Category Archives: News

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HTC’s $799 Vive Pro is now available for preorder

HTC today announced its $799 Vive Pro headset is available for preorder with shipping set to begin April 5th. If the most expensive consumer VR headset to date doesn’t tempt you, the company is also dropping the current Vive headset by $100 to $499. With games like Skyrim and Ark Park set to release on the platform soon it’s a good time to get in on the VR craze. The Vive Pro was revealed earlier this year at CES with a laundry list of upgraded features: Two OLED screens at 2880×1600 resolution give the Pro a 78 percent increase over…

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Or just read more coverage about: HTC

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Atari’s retro console gets a new name, but no games

Atari recently changed the name of its upcoming retro console from “Ataribox” to “Atari VCS” and claims to be setting a pre-order date next month. It’s thus far released no other info about the games you’ll be able to play with the console, so why it presumes you’d want to preorder it is anyone’s guess. First reported by VentureBeat, the new name is a reference to a nickname for the Atari 2600, which was originally called the Atari Video Computer System, or VCS. VB also confirmed the console will keep the $250-$300 price point revealed last year. The console was originally revealed last…

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Mastercard will support cryptocurrencies – as long as they’re backed by governments

It seems Mastercard is gradually softening its stance on cryptocurrency, after CEO Ajay Banga downplayed non-government mandated digital currencies as “junk” back in October last year. In a conversation with Financial Times, Ari Sarkar, Mastercard co-president for the Asia-Pacific region, said the company is open to explore cryptocurrencies created and backed by governments. “If governments look to create national digital currency we’d be very happy to look at those in a more favourable way [compared with existing cryptocurrencies],” Sarkar told Financial Times. “So long as it’s backed by a regulator and […] it is not anonymous, it is meeting all…

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Internet Archive emulator bring dozens of handheld games back from obscurity

Over the weekend, the Internet Archive announced it was offering a new series of emulators. This time, they’re designed to mimic one of gaming’s most obscure artifacts — handheld games. When I say a “handheld game,” I don’t mean the Game Boy or the PSP — those are handheld consoles. These are single-game handheld or tabletop devices that look and feel more like toys. The collection includes the very old, mostly-forgotten games sold in mini-handhelds from the 80s onward. You might be able to recognize a few of these devices — the Tamagotchi, for example. Others are decidedly more esoteric. I…

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Kids are struggling to hold pens, but is handwriting still fit for a digital age?

Back in 2011, a video of a one-year-old baby girl attempting to swipe on a glossy magazine like it was an iPad went viral. Depending on your viewpoint, the spectacle was either adorable or completely frightening. For many, it highlighted how digital natives were beginning to consume media in an entirely new way. Fast-forward a few years, and once again traditionalists have provided another stark warning. Sally Payne, a head pediatric occupational therapist, recently told the Guardian newspaper that children were arriving at school without the fundamental movement skills needed to grip a pencil and move it. As our children…

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eBay turns to augmented reality in its app to help sellers select the best box to ship an item

eBay AR
A real item is shown inside a virtual box using the eBay app. (eBay Image)

We’ve been waiting for a big tech company to think outside the box when it comes to the best fit for what’s inside the box.

The online marketplace eBay announced today that it is using augmented reality to help users select the proper United States Postal Service flat-rate box for items that need to be shipped.

The AR technology, built on Google’s ARCore platform, is an Android feature and can be accessed via the eBay app. Using motion tracking and environmental understanding, users can virtually place a box over a real-world item and move the box around to get a complete view of the fit for what’s about to be shipped.

The development is aimed at saving sellers time by helping them pick the right box quickly and providing a real-time calculation of shipping costs.

eBay AR
(eBay Images)

“This technology is just one example of the types of innovation we’re working on to transform eBay,” James Meeks, eBay’s head of Mobile, said in a statement. “It demonstrates our continual innovation on behalf our sellers to help them save time and remove barriers.”

The company credits employees at eBay Hack Week with creating an early version of the new feature. That company-wide event is meant to challenge technologists and get them to reimagine the e-commerce experience. eBay’s mobile team was also working on an idea which involved displaying a box around an item to indicate that it had shipped.

The two teams shared project details and the mobile team developed the tech and worked with Google to make it a reality. Or, augmented reality.

eBay AR
(eBay Images)

For anyone who has received a package in the mail  — especially from another certain large e-commerce company — it’s a hopeful development, especially considering the waste generated by oversized cardboard boxes used to ship tiny items.

In other e-commerce news, Google is teaming with some large retailers to turn product searches into profits.

Reuters reported that Google is creating a new program in which retailers such as Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Costco and Ulta Beauty can list their products on Google Search, as well as on the Google Express shopping service, and Google Assistant on mobile phones and voice devices.

