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Robotic Automations

YouTube is switching to read-only comments for kids in supervised experiences | TechCrunch


YouTube’s comments section, historically, has had a bad reputation, but a change rolling out could prevent kids from wading into the comments cesspool. In an email to parents who supervise a child’s account, the company announced the introduction of a “read-only” comments option on their child’s supervised experience on YouTube.

The feature will roll out in the “coming weeks,” says YouTube.

Image Credits: YouTube

The change is one of the biggest adjustments to YouTube’s parental control features since the introduction of increased protections for minors in 2021 following pressure from lawmakers.

Previously, comments were fully disabled — meaning both reading and commenting were not available to kids. However, YouTube said at the time it would work with parents and experts to add comments through an age-appropriate approach for older kids in the future.

The new addition applies to two of the three content settings available to parents who want to configure a more kid-friendly YouTube experience for their child: “Explore More” and “Most of YouTube.”

The former allows kids to explore videos with content ratings for viewers 13 and up, while “Most of YouTube” offers older kids access to most of YouTube’s content except for videos that are specifically age-restricted for adults only.

By default, children will be able to read, but not write, comments under both of these content settings modes. Live chat will also be turned off.

Meanwhile, parents who want to disable comments entirely can switch their child to the “Explore” setting, aimed at viewers ages 9 and up. (This option is generally the first step into the main YouTube experience, after using the dedicated YouTube Kids app as a younger child.)

Parents can view and change their child’s settings from the parent settings on YouTube or via Google’s Family Link parental controls app, YouTube notes. They can also view their child’s history on the child’s device under the My Activity setting.

The company adds that the YouTube settings parents select for their child won’t apply when the child isn’t using the YouTube site or app directly — like when viewing embedded YouTube content on a third-party site, for instance.

Congress has been pressuring tech companies for years to do more to protect kids from the negative impacts of their services but has dragged its feet in terms of codifying their demands into new laws. More recently, however, the Kids Online Safety Act has gained steam, demanding more robust parental controls from platform makers. The bill has bipartisan support, as does COPPA 2.0 (Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act), which focuses on increased data protections, privacy, and the banning of targeted advertising to kids and teens.

YouTube is getting ahead of any required changes to its parental controls platform by baking in the new protections by default.

After launching parental controls in 2021, YouTube rolled out a handful of product updates to make YouTube safer for teens in November 2023. This included limits on repeated viewing of some topics, as well as revamped “take a break” and “bedtime” reminders, among other things.

While the email detailed the changes to parents, the company hasn’t made a public announcement on its blog about read-only comments as of yet. Requests for comment have not been returned.

Updated 4/10/24 4:30 pm et with a clearer headline


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Startups Weekly: Let's see what those Y Combinator kids have been up to this time | TechCrunch


Welcome to Startups Weekly — your weekly recap of everything you can’t miss from the world of startups. Sign up here to receive the Startups Weekly newsletter in your inboxes.

It’s the most wonderful tiiiiiiime of the yeaaaaaaar … That’s right, we’re back with all the you-can’t-miss companies from the current batch of Y Combinator startups. AI was, not shockingly, the biggest theme, with 86 out of 247 companies calling themselves an AI startup, but we’re reaching bubble territory given that 187 mention AI in their pitches. We have a couple of roundups for you, including the 18 most interesting, and the TechCrunch staff favorites.

Meanwhile, I wrote up an in-depth interview with the founder of Ember, the hot-mug company, about (among other things) how he split his company in half to be able to woo MedTech and life sciences investors.

Most interesting startup stories from the week

Image Credits: PM Images (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Startups losing money is nothing new, but this week, Devin summarizes why Trump’s Truth Social is different in a few key ways. In a nutshell, the whole thing is playing out like a bad reality TV show, where the plot revolves around hemorrhaging money and the suspense is whether it’ll run out of cash before viewers change the channel. With a debut on Nasdaq as $DJT, thanks to a merger with the desperation darling of the finance world, a SPAC, Trump Media & Technology Group’s (TMTG) financial lifting of the veil reveals a $58 million loss on a meager $4 million in revenue. This isn’t your typical Silicon Valley “burn cash now, profit later” saga; it’s more of a “burn cash now, and that’s it” kind of story. Unlike startups that thrive on VC life support while disrupting industries, TMTG’s lifelines are fraying, with no explosive user growth, no VC sugar daddies, and the unenviable position of being publicly accountable while trying to juggle a business model that seems to repel advertisers like it’s made of antimatter. As the stock flops around lacklusterly, the reality sets in that TMTG’s story might be less about pioneering digital media and more about how to lose friends and alienate advertisers, all while the credits roll on what could be the most expensive episode of “The Apprentice” ever produced.

