Kia Kokalitcheva

Michigan company claims Apple infringed on its touch screen patent

A customer tries out a new Apple iPhone 6S at an Apple store in Chicago. Photo: Kiichiro Sato / AP

Nartron, a Michigan-based company also known as UUSI, has filed a lawsuit against Apple, claiming that several of the tech giant's mobile devices are infringing on a touch screen patent.

In the lawsuit, Nartron says that it notified Apple of the potential infringement back in 2007, suggesting a licensing deal. However, Apple declined, arguing that its tech was not infringing on the patent.


Peter Thiel might try to buy

Kevin Moloney / Fortune Brainstorm Tech

Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire investor who funded ex-wrestler Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker, is seeking to pause the sales process of the now-defunct website, arguing that he was unfairly excluded from making a bid, according to a bankruptcy court filing obtained by BuzzFeed.

Why it matters: The buyer of (the rest of Gawker Media's properties were acquired by Univision last year) will be able to do with its contents as they please, including deleting specific articles. There are still ongoing legal actions over a few articles in the archive. Though Thiel never admitted as much, it was long rumored that his decision to help Hogan was fueled by unflattering coverage of him and his business activities over the years, including a 2007 story about the fact that he is gay.


Lyft gets permit to test self-driving cars on California roads

Josh Edelson / AP

Lyft is the latest company to get a permit to test self-driving cars on California's public roads, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Why it matters: Lyft earlier this year unveiled plans to build its own autonomous driving tech, as well as make its ride-hailing network available to other companies for testing. Getting the California permit suggests it's ready to begin putting self-driving cars on the road.


Apple publishes self-driving car tech research

Richard Drew / AP

A new clue about Apple's work on autonomous driving technology has emerged in the form of a scientific paper authored by two of the company's engineers, as Reuters first noticed.

Why it matters: Apple is notorious for its secrecy and while rumors floated for years that it was working on an automotive project, its interest in the area wasn't confirmed until it obtained a permit to test self-driving cars in California earlier this year. This new paper is a departure from Apple's secretive culture in that it reveals some of the technological approaches it's developing.

Key tech: Apple's paper reveals that it's been working on software that lets LiDAR sensors perceive pedestrians and other road elements clearly without the help of cameras, and better than other approaches to do the same. LiDAR is among the most common sensors used for autonomous driving at the moment despite its high prices.


SoftBank's ride-hail ambitions turn to India

Ola's mobile app. Photo: Ola

SoftBank is seeking to increase its stake in Indian ride-hail company Ola, in which it already owns 25%. According to The Financial Times, the Japanese giant is in talks to buy some or all of a 13% to 14% stake currently held by U.S.-based Tiger Global Management.

Bigger picture: SoftBank basically wants to own global ride-hail, having already invested in China's Didi Chuxing, Southeast Asia-focused Grab, Brazil's 99 and launching a multi-billion dollar tender offer for Uber shares.

SoftBank's investment in all the major players could further consolidation more likely (last year Uber sold its Chinese business to Didi).

  • Wrinkle: Ola recently added a requirement that shareholders could only buy stakes from others with approval from the founders and the company's board. It's unclear if they would permit SoftBank's purchase of Tiger Global's stake.

A Silicon Valley startup is quietly taking over U.S. classrooms

Photo: Kiddom

Silicon Valley is determined to improve education by infusing it with technology. Its latest example is Kiddom, whose personalized learning software has quietly entered classrooms in 70% of U.S. school districts, according to the company.

Bottom line: Education is an obvious target for tech entrepreneurs—it has both mission and market size, especially as schools increasingly invest in tablets and lightweight laptops, amidst growing concerns over of the future of work.

The pitch: The promise of "personalized learning" is that students will be more successful if enabled to learn and work at their individual paces, along with regular guidance from teachers. Kiddom helps track each student's progress and can provide customized lesson materials. It also collects information on each student's skill level, learning pace and learning style.

  • "I think it's a data problem," says venture capitalist Keith Rabois, who led an investment in Kiddom for Khosla Ventures. He points out that medical records weren't digitized until recently, before which it was more difficult for patients and doctors to get a full understanding of a person's health. "There's a big promise in personalized learning, almost a Holy Grail."
  • Although Kiddom isn't currently making any money, CEO Ahsan Rizvi says that revenue generation likely will include charging use fees to school districts for new products (its currently free tools will remain free).
  • Kiddom says that once 20% of teachers in a school are using its software tools, it usually takes six to seven months for the rest of the school to adopt.

