Hands-on with the Oculus Rift S: the ‘S’ stands for Subpar

The Oculus Rift S is a bit of an odd one. Three years after the Rift’s initial launch, Oculus has released a product that feels like a lateral move rather than a leap forward. It’s better in a few ways and worse in a few ways. After spending some time playing with it and spending a lot more time thinking about it, it’s not super clear to me why Oculus made it.

The best reason I can think of is that Facebook sees standalone VR as the area where it should be completely ignoring profits to achieve a mass audience and PC VR users should essentially be subsidizing the broader market with hardware they actually make money off of. Oculus seems to be wanting it both ways though, because they could have released a headset that pushed the limits and charged more for it, but they opted to launch a product that moved laterally and made sacrifices, but they still are charging more for it.

We reported that former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe left his position as head of PC VR at Facebook partially over the frustration of this project being settled on, something he saw as representative of the company’s “race to the bottom,” a source told us in October.

I will say that the Rift S looks better in real life than it does on paper, but compared to the Oculus Quest and Oculus Go headsets, it still feels like Oculus is launching something below their own standards with the Rift S and that their co-designer Lenovo ultimately made them a headset on-the-cheap that got the job done while lowering the build-of-materials costs.

Well, what is there to like about the new headset?

The new Insight tracking is great, and while this headset basically feels like a minor upgrade to Lenovo’s Mixed Reality headset, the tracking is undoubtedly better than what is available on Microsoft’s two-camera reference layout. By comparison, the Quest has 5 cameras which seem to capture a much greater tracking volume which really encapsulates all of those edge cases where the controllers are far out of sight.

This is a great system and while outside-in tracking is probably always going to be more accurate in certain situations, moving away from the old method was worth it in terms of making the setup process easier. On that note, the new passthrough mode which you can use to set up your boundaries in the Guardian system seems quite a bit easier to use.

On the note of displays, Oculus made some sacrifices here moving from OLED to LCD… and from 90hz to 80hz… and from dual adjustable-panels to a single-panel, but I was largely pleased with the clarity of the new, higher-res single display. This is an area that I’ll really need to dig more into with a full review, but there weren’t any apparent huge issues.

Otherwise, not a ton jumps out as a clear improvement.

The new “halo” ring strap system isn’t for me comfort-wise, but I can imagine others will prefer the fit. Even so, it gives the headset a much more rickety build quality, which has taken an overall downgrade from the original Rift in my opinion. Lenovo’s headsets have typically been bulkier and harder feeling than the softer-edged products from Google, Oculus and HTC; Lenovo’s VR design ethos is on full display here.

The removal of built-in headphones seems like the most outright poor decision with this release and while the integrated speakers are serviceable, it’s clear you’ll want to add some wired headphones if you’re looking for a serious experience, which most PC VR users definitely are.

The new Touch controllers are fine, they’re the same as what will ship with the Oculus Quest. They have a different design that feels pretty familiar but they feel smaller and a bit cheaper. The tracking ring has moved from around your knuckles to the top of the controller.

When it comes to gameplay — when the headset is on and you’re buried in an experience — most of these issues aren’t as apparent as when you consider them individually. The issue is that while the Quest and Go are miles better than any other products in their individual categories, this latest effort is just very mehh. It’s actually odd how much more high-quality the Oculus Quest feels than the Rift S when trying one after the other, it seems like it should be the other way around.

I’ll have to spend more time with the headset for a full review, of course, but on first approach the Rift S seems to be a misstep in Facebook’s otherwise stellar VR product line even if the new Insight tracking system is a push forward in the hardware’s overall usability.


Source: Tech Crunch

Postmates’ newest feature is like Uber pool for food delivery

Postmates is launching a new feature called Postmates Party that lets customers within the same neighborhood pool their orders. In return, these customers get the food delivered for free, eliminating a major pinch point for potential Postmates users.

The feature illustrates how Postmates, one of the earlier entrants to the billion-dollar food delivery wars, is trying to remain competitive by appealing to price-sensitive customers.

Customers using the app can tap on the Postmates Party tab, which will show trending merchants that people in their neighborhood are ordering from at that exact moment. By joining the “party,” customers can share the delivery from popular restaurants and get free delivery.