  • IPOs are gathering steam … maybe?: Cybersecurity darling Rubrik, which has been guzzling venture capital like it’s going out of style, has decided it’s time to brave the public markets and files for an IPO. With a history of bleeding money, Rubrik’s tale is one of modest revenue growth, eye-watering losses, and a pivot to subscription models that’s as groundbreaking as deciding to sell software as a service in the tech world.
  • Accel rethinks India: Accel, the venture capital firm that’s been collecting Indian unicorns like they’re going out of style, is having a bit of an existential crisis with its Atoms accelerator program, realizing that in the eyes of founders, all VC money eventually starts to look the same — just a pile of cash with strings attached.
  • Crypto is back?: If the 2023 crypto venture landscape was an ice-cold pot of water, the first quarter of 2024 is the part where the bubbles start to form right before water boils, Tom Schmidt, a partner at Dragonfly Capital, said to TechCrunch in Jacquelyn’s overview of the VC investment space for crypto.

Chaos in automotive startup land

Tesla’s cybertruck exists now. That’s about the best thing your friendly correspondent can say about this design monstrosity. Image Credits: Darrell Etherington / Getty

Stormy weather continues to be the theme for the movers and shakers of the startup world: Transportation.

Canoo’s 2023 earnings report reads like a tragicomedy. The star of the show? CEO Tony Aquila’s private jet, which cost the company double its entire revenue for the year. In a year where Canoo managed to rake in a meager $890,000 by delivering just 22 vehicles, it simultaneously shelled out $1.7 million to ensure Aquila could jet-set in style. I guess in the fast-paced world of electric vehicles, nothing says “fiscal responsibility” quite like a private jet tab that overshadows your sales, even as the company picks clean the bones of its failed competitors.

Meanwhile, in the land of Fisker, the company momentarily misplaced millions in customer payments amid a frantic scramble to restructure its business model. This financial game of hide-and-seek, which diverted crucial resources from sales to sleuthing, highlights the company’s rather casual approach to tracking transactions, including, in some instances, handing over vehicles on the honor system. Fisker’s attempt to play catch-up with paperwork not only strained its relationship with PwC during annual report preparations but also left the company clueless about its actual revenue, all while teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. So, if you’ve ever felt bad about losing your car keys, at least take solace knowing you didn’t misplace the equivalent of a whole SUV stuffed full of dollar bills, or get yourself into an investigation about why the doors on the cars you manufacture won’t open.

  • Self-driving … into the abyss: Ghost Autonomy, a startup that once dreamed of making highways safer with its autonomous driving software, has ghosted the automotive world, shutting down operations despite a nearly $220 million séance with investors.
  • Riveting reading from Rivian: Rivian’s latest report card reads more like a cry for help than a victory lap. The EV underdog kicked off 2024 by building a smaller number of cars and delivering even fewer. With each EV sold last quarter costing them the equivalent of a luxury sedan in losses, Rivian’s journey to profitability looks … interesting.
  • Tesla takes a dip: Tesla’s latest delivery figures are so-so, as the company blames everything from arsonists with a vendetta against German factories to maritime mayhem courtesy of the Houthi rebels for its first year-over-year sales dip in three years. As if transitioning to the new Model 3 wasn’t enough of a speed bump, Tesla’s also juggling production of the Cybertruck and a mysterious lower-cost EV, all while trying to invent a revolutionary manufacturing process on the fly.

Most interesting fundraises this week

Kidsy’s catalog drew investor interest. Image Credits: Kidsy

Kidsy is the latest brainchild to emerge from the startup nursery. The company is essentially the T.J. Maxx of baby gear, swooping in to save parents from the financial black hole that is raising children by offering discounted, overstocked, and gently used items that were once destined for the landfill. Founded by a former business journalist and a software engineer, Kidsy has quickly become the superhero of the circular economy for baby products, managing to charm investors into an “oversubscribed” pre-seed funding round faster than a toddler can throw a tantrum.

  • A sticky startup indeed: Stripe, the payments behemoth, has swooned over a four-person startup named Supaglue, formerly known as Supergrain, in a classic tale of acqui-hire romance. Supaglue somehow caught Stripe’s eye — perhaps through the tech equivalent of a love potion mixed with mutual acquaintances and serendipitous meetings.
  • Google blesses nonprofits with $20 million: Google.org is throwing $20 million at nonprofits to play fairy godmother to their AI dreams. Twenty-one lucky nonprofits get to be the guinea pigs in a six-month tech boot camp, complete with AI coaches and Google employee minions, all in the name of making the world a better place — one automated task at a time.
  • Bla bla bla something something cars: From its humble beginnings as an online hitchhiking platform to becoming a unicorn with a penchant for hoarding millions and dabbling in buses, BlaBlaCar has had quite the ride. Now armed with a $108 million credit line and a newfound taste for profitability, it’s on a shopping spree for smaller companies.

