Monthly Archives: March 2014

FILE -- A visitor tries the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, March 28, 2013. In the unpredictable world of tech start-ups, some interesting firms to watch, like Oculus Rift, in 2013 could fizzle and be forgotten by the end of the year, but they could also be the next big thing. (Winni Wintermeyer/The New York Times) Credit: New York Times / Redux / eyevine For further information please contact eyevine tel: +44 (0) 20 8709 8709 e-mail: info@eyevine.com www.eyevine.com©Redux

Palmer Luckey is holding court among the geeks. The boy king of virtual reality is answering questions from game developers about whether the pioneering headset he built in his parents’ garage, Oculus Rift, might work with something known as “galvanic vestibular stimulation”.

GVS, he gleefully explains, is “basically taking high-voltage electrodes and passing current through your head for entertainment”.

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Tim Bradshaw

Want to hear a Silicon Valley joke? Two geek billionaires walk into a coffee shop and nobody notices.

There’s no punchline. This actually happened a couple of weeks ago when I was in Mountain View and the co-founders of WhatsApp popped into their local for a brew. Despite being full of start-ups, nobody in the Red Rock Café seemed to recognise the pair who had just sold their app to Facebook for upwards of $16bn.

WhatsApp has almost 500m active users around the world but many in Silicon Valley’s elite only discovered the chat app when Mark Zuckerberg opened his chequebook. It’s entirely possible that, in the past year, more people here have tried Google Glass, the sci-fi headset that most outside Silicon Valley love to hate, than sent a message on WhatsApp. Read more

By Adam Palin in London

 

Education technology company 2U appears to have passed its entry exam, with shares up 7 per cent at noon on its Nasdaq debut.

 

At a share price of $13.91, the Maryland-based company – which develops cloud-based degrees with universities – is valued at $544m. Not a bad start as a listed company for one that has yet to turn a profit.

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You shoot me down but I won’t fall. I am titanium.

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, must be humming that tune this morning after announcing a solution to the two car fires that dented the electric car maker’s reputation last year. Read more

Samsung Galaxy S5 (Getty)

South Koreans consumers will be able to jump the global queue for Samsung Electronics’ new flagship smartphone, after mobile operators put it on sale two weeks ahead of the official launch date. Read more

Hannah Kuchler

Facebook has just spent $2bn on start-up Oculus VR, in a bet that virtual reality headsets will be the next big social platform after smartphones. The world’s largest social network thinks virtual reality will become part of everyone’s daily life, being used in everything from entertainment to education. This is Facebook’s second big deal of the year, as Mr Zuckerberg goes on an acquisition spree to help maintain its dominance. Join Hannah Kuchler and Tim Bradshaw for a live blog of the call where Mr Zuckerberg is expected to explain the sense behind the deal.
 

Machine blowing away pieces paper

It only takes a quick internet search of the terms “UPS” and “telematics” to understand why the promised benefits of big data are likely to take longer to arrive than many have been led to believe.

Among the links to technology information sites and Teamsters Union web pages is a comment from a blogger known as Denverbrown.

Addressing drivers for the US parcel delivery service UPS, it sums up the mood of workers who sometimes find themselves at the sharp end of new technologies like this: “The system should be known as Harassamatics. They tell you it’s about safety, and seat belts . . . It’s all about stealing your break time for their profit, and harassing you into a heightened state of frenzy about your job.”

Big data is facing its human moment.

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The prospect of a US-based IPO by Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba has triggered a recent wave of short-term conjecture over the eye-watering figures involved.

A listing could garner as much as $25bn for example – making it the largest float in history. Wall Street banks could reap up to $400m in fees. Alibaba’s $170bn annual revenue now accounts for 2 per cent of China’s gross domestic product, and is bigger than those of eBay and Amazon combined.

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Tim Bradshaw

Ray-Bans via Instagram

Google has been working hard lately to dampen the constant, rumbling criticism of Glass. First, it issued guidelines on etiquette for its pioneering wearable gadget, warning early adopters: “Don’t be a glasshole.”

