13 TechCrunch stories you don’t want to miss this week

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The Sony Future Lab could be as forward-thinking as the Walkman

This week we went hands-on with a few awesome gadgets (including the Fitbit Blaze and the Meta 2 AR headset), Slack introduced voice calling and one of Google’s self-driving cars got into a minor accident. These are the stories to catch you up this week.

1. We went hands on with Meta 2, a $949 augmented reality headset with a near 90-degree field-of-view.

2. Zenefits laid off around 17 percent of its employees, or 250 people, with the layoffs largely concentrated in the company’s sales division.

3. Just as Slack started testing voice and video calling, voice calling arrived on desktop. It lets you start a private Slack Call or launch a conference call in a channel that anyone can join with a click.

4. Natasha Lomas spoke with HTC’s Drew Bamford, corporate VP and head of its Creative Labs team of product designers.

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5. Sarah Buhr reviewed the $199 Fitbit Blaze fitness tracker. It has a built-in heart monitor and sleep-tracking capability and allows you to leave your phone behind for a nice walk or jog. But its clunky design is something people may not be able to get past.

6. Amazon added the $130 Tap (a Bluetooth-enabled portable speaker with Wi-Fi and Alexa operating system) and the $90 Dot to the Echo family.

7. Google’s self-driving car got into a minor accident — while the AI was driving. It’s a fringe case that makes building self-driving cars so hard.

8. The Raspberry Pi 3 launched, and it’s 50 percent faster, has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and an eye on the IoT.

9. Google Maps added its pit stop feature to iOS, so now iPhone users can route their way to a gas station or restaurant ahead of their final destination.

10. GoPro acquired two video editing startups, Stupeflix and Vemory. The company spent $105 million on the two companies combined.

11. Google rolled out a pilot program that introduces a new way to pay cashiers — and it involves leaving your phone in your pocket. It’s called Hands Free, and it’s a way to basically connect your phone with a point-of-sale system using the sensors on your phone.

12. Contributor Gene Hoffman reminisces about the time Netflix was initially written off by the major Hollywood players as a dumping ground for content that nobody cared about — and just how far it has come — in “Netflix: The Force Awakens.” 

13. In After the Gold Rush, Jon Evans argues that the startup gold rush of the last 10 years is over.