Apple paid Nokia $2 billion as part of a patent lawsuit settlement

After a quick fight, Apple and Nokia settled a patent lawsuit back in May. But the two companies didn’t comment on the value of this settlement. While terms of the deal are still undisclosed, Nokiamob first spotted that Nokia announced that it has received a $2 billion upfront cash payment from Apple (€1.7 billion).

This seems like quite a lot of money, but Nokia won’t get $2 billion every quarter — this was non-recurring catch-up revenue. Nokia hasn’t said what it plans to do with all this cash.

The lawsuit began late last year. Nokia first accused Apple of infringing some of Nokia’s patents as well as patents from NSN and Alcatel-Lucent — Nokia owns those companies and their respective patent portfolios.

According to Nokia, it’s been a longstanding infringement as Apple has allegedly relied on some of Nokia’s patents since the iPhone 3GS. Those patents are related to software, video coding, chipsets, display, UI and antenna.

It looked like an intense fight at first as Apple removed Withings’ products from its stores — Withings is a division of Nokia. But the two companies quickly reached an agreement and you can find Withings products again in Apple stores.

Instead of signing a usual patent licensing deal, Apple and Nokia want to go a step further and collaborate on technologies and research and development. In other words, Apple is paying Nokia to help them when it comes to digital health, optical network and IP routing.

It’s going to be interesting to look at Nokia’s upcoming quarterly earnings release to figure out how much Apple is paying for this agreement. But there’s one thing for sure — Nokia must be quite happy with this new revenue stream.

Featured Image: Shutterstock

CocuSocial is a marketplace for affordable cooking classes

CocuSocial was founded on a simple premise: traditional cooking classes, while fun, are usually way too expensive and intensive.

This means that many potential customers may be scared away by thinking they can’t afford a cooking class or it’s going to be geared towards participants with a higher skill set. And this is partially true – classes at places like Sur la Table can be close to $100 per person.

On the other hand, CocuSocial charges $55 per class, regardless of if you’re making sushi, handmade pasta or cupcakes.

The startup, part of Y Combinator’s Summer ’17 batch, is able to offer such inexpensive classes because they have no overhead – they just match qualified chefs willing to teach classes with customers wanting to learn how to cook, and a venue willing to host them.

These venues are typically restaurants or hotels that are empty in the early evening or during the day, and benefit from the influx of students, since they also usually order a drink or appetizer while they’re there. CocuSocial guarantees the venues a minimum amount of revenue from these attendees, and will reimburse them if for some reason it’s a slow night and the minimum isn’t met. But normally attendees will order enough to meet the minimums, meaning the venue usage is free for the startup.

It’s also a great way for these venues to generate foot traffic and awareness – sometimes a chef from the venue will even teach a class related to what that restaurant is known for, so a great Italian restaurant will host a pasta cooking class with the hopes that attendees return for dinner one night.

For the chefs that don’t come from the venue, the startup has a strong vetting process when deciding who to put on the platform, including in person interviews and a sample class. These chefs get paid a set fee regardless of how many people are in their class, plus reimbursements for food. So once a class has signups above that break-even point, it’s all extra profit for the startup.

There’s also a strong review system with all feedback shared with chefs, which Billy Guan and Helen Sun, cofounders of Cocu Social, said has made it easy to let chefs know when they need to make adjustments in their class to improve the student experience.

Launched about a year ago, the startup is live in New York City and currently hosts about 35 classes a month, with plans to expand throughout the U.S.

Eero acqui-hires smart home management startup Thington

Mesh Wi-Fi router company Eero wants to provide an easy way for consumers to connect and connect with all the smart devices in their home. As it looks to build more intelligence around how those devices interact, the company has acqui-hired the team behind smart home management app Thington.

Launched in 2015, Thington was founded by Dopplr founder Matt Biddulph and  former Yahoo Brickhouse head of product Tom Coates.

