Uber Self Driving Cars Return

Eight months after one of Uber’s self-driving cars struck and killed a pedestrian, the ride-hailing company is close to putting its autonomous vehicles back on the road in a drastically reduced version of earlier efforts. Uber was driving its autonomous vehicles on public roads in four cities — sometimes at night — at speeds as high as 55 miles an hour when testing was halted after the accident. Starting within a few weeks, it plans to run the vehicles on a mile loop between two company offices in Pittsburgh. They won’t operate at night or in wet weather, and they won’t exceed 25 m.p.h.

But even as the company has lowered expectations, its autonomous car technology has faced considerable issues. The cars have reacted more slowly than human drivers and struggled to pass so-called track validation tests, the last step before returning to city streets, according to a dozen Uber documents and emails as well as interviews with seven current and former employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk publicly about the company. The scaled-down street testing would be a humble return for a cutting-edge effort that Uber’s executives once considered a key to its prosperity.

While Uber is growing fast and is expected to make its debut on Wall Street next year, it is wildly unprofitable. The company lost $1 billion in its most recent quarter.

In conjunction with Uber’s request to resume testing autonomous vehicles on public roads, Uber also published a safety report, a letter on safety from CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, and a summary of internal and external safety reviews. Uber also linked to the full 56-page external safety review completed by the law firm LeClairRyan.

Self-driving cars were supposed to help cut Uber’s losses by eliminating the need for drivers, perhaps the company’s biggest expense. But expectations were well ahead of the technology.

While Uber’s cars have been off the streets, its competitors have pushed ahead with similar projects.

Google’s autonomous vehicle unit, Waymo, started a driverless ride-hailing service in Arizona on Wednesday. Another contender, Lyft, started a robotic ride-hailing service in Las Vegas this year with the manufacturer Aptiv. General Motors acquired the self-driving start-up Cruise in 2016, has since netted major investments from SoftBank and Honda, and has been testing the vehicles in San Francisco and other locations.

Why its hot: Once fully implemented the self driving cars will be the key to Ubers profitability while eliminating a vital source of income for countless drivers.

The Top 10 Fake News Stories on Facebook in 2018

Facebook is working hard to eliminate fake news on its site, but these were the top fake news stories from 2018 according to engagements. Some of these are obvious nonsense and their humor probably aided their virality, but fake news is still and issue. It’s surprising that more serious, yet fake stories, weren’t among the top.

BuzzFeed News recently examined the biggest fake news stories which gained traction on The Social Network in 2018. According to BuzzFeed’s report, the top 50 fake news stories on Facebook generated around 22 million total shares, reactions, and comments for the year, which is 7% fewer than the 23.5 million engagements generated by to top 50 Facebook fake posts of 2017, and slightly more than the 21.5 million engagements for fake reports on the platform in 2016.

Foldable Phones Coming in 2019

Consumers wanting the absolute latest and greatest in smartphone technology may find Samsung’s foldable phone appealing. The company has been talking about the device for years and finally showed off a prototype in November. It uses a new display technology called Infinity Flex Display that lets you repeatedly open and close the device without screen degradation.

The device will be a compact smartphone when closed and a more expansive tablet when fully opened. Apps will seamlessly transition between the display sizes, letting you pick up on the tablet where you left off on the smartphone. And you’ll be able to use three active apps on the bigger display.

The first version of the Galaxy X/F will probably be sold in small quantities as Samsung perfects the user experience and app developers come on board. The device won’t come cheap. Samsung may view foldables as the future of the mobile market, but it still has to give us a reason to view the device as more than a gimmick.

Why it’s hot: If it does in fact come in 2019, the next 5 to 10 years will see shifts in how advertising is delivered across these dual phone-tablet devices.

Doctor Influencers or Un-certified Hazards

Doctor Influencers or Uncertified Hazards There’s a rising trend in Instagram star plastic surgeons. They go by names like “Dr. Miami” and “Dr. BeFixnIt”. Their streams are covered in before and after shots and videos of the surgeries, they are performing. They even host Q&As, drawing questions from their pool of followers.

People are loving it, especially the doctors who are seeing a huge increase in the number of new patients referred by social.

“It’s a trend that has gone fully global. Just searching through the #plasticsurgery hashtag on Instagram will take you into an operating room on nearly every continent.”