For now, the company’s party feature will only be offered in a handful of the nearly 3,000 U.S. cities it currently operates in. The feature is now available in Chicago, Las Vegas, Long Beach, Calif., Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Orange County, Calif., and Philadelphia.

And there is an important caveat. The party feature has a five-minute time limit in which the customer must place their order to get the deal.

“We are driven by the vision of creating a logistics infrastructure that allows goods to move throughout a city at nearly zero cost to the consumer. Postmates Party is the latest innovation in on-demand delivery that will help us deliver on this vision,” Postmates CEO and co-founder Bastian Lehmann said in a statement. “Postmates Party is a fun way to give customers the option to save money by ordering from popular restaurants that people all around them are ordering from in real time.”

Earlier this year, Postmates raised an additional $100 million in equity funding at a $1.85 billion valuation.The round comes four months after the eight-year-old startup drove home a $300 million investment that knocked it into “unicorn” territory.


Source: Tech Crunch

Attend TC Sessions: Mobility, a one-day event on the future of transportation

The way people and packages move from Point A to Point B is in the midst of a remarkable transformation driven by technological innovations in AI, robotics, electric battery development, digital platforms and manufacturing.

A mobility revolution is in the making. And TechCrunch is here — and we’re not just along for the ride. We’re here to uncover new ideas and startups, root out vaporware and dig into the tech and people spurring this change.

In short, we’re helping drive the conversation around mobility. And it’s only fitting we dedicate an event to the topic.

TechCrunch is hosting a one-day event on July 10, 2019 in San Jose, Calif., that’s centered around the future of mobility and transportation: TC Sessions: Mobility.

TC Sessions: Mobility will present a day of programming with the best and brightest founders, investors and technologists who are determined to inventing a future Henry Ford might never have imagined. TC Sessions: Mobility aims to do more than highlight the next new thing. We’ll dig into the how and why, the cost and impact to cities, people and companies, as well as the numerous challenges that lie along the way from technological and regulatory to capital and consumer pressures.

Consider changes in the past five years. Automakers are breaking free from the traditional business model of producing and selling vehicles and investing capital and resources into carsharing, ride-hailing, on-demand shuttles and even subscription services. Buying a used car no longer means visiting a dealership; and electric vehicle ownership, driven by Nissan and Tesla and now joined by a bevy of OEMs and startups, is on the rise.

Breakthroughs in AI has prompted large established technology companies, automakers and hundreds of startups to work on autonomous vehicle technology. The rise in e-commerce has Amazon and other startups investing and experimenting with autonomous delivery bots — and on the other spectrum, into self-driving trucks.

Meanwhile, dockless scooters and bikes are flooding cities and startups are popping up to pursue flying taxis and even space tourism. At the center of all of this are people, and the towns and cities they live in.

TC Sessions: Mobility is the latest in TechCrunch’s growing series of Sessions events that feature a deep dive into a specific topic. In the past, TechCrunch has hosted similar events on robotics, the blockchain and social justice. Through intimate interviews and in-depth discussions, attendees of TC Session events hear from the top individuals and companies pushing their respective field forward.

Through the coming weeks, TechCrunch will announce the participants of TechCrunch Mobility’s fireside chats, panels and workshops.


Tickets On Sale Now
Early-Bird Tickets are available now for $195 — that’s $100 savings before prices go up. Students can book a ticket for just $45 here.

Speakers/Demo Applications
We’re always looking for speakers/demos for our events. Apply here.

Sponsorship Opportunities
Fill out this form and someone from our sales team will get right back to you about sponsorship opportunities for this event.


Source: Tech Crunch

What latency feels like on Google’s Stadia cloud gaming platform

After peppering Google employees with questions regarding Stadia’s latency, pricing and supported devices to mostly no avail, I got my hands on one of their new controllers and pressed play on the Doom 2016 gameplay they were showing off on a big-screen TV.

Things started off pretty ugly. The frame rate dropped to a fast-paced PowerPoint presentation, the resolution dipped between 4K crispness and indecipherable blurriness and latency seemed to be as much as a half-second. As the Google employees looked nervously at each other, someone grabbed the controller from me and restarted the system.

