Species-identifying AI gets a boost from images snapped by citizen naturalists

Someday we’ll have an app that you can point at a weird bug or unfamiliar fern and have it spit out the genus and species. But right now computer vision systems just aren’t up to the task. To help things along, researchers have assembled hundreds of thousands of images taken by regular folks of critters in real life situations — and by studying these, our AI helpers may be able to get a handle on biodiversity.

Many computer vision algorithms have been trained on one of several large sets of images, which may have everything from people to household objects to fruits and vegetables in them. That’s great for learning a little about a lot of things, but what if you want to go deep on a specific subject or type of image? You need a special set of lots of that kind of image.

For some specialties, we have that already: FaceNet, for instance, is the standard set for learning how to recognize or replicate faces. But while computers may have trouble recognizing faces, we rarely do — while on the other hand, I can never remember the name of the birds that land on my feeder in the spring.

Fortunately, I’m not the only one with this problem, and for years the community of the iNaturalist app has been collecting pictures of common and uncommon animals for identification. And it turns out that these images are the perfect way to teach a system how to recognize plants and animals in the wild.

Could you tell the difference?

You might think that a computer could learn all it needs to from biology textbooks, field guides, and National Geographic. But when you or I take a picture of a sea lion, it looks a lot different from a professional shot: the background is different, the angle isn’t perfect, the focus is probably off, and there may even be other animals in the shot. Even a good computer vision algorithm might not see much in common between the two.

The photos taken through the iNaturalist app, however, are all of the amateur type — yet they have also been validated and identified by professionals who, far better than any computer, can recognize a species even when it’s occluded, poorly lit, or blurry.

The researchers, from Caltech, Google, Cornell, and iNaturalist itself, put together a limited subset of the more than 1.6 million images in the app’s databases, presented this week at CVPR in Salt Lake City. They decided that in order for the set to be robust, it should have lots of different angles and situations, so they searched for species that have had at least 20 different people spot them.

The resulting set of images (PDF) still has over 859,000 pictures of over 5,000 species. These they had people annotate by drawing boxes around the critter in the picture, so the computer would know what to pay attention to. A set of images was set aside for training the system, another set for testing it.

Examples of bounding boxes being put on images.

Ironically, they can tell it’s a good set because existing image recognition engines perform so poorly on it, not even reaching 70 percent first-guess accuracy. The very qualities that make the images themselves so amateurish and difficult to parse make them extremely valuable as raw data; these pictures haven’t been sanitized or set up to make it any easier for the algorithms to sort through.

Even the systems created by the researchers with the iNat2017 set didn’t fare so well. But that’s okay — finding where there’s room to improve is part of defining the problem space.

The set is expanding, as others like it do, and the researchers note that the number of species with 20 independent observations has more than doubled since they started working on the dataset. That means iNat2018, already under development, will be much larger and will likely lead to more robust recognition systems.

The team says they’re working on adding more attributes to the set so that a system will be able to report not just species, but sex, life stage, habitat notes, and other metadata. And if it fails to nail down the species, it could in the future at least make a guess at the genus or whatever taxonomic rank it’s confident about — e.g. it may not be able to tell if it’s anthopleura elegantissima or anthopleura xanthogrammica, but it’s definitely an anemone.

This is just one of many parallel efforts to improve the state of computer vision in natural environments; you can learn more about the ongoing collection and competition that leads to the iNat datasets here, and other more class-specific challenges are listed here.

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A huge spreadsheet naming ICE employees gets yanked from GitHub and Medium

A massive database of current ICE employees scraped from public LinkedIn profiles has been removed from the tech platforms hosting the data. The project was undertaken by Sam Lavigne, self-described artist, programmer and researcher in response to recent revelations around ICE’s detention practices at the southern U.S. border.

Lavigne posted the database to GitHub on Tuesday and by Wednesday the repository had been removed. The database included the name, profile photo, title and city area of every ICE employee who listed the agency as their employer on the professional networking site. A more in depth version of the data pulled all public LinkedIn data from the pool of users, including previous employment, education history and any other information those users opted to make public. The total database lists this information for 1,595 ICE employees, from the company’s CTO on down to low level workers.