With an undisclosed amount of funding from angel investors that include Ray Ozzie, Stewart Butterfield, Eric Wahlforss, Joi Ito, Marko Ahtisaari, Saul Klein, Loic Le Meur, Matt Rolandson and Samantha Tripodi, they hoped to create a way to help consumers manage the large — and growing — number of connected devices consumers were adding to their homes.

To do that, last year Coates and Biddulph launched the Thington Concierge — which was a chatbot-based home AI app. The app allowed users to control the IoT devices like Philips Hue light bulbs, Nest smart thermostats and smoke alarms and WeMo light switches with a conversational UI.

Thington messaged users earlier this week to let them know the app would be shutting down on August 21. But as part of Eero, the team could continue their work on making the smart home more smart.

Meanwhile, Eero gets two very talented product people who have already been working on a very difficult problem that gets to the heart of its business. (Eero confirmed Coates and Biddulph have joined the company, but declined to comment beyond that.)

When Eero was previewing its new Beacon hardware to me ahead of launch, founder and CEO Nick Weaver talked a lot about building a whole-home OS on top of which developers can build applications.

“Once everything in the home is connected, that home will need an operating system,” Weaver told me about a month and a half ago. Considering all those devices in Eero households will be connecting through its routers, the company sees an opportunity to help consumers manage them.

Eero is already experimenting with software services that run on top of its routers, including the Plus subscription service it rolled out to give customers more security and control of their networks. One could easily see them venturing into providing tools for better managing smart home devices next.

Wattpad takes ‘chat fiction’ beyond text with launch of Tap Originals

Chat fiction apps are among some of the most popular in the App Store, thanks to their highly engaged, largely teenage to young adult fan base who enjoy reading thrilling stories told in the form of text messages. Today, one competitor in this space, Wattpad, is rolling out an upgrade to its chat stories to differentiate its app from others, and further addict its readers. The company is introducing a select group of stories called “Tap Originals” in its app Tap by Wattpad. These stories go beyond text to integrate media like video, sound, images, voice notes, and even a “choose-your-own-ending” feature.

If you’ve somehow missed the chat fiction craze, you’re probably an adult. These apps are hugely popular with teens – top app Hooked says its app has been downloaded 20 million times, for example, and nearly 70% of readers are under 25.

Meanwhile, Wattpad’s Tap app entered this market in February, where it competes with higher-ranking apps, Hooked and Yarn – now the #79 and #106 free apps across the entire App Store, respectively. The two also hold the #1 and #3 positions in the Books category, while Wattpad’s Tap comes in at #9.

Since its debut, Tap has grown its catalog to include over 300,000 stories, and is ranked in the top 10 in the Books category in several other countries outside the U.S., as well, including the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Its chat fiction stories, like those from others in this space, are far from being of literary merit. But arguably, they’re not meant to replace reading novels – they’re just a new form of entertainment.

Wattpad declines to share its user numbers, but says it has recorded over 2 billion “taps” to date. (A tap being the way you interact with the story to reveal the next line of text.)

With the introduction of Tap Originals, Wattpad is partnering with some of its top-tier writers on a commission basis in order to produce stories told in this new format across genres like suspense, horror and drama. The stories also won’t be told all at once. Instead, a new chapter will be released each week that continues the saga – something that makes the Tap Originals seem more like episodes of a TV show.

The concept for Tap Originals comes from the fact that we use our phones to communicate in other ways, beyond just texting. That means these new stories may interrupt their text-based storytelling with a video that shows a FaceTime video call from one of the main characters; or they may play a voice message, or add in other multimedia in between the back-and-forth text conversations.

The app itself and its stories are free, including the new Tap Originals, but it makes money through subscriptions. You can pay on either a weekly ($2.99), monthly ($7.99) or annual ($39.99) basis in order to read uninterrupted. Otherwise, the stories will pause at a cliffhanger, making you wait to find out what happens next.

