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Archive | Innovation and Technology

Israeli Rock Star Got Bob Dylan and Silicon Valley to Dig His Tech Startup

Posted on:
April 29, 2014
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Yoni Bloch’s latest project began with a flash of inspiration in the recording studio. Bloch, an Israeli rock star and former host of the local version of “American Idol,” couldn’t come to an agreement with his band mates over who would get to play a particular solo.

“In the middle of the argument, we said, ‘You know what? Let’s just record all the solos and see what people choose,'” he says.

To make that happen, Bloch, 32, swapped his guitar for a laptop. He and his fellow musicians formed Interlude, a technology company that lets fans instantly remix songs and videos. Their startup helps musicians, directors and advertisers create interactive videos that allow Web watchers to switch between various scenes with the tap of a button.

Interlude’s best-known project is an interactive music video for “Like a Rolling Stone,” which singer Bob Dylan commissioned last year. The video lets viewers flip through 16 mock television channels, using the up and down arrows on the keyboard, where different characters are shown lip-syncing the classic Dylan hit. Fans tuned in more than 70 million times to create their own custom videos. Bloch, Interlude’s chief executive officer, told Bloomberg Television that the Dylan video contains “billions of different combinations.”

In Israel, tech entrepreneurs seem to be the new rock stars. The country has become one of the hottest startup scenes on the planet, thanks in part to recent billion-dollar acquisitions of homegrown companies, such as Google’s purchase of Waze and Rakuten’s deal for Viber. That activity has caught the eye of foreign investors, including those in Silicon Valley.

Interlude has raised about $20 million in funding from backers such as Sequoia Capital, Intel Capital and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. The startup, which has offices in Tel Aviv and New York, has filed a dozen patents, according to Bloch. He says they’re testing versions of the technology that use eye-tracking software as well as one that runs on Oculus Rift, the virtual-reality headset that Facebook is acquiring.

In addition to high-end versions of the content-creation tools targeted at professionals, Interlude has a website called Treehouse that aims to enable anyone to craft their own interactive works. Treehouse was the center of a global music video competition, where winners were featured this month at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

Beyond music, Interlude has created ads for PepsiCo, Subaru, Lincoln Motor, Shell Oil and ESPN. Interactive content helps advertisers better understand whether people are paying attention, what they click on and when they lose interest, according to the company. These attributes could also translate to other industries. Bloch says universities plan to use Interlude to create interactive classes, and real-estate agents are using it to provide virtual tours of homes.

“The time is ripe for the next evolution in how people interact with films, rather than just watching them,” Bloch says.

Bloch describes this as a “megalomaniac vision.” At least that’s one quality that rock stars and tech entrepreneurs have in common.

:: Bloomberg.com

Israel space project gets $16 million boost from casino mogul Adelson

Posted on:
April 10, 2014
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(Reuters) – SpaceIL, a nonprofit organization aiming to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon, said on Wednesday it has received a $16.4 million grant from the foundation of U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

With a budget estimated at $36 million, the Israeli scientists and engineers building the shuttle – temporarily named “Sparrow” – believe it will land on the moon by the end of 2015, a feat only the United States, Russia and China have managed so far.

SpaceIL, which is backed mainly by philanthropists, was founded to compete for Google’s LunarX Prize, unveiled in 2007. The $20 million prize will go to the first team to land a spacecraft on the moon, make it jump 500 meters and transmit images and video back to earth.

Thirty-three teams started out in the running and they are now down to 18, including competitors from the United States, Italy, Japan, Germany, Brazil, Canada, India and Chile.

SpaceIL said it aims to show that space exploration is no longer limited to global superpowers with vast space programmes. It also hopes its technological breakthroughs spur a new wave of commercial space-related industries in Israel.

“As an entrepreneur, nothing is as thrilling as supporting a group of people who have been told that their dreams cannot be realized,” Adelson said.


Israeli Startup Device Charges Phones in 30 seconds

Posted on:
April 8, 2014
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If you have a smartphone, you probably know the horrible feeling of packing up to leave the house, only to realize it is about to die.

Such a situation leaves you in a pickle. Do you risk being late for a couple minutes of precious, precious charge? Or do you resign yourself to an afternoon without email, Instagram and Candy Crush?

Enter StoreDot, an Israeli tech startup that hopes to make this exact conundrum a thing of the past. The company claims to have created a new battery pack that can fully charge your phone in a mere 30 seconds. Yes, even if you’re at 0 percent.

The pack, which premiered Monday at a Microsoft Think Next event in Tel Aviv, relies on microscopic magnets called “nanodots” to enable its game-changing charger. As you can see in the above video, the prototype attaches to a phone that is then juiced up in half a minute.

Sadly, you shouldn’t expect your own 30-second charger anytime soon. The battery pack is still in the prototype stage, and a company spokesperson says mass production won’t commence until 2016, according to TechCrunch.

In the meantime, StoreDot will face two major challenges: Figuring how to shrink the technology so that it can fit in existing smartphone designs, and how to get the cost down. As of now, it will come out to twice the price of the average phone charger, according to The Wall Street Journal.

