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Rocket Lab adds satellite manufacturing to its offerings – TechCrunch

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Rocket Lab, one of the biggest startups in the NewSpace category of companies providing launch and satellite services, has added satellite manufacturing to the array of services it offers to customers.

The company, which already had developed launch capabilities and has begun sending payloads into space, can now deliver fully built satellites to its customers, according to a statement.

The “Photon” satellite platform was developed so that customers would not have to build their own satellite hardware.

“Small satellite operators want to focus on providing data or services from space, but building satellite hardware is a significant barrier to achieving this,” said Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck, in a statement.
“The time, resources and expertise required to build hardware can draw small satellite operators away from their core purpose, delaying their path to orbit and revenue. As the turn-key solution for complete small satellite missions, Rocket Lab brings space within easy reach. We enable our customers to focus on their payload and mission – we look after the rest.”

The satellites are designed for a range of Low Earth Orbit missions including technology demonstrations, risk reduction pathfinders, constellations, and hosted payloads, the company said in a statement.

The satellites will stay in orbit for five years and include an S-band communication system, high-performance attitude controls, and a set of avionics tools for in-space propulsion and movement.

The new satellites will be manufactured at Rocket Labs’ Huntington Beach, Calif. headquarters and can be launched on the company’s Electron launch platform. The first such launch is scheduled for later in the first quarter of the year, and the company said it would have its first paying customer missions in 2020.

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Nokia 9.3 PureView might be a no-show this year

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HMD Global has flooded the market with affordable Android phones but its track record on higher tiers has been less impressive. To date, only the Nokia 8 Sirocco and Nokia 9 PureView can be considered top-tier, at least based on the premium Snapdragon chips they’re carrying. The latter’s successor would have not been on par, at least based on the earliest information we had, but it would have given the PureView brand yet another stab at the market. Unfortunately, that won’t be happening any time soon, as the Nokia 9.3 PureView has reportedly been delayed to 2021.

The Nokia 9 PureView was quite the oddity, though it wasn’t surprising considering HMD Global partnered with mobile camera company Light. It utilized five co-equal cameras to independently take shots of the same scene and stitch them together into a single hi-res image. It mostly delivered on that promise but left plenty of room for a version 2.

By late 2019, Qualcomm seemed to be quite excited for a Nokia 9 PureView successor that would showcase its Snapdragon 765’s capabilities despite not being an 8-series processor. It might have disappointed some who were hoping for a true Nokia premium flagship. For better or worse that successor never came, which ironically leaves the door open for a better device.

Twitter user @Nokia_anew now claims that the Nokia 9.3 PureView has been pushed back to 2021. When that will be is still unknown but it might be sometime in the first half of the year. That potentially means HMD could switch to using a Snapdragon 875 but, considering its preferences for mid-range to entry-level chips, we won’t be too optimistic about the chances.

Even more concerning, however, is the absence of a Nokia PureView in 2020, which could call into question HMD Global’s ability to even make one now that Light is out of the mobile market. The company still has to come out with a new high-end phone but, then again, Nokia was better known for flooding the market with innumerable phones anyway.

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Samsung NEON artificial humans could be on Galaxy phones soon

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AI and machine learning have become the buzzwords of today’s tech world and news but, save for a few exceptions, people envision them as disembodied voices like Siri or even impersonal bits and bytes that silent work miracle behind computer screens. At CES 2020 earlier this year, Samsung and its subsidiary Star Labs showed off AI that was both relatable but also eerily too human. As if it wasn’t enough to have them standing at arms’ length on wall-mounted displays, it seems that Samsung is toying with the idea of bringing NEON to phones soon.

The idea behind NEON is just as bewildering as it sounds. These artificial humans aren’t Siri, Cortana, or Alexa made digital flesh. They are, instead, mean to be virtual equivalents of persons, using AI to express emotions and reactions in a human-like way. Rather than being virtual assistants, they are more like virtual friends.

The COVID-19 pandemic that exploded just a few weeks later may have thrown a wrench in Samsung’s plans to demonstrate the kind of product it wants NEON to be. While the idea of a virtual companion might be attractive to some, having those confined to a life-sized screen on a single wall in your house breaks the illusion it tries to offer. For better or worse, it seems that Samsung wants you to take your NEON with you in the future.

Star Labs president and CEO Pranav Mistry, whose list of achievements include the Samsung Galaxy Gear and Samsung Project Beyond 3D capture system, revealed on Twitter that NEON was already running on his phone. Given his employer, we can only presume it’s some high-end Samsung Galaxy phone. He also shares that the public will be able to see this combination next month.

That still doesn’t exactly clarify what NEON is for, aside from being a showcase of Samsung’s AI chops. Granted, it might have more practical value on a mobile device than on a wall but it will probably be only a matter of time before uncanny valley makes humans uncomfortable with their digital counterparts.

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Apple Watch becomes an iPhone viewfinder with this odd mount

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One of the earliest promises of smartwatches was that they’d let you control your smartphone from your wrist. As the years passed, however, that functionality has taken a backseat as smartwatches become more fitness and health-centric. In fact, aside from media playback and calls, there are very few apps that take advantage of the ways a smartwatch can actually control smartphones. One of those ways is to remotely take photos or videos, something that an odd accessory from an unknown company is capitalizing on.

There are smartwatch apps and even camera apps that can turn the wearable into a shutter button. Sometimes they can even display what would usually be on the camera app’s screen, functioning as a small viewfinder. While that is often presented as a way to take selfies using the main rear cameras of a phone, camera accessory maker Ulanzi is turning the concept into a useful tool for vloggers and live streamers.

The Ulanzi ST-09 Phone Tripod Mount is pretty much a clamp for an iPhone that also has a mount for an Apple Watch. The idea is that you attach the mount to the back of an iPhone and then attach the Apple Watch, making it seem like the smartwatch is sticking to the back of the phone. Thanks to an accompanying Apple Watch app, that smartwatch becomes a small viewfinder that makes the impossible possible. It makes it dead easy to see and frame your shot using the rear cameras.

That setup might seem overkill or even ridiculous just for a high-quality selfie but mobile vloggers and streamers might beg to differ. The iPhone’s FaceTime front cameras have never been their strongest point and video creators have always had to compromise on that point just to use the otherwise excellent main iPhone cameras. This way, the only compromise is the small Apple Watch screen that might actually be familiar to those who use action cameras.

Presuming you already own an Apple Watch, the discounted $19.95 price of the Ulanzi ST-09 Phone Tripod Mount doesn’t look that bad. It even has a cold shoe mount on top to attach other filmmaking accessories, as if trying to tell you it is really designed for pros. The clam seems to be big enough to support even the largest iPhone widths but the accessory might be compatible with the Apple Watch Series 5 and later only.

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