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Day: June 12, 2019

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What do subscription services and streaming mean for the future of gaming?

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Between xCloud, Stadia and a slew of subscription services, this year’s E3 marks a turning point for the industry

The future of gaming is streaming. If that wasn’t painfully obvious to you a week ago, it certainly ought to be now. Google got ahead of E3 late last week by finally shedding light on Stadia, a streaming service that promises a hardware agnostic gaming future.

It’s still very early days, of course. We got a demo of the platform right around the time of its original announcement. But it was a controlled one — about all we can hope for at the moment. There are still plenty of moving parts to contend with here, including, perhaps most consequentially, broadband caps.

But this much is certainly clear: Google’s not the only company committed to the idea of remote game streaming. Microsoft didn’t devote a lot of time to Project xCloud on stage the other day — on fact, the pass with which the company blew threw that announcement was almost news in and of itself.

It did, however, promise an October arrival for the service — beating out Stadia by a full month. The other big piece of the announcement was the ability for Xbox One owners to use their console as a streaming source for their own remote game play. Though how that works and what, precisely, the advantage remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that Microsoft is hanging its hat on the Xbox as a point of distinction from Google’s offering.

It’s clear too, of course, that Microsoft is still invested in console hardware as a key driver of its gaming future. Just after rushing through all of that Project xCloud noise, it took the wraps off of Project Scarlett, its next-gen console. We know it will feature 8K content, some crazy fast frame rates and a new Halo title. Oh, and there’s an optical drive, too, because Microsoft’s not quite ready to give up on physical media just yet.

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Helium launches $51M-funded “LongFi” IoT alternative to cellular

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Comments are closed Helium launches $51M-funded “LongFi” IoT alternative to cellular Comments are closed

With 200X the range of WiFi at 1/1000th of the cost of a cellular modem, Helium’s “LongFi” wireless network debuts today. Its transmitters can help track stolen scooters, find missing dogs via IoT collars, and collect data from infrastructure sensors. The catch is that Helium’s tiny, extremely low-power, low-data transmission chips rely on connecting to P2P Helium Hotspots people can now buy for $495. Operating those hotspots earns owners a cryptocurrency token Helium promises will be valuable in the future…

The potential of a new wireless standard has allowed Helium to raise $51 million over the past few years from GV, Khosla Ventures, and Marc Benioff including a new $15 million round co-led by Union Square Ventures and Multicoin Capital. That’s in part because one of Helium’s co-founders is Napster inventer Shawn Fanning. Investors are betting that he can change the tech world again, this time with a wireless protocol that like WiFi and Bluetooth before it could unlock unique business opportunities.

Helium already has some big partners lined up including Lime, which will test it for tracking its lost and stolen scooters and bikes when they’re brought indoors obscuring other connectivity or their battery is pulled out deactivating GPS. “It’s an ultra low-cost version of a LoJack” Helium CEO Amir Haleem says.

InvisiLeash will partner with it to build more trackable pet collars. Agulus will pull data from irrigation valves and pumps for its agriculture tech business, Nestle will track when its time to refill water in its ReadyRefresh coolers at offices, and Stay Alfred will use it to track occupancy status and air quality in buildings. Haleem also imagines the tech being useful for tracking wildfires or radiation.

Haleem met Fanning playing video games in the 2000s. They teamed up with Fanning and Sproutling baby monitor (sold to Mattel) founder Chris Bruce in 2013 to start work on Helium. They foresaw a version of Tile’s trackers that could function anywhere while replacing expensive cell connections for devices that don’t need high-bandwith. Helium’s 5 kilobit per second connections will compete with SigFox, another lower-power IoT protocol, though Haleem claims its more centralized infrastructure costs are prohibitive. Lucky for Helium, on-demand rental bikes and scooters that are perfect for its network have reached mainstream popularity just as Helium launches six years after its start.

Helium says its already pre-sold 80% of its Helium Hotspots for its first market in Austin, Texas. People connect them to their Wifi and put in their window so thee devices can pull in data from Helium’s IoT sensors over its open-source LongFi protocol. The hotspots then encrypt and send the data to the company’s cloud that clients can plug into to track and collect info from their devices. The Helium Hotspots only require as much energy as a 12-watt LED lightbulb to run, but that $495 price tag is steep. The lack of a concrete return on investment could deter later adopters from buying the expensive device.

Only 150-200 hotspots are necessary to blanket a city in connectivity, Haleem tells me. But since they need to be distributed across the landscape so a client can’t just fill their warehouse with the hotspots and the upfront price is expensive for individuals, Helium might need to sign up some retail chains as partners for deployment. Haleem admits “The hard part is the education”. Making hotspot buyers understand the potential (and risks) while demonstrating the opportunities for clients will require a ton of outreach and slick marketing.

Without enough Helium Hotspots, the Helium network won’t function. That means this startup will have to simultaneously win at telecom technology, enterprise sales, and cryptocurrency for the network to pan out. As if one of those wasn’t hard enough.

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Xiaomi’s budget Mi Band wearable now sports a color screen and voice assistant

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Xiaomi has refreshed its smart fitness tracker and unveiled a range of other gadgets in China, giving a glimpse at some of its affordable products that it will likely be bringing to other markets in the coming future.

The wearable fitness tracker, called Mi Smart Band 4, sports a bigger AMOLED display (39.9% increase in screen size) than its popular year-old predecessor and features support for XiaoAI, the company’s voice assistant that can be activated with a voice command.

The bigger display, which supports 16 million colors and 77 customized themes, will allow users to quickly glance at notifications and fitness stats. The tracker also supports offline payments via AliPay. It is still very affordable, priced at just RMB 169 (roughly $24.5).

Coupled with the long durability that previous generation smart bands have offered, it is no wonder that the Chinese giant has emerged as the second largest wearable maker in the world. According to IDC, Xiaomi shipped 7.5 million wearable units in the waning quarter of last year, second only to Apple, which shipped 16.2 units.

The company has also launched a smart lock, dubbed Mi Smart Door Lock, that offers up to six unlocking modes and allows users to track its status in real time. It also works with the NFC variant of Mi Smart Band 4 that when paired can serve as a key. It is priced at RMB 1699 (roughly $245).

The announcement comes as Xiaomi, which went public last year and is increasingly trying to expand its services business, struggles to meet analysts expectations. The Chinese group, once thought of worth over $100 billion, has a market cap of under $30 billion currently.

Xiaomi also launched a smart washing machine, induction cooker, e-skate hover, digital translator, and pens. The washing machine, called Mi Smart Combo Wash Dryer, sports OLED smart buttons and supports voice controls for activating or halting a washing cycle. It is priced at RMB 2999 (roughly $433).

Shaped like a smartphone, the Mi AI Translator, comes preloaded with Oxford and Collins dictionary as well as Chinese dictionaries. It is aimed at people who are trying to learn a new language and want to improve their pronunciation. It supports real-time translation between 34 languages. It starts at RMB 499 (roughly $72).

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