"Memorizing content is not what makes students successful," argues Abby Griffy, an instructional supervisor for Marshall County School District in Kentucky. Griffy's district began using Kiddom earlier this year as part of an effort to overhaul its approach and shift away from its previous focus on standardized tests. It also still uses software from some of Kiddom's competitors.

  • One of the district's main goals is to better prepare students for jobs and educational pursuits after high school—to "instill 21st Century skills in them," Griffy says.
  • One of Kiddom's most compelling features, for Griffy and Marshall County's school district, is the ability to match student assignments and work to education standards. For this, the company has partnered with a dozen content providers, such as Khan Academy and PBS Learning Media, and uses machine learning to analyze the school work.
  • Since it began these efforts, standardized tests scores have dropped, says Griffy, though administrators expected a dip as part of the transition.

But not all experts are convinced yet that tech-enabled personalized learning is an education panacea.

  • Personalized learning can require that teachers prepare more assignments and lesson plans, putting a strain on their already busy schedules.
  • Some experts are concerned that the heavy use of computers for lessons and assignments can deprive students of skills like group collaboration. Asked for comment, Kiddom tells Axios that it views technology as a way to enhance interactions between the student and teacher, not as a replacement for it.
  • The Carpe Diem Collegiate High School and Middle School in Yuma, Ariz. was initially praised for its rows of cubes with computers for each student that produced higher standardized tests scores. However, the school struggled to retain students. Silicon Valley-based AltSchool also recently said it's scaling back its school operations to instead focus on selling its software.
  • Kiddom, which has only raised $6.5 million in funding, faces several better-capitalized competitors, including Google Classroom, Summit Learning Platform (330 schools in 40 states, backed by Mark Zuckerberg's philanthropic organization), and AltSchool ($174 million raised).

Go deeper: Mother Jones recently looked into Summit Learning Platform and its parent company, a network of charter schools founded in 2003.

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Apple reportedly bought a VR headset maker

Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Apple has acquired Canadian VR headset maker Vrvana (whose product was praised but never shipped) for about $30 million, according to TechCrunch.

Between the lines: The acquisition adds to the growing rumors that Apple is planning to develop more augmented and virtual reality products in the future. The release this year of its ARKit showed the company's interest in augmented reality using smartphones, but it's hard to believe Apple isn't interested in adding new devices to its lineup. Also in June, it confirmed it acquired a small German maker of eye-tracking glasses.


Uber concealed 2016 hack affecting 50 million customers

Photo: Jaap Arriens / Getty Images

Uber has parted ways with chief security officer Joe Sullivan and one of his deputies, over their handling of an October 2016 data breach in which hackers stole account information of 50 million customers and 7 million drivers, the company told Bloomberg.

The big deal: Instead of immediately disclosing the incident to customers and relevant government agencies, Uber paid the hackers $100,000 to delete the data and keep the incident quiet. Ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who was ousted in June, learned of the incident one month after it happened. The attack was discovered recently by an outside law firm hired by Uber's board to investigate the activities of Sullivan's security team.

New order: This is the latest attempt by new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to set a new tone for the company, which has long been known to skirt regulations.


Binary Capital wants to move ex-employee lawsuit to arbitration

Binary Capital website

Binary Capital is pushing back on a lawsuit filed in June by a former employee, seeking to move some of the claims into private arbitration, according to court documents filed on Friday.

Memory refresh: After allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against Binary Capital co-founder Justin Caldbeck, former employee Ann Lai filed suit against the firm. She claimed that Binary Capital threatened her ability to find work if she discussed her work experiences, and made disparaging statements about her to prospective employers.

  • Defense: In Friday's documents, Binary argues that Lai's increasingly poor work performance ultimately led to her resignation, not the sexism she claims she experienced.


Eatsa's robot-assisted tech for restaurants heads to Chicago

Eatsa, the San Francisco-based company that recently shuttered most of its robot-assisted restaurants, is beginning to make its technology available to outside eateries, starting with Chicago's Wow Bao.

Why it matters: This is a classic startup play—focus on the tech while leaving heavy operations to partners and customers, helping them to streamline restaurant operations.