After a system restart, things moved along much, much more smoothly. But what the situation sums up is that when it comes to game-streaming, things can be unpredictable. To give Google credit, they stress-tested their system by running Stadia on hotel WiFi rather than taking me down to Mountain View and letting me play with Stadia under much more controlled conditions.

Stadia is Google’s cloud game-streaming service and while there’s a lot we don’t know the basic tenants are clear. It moves console-level gaming online into your Chrome browser and lets you access it from devices like smartphones that wouldn’t be able to handle the GPU-load initially.

Despite the initial hiccup, my experience with Stadia was largely positive. Doom 2016 was in crisp 4K and I was able to focus on the game without thinking about the service I was playing it on, which is ultimately the best endorsement of a new platform like this.

This will likely be a great service for more casual gamers but might not be the best fit for the most hardcore users playing multi-player titles. While you may be launching this service directly from YouTube feeds of eSports gamers, this is something they probably wouldn’t use. That’s because the latency between input and something being displayed onscreen isn’t imperceptible, though it’s probably good enough for the vast majority of users (myself included) which is still a worthy prize for the company’s efforts to take on the massive gaming market.

Google Stadia VP Phil Harrison wouldn’t give me a proper range of where exactly latency fell, but he did say it was less than the time it took for a human to perceive something and react — which another Google employee then told me differed person-to-person but was generally 70ms-130ms — so I suppose the most official number we’ll get is that the latency is probably somewhere less than 70ms.

There is no hard truth here though because latency will really depend on your geographic proximity to the datacenter. Being in San Francisco, I connected to a data center roughly 50 miles away in San Jose. Google confirmed to me that not all rural users in supported countries will be able to sign-up for the service at launch because of this.

Other interesting things to note:

  • Google said they’d confirm devices later, but when asked about iOS support at launch they highlighted that they were focused on Pixel devices at launch.
  • It doesn’t sound like you’ll be able to restore purchases of games you’ve previously gotten, you’ll unsurprisingly have to buy all of your Stadia titles on the platform.
  • You’ll be able to access games from YouTube streams, but there will also be an online hub for all your content and you can access games via links.
  • The controller was nice and probably felt most similar to the design of Sony’s DualShock controller.

We’ll probably be hearing a lot more at Google I/O this summer, but with my first hands-on demo, the service certainly works and it certainly feels console-quality. The big freaking question is how Google prices this, because that pricing is going to determine whether it’s a service for casual gamers or hardcore gamers, and that will determine whether it’s a success.

Update: We were playing a level from Doom 2016, not Doom Eternal


Source: Tech Crunch

Uber Freight is expanding into Europe

Uber Freight, the newly spun out Uber business unit that helps truck drivers connect with shipping companies, is kicking off its global expansion plans. The company said Wednesday it is launching the app in Europe, starting with the Netherlands.

Local carriers and drivers will be able to book and move their first loads with Uber Freight in the next few weeks, CEO Lior Ron wrote in a blog posted Wednesday. Uber Freight plans to expand to more European countries this year.

The EU and U.S. freight markets have problematic similarities. They’re both huge — the EU truckload market is a $400 billion marketplace and third after China and the U.S. — and inefficient.

“The European trucking market is experiencing a severe shortage of drivers, and of the time drivers are on the road, 21 percent of total kilometers travelled are empty,” Ron wrote. “Inefficiency of this scale results in shippers struggling to find available drivers to move their goods. Additionally, small- to medium-sized carriers in the EU make up more than 85% of the total carrier pool, and just like in other international freight markets, they experience the most difficulty connecting with larger shippers.”

Ron argues that the Uber Freight app has the ability to address these pain points in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.

Uber Freight has been scaling up its business since launching in May 2017, growing from limited regional operations in Texas to the rest of the continental U.S. The company has offices in San Francisco and Chicago. Uber Freight has launched a series of programs and features since March 2018, including “fleet mode” and Uber Freight Plus, which gives app users access to discounts on services such as fuel, tires and phone plans.

