'As easy as playing a video game': Austin company helps make the perfect shot simple with its cinema robots
Hollywood film companies are coming to Austin—and they won't be needing to look far for some high-tech movie magic.
Coming in with a wingspan of 20 feet and hand-guided motion technology that is "miles ahead of the competition," the C31 cinema robot from Austin-based robotics company SISU is on a mission to disrupt the film industry.
The machines can do a lot of things humans can't: the robot can be programmed to take a set path and capture smooth and steady shots while moving. It also has a much greater range of motion and moves much faster than a mortal form.
And it's deceptively easy—the robot was designed with cinematographers, photographers and gamers in mind. With a console that closely resembles a video game crossed with Adobe Premiere, a screen in one hand and a joystick in the other are all that you need to become a movie-making pro, according to the company.
Cinema robots are not a new concept, and the film industry has been using bionic arms to capture the perfect shot for decades. However, SISU says that almost anyone can operate the bot after only an hour's worth of training and that its "cutting-edge" cinema robot is the most user-friendly on the market.
"We've had cinema robots for a while but they're super complicated, they're intimidating," Aldridge said. "Usually (robots are) programming with a kind of text-based language. It's just a bunch of stuff that makes no sense whatsoever—only to a programmer would that make sense."
Founded back in 2010, SISU started as a workshop in Aldridge's garage where they started off doing trade show demos, making custom machines for big tech companies.
"We started helping other companies to make products that would just really disrupt industries," Aldridge said. "But then we thought, 'Let's make one for ourselves—let's make robots just as easy to use as playing a video game.'"
The fledgling company made demos including a life-size Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot, a target that moves to make sure you get a bullseye every time and a giant music box.
Now, SISU's technology is being used by major companies like Dell, Bubba's LA and LionStar Films to create commercials, films and more. SISU doesn't fit into one box, however—using the same structure, the robots can be programmed for practical purposes like welding or grinding.
While it may be a blip in a company like Dell's budget, the top-notch C31 model will set you back a cool $150,000 if bought outright. For the average film hobbyist, the company offers financing and rentals to mitigate the cost.
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An Austin-based program manager for Apple Maps and one of two leaders for the #AppleToo activist movement said she has been fired after a suspension.
According to the New York Times, Janneke Parrish said she was put on suspension for several days while the company investigated her activities before she was fired by a human resources employee via phone call on Thursday.
Parrish was under investigation for allegedly leaking a recording of an Apple staff meeting to the media, which she said she didn't do.
The report said the company told Parrish, who is 30, that she was being fired for having deleted files off her company-issued phone and computer before handing them in for examination. Parrish said the files she deleted contained her personal and financial information.
Among the files she deleted were the Robinhood app, which she said was to keep Apple from seeing "how much money I lost investing in GameStop," the Pokemon Go app and screenshots of programming bugs she was fixing.
Parrish said she believes Apple was retaliating against her efforts in organizing #AppleToo, a group of employees working to expose the company's "culture of secrecy" that has been "faced disproportionately by our Black, Indigenous, and other colleagues from minoritized racial, gender and historically marginalized groups of people."
Parrish had been publishing weekly accounts of workplace problems that had been shared anonymously with her from other employees, though she did not verify employment on all of them. The accounts she received were in the hundreds, so Parrish said she was hopeful her termination would lead to some justice within the company.
Employees at tech giants have been more outspoken than usual in recent months—with former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen speaking out against her former employer—and Parrish said the company's desire to keep under wraps has eroded trust by discouraging employees to come forward with issues like harassment or wage disparity.
Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock commented on the matter: "We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters."
Additionally, the email detailing her termination, which was obtained by the New York Times, said Apple had determined that Parrish "engaged in conduct in violation of Apple policies including, but not limited to, interfering with an investigation by deleting files on your company provided equipment after being specifically instructed not to do so."
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Republic Square Park has turned into a Ford-themed fiesta for its Built to Connect pop-up experience, complete with test drives, off-roading and an inside look at the Tesla-rivaling electric vehicles that the motor vehicle company is planning to integrate over the next decade.
The outdoor driving event is free, open to the public and will stay in the park from now until Oct. 24, offering rides on Bronco Mountain, a 0-40 mph zip in the 2022 all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning and a chance to win an original Ford Bronco.
The event kicked off with a panel of speakers, including Austin Director of Transportation Rob Spillar, Ford General Manager Darren Palmer and engineering specialists discussing Ford's goals to make it so that 50% of the vehicles on the road are electric by 2030.
As an eco-conscious city, Spillar said that around 4,000 vehicles, or 22% of the Texas electric vehicle market, as well as over 15,000 plugins lie in Austin, meaning driving electric just got accessible.
"Austin, as you know, is a fast-growing modern city that is committed to protecting the long term health and viability of our communities and strategies that reduce greenhouse gases, mitigate the effects of climate change and improve the drone quality of life here in Central Texas for all of our residents," Spillar said.
And Ford's electric vehicles are putting up some steep competition for newly-Austin-based company Tesla. The new electric Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lighting offer amenities that used to be exclusive to Musk's brand, such as the BlueCruise self-driving network. The cars also boast a 300-mile range on a single charge, assisted reverse technology and access to the biggest charging network outside of the home.
Plus, Ford's got affordability on its side. The F-150 Lightning starts at $39,974 and the Mustang Mach-E starts at $42,895, while the cheapest Tesla model, the Model 3, starts at $41,990 and averages 262 miles on a single charge.
Speaking of price, the numbers on the electric vehicles may look like a little more than you'd like to pay for your transport, but Palmer promises it will pay off. In addition to a $7,500 tax credit you can earn for your sustainability, you'll never have to buy a pricey tank of gas again.
"Personally, I have not found one customer ever, who would go back to gas so that says something," Palmer said. "I realized, at $51,000, that car outruns every childhood hero car I ever had."
Texas buyers: take note. The Ford Lightning can power your house for three to 10 days, just in case the statewide power grid fails. You can take it glamping with you, so you don't have to leave the comfort of modern life behind, and in a pinch, Palmer said he's even seen a wedding party powered by the truck.
Ford is investing $30 billion into the U.S. market to meet demand by 2025 and the new electric truck already has over 150,000 reservations.
"I think they're going to take off much faster than you expect—they're going to be extremely, extremely popular next year," Palmer said. "With the incentives that are available today, this is starting to become more mainstream and viable for more and more families. We couldn't have done that before, we didn't have the technology, or the technology at that price."
The event is ongoing through next weekend from 12-9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.- 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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