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At launch, there are just a handful of Tap Original titles available, including “The New Wife,” where a man receives Facebook messages from his dead wife; “Molly: The Returned,” which continues Tap’s earlier “Molly” saga about a missing girl; and “Hide: No Way Out,” the sequel to a popular Tap story, which involves strange noises from the attic.

The stories, like other Tap content, are available in over 10 languages and available in both the Tap iOS and Android applications.

Before augmented reality becomes the next big thing, here’s what needs to happen

Everyone seems to be talking about Augmented Reality (AR). Last summer, the technology produced its first real success story in the form of Pokemon Go, which enthralled millions across the globe. Yet that may prove just a sideshow before the main event.

We’ve already seen how Apple’s ARKit can empower developers to produce wildly creative AR experiences – but rumors persist that Apple’s endgame involves an accessory not unlike Google Glass. Alongside Microsoft’s HoloLens, these head-mounted AR devices demand new ideas about how people use technology.

Done well, 3D gesture-tracking in AR could be as big a leap forward as the first generation of touchscreen interfaces ushered in by the original iPhone. There’s plenty of work to be done.

The Next Generation

“We firmly believe that virtual reality and AR is the next form of the computer, the next generation of smart devices,” said Dr. Yue Fei, the co-founder and chief technology officer of Bay Area human-computer interaction specialists uSens. He and his team think AR’s world-changing potential exceeds even that of VR. Why? Because it’s not as immersive.

uSens 3D hand-tracking demonstration

uSens 3D hand-tracking demonstration

AR is a filter through which we see the world. It lets you to see your real surroundings and their device as one, which can have some powerful effects on the way we use our smartphones in an environment. AR allows your computer to use information about what’s surrounding you in real time without a display or similar physical interface, and that potential is unique.

Dr. Fei blitzed through examples of how AR could benefit people in the workplace. These aren’t scenarios where tech is being used for the sake of it, but situations where augmented technology could streamline and improve commonplace tasks.

Construction workers might catalogue tools on the job site, as we saw in a recent Microsoft presentation at the company’s Build conference. Maintenance workers could have access to a contextual manual, that gives them instructions tailored to the situation they’re working on, rather a generic how-to. A doctor performing surgery could have access to all manner of information without ever having to take their eye off their patient thanks to a heads-up display.

Hands Free

Smartphone-based AR asks you to hold the device with one hand, and use the other to interact with their touch screen. That puts limitations on what the software can do.

Historically, we’ve seen that people don’t like wearing things on their heads, especially in public – the well-documented failure of Google Glass indicated to many that the public wasn’t ready for this form of hardware. However, a pair of glasses outfitted with an AR display does free up both hands and allow more direct interaction. Glass was too far ahead of its time, but its core concept was sound.

Right now, the best comparison is VR, which typically uses purpose-built controllers to allow people to interact with their surroundings. This solution works fine in most situations, but it does have its limitations.

The well-documented failure of Google Glass indicated to many that the public wasn’t ready.

“Although they use controllers, the design of the game itself is already trying to mimic the real hand in the real world,” explained Dr. Fei, citing Job Simulator and I Expect You to Die as two prime examples. “In their brain, the user wants to do complicated actions, like grab a cup. But on the controller, you need to use the index finger trigger to simulate the action, and that breaks down the immersion.”

Even if you’re completely committed to enjoying a VR experience, it’s difficult to commit to the idea that pulling a trigger on a plastic controller is the same as picking up an object. Dr. Fei and his team at uSens are working on hand-tracking technology that should allow users to interact with virtual objects directly.

Given that VR hasn’t taken off as quickly as many would have hoped, there are concerns that AR could suffer the same fate. However, gesture-based control could offer a solution to this problem. In many ways, it’s the heir apparent to the touchscreen.

Shock of the New

It’s often difficult to get the public on board with new technology – but revolutionary technology seems the exception. A new idea, if intuitive, can go from almost unheard of to common in well less than a decade.

Touchscreens were not the norm ten years ago. They weren’t unheard of, but they were nowhere near as ubiquitous as they are today. Today, even the youngest and oldest are perfectly happy to pick up a smartphone or a tablet and interact with it, even without being shown what to do. The team at uSens believes that gesture-based AR controls are similarly approachable.