Then last week, it decided that the people buying its $1,500 headset weren’t glassholes after all, trying to dispel ten “myths” about the prototype product: Glass really isn’t a “distraction from the real world” or “the perfect surveillance device”, it insisted in a blogpost.

The ground suitably prepared, Google has now made a much more meaningful step towards mainstream acceptance: it is partnering with the maker of Ray-Ban and Oakley frames to make Glass fashionable. Read more

Sarah Mishkin

Square, the payments processing start-up, is looking for new users for its credit card device among the US’s growing Latino community.

The company, co-founded by Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, is today unveiling Spanish language support and software in hopes of tapping into the purchasing power of America’s more than 50m Latinos. Read more

Robert Cookson

Google has fired off a new salvo in its campaign to convince the world that Glass is cool rather than creepy.

A month after telling early adopters of the wearable technology how to avoid becoming a “Glasshole”, Google is now attempting to win over the public with a Buzzfeed-style list of “The Top 10 Google Glass Myths”. Read more

A man looks at the screen of his mobile phone at Pudong financial district in ShanghaiA new war is brewing between China’s three internet giants, known collectively as BAT – short for Baidu, the dominant search engine, Alibaba, which controls 80 per cent of China’s ecommerce, and Tencent, the gaming and social media juggernaut with a market capitalisation of $132bn. For Wang Ran, a blogger and founder of China eCapital, an investment bank, the competition between Didi Dache [“Honk Honk Taxi”], a Tencent taxi-hailing app, and Alibaba’s Kuadi Dache [“Fast taxi”] is “the first battle in the first world war of the internet”.

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Richard Waters

For its most promising new technology, IBM has been searching for problems to solve that are both deep and broad enough. Now, with a clinical trial in the US aimed at personalising the treatment of cancers, it might just have found one. Read more

Here are some figures to back up the mad race to monetise mobile by tech giants such as Google and Facebook. Read more

Hannah Kuchler

Facebook’s chief security officer said on Tuesday the social network has united with its Silicon Valley competitors to improve cyber security, after a recent report suggested the National Security Agency may have posed as the social network to infect target’s computers.

Joe Sullivan said that Facebook was working hard to “make sure the system is robust enough that everyone should be coming in the front door with legal process and not getting information any other way”. Read more

Hannah Kuchler

By Hannah Kuchler and Tim Bradshaw

Facebook unveiled the sleek, unfolding pages of its Paper app last month to appreciative oohs and aahs from reviewers, marking a new era for the social network as design becomes more central to companies up and down Silicon Valley.

Paper was developed with a small unit of designers who wanted to break away from the site’s basic ‘blue and white’ look to create an app inspired by the National Geographic magazine. Read more

Alibaba’s decision to head to the US for its blockbuster IPO – perhaps the world’s largest ever – is undoubtedly a major blow to Hong Kong’s global ambitions.

But chucking out years of hard-won progress for a single pay-day – with the risk of opening
the market to myriad potential problems down the road – would have been the wrong move.

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Richard Waters

You need a strong gut to invest in a market when it’s just suffered the kind of financial scandal that hit the Bitcoin world with the demise of Mt Gox.

But that hasn’t stopped Matt Cohler at Benchmark from leading a $20m investment round in Xapo, the latest entrant in Silicon Valley’s bid to assume a leading role in Bitcoin innovation. Read more

Richard Waters

Bill Gates has a soft spot for Mark Zuckerberg. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine that has just been published, this is what he has to say about the Facebook CEO: “We’re both Harvard dropouts, we both had strong, stubborn views of what software could do.”

And he strongly endorses Zuckerberg’s acquisition of WhatsApp: “It means that Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be the next Facebook.” Read more

Richard Waters

Looking back at the history of the world wide web (which celebrates its 25th birthday on Wednesday) brings to mind that famous question from Monty Python’s Life of Brian: “What have the Romans ever done for us?”

Like the Judean revolutionary complaining about his Roman overlords, it’s easy to see the downside. Spam, viruses, government surveillance, loss of privacy: the negatives are hard to ignore. Read more