In August, Uber announced that it would make Uber Freight a separate unit and more than double its investment into the business. Since then, the company has redesigned the app, adding new navigation features that make searching for and filtering loads easier to customize and more intuitive, as well as other features, including an updated map view and a search bar across the top of the screen.

It’s also made some key hires, one of which intimated the company’s global ambitions. The company hired Andrew Smith, one of Box’s early employees, to head up global sales at Uber Freight, and Bar Ifrach, formerly of Airbnb, to lead its marketplace team, TechCrunch learned last month.

The company has made headway breaking into the U.S. market. The app has been downloaded more than 328,000 times and 12 percent of 350,000 U.S. owner operators have completed the Uber Freight onboarding process, which means they’ve booked or are ready to book a load, the company says. 

Uber Freight had about 30,000 active users last quarter.


Source: Tech Crunch

The top 10 startups from Y Combinator W19 Demo Day 1

Electric vehicle chargers, heads up displays for soldiers, and the Costco of weed were some of our favorites from presitigious startup accelerator Y Combinator’s Winter 2019 Demo Day 1. If you want to take the pulse of Silicon Valley, YC is the place to be. But with over 200 startups presenting across 2 stages and 2 days, it’s tough to keep track.

You can check out our write-ups of all 85 startups that launched on Demo Day 1 here, and come back later for our full index and picks from Day 2. But now, based on feedback from top investors and TechCrunch’s team, here’s our selection of top 10 companies from the first half of this Y Combinator batch, and why we picked each.

Ravn

Looking around corners is one of the most dangerous parts of war for infantry. Ravn builds heads-up displays that let soldiers and law enforcement see around corners thanks to cameras on their gun, drones, or elsewhere. The ability to see the enemy while still being behind cover saves lives, and Ravn already has $490,000 in Navy and Air Force contracts. With a CEO who was a Navy Seal who went on to study computer science plus experts in augmented reality and selling hardware to the Department Of Defense, Ravn could deliver the inevitable future of soldier heads-up displays.

Why we picked Ravn: The AR battlefield is inevitable, but right now Microsoft’s HoloLens team is focused on providing mid-fight information like how many bullets a soldier has in their clip and where there squad mates are. Ravn’s tech was built by a guy who watched the tragic consequences of getting into those shootouts. He wants to help soldiers avoid or win these battles before they get dangerous, and his team includes an expert in selling hardened tech to the US government.

Middesk

It’s difficult to know if a business’ partners have paid their taxes, filed for bankruptcy, or are involved in lawsuits. That leads businesses to write off $120 billion a year in uncollectable bad debt. Middesk does due diligence to sort out good businesses from the bad to provide assurance for B2B deals loans, investments, acquisitions, and more. By giving clients the confidence that they’ll be paid, Middesk could insert itself into a wide array of transactions.

Why we picked Middesk: It’s building the trust layer for the business world that could weave its way into practically every deal. More data means making fewer stupid decisions, and Middesk could put an end to putting faith in questionable partners.

Convictional

Convictional helps direct-to-consumer companies approach larger retailers more simply. It takes a lot of time for a supplier to build a relationship with a retailer and start selling their products. Convictional wants to speed things up by building a B2B self-service commerce platform that allows retailers to easily approach brands and make orders.

Why we picked Convictional: There’s been an explosion of D2C businesses selling everthing from suitcases to shaving kits. But to drive exposure and scale, they need retail partners who’re eager not to be cut out of this growing commerce segment. Playing middleman could put Convictional in a lucrative position while also making it a nexus of valuable shopping data.

Dyneti Technologies

Has invented a credit card scanner SDK that uses a smartphone’s camera to help prevent fraud by over 50 percent and improve conversion for businesses by 5 percent. The business was started by a pair of former Uber employees including CEO Julia Zheng, who launched the fraud analytics teams for Account Security and UberEATS. Dyneti’s service is powered by deep learning and works on any card format. In the two months since it launched, the company has signed contracts with Rappi, Gametime and others.

Why we picked Dyneti: Cybersecurity threats are growing and evolving, yet underequipped businesses are eager to do more business online. Dyneti is one of those fundamental B2B businesses that feels like Stripe — capable of bringing simplicity and trust to a complex problem so companies can focus on their product.