Patients have consented to have their surgeries filmed, but what these doctors are increasingly seeing are others using their videos and photos as proof of their own work.

“Social media is inherently unregulated like the Wild West,” she said, and “it’s hard to know what’s real,” says Dr. Lara Degvan who has herself found images of her patients and work posted on other less qualified doctors pages.

“A 2017 study found that when searching one day’s worth of Instagram posts using popular hashtags—only 18% of top posts were authored by board-certified surgeons, and medical doctors who are not board certified made up another 26%.”

Why it’s hot: when working with brands, we must keep in mind that parsing who’s legitimate and who’s not from a social media profile is incredibly difficult for consumers.

Source: https://qz.com/1499937/using-social-media-to-find-a-cosmetic-surgeon-has-gone-global/

 

I’m Just Here For the WiFi

The New York Times reports that hotels are evolving past outdated ‘business centers’ and are moving to create more co-working spaces in the lobbies. Various hotel chains are revamping their lobbies and featuring free wi-fi and bathrooms in order to appeal to a more dynamic, digital clientele.

Hotels are starting to create lobbies and common spaces that are a designation for not only guests, but also locals. The hotel lobbies act as community gathering spaces with long tables, snacks and coffee from noon to 4am. Marriott has 80 locations in the works for its hotel brand created in 2013, Moxy, which features larger common spaces and “cozier” guest rooms. They don’t have a front desk, and require you to check in at the bar for your key & complimentary drink. Sheraton has also invested in overhauling 450 of its current lobbies to include “productivity tables,” equipped with outlets, USB ports, and drawers that users can rent and lock. They will also feature private phone booths and meeting rooms available for rent.

This trend is in part a response to the rise of co-working spaces like WeWork. WeWork is trying to catch up and capitalize on the trend with WeLive, a line of fully furnished short-term apartments in NYC and DC, available for short-term basis rentals.

One Amsterdam hotel founder calls the category a hybrid between a home and office with hotel services – almost like a mix between Airbnb and WeWork. The benefit for hotels is that the more locals they attract, the more genuine and authentic experiences will feel.

Why it’s hot: For freelancers and people working remote, this emerging hotel trend means there will be a larger, trendier selection of free co-working spaces available. For travelers, it means more options that working in a quiet hotel room or renting a cold conference room for collaborative work sessions. For hotels, it means more revenue as locals stream in for coffee or lunch. Win-win-win.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/12/travel/checking-in-no-thanks-im-just-here-to-use-the-wi-fi.html1

Hotel of the future

China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba Group opened its first “future hotel”, also known as “Flyzoo Hotel”, in Hangzhou, China.

Equipped with the latest leading technology, many futuristic features are enabled at the hotel, guests can check into the hotel without talking to anyone. They can walk straight to their rooms and get their faces scanned at the door to gain entry.

Robots can be found everywhere in the hotel, and they would guide the guests by providing recorded voice messages and accompany them during their stay. The guests can also control indoor temperatures, lighting intensity, household appliances through their voices.

A very notable device that the hotel is equipped with is called “Tmall Genie”, which is an AI management system. The system will take orders from guests, including buying groceries.

The one-meter high robot ‘Genie’ powered by Tmall, an AI system, follows guests around, takes orders, helps to buy groceries, orders meals, and picks up laundry through voice command, touch, or simple gestures.

Flyzoo Hotel Hangzhou 201811061912218939

Flyzoo Hotel Hangzhou 8ba9b831-4c01-42d4-ad77-7f19bba520e0

Why it’s hot: As a reply to high labor costs, creating uniformity in hospitality services and mixing up and re-imaging the hotel industry, this robot enabled hotel is smarter, more automated and an inspiration for future digital travelers.

Source

bots against bias…

Research late last year revealed that sources quoted in Financial Times articles were ~80% men, and only ~20% women. To fix this, FT recently revealed a new bot aimed at balancing those numbers, calling it “She Said, He Said”.

According to its press release, “She Said, He Said” “uses pronouns and first names [in an article] to determine whether a source is male or a female”, then it will “integrate prompts into the CMS to highlight any gender imbalance prior to publication and remind editors to think about sourcing at the commissioning stage”.