The project accompanied a Medium post about the project’s aims that has since been removed by the platform:

“While I don’t have a precise idea of what should be done with this data set, I leave it here with the hope that researchers, journalists and activists will find it useful…

“I find it helpful to remember that as much as internet companies use data to spy on and exploit their users, we can at times reverse the story, and leverage those very same online platforms as a means to investigate or even undermine entrenched power structures. It’s a strange side effect of our reliance on private companies and semi-public platforms to mediate nearly all aspects of our lives.”

The data set appears to have violated GitHub and Medium guidelines against doxing. Medium’s anti-harassment policy specifically forbids doxing and defines it broadly, preventing “the aggregation of publicly available information to target, shame, blackmail, harass, intimidate, threaten, or endanger.”

Because it doesn’t include personal identifying information like home addresses, phone numbers or other non-public details, Lavigne’s project isn’t really doxing in the normal sense of the word, though that hasn’t made it less controversial.

GitHub’s own policy leading to the data’s removal is less clear, though the company told the Verge the repository was removed due to “doxxing and harassment.” The platform’s terms of service forbid uses of GitHub that “violate the privacy of any third party, such as by posting another person’s personal information without consent.” This leaves some room for interpretation, and it is not clear that data from a public-facing social media profile is “personal” under this definition. GitHub allows researchers to scrape data from external sites in order to aggregate it “only if any publications resulting from that research are open access.”

While Lavigne’s aggregation efforts were deemed off-limits by some tech platforms, they do raise compelling questions. What kinds of public data, in aggregate, run afoul of anti-harassment rules? Why can this kind of data be scraped for the purposes of targeted advertising or surveillance by law enforcement but not be collected in a user-facing way? The ICE database raised these questions and plenty more, but for some tech companies the question of hosting the data proved too provocative from the start.

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Happn takes on Tinder Places with an interactive map of missed connections

Dating app Happn, whose “missed connections” type of dating experience connects people who have crossed paths in real life, is fighting back at Tinder. Seemingly inspired by Happn’s location-based features, Tinder recently began piloting something called Tinder Places – a feature that tracks your location to match you with those people who visit your same haunts – like a favorite bar, bookshop, gym, restaurant, and more.

Of course Tinder’s move into location-based dating should worry Happn, which had built its entire dating app around the idea of matching up people who could have met in real life, but just missed doing so.

Now, Happn is challenging Tinder Places with a new feature of its own. It’s debuting an interactive map where users can discover those people they’ve crossed paths with over the past seven days.

Happn founder, French entrepreneur Didier Rappaport, dismisses the Tinder threat.

“We don’t see it as a threat at all but as a good thing,” he tells TechCrunch. “Find the people you’ve crossed paths with has always been in Happn’s DNA since the beginning….We are very flattered that Tinder wants to include the same feature in its product. However, we will never use the swipe in our product,” he says.

Rappaport believes swiping is wrong because it makes you think of the other person as a product, and that’s not Happn’s philosophy.

“We want to [give our users a chance] to interact or not with a person, to take their time to decide, to be able to move back in their timeline if suddenly they change their mind and want to have a second chance,” he notes.

To use Happn’s map, you’ll tap on a specific location you’ve visited, and are then presented with potential matches who have been there too, or within 250 meters of that spot. The map will use the same geolocation data that Happn already uses to create its timeline, but just displays it in another form.

For those who aren’t comfortable sharing their location all the time with a dating app (um, everyone?), Happn also offers an “invisibility” mode that lets people hide their location during particular parts of the day – for example, while they’re at work.

While Happn’s new feature is a nice upgrade for regular users, Tinder’s location-based features – we’re sorry to report – are more elegantly designed.

Today, Happn’s invisibility mode has to be turned on when you want to use it, or you have to pay for a subscription to schedule to come on automatically at certain times. That means it requires more effort to use on a day-to-day basis.

Meanwhile, Tinder Places lets you block a regular place you visit – like, say, the gym – from ever being recorded as a place you want to show up for matches. It also automatically removes places that would be inappropriate, including your home and work addresses, and alerts you when it’s adding a new one – so you can quickly take action to remove it, if you choose. Tinder Places is also free. (It’s just not rolled out worldwide at this time).

Happn, however, does offer a way to hide your profile information and other details from select users, and never shows your current location in real time, also like Tinder.

Happn, which launched back in 2014, now claims nearly 50 million users worldwide, across 50 major cities and 40 countries. It claims to have 6.5 million monthly users – but that’s much smaller, compared with Tinder’s estimated 50 million actives.