AmpUp

The “Airbnb for electric vehicle chargers.” AmpUp, preparing for a world in which the majority of us drive EVs, operates a mobile app that connects a network of thousands of EV chargers and drivers. Using the app, an electric vehicle owner can quickly identify an available and compatible charger and EV charger owners can earn cash sharing their charger at their own price and their own schedule. The service is currently live in the Bay Area.

Why we picked AmpUp: Electric vehicles are inevitable, but reliable charging is one of the leading fears dissuading people from buying. Rather than build out some massive owned network of chargers that will never match the distributed gas station network, AmpUp could put an EV charger anywhere there’s someone looking to make a few bucks.

FlockJay

Operates an online sales academy that teaches job seekers from underrepresented backgrounds the skills and training they need to pursue a career in tech sales. The 12-week long bootcamp offers trainees coaching and mentorship. The company has launched its debut cohort with 17 students, 100 percent of which are already in job interviews and 40 percent of which have already secured new careers in the tech industry.

Why we picked FlockJay: Unlike coding bootcamps that can require intense prerequisites, killer salespeople can be molded from anyone with hustle. Those from underrepresented backgrounds already know how to expertly sell themselves to attain opportunities others take for granted. FlockJay could provide economic mobility at a crucial juncture when job security is shaky.

Deel

20 million international contractors work with US companies but it’s difficult to onboard and train them. Deel handles the contracts, payments, and taxes in one interface to eliminate paperwork and wasted time. Deel charges businesses $10 per contractor per month and a 1% fee on payouts, which earns it an average of $560 per contractor per year.

Why we picked Deel: The destigmatization of remote work is opening new recruiting opportunities abroad for US businesses. But unless teams can properly integrate these distant staffers, the cost savings of hiring overseas are negated. As the globalization megatrend continues, businesses will need better HR tools.

Glide

There has been a pretty major trend towards services that make it easier to build web pages or mobile apps. Glide lets customers easily create well-designed mobile apps from Google Sheets pages. This not only makes it easy to build the pages, but simplifies the skills needed to keep information updated on the site.

Why we picked Glide: While desktop website makers is a brutally competitive market, it’s still not easy to make a mobile site if you’re not a coder. Rather than starting from visual layout tool many people would still be unfamiliar with, Glide starts with a spreadsheet that almost everyone has used before. And as the web begins to feel less personal with all the brands and influencers, Glide could help people make bespoke apps that put intimacy and personality first.

Docucharm

The platform, co-founded by former Uber product manager Minh Tri Pham, turns documents into structured data a computer can understand to accurately automate document processing workflows and to take away the need for human data entry. Docucharm’s API can understand various forms of documents (like paystubs, for example) and will extract the necessary information without error. Its customers include tax prep company Tributi and lending businesses Aspire.

Why we picked Docucharm: Paying high-priced, high-skilled workers to do data entry is a huge waste. And optical character recognition like Docucharm’s will unlock new types of businesses based on data extraction. This startup could be the AI layer underneath it all.

The Flower Co

Flower Co.: Memberships for cheaper weed sales and delivery. Most dispensaries cater to high-end customers and newbies that want expensive products and tons of hand-holding. In contrast, The Flower Co caters to long-time marijuana enthusiasts who want huge quantities for at low prices. They’re currently selling $200k in marijuana per month to 700 members. They charge $100 a year for membership, and take 10% on product sales.

Why we picked The Flower Co: Marijuana is the next gold rush, a once in a generation land grab opportunity. Yet most marijuana merchants have focused on hyper-discerning high-end customers despite the long-standing popularity of smoking big blunts of cheap weed with a bunch of friends. For those who want to make cannabis consumption a lifestyle, and there will be plenty, The Flower Co could become their wholesaler.

