do they change? How to user interfaces compress and morph? Until we actively think about this we will remain stuck.

Perhaps you are. You’d better hurry. If this period ends as swiftly and decisively as the other ones before it, the opportunity available will be limited at best. Why hasn’t VR taken off? Because it is still on the fringes, being explored by people stuck in mobile thinking. Why is machine learning and AI so slow? Because the use cases are aimed at chatbots and better customer interaction. Until we start looking beyond the black mirror (see what I did?) of our phones innovation will fail.

Every app launched, every pictured scrolled, every tap, every hunched-over moment davening to some dumb Facebook improvement, is a brick in bulwark against an unexpected and better future. So put your phone down this year and build something. Soon it might be too late.

This wristband detects an opiate overdose

A project by students at Carnegie Mellon could save lives. Called the HopeBand, the wristband senses low blood oxygen levels and sends a text message and sounds an alarm if danger is imminent.

“Imagine having a friend who is always watching for signs of overdose; someone who understands your usage pattern and knows when to contact [someone] for help and make sure you get help,” student Rashmi Kalkunte told IEEE. “That’s what the HopeBand is designed to do.”

The team won third place in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Opioid Challenge at the Health 2.0 conference in September and they are planning to send the band to a needle exchange program in Pittsburgh. They hope to sell it for less than $20.

Given the more than 72,000 overdose deaths in America this year a device like this could definitely keep folks a little safer.

See you in Las Vegas during CES

We will be holding a small event during CES in Las Vegas and we want to see you! We’re looking to meet some cool hardware and crypto startups, so the good folks at Work In Progress have opened up their space to us and 200 of you all to hold a meetup and pitch-off.

The event will be held at Work In Progress, 317 South 6th Street on Wednesday, January 9, 2019 between 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM PST.

There are only 200 tickets, so if you want to come please pick one up ASAP. The meetup is open to everyone, so head over if you’d like to talk tech. You can pick up a ticket here.

If you’d like to pitch at the event I’ll be picking 10 companies that will have three minutes to pitch without slides. Because this is a hardware event I recommend bringing a few of your items to show off. If you’d like to pitch, fill this out and I will contact those who will be coming up on stage.

See you in Vegas!

Researchers are putting fish into augmented reality tanks

Researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, while testing the “station keeping” functions of the glass knifefish, have created an augmented reality system that tricks the animal’s electric sensing organs in real time. The fish keeps itself hidden by moving inside of its various holes/homes and the researchers wanted to understand what kind of autonomous sensing functions it used to keep itself safe.

“What is most exciting is that this study has allowed us to explore feedback in ways that we have been dreaming about for over 10 years,” said Eric Fortune, associate professor at NJIT. “This is perhaps the first study where augmented reality has been used to probe, in real time, this fundamental process of movement-based active sensing, which nearly all animals use to perceive the environment around them.”

The fish isn’t wearing a headset but instead the researchers have simulated the motion of a refuge waving in the water.

“We’ve known for a long time that these fish will follow the position of their refuge, but more recently we discovered that they generate small movements that reminded us of the tiny movements that are seen in human eyes,” said Fortune. “That led us to devise our augmented reality system and see if we could experimentally perturb the relationship between the sensory and motor systems of these fish without completely unlinking them. Until now, this was very hard to do.”

To create their test they put a fish inside a tube and synced the motion of the tube to the fish’s eyes. As the fish swam forward and backward, the researchers would watch to see what happened when the fish could see that it was directly effecting the motion of the refuge. When they synced the refuge to the motion of the fish, they were able to confirm that the fish could tell that the experience wasn’t “real” in a natural sense. In short, the fish knew it was in a virtual environment.

“It turns out the fish behave differently when the stimulus is controlled by the individual versus when the stimulus is played back to them,” said Fortune. “This experiment demonstrates that the phenomenon that we are observing is due to feedback the fish receives from its own movement. Essentially, the animal seems to know that it is controlling the sensory world around it.”

Whether or not the fish can play Job Simulator is still unclear.

“Our hope is that researchers will conduct similar experiments to learn more about vision in humans, which could give us valuable knowledge about our own neurobiology,” said Fortune. “At the same time, because animals continue to be so much better at vision and control of movement than any artificial system that has been devised, we think that engineers could take the data we’ve published and translate that into more powerful feedback control systems.”