And with Tinder parent Match Group snatching up Hinge, suing Bumble, and effectively copying the idea of using “missed connections,” one has to wonder how much life rival dating apps, especially those of Happn’s size, have left.

The app is a free download on the App Store, Play Store and Windows Store.

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Google StreetView cars to help map pollution in London

From next month two Google StreetView cars will be driving around London’s streets fitted with sensors that take air quality readings every 30 meters to map and monitor air quality in the UK capital.

There will also be 100 fixed sensors fitted to lampposts and buildings in pollution blackspots and sensitive locations in the city — creating a new air quality monitoring network that Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, is billing as “the most sophisticated in the world”.

The goal with the year-long project is to generate hyperlocal data to help feed policy responses. Khan has made tackling air pollution one of his priorities.

It’s not the first time StreetView cars have been used as a vehicle for pollution monitoring. Three years ago sensors made by San Francisco startup Aclima were fitted to the cars to map air quality in the Bay Area.

The London project is using sensors made by UK company Air Monitors.

The air quality monitoring project is a partnership between the Greater London Authority and C40 Cities network — a coalition of major cities around the world which is focused on tackling climate change and increasing health and well-being.

The project is being led by the charity Environmental Defense Fund Europe, in partnership with Air Monitors, Google Earth Outreach, Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants, University of Cambridge, National Physical Laboratory, and the Environmental Defense Fund team in the United States.

King’s College London will also be undertaking a linked study focused on schools.

Results will be shared with members of the C40 Cities network — with the ambition of developing policy responses that help improve air quality for hundreds of millions of city dwellers around the world.

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More tickets available to the TechCrunch Summer Party at August Capital

We hope you’ve saved the date for the TechCrunch Summer Party at August Capital on July 27, because we’re releasing our second batch of tickets today. Jump on this opportunity, folks, because our first group of tickets sold out in a flash — and these babies, available on a first-come, first-served basis, won’t last long, either. Buy your ticket today.

If you haven’t attended our classic summer fete — this is our 13th year — you’re in for a treat. Enjoy the beautiful grounds and patio deck at August Capital in Menlo Park, lovely libations and a delicious snack or two. And do it all in the company of your peers, celebrating entrepreneurship and possibility.

Networking is always a part of every TechCrunch event, and you never know when you’ll meet the perfect future investor, founder or collaborator. True fact: Box founders Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith met one of their first investors, DFJ, at a backyard party hosted by TechCrunch founder, Michael Arrington.

Here are the when, where and how much details for the TechCrunch Summer Party at August Capital:

  • July 27, 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • August Capital in Menlo Park
  • Ticket price: $95

Of course, there’s more than one way to enjoy this party. If you have an early-stage startup, buy a Summer Party demo table. It’s a great opportunity to showcase your business in front of all the right people in a relaxed, convivial atmosphere. Each demo table includes four Summer party tickets. Learn more about demo tables here.

Come and share a friendly evening of cocktails and relaxed networking in a beautiful setting. Who knows, you might win nifty door prizes, including TechCrunch swag, Amazon Echos and tickets to Disrupt San Francisco 2018.

The second round of TechCrunch Summer Party at August Capital tickets is available now, and you can buy yours today. We hope to see you there!

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Disrupting the paycheck, Gusto’s Flexible Pay allows employees to pick when they get paid

People should get paid for work they have done. It’s a pretty simple principle of capitalism, but a principle that seems increasingly violated in the modern economy. With semi-monthly paychecks, the work an employee does on the first day of the month won’t be paid until the end of the third week – a delay of up to 21 days. That delay is despite the massive digitalization of bank transfers and accounting over the past few decades that should have made paychecks far more regular.

Gusto, a payroll and HR benefits provider focused on small businesses, announced the launch of Flexible Pay today, a new feature that will allow its payroll users to select when they receive their income for work already completed. The feature, which must be switched on by an employer, will cost employers nothing out-of-pocket today. The launch is limited to customers in Texas, but will expand to other states in the coming year.

As Gusto CEO Joshua Reeves explained it to me, a kid mowing lawns in a neighborhood has a much more visceral connection to income than the modern knowledge economy worker. Cut the grass, get cash — it’s that simple. He also pointed out, with irony, that terminated employees experience much better payroll service than regular employees: they have to be paid out on their last day of work outside of the standard paycheck schedule. Reeves and his team wanted to offer that flexibility and convenience to every worker.

