el producto #142 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness
Amazon’s virtual clinic, Top 20 biz transformations, Uber incubator, Amazon Echo Buds, How Airbnb plans & more.
Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto.
🎰 The week in figures
99% of CEOs agree that “sustainability issues are important to the future success of their businesses”; just 62% of those would link their pay to sustainability outcomes. HBR shares a study of 1000 CEOs opinions on climate change and equality.
$4B: Hyundai partners with Dublin-based autonomous driving tech company Aptiv to establish a $4B joint venture for self-driving cars; Hyundai Motor Group will contribute $1.6B in cash and $400M in resources; Aptiv will own 50 percent; will provide IP, tech, and ~700 employees; the venture plans to begin testing fully autonomous systems next year and to offer a new platform for fleet managers, automakers, and others by 2022.
$1B: Baidu is seeking to raise $1B by selling off almost a third of its stake in China-based travel platform Ctrip; it is Ctrip’s biggest stakeholder owning 19% of the company
$42M: Beyond Pricing, which automatically optimizes rates for short-term property rental owners, raises $42M Series A; manages 150k listings across 7k cities; analyzes historical and current pricing for hotel rooms and comparable listings; can automatically apply price changes or just make suggestions.
$19.5M: Recurly, a cloud-based tool for businesses offering subscription plans, raises $19.5M; handles billing and allows plans based on usage, per-seat rates, more; automates pro-rating, refunds, etc; supports Amazon Pay, Stripe, PayPal, and other gateways.
📰 What’s going on
Uber announces the Uber Incubator, a program fostering the development of products and services on the Uber platform; open to employees and people outside of the organization.
Uber is testing multiple versions of a new app that unifies various services; the launch screen presents options for a ride or an Uber Eats meal; the transport section of the app includes all locally supported services; for example, users in New York City can order a helicopter ride.
Amazon unveils Alexa-enabled smart glasses, Echo Frames; the device provides voice control and directional audio; no cameras or display tech; supports prescription lenses; pairs with an Android device; the product is part of Amazon’s Day One editions program, which targets early adopters rather than mainstream users; will be available for $180, invite only.
Amazon launches Seattle pilot for Care, a virtual health clinic offering telemedicine and in-home services; the program is a new benefit for employees and their families; patients can initiate video consultations for diagnoses, prescriptions, referrals, more
Amazon unveils Alexa-powered wireless earbuds, Echo Buds; promises five hours of music listening (via paired smartphone) per charge; the case, which charges via Micro USB, stores 20 hours worth of power; auto-pauses music when the user removes one bud from the ear; IPX4 water-resistant; available this year at $130.
Google’s upcoming Pixel 4 will feature motion control support for YouTube, Amazon Music, Spotify, and more; code within several app APKs shows support for Motion Sense, which is based on Google’s hands-free Soli tech; the report indicates users will be able to control audio and video playback using gestures; Pixel 4 is expected to launch on Oct 15.
Google unveils details about its upcoming Android 10 build for entry-level devices; Android 10 (Go edition) promises to load apps 10% quicker than the previous version, and also utilizes Adiantum encryption tools; Android 10 (Go edition) devices are expected to launch this quarter.
Google launches Play Pass, a $5-per-month app and game subscription service that provides unlimited access to ~350 titles free from ads and in-app purchases; initially limited to the US; Google is currently offering introductory pricing of $2 per month for the first year.
Disney opens pre-orders for its upcoming streaming service; customers are offered a 7 day free trial of Disney+, after which they can commit to a $7 a month plan or $70 annual subscription; the service will go live Nov 12; those wanting to purchase a $13 a month bundle that includes ESPN+ and ad-supported Hulu have to wait until launch day.
Facebook starts hiding reaction and video view counts for users in Australia as part of a pilot test; users can still see their own stats, but the numbers will not be shown to others who see their posts; Instagram is running a similar test in several markets.
Facebook acquires Tel Aviv-based Servicefriend, which provides a chatbot architecture for enterprise customer service; terms unknown.
Facebook acquires CTRL-Labs, a computer-brain interface firm; terms undisclosed, but CNBC sources put the figure at $500M to $1B; New York City-based CTRL-Labs is developing non-invasive neural tech for interacting with devices; will be overseen by Facebook’s Reality Labs.
Oculus says it will add controller-free hand and finger tracking to its Quest VR headset in 2020; the company says the feature will come via a software update and will not require any additional hardware; Oculus also plans to launch Oculus Link this November, a hardware-software product to let Quest users connect to PCs, allowing them to play Rift titles.
Microsoft adds Google Assistant support for Xbox One users; available now as a public beta; lets users turn their Xbox on and off with their voice, launch games, and more; Xbox already supports Cortana and Alexa.
App Annie acquires fellow analytics firm Libring; terms unknown; Boston-based Libring offers ad reporting and more for app developers and web publishers; it’s unclear whether Libring will continue as a standalone brand, but App Annie says it will use the firm’s tech to improve and expand its own data reporting tools.
Paris-based carpooling firm BlaBlaCar acquires Russian bus ticketing platform Busfor; terms undisclosed; Busfor offers tools for booking tickets across multiple bus companies.
Indonesia-based Go-Jek launches GoPlay, a video streaming service; the Netflix-like service offers movies, TV shows, and short clips; represents the latest vertical for Go-Jek, which started as a ride-hailing firm but has since expanded into financial services and more.
A NASA website briefly featured a paper by a Google researcher indicating Google has achieved quantum supremacy; “quantum supremacy” refers to a quantum system performing a calculation impossible for a classical computer; the paper reportedly indicated Google had performed in 200 seconds a calculation that would take the world’s most advanced classical system 10k years.
Boston Dynamics announces its first leasing program, making its dog-like Spot robot available for commercial applications; the unit supports up to four modules for job-specific hardware; for example, a client could affix a methane detector and use Spot to check for gas leaks; Boston Dynamics has already equipped some units with Velodyne LIDAR systems for indoor mapping.
Shenzhen, China, introduces facial recognition tech for travelers using the local subway system; utilizing tech developed by Tencent, customers can have their faces scanned to authorize transactions via connected payments accounts; the tech is also being tested in multiple other cities.
Xiaomi showcases Mi Mix Alpha, a smartphone with a display that wraps all the way around to the back camera; features pressure-sensitive volume buttons on the side and 5G support; runs Snapdragon 855+ processor, and has 512GB storage with 12GB RAM; Xiaomi describes it as a concept device, but notes it will produce a small run of units priced at $2.8k each, available in December.
Tesla’s latest software update adds Smart Summon feature for vehicles with the full self-driving option; enables the user to summon the vehicle from a parking space; also adds Theater Mode, which enables infotainment center screening of Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu; v10, rolling out now, also includes native Spotify support.
👩🏾💻 Good reads
15 fast-growing startups to join after FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google). After comparing Blind data with AngelList’s startup data, an interesting trend shows around people who leave FAANG companies for startups: They tend to join the same companies.
The top 20 business transformations of the last decade. HBR looks at the biggest success stories on companies that have: unlocked new growth, re-positioned their core, or experienced drastic financial growth. Top 5 includes Netflix, Adobe, Amazon, Tencent and Microsoft.
The secret to a great planning process: Lessons from Airbnb and Eventbrite. “Plans always get more complicated once they’re put into practice — never less.”
How TikTok holds our attention. The New Yorker explains how on the popular short-video app, young people are churning through images and sounds at warp speed, repurposing reality into ironic, bite-size content.