This follows FT’s previously revealed “JanetBot”, which “tracks the number of women featured in images on the home page”, giving real-time feedback to editors as they change what’s featured over the course of each day. It’s all part of a greater strategy FT is using to try and balance its appeal among both genders.

Why It’s Hot

There’s obviously plenty of room for technology to surface bias in news reporting, and it’s great to see one of the world’s most prominent daily outlets using it to do just that. It’s another example of how technology can help us see things we otherwise might not, and allow us to correct it – effectively balancing our human capabilities.

[Source]

Orangetheory Takes Their Gym to Hotels

Orangetheory is testing a new pop-up gym model across hotels nationwide. Their first location opened last month at the Hilton-owned Boca Raton Resort and Club, and the company has plans to launch at least 12 more locations this year.

Pop-up locations will operate similar to Orangetheory’s standalone locations. They will feature the same equipment and offer classes taught by trainers brought in from other Orangetheory gyms. Guests staying at the resort locations will be able to join an interval training class for $30. Those guests who are already Orangetheory members get a discounted rate of $20 per class.

For now, the pop-ups will be open for six months, allowing Orangetheory to measure success before committing to long-term leases.

Why It’s Hot

Hotel guests are captive audiences for trying out new experiences while they’re away from home and outside of their usual routines. This model could become the best way to introduce the Orangetheory method to potential new members.

Source: https://digiday.com/marketing/orangetheory-launching-pop-gyms-inside-hotels/

Why bedding brand Buffy isn’t playing by the direct-to-consumer rules

Buffy is part of a growing cohort of digitally native brands that are prioritizing longevity over fast growth out of the gates. It’s a sign that the category’s maturing: In the past, brands saddled with millions in VC-funding could squash competition by outspending them on flashy marketing campaigns and brand awareness. With customer acquisition becoming prohibitively expensive, young brands like Hims and Rothy’s, in addition to Buffy, are turning their attention to loyalty plays and long-term growth plans.

Additionally, Buffy isn’t afraid of Amazon like most brands in the direct to consumer category. Instead they see the ecomm giant as an ally to strengthen their brand awareness and complement their owned channels. Buffy’s goal is making sustainable bedding more readily available and affordable for their customers, so they’ve taken the unpopular route of selling through Amazon to quickly gain awareness and volume.

“What Amazon represents is a way to get the word out and get product into people’s hands. If you look at it just from a business standpoint, Amazon is the world’s marketplace and they do so much so well, and they represent a door into everyone’s home in a way,” said Shaked. “For us, I think recognizing those opportunities as non-threatening to our brand is important. It’s not something that gets in the way of people going to our site, so I don’t see it as a problem. It’s a way to leverage technology.”

Why it’s hot?

This shift among DTC brands signifies a new perspective on how brands in this category are focused on fulfilling their brand’s mission by leveraging competitive giants to their advantage and focusing on retention versus fast scale growth. This requires a shift from traditional acquisition strategies to retention and loyalty focused demand gen strategies.

Postmates Evolves their Delivery Robot Design

San Francisco partially banned delivery robots because they obstructed pedestrians, so Postmates built one with eyes, turn signals and a mandate to yield. Serve is Postmates’ new cooler-meet-autonomous-stroller that it hopes can cut costs and speed up deliveries. The semi-autonomous rover uses cameras and Lidar to navigate sidewalks, but always has a human pilot remotely monitoring a fleet of Serves who can take control if there’s a problem. There’s even a “Help” button, touchscreen and video chat display customers or passers-by can use to summon assistance.

Serve will be rolling out in various cities over the next year, starting in Los Angeles. It does deliveries to customers that unlock its cargo hatch with their phone or a passcode, but it also can grab food from restaurants in congested areas and bring them to a Postmates dispatch hub from which delivery people can take packages the last mile. Serve can carry 50 pounds of goods for 25 miles on a single charge — enough to make around a dozen deliveries per day.

“We took time to figure out what is the language for the rover and pedestrians to interact with each other. If a robot is at a sidewalk and wants to be able to cross the street, it needs to show its intent to cross,” Kashani tells me. Thanks to a light ring around the top with turn signals and eyes that can indicate where it’s trying to go.

Why it’s hot: Watch out Uber Eats and Seamless! If executed properly, this could streamline delivery efficiencies and cut down on labor costs for Postmates.

Source: TechCrunch