Other unmissable TechCrunch stories …

Every week, there’s always a few stories I want to share with you that somehow don’t fit into the categories above. It’d be a shame if you missed ’em, so here’s a random grab bag of goodies for ya:

  • No account required: OpenAI, in a move that screams “data is the new gold,” is now letting anyone chat with ChatGPT without an account, ensuring that even your grandma’s queries about knitting patterns can help train their AI, all while vaguely hinting at “more restrictive content policies” that are as clear as mud.
  • Just bumblin’ along: Bumble, once the belle of the IPO ball, now finds itself grappling with the modern dating dilemma of being ghosted by users for TikTok love stories. New CEO Lidiane Jones is on a mission to rekindle the flame by rethinking the women’s first-move mantra and flirting with AI, all while trying to make dating fun again without really changing the swipe-right culture.
  • Hey, that’s a good impression of me: OpenAI is basically saying “hold my beer” as it dives headfirst into the ethical quagmire of voice cloning with its new Voice Engine. The company insists it’s all about responsible innovation while simultaneously opening Pandora’s box to see how it can be used and abused. We can’t think of a single downside.… </sarcasm>
  • B nixes AI: Beyoncé’s “Cowboy Carter” has been out for only a few days. But in the middle of the press release for “Cowboy Carter,” the singer made an unexpected statement against the growing presence of AI in music.


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Musical toy startup Playtime Engineering wants to simplify electronic music making for kids | TechCrunch


Troy Sheets began making music at 15 years old in his home studio with a keyboard synthesizer, drum machine and four-track cassette recorder — an impressive setup for a high school sophomore. However, it’s rare for young, up-and-coming musicians to have access to advanced equipment (other than a free app on their phone). And most adolescents can’t afford it. Plus, for someone starting out, a synthesizer can be confusing to use.

That’s why Sheets decided to develop the $199 Blipblox, an affordable kid-friendly synthesizer designed for ages 3 and up.

“I thought that there’s an opportunity to create a toy-like device that was simplified so more people could have fun using these tools that had previously been reserved for professional musicians because of their cost and complexity,” Sheets told TechCrunch.

Now, Playtime Engineering — Blipblox’s parent company — is ready to release its latest product. Called MyTracks, the new “toy-like instrument” (as the company calls it) is essentially a groovebox or electronic music production device fully decked out with a drum machine, synthesizer, built-in microphone for audio sampling and sequencer, all in one device. With its chunky control knobs and levers and an easy-to-use randomize feature, MyTracks aims to encourage music exploration and simplify beatmaking for kids. The company announced Tuesday that its Kickstarter campaign for MyTracks will open on April 9 with an expected price of $249 to $299 for backers, and the first round of products is anticipated in November. The expected retail price is $349.

The product is designed first and foremost to be kid-friendly. According to the company, all Blipblox devices underwent “rigorous” testing to ensure they are BPA-free and comply with toy safety standards. To avoid choking hazards, the plastic knobs are locked into the device so kids can’t remove them. Additionally, the batteries are secured inside a screw-down compartment.

The company says its products are the only synthesizers on the market fully certified to international child safety standards.

In terms of its design, the flashy lights and colorful buttons are meant to appeal to kids. Sheets adds that the levers are one of the most popular features since it feels like a “spaceship control panel.”

But Blipblox wants adult musicians to take it seriously as well.

“These are real musical instruments, and not just ones that look like a [toy] guitar that you press a button and it plays the same sound every time. It really does engage adults the same way that it engages kids,” says co-founder Kate Sheets.

The layout of the MyTracks machine resembles a traditional groovebox or MPC (music production center) with two effects (FX) processors, five tracks, 25 pads and over 50 acoustic, electronic and percussive instrument sounds. In addition, it has the ability to layer, record and save songs.

On the back of the MyTracks device there’s a MIDI output so professional musicians wanting to play around with a fun new toy can use it in the studio with their other gear. It also includes a stereo audio output and a USB-C for adding more tracks. Future updates will include more sound packs to provide new music styles like classical, hip-hop and EDM.

Image Credits: Playtime Engineering

More than $300 is indeed a steep price tag for a children’s toy, and not many parents are willing to cough up that much cash. However, the company argues that it can be a great tool for children to learn how to create music, manipulate sounds and experiment. Blipblox has even been used by music teachers, including helping special-needs kids express their creativity in a non-verbal way.

“[Blipblox devices] are adjustable, so you can adjust [the volume] for different sensitivities. So, neurodiverse students have really enjoyed using our products,” Kate Sheets tells us.

The company previously won the SBO (School Band and Orchestra) Best Teaching Tool for preschool students.

 

Image Credits: Playtime Engineering

“We got a lot of weird looks from parents,” Kate Sheets says, describing how people reacted to the first Blipblox synthesizer in 2018. “The music device industry looked at us and thought we were a toy, and the toy industry looked at us and thought, ‘We don’t even know what that is.’ We sort of straddled both markets for a while. And now, all these years later, we’re seeing that there really is a market for our type of products.”

Despite the initial reactions, Blipblox has managed to sell 15,000 products and raised more than $300,000 in crowdfunding to date.


Software Development in Sri Lanka

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