Flexible Pay allows users to choose when they get paid, outside of typical paycheck schedules

The key to this new feature has been Gusto’s increasing data about small businesses. Gusto now serves 1% of all small businesses in the U.S., and it has comprehensive access to its customers’ financial and payroll data. With integrations to time sheet services and proper risk modeling, Gusto is able to predict exactly what salary a worker has already earned, and can front the money at minimum risk to itself.

One major challenge for Gusto was how to reconcile the books of the employer with the irregular paycheck schedules desired by employees. Gusto handles all the logistics transparently including tax withholding, so that for employers, the paycheck distribution looks and feels “normal” on its books.

That means that Gusto is effectively loaning money to companies, since it is paying payroll in advance. Gusto is funding those loans off its balance sheet today, but over time, the company expects to create a financial facility to underwrite the product.

For Reeves, Flexible Pay is “the right thing to do.” He believes that this new level of flexibility will empower workers to control their financial lives. In the long run, as more users get habituated to the product and its convenience, he hopes that the feature will draw other employers into using Gusto based on employee demand.

The unfortunate reality in the American workforce is that huge numbers of workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, by some counts as many as 80%. A bill can come due just a day or two before a paycheck hits, but without cash in a checking account, people often have to resort to predatory financial products like payday loans or high-interest credit cards in order to make ends meet. Flexible Pay is one step in the right direction of fighting for workers to get the money they justly deserve.

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Hinge sells 51 percent of shares to Match Group

Match Group, parent company of dating apps Tinder, OKCupid and Match, announced yesterday that it has acquired a 51 percent stake in Hinge. With this new acquisition, Match Group has the right to acquire all remaining shares of Hinge within a 12-month period.

Match Group says its interest in Hinge began in 2017 after a redesign in which it did away with the “right swipe” in favor of more detailed profiles. According to a statement from Hinge, its app saw 400 percent growth in its user base after these changes. In a dating world often dominated by “hook-ups,” Hinge positions itself as a the “relationship app” and focuses on building real relationships instead.

Hinge in many ways is the antithesis to Tinder, but Match Group says this is part of the advantage to the partnership, not an obstacle.

“Dating isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach,” a Match Group spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We operate a variety of products because people gravitate to different apps for different reasons.”

Hinge CEO Justin McLeod says that this merger will help the company expand even further than it could alone.

“At a certain point, having the scaling capability of a well-funded and experienced partner [like Match Group] makes sense,” McLeod told TechCrunch. “We want to bring a more thoughtful dating experience to the most people.”

This acquisition by Match Group follows a reportedly failed attempt to acquire the dating app Bumble in November. Following the collapse of those discussions, Match Group filed a lawsuit against Bumble in March for patent infringement, claiming that it “copied Tinder’s world-changing, card-swipe-based, mutual opt-in premise.” Two weeks later, Bumble followed up with its own lawsuit to the tune of $400 million that alleged Match Group fraudulently obtained trade secrets during its acquisition talks six months earlier. These lawsuits are still being settled.

Hinge offers an alternative acquisition for Match, which is clearly looking to continue diversifying its dating offerings. “[Hinge] has been getting real traction with cosmopolitan millennials,”a Match Group spokesperson said. “We hope to meaningfully accelerate [its] growth.”

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A Tesla telenovela

Tesla’s lawsuit against a former employee was filed just 24 hours ago and it’s already ripe fodder for Hollywood. As CEO Elon Musk has noted in the past, Tesla is a real drama magnet. Get ready, it’s exhausting.

Tesla filed the lawsuit against former employee Martin Tripp for $1 million, alleging the man, who worked as a process technician at the massive battery factory near Reno, hacked the company’s confidential and trade secret information and transferred that information to third parties, according to court documents. The lawsuit also claims the employee leaked false information to the media.

Within hours, the Washington Post had an interview with Tripp, who said he did not tamper with internal systems and is instead a whistleblower who was compelled to act. Tripp admitted to speaking the media, but only because he saw some “some really scary things” inside the company. Post reporter Drew Harwell later tweeted that Tripp told him Musk emailed him shortly after the lawsuit today to say he was a “horrible person.”

An email exchange obtained by TechCrunch, and confirmed by Tesla, suggests otherwise and shows Tripp lobbing the first written attack. To be clear, the emails viewed by TechCrunch could have been edited or show an incomplete exchange. We’ll update the story as we learn more.

Here’s the email exchange, which kicks off rather suddenly.