When the iPhone came out, the very first one, people could interact with games in a way they never had done before, because you’re just using your hands, and it’s very natural to people,” said Will McCormick, the company’s marketing manager. “[With] traditional gaming, even when you’re playing Snake on a Nokia 3310, not everyone can do that. Because it’s still a game where you have to interact with a keyboard [or controller].”

Whether a game’s control scheme is straightforward or not, the very presence of a traditional video game controller can sometimes be off-putting to those who aren’t familiar with the hardware. You only need to look back to the bestselling Nintendo Wii for evidence that more natural methods of control can appeal to huge audiences.

Wii Sports bowling

McCormick told us of an AR tech demo based around painting, which uSens often shows visitors to its offices. “If you give someone a controller, if they’ve never used it before, there’s still some learning, they can be a bit intimidated, they’re not quite sure what to do,” he said. “But if you can just use your hands, and use your gestures to paint, everyone can do that. We’ve seen people from 18 to 80 years old in here try that out.”

Accessibility is going to be a crucial factor for AR. There’s a sense that once people try out the technology for themselves, its appeal will be obvious. Dropping the need for a controller accessory in favor of gesture-based control removes a barrier.

Back to Reality

Apple has made strides forward with its AR project this year, and the upcoming iPhone hardware refresh is rumored to introduce new sensors to benefit the technology. Microsoft, meanwhile, has been working on HoloLens for years, and its headsets look more impressive every time they’re shown off.

Even so, there are still major challenges at hand. “Right now, the HoloLens already has gesture recognition, but it’s pretty primitive,” observed Dr. Fei, noting that the hardware struggles to product a steady, accurate 3D position of a moving hand. “We have talked to a number of developers that feel that this is one of the biggest limitations of HoloLens, besides the field of view.”

Dr. Fei also offered up some criticism of ARKit. “Personally, I feel that the API is easy to use, and it’s good, but it’s only available for the iOS platform, and it’s only available for one language, Swift,” he said.

AR is in the same spot, struggling to find its ‘swipe to unlock’ moment.

The hand- and head-tracking technology being developed by uSens is very accurate, and is designed to be platform-agnostic. It’s a more specialized solution than Apple and Microsoft’s attempts, thanks to the company’s ability to focus on one element of AR infrastructure, rather than building a platform and hardware side-by-side.

However, uSens is like Apple and Microsoft in that it’s providing tools for the development of AR experiences. This is uncharted territory. Functional AR with gesture recognition control requires a new design language.

Consider the smartphone’s ‘swipe to unlock.’ Though now common in all manner of touchscreens, it’s a recent invention and, before it, numerous methods were used to do the same thing. AR is in the same spot, struggling to find its ‘swipe to unlock’ moment. “Right now, there is not a unified language – everyone is exploring what the GUI [graphical user interface] should be,” said Dr. Fei. “It’s trial and error, trying to make a better GUI, and it’s ongoing.”

Great GUI design will make AR more user-friendly, and it can even cover up some of the limitations of current hardware. Dr. Fei mentioned that the HoloLens suffers from a limited FOV, but that can be mitigated by a smartly composed GUI.

For instance, one of the biggest problems with a narrow FOV is that virtual objects might seem to disappear as you move your head across the scene, and that can be very jarring. However, by providing appropriate on-screen feedback, the software can keep you appraised of where the object is in relation to them, even if it’s not actually on-screen.

AR technology has come a long way in a relatively small amount of time, and now it’s almost ready for the masses. The next stage of its development will be difficult, given the challenges of turning capable hardware and promising APIs into features that will make you happy.

Still, there’s plenty of reason to be excited about the possibilities. If AR supplemented by gesture controls is truly as game-changing as touch interfaces turned out to be a decade ago, we’re on the precipice of the biggest addition to consumer technology since the advent of the smartphone.

