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Tesla sells $35,000 cars and shifts to online sales

Tesla store
The Tesla store at Bellevue Square in Bellevue, Wash. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Tesla is finally following through on its pledge to sell its Model 3 electric cars at the standard price of $35,000, but says it’s shutting down on-the-spot showroom sales to remain “financially sustainable” at the lower price point. Going forward, worldwide sales will shift to online only, the company says.

Many of Tesla’s stores will be shut down over the next few months, the company said on its website. A small number of stores in high-traffic locations will remain open as galleries, showcases and information centers, but would-be buyers will have to go online to close the deal.

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One giant leap for Microsoft Quantum Network

Quantum computer
Microsoft is focusing on the development of quantum computers that take advantage of cryogenically cooled nanowires. (Microsoft Photo)

REDMOND, Wash. — Quantum computing may still be in its infancy — but the Microsoft Quantum Network is all grown up, fostered by in-house developers, research affiliates and future stars of the startup world.

The network made its official debut today here at Microsoft’s Redmond campus, during a Startup Summit that laid out the company’s vision for quantum computing and introduced network partners to Microsoft’s tools of the quantum trade.

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World View balloon venture gets new CEO

Stratollite
An artist’s conception shows World View’s Stratollite platform in action. (World View Illustration)

For three and a half years, Ryan Hartman served as president and CEO of Insitu — the Boeing subsidiary headquartered in Bingen, Wash., that pioneered the creation of unmanned aircraft systems for military and commercial applications.

Now Hartman will raise his sights as the new CEO of Tucson, Ariz.-based World View, which is developing stratospheric balloon-borne platforms known as Stratollites to perform satellite-style tasks in remote sensing and communications.

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OneWeb’s first broadband satellites are launched

Soyuz launch for OneWeb
A Russian-built Soyuz rocket lifts off from Arianespace’s launch complex in French Guiana, sending the first six satellites of OneWeb’s broadband constellation into space. (Arianespace via YouTube)

A Russian-built, European-launched Soyuz rocket sent the first six satellites of OneWeb’s broadband data constellation into orbit today, kicking off a years-long campaign aimed at making high-speed internet connections available to billions of people around the world.

Liftoff marked the latest milestone for the international OneWeb consortium, which is locked in a satellite broadband race with SpaceX, Telesat and other high-profile ventures. Such satellite constellations promise to provide global high-speed data services for applications ranging from emergency response to community Wi-Fi and ubiquitous voice and streaming-video coverage.

After years of preparation, today’s launch went off without a hitch at Arianespace’s launch complex in French Guiana, on South America’s east coast. Over the course of more than an hour, OneWeb’s first 325-pound satellites were deployed into 625-mile-high (1,000-kilometer-high) orbits from a cylindrical dispenser that’s been compared to a corncob.

“Tonight is a full success,” Arianespace CEO Stephane Israël declared.

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AI2’s CEO says the AI wave is still rising

Mike Grabham and Oren Etzioni
Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, answers questions during a chat moderated by Mike Grabham, director of the Seattle chapter of Startup Grind. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

It may seem as if everyone’s already on the bandwagon for artificial intelligence and machine learning, with players ranging from giants like Amazon and Microsoft to startups like Xnor.ai and Canotic — but the head of Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, or AI2, says there’s still plenty of room to climb aboard.

“Let me assure you, if you have a machine learning-based startup in mind … you’re not late to the party,” AI2’s CEO, Oren Etzioni, told more than 70 people who gathered Feb. 26 at Create33 in downtown Seattle for a Startup Grind event.

Etzioni had a hand in getting the party started back in 2004, with the launch of a startup called Farecast that used artificial intelligence to predict whether airline fares would rise or fall. The company was acquired by Microsoft in 2008 for $115 million and has since faded into the ether. But Etzioni said the basic approach, which involves analyzing huge amounts of data to identify patterns and solve problems, is just hitting its stride.

The potential applications range from spam detection and voice recognition to health care, construction and self-driving cars.

“It’s really a versatile technology, and we’re going to see more and more startups based on machine learning,” Etzioni said.

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Boeing unveils new breed of ‘wingman’ drones

Boeing Airpower Teaming System
An artist’s conception shows drones in the Boeing Airpower Teaming System flying alongside an F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet. (Boeing Illustration)

Boeing is unveiling a new type of uncrewed aircraft that’s designed to fly military missions alongside piloted airplanes, known as the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.

