This week, Tesla announced plans to buy SolarCity, Twilio IPOed, the NY State senate passed an anti-Airbnb bill and we discovered the world’s largest Nerf gun. Read on for a recap of the biggest tech stories of the week.
1. The Elon Musk empire could soon be uniting. Tesla announced bold plans to acquire the solar panel installation company SolarCity — also owned by Elon Musk. Together the companies could allow you to outfit your home with solar panels that power a giant battery for everything inside, as well as your electric car. But is Musk just trying to bail himself out? Some might consider the chairman to be rescuing his 22.2 percent stake in the company by acquiring it with Tesla.
2. Twilio IPOed, trading on the NYSE under the ticker symbol TWLO. It started trading at a price of $23.99 per share. That’s nearly 60 percent above its IPO price of $15. If the stock continues to do well, that could be good news for tech companies and investors, who are likely hoping that a strong showing from Twilio will pave the way for more tech IPOs after the disappointment of last year’s offerings.
3. We got an early look at macOS Sierra, and tried out Siri, the new Photos app, the updated Messages and more. But the real question everyone wants to know is “will this new software screw up my computer if I hit the ‘update’ button?” In other Apple news, the company launched coding camps for kids in its retail stores.
4. The New York State Senate passed a bill that would make it illegal to advertise short-term rentals (less than 30 days) for entire homes on Airbnb. The next step in the process is for New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to either sign or veto it. If the bill becomes law, anyone in New York who posts entire home listings on Airbnb for less than 30 days could be fined up to $1,000 for the first violation, and up to $7,500 for the third violation.
5. Twitter acquired Magic Pony Technology (yes, that really is the name) to build up its machine learning muscle, and also potentially to improve how it delivers photos and videos across its apps. The company, based out of London, has developed techniques of using neural networks (systems that essentially are designed to think like human brains) and machine learning to provide expanded data for images.
6. The FAA published its final operational rules for the commercial use of small drones. Under the new rules, pilots must always remain within visual line of sight of the drone and commercial drones will also only be allowed to operate during daylight. As for other operational limits, the FAA decided to set the maximum altitude to 400 feet above ground. The rules are a little narrower than many hoped.
7. The music industry ramped up its campaign against YouTube as Taylor Swift joined other artists in signing an open letter to Congress. The gist of the debate is that musicians and record labels feel that one law allows YouTube to host and monetize their songs without compensating the artists and labels fairly.
8. It was confirmed that Dell has sold its software division to Francisco Partners and Elliott Management. The deal involves Quest Software and SonicWALL and could include other pieces. The price tag was more than $2 billion.
9. We sat down with Oculus co-founders Palmer Luckey and Nate Mitchell to talk about the state of VR. In the space of a few short years, the company has gone from duct-taped prototype to the forefront of the $23.5 billion gaming industry, and it’s hard to deny after a quick spin with the company’s Rift headset that all of this feels like the future. Here’s what the founders had to say.
10. Dropbox launched a new way to scan documents with your phone, as well as a few other new sharing features.
11. A few YouTuber engineers built the world’s largest Nerf gun, a crazy-awesome four-foot-tall gun that shoots darts (pool noodles with toilet plungers inside) at 40 mph.
12. Genetically modified crops are in metamorphosis right now, thanks to new gene-editing technology. The latest example is a white button mushroom that was genetically edited using CRISPR, or the ability to snip out and rearrange parts of an organism’s DNA. What does this mean? CRISPR has created a way out of regulation for GMO food.
13. The Kellogg Company — yes, the cereal brand — is launching a corporate venture arm called Eighteen94 Capital (1894) to invest in food and food-related tech startups. Kellogg’s effort is just the latest in a string of funds created to grab stakes in hot startups in the massive global market for food.