Professor Einstein: Your Personal Genius educational toy review

We have seen everything from a smart bra to an electric skateboard here at Digital Trends, but we never imagined a 14.5-inch Professor Einstein robot would be strutting around on our coffee table explaining what a volcano is. This cute, walking, talking, automaton was designed by Hanson Robotics to teach the basics of science to kids, teenagers, and interested adults.

Professor Einstein lectures, answers questions, and even tells jokes. With the aid of an iPad or Android tablet, he can also quiz you to test your knowledge. We first saw a demo back in January when the Kickstarter campaign launched. It was successful, so we’ve spent the last week with the finished product. He’s recommended for ages 13 and up, but we enlisted my dinosaur-obsessed, astronomy-mad eight-year-old son, and his inquisitive five-year-old sister to help us with our Professor Einstein: Your Personal Genius review.

Why Professor Einstein?

Famed German physicist Albert Einstein had a profound impact on modern physics when he developed the theory of relativity. He went on to win a Nobel prize in 1921, and so great was his intellectual influence, that his very name has become slang for genius.

Professor Einstein lectures, answers questions, and even tells jokes.

There’s no doubt that Einstein is an iconic character, but he’s also morphed into something of a caricature in pop culture, and that’s exactly what this diminutive robot is – a caricature. The long white hair, the bushy moustache, and the expressive eyebrows are instantly recognizable, even for an eight-year-old.

Professor Einstein has a series of motors inside that allow him to shuffle around, roll his realistic eyeballs, point at you, and even pull expressions like sticking out his tongue. His voice is distinctly robotic, but with the same speech patterns and clipped German accent you’ll hear in every Einstein impression.

Getting started with Professor Einstein was one of the smoothest gadget set-ups we’ve ever experienced. You plug the rechargeable batteries into his legs, pull down his pants to flick on the power switch on his posterior, and download the free Stein-o-Matic app for iOS or Android.

We had a blast with the tech support voice that guides you through pairing, and the ‘50s theme carries through into the gorgeous app art. Once Einstein’s personality and intellect has been downloaded and he’s hooked up to your Wi-Fi network, you can create profiles and take your first step on the enlightening path to genius.

Educational, but relatively fun

Professor Einstein is capable of a few things on his own, but he’s really designed to be used in concert with the Stein-o-Matic app. We were immediately impressed with the quality of the software. There are a few bite-sized introductory videos covering the universe, the brain, motion, and special relativity, which Einstein narrates, giving the impression of a multimedia lecture.

There’s also a large selection of data cards, which provide information on topics from astronomy to biology to geology, with multiple choice questions designed to test your knowledge. The presentation is great and the formats have been tweaked to make them a little more engaging. For example, you must choose the wrong statement from a choice of three, or match up four terms with the relevant branch of science.

Professor Einstein tablet

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

At the easiest difficulty level, my eight-year-old was able to answer a lot of questions correctly, and the multiple-choice format allows for a process of elimination approach. You can also ramp the difficulty up beyond my scant scientific knowledge, so there should be enough of a challenge there for teens. Hanson Robotics recommends Professor Einstein for ages 13 and up, but we think younger kids will get a kick out of it, particularly if they’re developing an interest in science.

My daughter was fascinated by Einstein at first, but immediately got bored with the app because she’s only five. She later confided that she found Professor Einstein a bit creepy, and he can be. There’s a small camera in his tie which enables him to see people and he can obviously hear, so he does turn to address whoever poses a question and sometimes points his finger at you. Although he’s clearly a caricature, he has realistic eyes and often pulls distinctly odd facial expressions. The fact they’re accompanied by a lot of loudly whirring motors doesn’t add to the illusion.

Beyond the lectures and quizzes, you can also play a couple of games. Mag-Neato is a puzzle game based on magnetism and momentum. Launch Lab challenges you to control a rocket in space, and will be immediately familiar to anyone who has played Asteroids. There’s also a series of mini games based around various scientific concepts. One top-down scroller challenges you to guide a bat through a maze using echo-location, another is based on the idea of combining different colored lasers to find a target color.