From: Marty Tripp
Date: June 20, 2018 at 8:57:29 AM PDT
To: Elon Musk
Subject: Termination/Lawsuit

Don’t worry, you have what’s coming to you for the lies you have told to the public and investors.

On Jun 20, 2018, at 9:42 AM, Elon Musk wrote:

Threatening me only makes it worse for you

On Jun 20, 2018, at 9:59 AM, Marty Tripp wrote:

I never made a threat.  I simply told you that you have what’s coming.

Thank you for this gift!!!!

On Jun 20, 2018, at 10:00 AM, Elon Musk wrote:

You should ashamed of yourself for framing other people. You’re a horrible human being.

On Jun 20, 2018, at 10:03 AM, Marty Tripp wrote:

I NEVER ‘framed’ anyone else or even insinuated anyone else as being involved in my production of documents of your MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF WASTE, Safety concerns, lying to investors/the WORLD.

Putting cars on the road with safety issues is being a horrible human being!

On Jun 20, 2018, at 5:16 PM, Elon Musk wrote:

Begin forwarded message:
From: Elon Musk
Date: June 20, 2018 at 10:28:06 AM PDT
To: Marty Tripp

Subject: Re: Termination/Lawsuit

There are literally injuries with Model 3. It is by far the safest car in the world for any midsize vehicle. And of course a company with billions of dollars in product is going to have millions of dollars in scrap. This is not news.

However, betraying your word of honor, breaking the deal you had when Tesla gave you a job and framing your colleagues are wrong and some come with legal penalties. So it goes. Be well.

From: Elon Musk
Date: 6/20/18 5:17 PM (GMT-08:00)
To: Todd Maron, Sarah O’Brien
Cc: EMDesk
Subject: Re: Termination/Lawsuit

Meant to say “no injuries”

After Musk and Tripp battled it out via email, the former employee allegedly told a friend he was going to attack the company’s Gigafactory in Sparks, NevadaThe friend then called Tesla’s customer service line, according to a source. Tesla notified the police. It’s not clear why this friend turned first to Tesla and not the police. But there you go.

And since TechCrunch has been unable to reach Tripp, it’s worth noting that this is one side —Tesla’s side — of a developing, and complex story.

Tesla confirmed receiving a call.

“Yesterday afternoon, we received a phone call from a friend of Mr. Tripp telling us that Mr. Tripp would be coming to the Gigafactory to ‘shoot the place up,’ a Tesla spokesman said. “Police have been notified and actions are being taken to enhance security at the Gigafactory.”

TechCrunch reached out to Storey County Sheriff’s department, which confirmed they sent deputies to investigate the threat. The deputies found no credible threat.

“After several hours of investigation deputies were able to determine there was no credible threat,” Sheriff Gerald Antinoro said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “Further investigation in the origins of the threat continues.”

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Win cash and prizes from Visa and HERE Mobility at the Disrupt SF 2018 Virtual Hackathon

Calling all hackers, programmers and tech heads from around the world: The Hackathon at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 is a virtual reality. We wanted something truly special to celebrate the biggest, most ambitious Disrupt event in history, so we launched the Virtual Hackathon. Thousands of the most highly skilled developers and coders will go head-to-head. But you only have about five weeks left to sign up and complete your hack, so you’d better hurry and sign up now.

Here’s how this super-sized Virtual Hackathon works. Show us how you’d produce and apply technology to solve different challenges. Our judges will review all eligible submitted hacks and rate them on a scale of 1-5 based on the quality of the idea, technical implementation of the idea and the idea’s potential impact. Here’s what you receive for your effort:

  • The 100 top-scoring teams get up to 5 Innovator Passes to attend TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018
  • The 30 highest-scoring teams also get to go to the semifinals at Disrupt SF, where they will demo their crafty hack
  • Out of those 30 teams, we’ll pick 10 to pitch their product on The Next Stage in front of thousands of Disrupt SF attendees
  • One team will win the $10,000 grand prize to become the inaugural TechCrunch Disrupt Virtual Hackathon champ

Of course, every TechCrunch Hackathon is jam-packed with sponsored contests and prizes galore, and this one is no exception. We already told you about the contests sponsored by BYTON, TomTom and Viond, and now we’re thrilled to announce two new hack contests from the folks at Visa and HERE Mobility.