In exchange for Google listings and linking to retailer loyalty programs, Reuters said that the retailers will pay Google a piece of each purchase. The listings will appear under sponsored shopping results and will not affect regular search results on Google, the company said.

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Seattle bans rent bidding in latest attempt to keep disruptive tech from compounding housing crisis

Seattle temporarily halts rent bidding. (Flickr Photo / Shumei_There)

The Seattle City Council unanimously approved a one-year moratorium on sites that allow prospective tenants to bid on rental homes Monday.

Startups like Rentberry allow landlords to list rental units so that would-be tenants can offer higher or lower prices, based on what they would be willing to pay. The sites take a percentage of the difference. Operators of these rental auction sites claim supply and demand already affect rent prices and that their services just make the process more transparent.

But the City Council is concerned rent bidding could make it harder for low-income residents to afford homes. Seattle will take the year to study whether bidding on rent violates city law and then reassess whether the companies can continue to operate in the city.

The ban comes as Seattle is navigating an affordable housing crisis driven by strong job growth in tech and other sectors. The City Council has been actively trying to pass rules that prevent Seattle from falling prey to some of the issues San Francisco is grappling with.

Last year, the city passed regulations restricting Airbnb hosts in the hopes of ensuring enough long-term housing supply for permanent residents. Seattle also passed a pioneering law that would give Uber and Lyft drivers (who operate as contractors) some of the protections employees receive. That law is currently being debated in court.

“Innovation in technology has been a key component of what makes Seattle such a great city, adding to our economic diversity,” Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said in a statement. “At the same time, we must have the opportunity to learn about new platforms, such as these ‘rent bidding’ platforms, and ensure that they live up to the equity and housing access values of our city.”

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TLDR: The International moves to Canada; parking lots for shared bikes; regulators target bitcoin

[Editor’s Note: TLDR is GeekWire’s daily news rundown, hosted by Starla Sampaco. Subscribe to GeekWire on YouTube to catch every episode, check back every weekday afternoon for more, and sign up for TLDR email updates below.]

The International goes international: Our first story today involves the Dota 2 esports tournament. For those of you who aren’t as familiar with Dota 2: It’s an online video game played between two teams of five. A massive Dota 2 tournament called The International takes place every year. 

Last year, professional gamers competed for a prize pool of $24.7 million. The game was developed by Valve, a company based in Bellevue, Wash., and for the past four years, people from all over the world came to Seattle’s KeyArena to compete and watch.

But Valve decided to move the tournament — and tourism revenue — to Vancouver, BC instead. This year, it’ll take place in August at the Rogers Arena. Now this isn’t a huge surprise. Back in December, a KeyArena ticketing agent told GeekWire that the event wouldn’t return to the venue because of renovation. And Valve co-founder Gabe Newell previously said the tournament could be moved out of the country as a result of President Trump’s immigration crackdown.


Parking lots for shared bikes: Dockless bike-sharing services like LimeBike, Spin and Ofo allow users to leave bikes pretty much anywhere. It’s convenient for riders, but some say that these bikes have become a bit of a nuisance in cities like Seattle.

They’re not just being tossed aside on sidewalks. You might find a bike on city landmarks, like the Fremont Troll, underwater, dangling 20 feet up in the air, in a tree, or stacked on top of other bikes in what might be an attempt at abstract art.

The Seattle Department of Transportation is now testing out bike-share parking spacesThe city says they picked five test locations in Seattle for the parking zones. They made sure each parking area would leave a six-foot pedestrian path and would not block access to buildings and ramps.


Regulating Bitcoin: And finally, Plattsburgh, N.Y., passed the country’s very first ban on cryptocurrency miningIt’s a process that requires a lot of energy. Some people who live in Plattsburgh saw their electricity bills go up by two-hundred dollars.

The city’s mayor told Motherboard that Plattsburgh had “the cheapest electricity in the world” because of a nearby hydroelectric dam. According to Motherboard, the low costs of electricity attracted crypto miners to the city, but they ended up using so much electricity that the city had to buy power from the open market, which drove costs up.

It’s all part of a larger push to regulate cryptocurrencies across the country. Energy usage for bitcoin mining is also an issue in the Pacific Northwest, another region that has a lot of cheap hydroelectric power.


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Report: Facebook CISO Alex Stamos leaving company, after clashing with top execs over Russian disinformation

Outgoing Facebook Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos (Photo Courtesy Flickr User Dave Maass / cc2.0)

Alex Stamos, who as chief information security officer was one of the more articulate defenders of Facebook’s struggle to balance privacy concerns against its business model, is leaving the company following a series of disputes with top Facebook executives, according to a report.

The New York Times reported Monday that Stamos, a respected executive within the cybersecurity community, was actually relieved of his duties last December after disagreements with Facebook’s executive team over how to handle its response to the Russian disinformation campaign that plagued its site during the 2016 election year. The company persuaded him to stay on through August because — in case you haven’t noticed — Facebook has been in the middle of the biggest crisis of its life since the full extent of the disinformation campaign became clear last year.