Honorable Mentions

Atomic Alchemy – Filling the shortage of nuclear medicine

YourChoice – Omni-gender non-hormonal birth control

Prometheus – Turning CO2 into gas

Lumos – Medical search engine for doctors

Heart Aerospace – Regional electric planes

Boundary Layer Technologies – Super-fast container ships

Additional reporting by Kate Clark, Greg Kumparak, and Lucas Matney


Source: Tech Crunch

Why convertible notes are safer than SAFEs

As the saying goes, where you stand on an issue often rests on where you sit. Translated into startup law and finance, your views on how to approach fundraising are often heavily influenced by where your company and your investors are located. As a startup lawyer at Egan Nelson LLP (E/N), a leading boutique firm focused on tech markets outside of Silicon Valley — like Austin, Seattle, NYC, Denver, etc. — that’s the perspective I bring to this post. 

At a very high level, the three most common financing structures for startup seed rounds across the country are (i) equity, (ii) convertible notes and (iii) SAFEs. Others have come and gone, but never really achieved much traction. As to which one is appropriate for your company’s early funding, there’s no universal answer. It depends heavily on the context; not just of what the company’s own priorities and leverage are, but also the expectations and norms of the investors you plan to approach. Maintaining flexibility, and not getting bogged down by a rigid one-approach-fits-all mindset is important in that regard.

Here’s the TL;DR: When a client comes to me suggesting they might do a SAFE round, my first piece of advice is that a convertible note with a long maturity (three years) and low interest rate (like 2 percent or 3 percent) will give them functionally the same thing — while minimizing friction with more traditional investors.

Why? Read on for more details.

Convertible notes for smaller seed rounds

Convertible securities (convertible notes and SAFEs) are often favored, particularly for smaller rounds (less than $2 million), for their simplicity and speed to close. They defer a lot of the heavier terms and negotiation to a later date. The dominant convertible security (when equity is not being issued) across the country for seed funding is a convertible note, which is basically a debt instrument that is intended to convert into equity in the future when you close a larger round (usually a Series A). The note’s conversion economics are more favorable than what Series A investors pay, due to the greater risk the seed investors took on.


Source: Tech Crunch

Apply to be a TC Top Pick at Disrupt San Francisco 2019

Savvy early-stage startup founders are making plans to attend our flagship event, Disrupt San Francisco 2019, on October 2-4 at Moscone North. It’s three jam-packed days of connection, inspiration and discovery that you don’t want to miss. But here’s a hot tip for founders who want to wring every drop of opportunity out of their time at Disrupt. Apply to be a TC Top Pick. It’s easy to do, and it’s free.

Earning our TC Top Picks designation is a highly competitive and curated process. TechCrunch editors will thoroughly review each application and select up to five standout startups in each of the following categories: AI/Machine Learning, Biotech/Healthtech, Blockchain, Fintech, Mobility, Privacy/Security, Retail/E-commerce, Robotics/IoT/Hardware, SaaS and Social Impact & Education.

All TC Top Picks receive a free Startup Alley Exhibition package, prime real estate in the Startup Alley exhibition hall and invitations to VIP events. You’ll also be interviewed by a TechCrunch editor on the Showcase stage. The Top Pick startups garner an intense amount of media and investor attention, which can take your business to the next level. But hey, don’t take our word for it. Take it from someone who experienced the value of applying to TC Top Picks firsthand.

Australia-based Sonder Designs earned a TC Top Pick designation at Disrupt SF 2018. The startup designed a keyboard — using E-Ink technology — and the keyboard’s display changes dynamically based on whatever application or language you use.

In five days, three of which included Disrupt, founder Francisco Serra-Martins reports they held 41 meetings with venture capitalists and 11 meetings with B2B customers. The company received more investor interest than it initially forecasted, which led them to increase the investment round size. They’re currently working on due diligence and closing a $2.2 million round.

Top Picks receive a lot of media attention — the gift that keeps on giving — and that invaluable exposure landed Serra-Martins on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

“Being a TC Top Pick at Disrupt San Francisco not only helped us close out an additional $1 million investment for our seed round, it was an incredible opportunity to highlight our technology to an international community and to engage with the San Francisco startup ecosystem,” said Serra-Martins.

That’s some serious ROI, amirite? Looking for more ways to get the most out of your Disrupt experience? Want to win $100,00 in equity-free cash? Apply to compete in Startup Battlefield, our epic startup pitch competition.