The Visa Developer Platform empowers developers to transform great ideas into new digital commerce experiences using Visa’s proprietary APIs. Over the last several years, Visa has fundamentally evolved both its platforms and how it works with partners and clients, to encourage a broadening of the commerce ecosystem. From geo-location to real-time alerts and tokenization, the Visa Developer Platform offers direct access to a growing number of APIs, tools, and support materials so developers can start building easier, faster, and more secure ways to power digital commerce.

In this digital age, consumers expect seamless experiences personalized to their needs. Point of sale is no longer a destination—it’s wherever and whenever the customer wants it. Help Visa reshape commerce and accelerate digital payment acceptance. Build an app that enhances the customer journey and helps provide seamless, secure payment experiences. Consider Visa’s unique payment network data to drive your innovation.

  • Think about one of the use cases below or create your own to build a solution:
  • Replace cash with Visa digital solutions to create a more secure way to pay
  • Leverage data to create value for our businesses, consumers and stakeholders
  • Build tools to help Small Businesses better manage finances
  • Create solutions to enable business-to-business payments using virtual accounts

We encourage exploring integrations of Visa Developer APIs with other solutions and capabilities.

Sponsor Prize: We’ve got a prize-pool of over $9K for the best three teams who use Visa Developer APIs. More details coming soon! Register now!

HERE Mobility

The HERE Mobility SDK provides direct access to the Mobility Marketplace so you can build integrated transportation experiences into your application. With this connection you’ll be able to create door-to-door mobility solutions for your users within your app to increase user engagement, customer loyalty, and daily active users.

Develop within your platform of choice with our SDK’s for iOS and Android or execute calls to the Mobility Marketplace through our web app API. Offer your users advanced mobility services such as ride hailing, booking, and ETA tracking, and map and location services covering everything from 2D/3D rendering to forward and reverse geocoding. Request access to the SDK by registering here and you’ll also need to register on Devpost here.

Workshop: Join Adi Rome, Head of the Mobility SDK, on Monday, the 2nd of July at 11 am ET for a tutorial session. During the session we’ll walk you through the Mobility Demand API, and Map & Location package, including sample use cases, workflows and demos. Register here.

Sponsor Prize: Best Use of the HERE Mobility SDK: $6,000 API: https://ift.tt/2MIQ4IO Contact: Mobility_developers@here.com

Competing in our virtual hackathon is free, and you can participate from anywhere. What the hack are you waiting for? Call your most talented dev friends, form your team and sign up today!

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Plexus gloves bring VR sensations to your fingertips

Bringing a user’s hands into VR has been a pretty logical move for ambitious companies in the space. The mouse and keyboard just don’t make sense and while more conventional physical controllers make sense for games like first-person shooters, gloves bring a lot to use cases that require a bit more finesse. We’ve seen glimpses into some of the work that Oculus is doing on VR gloves, and hand-tracking tech has been pursued by quite a few other startups as well.

Plexus is launching out of Y Combinator’s latest class of startups with ambitions to bring a low-cost solution that puts a flexible glove onto users’ hands that will deliver feedback for AR and VR  without leaving them confused and their hands super sweaty.

The Plexus glove relies on the existing tracking systems of HTC and Oculus headsets, though they’re also working on their own more svelte solution based on licensed SteamVR tracking tech. Basically, the tracking sensors grab the position of where the hands are in space via the magnetically-attached tracker and after calibrating a resting state of the user’s fingers, individual sensors communicate their position to the game engine.

The silicone glove is a pretty effective design. Velcro straps secure the glove at your palm and the individual finger controls hook onto the end of your fingertips with motors that offer tactile feedback to users.

I had a chance to demo and the design makes navigation pretty effortless with most of the weight placed on the back of the wrist. After strapping on a pair of gloves, I was able to hold virtual items in my cupped hands and manipulate the position of objects.

There is clearly still some work to be done on the software end in regards to motion latency. Plexus is shipping the gloves with toolkits for Unity and Unreal game engines, it’s clear though that a lot of the hardest work to tackle with gloves fall on the software design and the interaction engine that allow the physics of your real-world hand movements to do what you want in VR.

Plexus is first approaching users on the enterprise side, it’s understandably pretty difficult to gather traction on consumer platforms that are already complicated enough to figure out on their own. By shipping developer kits at just $249 per pair, the company has a shot at gathering early interest from devs that $1000+ kits have failed to.

The company is looking to ship its first pairs of gloves in August, though they’re taking reservations now on their site.

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