The air platform is being developed for global defense customers by Boeing Austraila, and as such, represents Boeing’s biggest investment in an unmanned aircraft program outside the United States. Australian Defense Minister Christopher Pyne took the wraps off a full-scale mockup of the plane today at the Australian International Airshow at Avalon Airport in Geelong.

Australia’s government is teaming up with Boeing to produce a concept demonstrator called the “Loyal Wingman,” which should blaze the trail for production of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.

“The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will provide a disruptive advantage for allied forces’ manned / unmanned missions,” Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Boeing Autonomous Systems, said in a news release. “With its ability to reconfigure quickly and perform different types of missions in tandem with other aircraft, our newest addition to Boeing’s portfolio will truly be a force multiplier as it protects and projects air power.”

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Tweets get Tesla’s Elon Musk in trouble again

Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s Twitter habit has sparked gyrations in the stock market. (Tesla via YouTube)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is in trouble again with the Securities and Exchange Commission, this time over a 13-word tweet.

The SEC filed a motion in federal court on Feb. 25, claiming that a tweet that Musk sent out last week violated the terms of an agreement aimed at settling a securities fraud case brought last September. After the motion came to light, Tesla’s shares lost as much as 5 percent of their $298.77 market-close value in after-hours trading. The price crept back to somewhere around its previous level overnight, however, as traders digested the news.

It’s the latest in a series of ups and downs caused by Musk’s Twitter habit.

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Opera gets to the core of Steve Jobs’ character

John Moore in Steve Jobs opera
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (played by John Moore) raises a smartphone in a scene from “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs.” (Seattle Opera Photo / Philip Newton)

You shouldn’t expect to glean startup tips from “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs,” the one-act opera staged by the Seattle Opera this week and next. And don’t expect to hear the brand names “Apple” or “iPhone” or even “Microsoft” sung. But you can expect to see and hear the tangled tale of Apple’s enigmatic co-founder, told on a literally operatic scale.

There’s also a message for techies that can be boiled down to the first words flashing on the supertitle screen, even before the first note sounds: “Look up. Look around. Be here now. And turn off your devices.”

Devices like Apple’s iPhone figure heavily in the staging of “(R)evolution”: Even the set elements that swirl around the stage and serve to project backdrops are proportioned like giant iPhones. The first big aria in the work, with music by Mason Bates and libretto by Mark Campbell, celebrates the iPhone’s introduction in 2007: “Only one device / Does it all / In one hand / All you need.”

But devices are never all you need, even when you’re an introspective, obsessive genius like Jobs.

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Wreck of the USS Strong found after 76 years

USS Strong propeller
A video view shows the propeller from the USS Strong at the bottom of the Kula Gulf. (Photo courtesy of Navigea / R/V Petrel / Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc.)

The USS Strong put in less than a year of service at sea, but the destroyer and its crew nevertheless earned a place of honor in the U.S. Navy’s history of World War II. Now the Strong’s legacy is once again in the spotlight, thanks to the shipwreck’s discovery by the research vessel Petrel.

The R/V Petrel’s expedition team, supported by the late Seattle billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc., used sonar and underwater imaging to find the wreckage on Feb. 6, lying 1,000 feet deep on the floor of the Kula Gulf, north of New Georgia in the Solomon Sea. The latest find adds to the Petrel’s long list of World War II shipwreck discoveries, including the USS Indianapolis, the USS Lexington, the USS Juneau, the USS Helena and the USS Hornet.

“With each ship we find and survey, it is the human stories that make each one personal,” Robert Kraft, expedition lead and director of subsea operations for the Petrel, said today in a news release. “We need to remember and honor our history and its heroes, living and dead. We need to bring their spirit to life and be grateful every day for the sacrifices made by so many on our behalf.”

The Strong was launched and commissioned in 1942, and during the first half of 1943, it conducted anti-submarine patrols and supported naval mining operations around the Solomon Islands, New Hebrides and Guadalcanal in the Pacific.

Its final battle came on July 5, 1943, when the Strong was sent to shell Japanese shore installations to provide cover for the landing of American forces at Rice Anchorage, on the coast of New Georgia.

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3 die in crash of Atlas cargo jet with Amazon link

Image: Amazon Prime Air jet
An Amazon-branded Boeing 767 cargo jet flies over Seattle in 2016. (Red Box Pictures Photo / Scott Eklund)

An Atlas Air Boeing 767 cargo jet crashed today into Trinity Bay on the Texas Gulf Coast with three people on board, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

“Human remains have been found on scene,” the FBI’s Houston office said. “At this time, there are no signs of survivors.”

Atlas confirmed that the three people aboard the flight did not survive.

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