They thought it would look bad, according to the report.

In a tweet posted after the report emerged, Stamos did not directly address whether he would be leaving Facebook by August, but appeared to confirm the part of the report that his internal security duties had been reassigned to other groups.

Likewise, Facebook’s statement entirely ignored questions about the August date.

Alex Stamos continues to be the Chief Security Officer (CSO) at Facebook. He has held this position for nearly three years and leads our security efforts especially around emerging security risks. He is a valued member of the team and we are grateful for all he does each and every day.

Stamos is a thoughtful presence on Twitter (of all places), and over the last year or so has helped many people understand the technical nuances of running such a massive platform as Facebook while speaking for the company when few others would. It has been pretty clear in the time since the 2016 election that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg have only grudgingly — and slowly — acknowledged the extent to which their platform was abused by charlatans looking to sow discord and division through a treasure trove of fake content.

And this news comes out on one of the worse Mondays in Facebook’s recent history, following reports over the weekend that outlined the shocking extent to which Cambridge Analytica, a Facebook partner and key Republican strategy firm, exploited loopholes in Facebook’s system to obtain the personal information of millions of people who did not consent to such disclosure. Facebook’s stock fell 6.7 percent Monday, the first trading day following the reports.

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Startup Spotlight: Ex-Amazon employees draw inspiration from Bezos, apply lessons from retail powerhouse at e-commerce marketing upstart

Connor Folley, Downstream co-founder and CEO. (Downstream Photo)

Working for a tech giant has its perks. But for Connor Folley, “there’s something about the passion and the hustle of founding a startup.”

That excitement has driven Folley, 38, to launch two startups — one of which was inspired in part by working for more than two years as a marketing manager in Amazon’s Consumer Electronics division.

That venture is a Seattle-based company called Downstream. The startup is developing tools to help vendors, sellers and agencies manage their marketing investments on Amazon with insight, automation and scale. As Amazon’s importance in online retail grows, brands are increasingly looking at ways to boost sales in the channel. Others also have invested in this arena, including Spokane-based Etailz, which sold to Trans World Entertainment for $75 million in cash and stock in 2016.

Folley co-founded Downstream with former AWS software development manager Salim Hamed four months ago. At the five-person company, Folley is CEO and Hamed is chief technology officer.

We caught up with Folley — one of 10 entrepreneurs participating in the TechStars Seattle program — for Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.

Connor Folley.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Downstream helps brands analyze and automate how they market their products on Amazon and other e-retailers.”

Inspiration hit us when: “We realized our complementary capabilities make us a dangerous founding team. After that, it was about finding a solid idea to start with and evolve with the changing landscape and needs of our users.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrap initially, now seeking investment from angels and the VC community so we can scale quickly and take advantage of the opportunity before us.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “The combination of domain and technology expertise on our team. Few people have a true understanding of the marketing opportunity on Amazon, the platform, and have actually managed Amazon search marketing at such a large scale. Amazon is a dynamic e-commerce marketplace with exponentially more factors to consider in optimizing ad spend than other online options, so this expertise is critical. On the technology side, our engineering team is incredibly talented and primarily staffed by former senior engineers from AWS. They built our system to scale as advertising directly on Amazon continues to grow. We’ll also be expanding our programmatic AI capabilities.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Aside from deciding to team up as co-founders, it was joining Techstars. The structure, mentorship and opportunities this program has provided us will benefit Downstream and our customers for as long as we are punching this clock.”

Salim Hamed.

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Being too conservative on hiring — you really have to be in front of your capacity needs, or it will bite you quickly. Set contracts up with very specific timing and with the understanding that you’ll need to scale to deliver for the customer, which can take time, especially in Seattle.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bezos. Not saying Amazon culture is perfect, but the leadership principles are so valuable I even teach them to my children. He doesn’t get his due as a visionary.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “These days, we are laser focused on the task at hand and aren’t able to take as much time for team-building as I’d like. However, we do make a point of getting the team out for a walk together at least once a day — Seattle is such a great city.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Passion. You can’t replace passion with pedigree. Salim and I want to see that a candidate is excited about the role. We have our own techniques for deducing this. On my end, I want to establish that the candidate spent some time day dreaming or imagining themselves in the role. I ask about what ideas they have (realistic or not) to demonstrate whether they are passionate about the mission and have spent some time thinking about the potential of the role and the company.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Find a great co-founder and spend the time upfront to discuss potential future outcomes one, five, 10 years out to ensure you are aligned on goals and vision. Ensuring you and your founder(s) are aligned from the beginning will save you from painful discussions later on.”

Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the ten startups in Techstars Seattle leading up to their Demo Day on April 18Techstars is a national program offering three-month, mentorship-driven accelerators to help launch new companies.  

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