But having raised $6.25 million to date, StoreDot is confident that “nanodots” represent a big opportunity for the future — and not just in terms of charging phones. According to the company’s website, Bioorganic Nanodots could potentially revolutionize TV displays, digital storage, batteries and bio-medical technology.

:: Huffington Post

EXCLUSIVE: 1 on 1 with CamMe

Posted on:
March 18, 2014
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Tell us about CamMe
CamMe is PointGrab‘s popular gesture based camera app which lets anyone easily take group shots or the ultimate “selfie” from a distance without even touching their iPhone or iPad. Users can take a picture even when their phone is not in hand (from up to 16 feet away) simply by raising a hand and making a fist to begin a countdown before the photo is taken.  The app recently was awarded “Most Innovative App” in the 2014 Global Mobile Awards, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and has had over 1 million downloads to date.

Approximately 600 people use CamMe every min and approximately 400 photos are taken with the app each minute. CamMe has been described as “an app that changes the way we take pictures forever. Utilizing clever hand gestures, this cool and ingenious app is for the new age of the Selfie!”

How did you come up with the idea for CamMe? Who came up with the concept?
PointGrab decided to create this app as a simple example of how gesture expands the user experience on an app that people use almost every day on their mobile devices. CamMe was developed based on the PointGrab gesture SDK (software developer kit). The idea was to enable app developers to explore using hand gesture in the mobile space and give them the opportunity to create new experiences for existing apps, as well as develop new concepts and ideas for new apps.

It seems pretty easy to use. How does it work?
CamMe lets users take great pictures from a distance without even touching the device. This means users can take fun selfies without their forearm in the picture or group shots can finally include everyone in the party. PointGrab uses the standard camera on the device together with its award winning gesture based technology and algorithm to be able to detect and analyze hand gesture and act accordingly. All the user needs to do is put the device in front of them in a distance, raise the hand, and close it to activate the camera without touching.

PointGrab’s sophisticated machine-learning algorithm for hand recognition, tracking, and motion uses the standard camera on the iPhone or iPad to detect the user’s hand. Once the user is ready to take a photo, he/she will make a fist and the camera will recognize it and then will count down and take the picture. As opposed to a timer on a regular camera, CamMe allows you to take the picture whenever you are ready. CamMe takes pictures from a distance on your terms and changes the way we take pictures using mobile devices.

Why is it, in your opinion, that Israel is such an innovative hub?
Israel is an innovative hub because people here are not afraid to be daring, think outside of the box and be creative. Because of this innovative thinking, lots of good ideas come to life. Some might not make it, but then lots of them succeed. Israel invests in technology and education to encourage people to be daring and creative. It may also be partly due to the “Israeli Chutzpa” that enables us to go our way and move forward with ideas other people will probably wont allow themselves too…

When it comes to Israel and innovation, does Size Matter?
Size does not matter. Israel is small but very creative, very innovative, and brings lots of new and exciting ideas to the world.

No more selfie arm

Posted on:
March 13, 2014
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Israeli company PointGrab has developed a gesture prompted app to eliminate the ever present problem of the selfie arm

We posted about the company winning the 2013 European Technology Innovation Award last year, and now they have come out with the CamMe app that leverages their gesture prompting technology so your camera can be set to take pictures without a selfie arm, or toying with an annoying timer.   The app was recently on CNN’s list for 20 fun and useful new mobile apps  and is a must for anyone who wants to get that perfect selfie.  Read more at PointGrab’s website.

Netanyahu to meet WhatsApp co-founder in Silicon Valley

Posted on:
February 28, 2014
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PM will also sign a “strategic cooperation” agreement with California Governor Jerry Brown to promote Israeli-California economic ties.

Last week Jewish WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum sold his company to Facebook for $19 billion; next week he is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to discuss hi-tech opportunities in Israel.

Netanyahu, traveling Sunday to Washington and a meeting with US President Barack Obama, is to go to Silicon Valley on Wednesday in an effort to promote hi-tech investments in Israel. In addition to Koum, Netanyahu is expected to meet with heads of Apple, Flextronics, Linkedin, Ebay and the Sequoia Venture Capital fund.

Netanyahu has made promoting Israeli hi-tech and turning the country into a cybersecurity hub a top priority.

“They speak a lot of Hebrew there [in Silicon Valley], I want to draw our friends back from there to Israel to invest,” Netanyahu said at the Israel Manufacturers Association’s annual event in Tel Aviv on Thursday. “It is very important for me that Israelis, and non-Israelis, will come here and see the talent we have here, the initiatives and the potential of the Israeli economy.”

In addition to meeting the Ukrainian-born Koum, Netanyahu – according to his office – will sign a “strategic cooperation” agreement with California Governor Jerry Brown to promote Israel- California economic ties.

This agreement would give Israeli companies access to iHUB, the California innovation program centered around 16 specific research clusters through state.

The iHubs, according to the California Governor’s Office, “leverage assets such as research parks, technology incubators, universities and federal laboratories to provide an innovation platform for start-up companies, economic development organizations, business groups and venture capitalists.”