You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. Disrupt San Francisco 2019 takes place on October 2-4, and this is your chance to take your startup to a new level. Apply to our TC Top Pick program today.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt SF? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.


Source: Tech Crunch

Cities are getting more serious about micromobility data

Gone are the days when cities and tech startups are constantly at odds with each other. Passport, a mobility management startup, has partnered with Charlotte, N.C., Detroit, MIch., and Omaha, Neb. to create a framework to apply parking principles, data analysis and more to the plethora of shared micromobility services.

“For many cities, the only option has been to impose bans, fees or permit systems intended to cap the number of scooters allowed on their streets,” Passport CEO Bob Youakim told TechCrunch via email. “While this allows cities to temporarily control scooter deployment, there are greater benefits to achieve by aligning with new mobility providers.”

With Passport, those cities will be able to easily analyze scooter usage, parking patterns and curb utilization. Passport also enables cities to implement real-time curbside pricing and payments and better manage scooter placement. The idea is that cities and mobility providers will work better together if there are economic incentives in place.

“Cities already have a well-established system for charging cars to park on the curb and this same solution should be applied to other modes of transportation,” Youakim said. “By charging scooters to park with usage-based pricing, cities can more effectively manage scooters in their communities and naturally balance supply and demand.”

Passport has also partnered with scooter operator Lime to research ways in which a system of flexible parking charges could replace scooter caps.

“This is a prime example of cities and Lime collaborating to both determine the right fleet size through data and jointly achieve mode shift, sustainability and accessibility objectives,” Lime Director of Transportation Partnerships said in a statement.

In Detroit, the city outlined its official pilot program last October, capping the number of scooters each company could deploy at 400. When the scooters first landed in Detroit, they were very concentrated in the greater downtown area, Detroit Chief of Mobility Innovation Mark de la Vergne told TechCrunch via email.

As part of this program, the hope is to continue to increase the availability of scooters in underserved areas, as well as better manage the supply and demand economics.

“I’m very interested to see how these cities can work together to develop a new business/regulatory model that can be scaled nationally,” he said.

Over in Charlotte, the hope is to learn more about how to implement dynamic pricing and encourage people to wear helmets.

“We will be evaluating how this partnership shapes transportation mobility in Charlotte as it relates to e-scooters,” Charlotte Department of Transportation Deputy Director Dan Gallagher said. “As a city we want to be able to provide our community with the best transportation network that provides access to jobs, education, transit and housing.”

 


Source: Tech Crunch

Here’s how you’ll access Google’s Stadia cloud gaming service

Google isn’t launching a gaming console. The company is launching a service instead, Stadia. You’ll be able to run a game on a server and stream the video feed to your device. You won’t need to buy new hardware to access Stadia, but Stadia won’t be available on all devices from day one.

“With Google, your games will be immediately discoverable by 2 billion people on a Chrome browser, Chromebook, Chromecast, Pixel device. And we have plans to support more browsers and platforms over time,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said shortly after opening the conference.

As you can see, the Chrome browser will be the main interface to access the service on a laptop or desktop computer. The company says that you’ll be able to play with your existing controller. So if you have a PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch controller, that should work just fine. Google is also launching its own controller.

As expected, if you’re using a Chromecast with your TV, you’ll be able to turn it into a Stadia machine. Only the latest Chromecast supports Bluetooth, so let’s see if you’ll need a recent model to play with your existing controller. Google’s controller uses Wi-Fi so that should theoretically work with older Chromecast models.

On mobile, it sounds like Google isn’t going to roll out its service to all Android devices from day one. Stadia could be limited to Pixel phones and tablets at first. But there’s no reason Google would not ship Stadia to all Android devices later.

Interestingly, Google didn’t mention Apple devices at all. So if you have an iPhone or an iPad, don’t hold your breath. Apple doesn’t let third-party developers sell digital content in their apps without going through the App Store. This will create a challenge for Google.

Stadia isn’t available just yet. It’ll launch later this year. As you can see, there are many outstanding questions after the conference. Google is entering a new industry and it’s going to take some time to figure out the business model and the distribution model.


Source: Tech Crunch