Einstein elevates the presentation, but can feel like a side prop when he should be the main event.

The games in Stein-o-Matic are a mixed bag. Most of them are accessible and relatively fun, but a few, like the one where you must deflect asteroids by dragging the moon around the earth, are an exercise in frustration. They’re intended to encompass scientific concepts in a fun package, but our eight-year-old actually preferred the data cards and questions to the games.

For each profile you create (you can create up to five), you gain points by completing activities, earning a word of praise from Einstein and advancing up the “Genius levels”. The well-designed app has a mildly addictive hook that keeps you coming back for more, but, while Professor Einstein elevates the presentation, he can feel like a side prop when he should be the main event.

A misunderstood genius?

During a conversation with a colleague on quantum mechanics, Einstein reportedly said “I can’t be sure that I understand you because you are using the wrong words.” Unfortunately, the robot Professor Einstein failed to understand us on countless occasions, but not because of semantics.

When he’s offline, Professor Einstein is severely limited. You can say “Question” and then ask him how he is, or say “Hey Professor” and then tell him to take a walk or stick out his tongue. It’s a problem we’ve encountered before, with the Cognitoys Dino, which employs IBM Watson as its brain. You need to be able to go online to get the best from Professor Einstein.

If you link Professor Einstein up to your Wi-Fi connection, then you can ask him a number of different questions and he’ll search for an answer. Queries are encrypted and routed to the cloud where Hanson Robotic’s AI formulates an answer. Einstein can tell you who he is, crack a terrible joke, or explain a trapezoid or a dynamo. At least he can in theory. In practice, we found him very clunky. You have to say, “Hey Professor” to get his attention, then wait for him to respond before posing your question.

Sometimes he would be unresponsive for a few seconds, before responding “Yes, that’s me!” Even with clear enunciation, we often got a confused or negative response to our queries, or, more often, a request to repeat the question. My kids are used to Alexa, because we have an Amazon Echo, so they understand the importance of phrasing and clarity, but Professor Einstein simply isn’t as capable. We got a software update that seemed to improve his responses slightly, but overall, conversations with Professor Einstein were a real disappointment.

Volume is another issue. Professor Einstein talks quite loudly and he doesn’t seem to have a volume control, which is an odd omission.

Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Professor Einstein is available exclusively on eBay for the next two weeks at $250. From August 6, you’ll be able to buy him at Amazon or for $300.

If you’re going to spend that kind of money, then you really want a responsive robot. Reflecting on our time with Einstein, most of what we liked was actually in the app, he just served as an extremely weird prop. If Hanson can improve his conversational skills, then he could help inspire kids to a career in science, but for now we’d pass on the Professor.

How to remove books from a Kindle

Is your Kindle Oasis or Kindle Paperwhite getting filled up with stuff you’ll only read once? Do you just need to clear up some room? Kindles are great reading devices, but they don’t have all the storage space in the world, so maybe it’s time to get rid of a few of the titles on your reading list. Let’s go through how to remove books from a Kindle device, and how to delete these items permanently if necessary! Once done, be sure to take a gander at our roundup of the best free Kindle books and the best websites for downloading free audiobooks. After all, you need to do something with your newfound space.

How to archive a book temporarily

This option allows you to remove a book from your Kindle or the Kindle app. Technically, you have still bought and own the rights to read this book, meaning it will remain affixed to your Amazon account and you will be able to re-download it later, if desired. However, it will not be taking up any more room on your device. This can be especially useful if your Kindle is running out of storage space, and you’d like to speed it up while making room for new purchases.

Step 1: Navigate to the book in question — you can’t actually be reading the book for this to work. If you want to delete a recent book, go to your home screen, otherwise head to your Library/search box to find the title(s) you want to get rid of.

How to remove books from a Kindle: Remove from DeviceStep 2: Once you’re looking at the title in question, press and hold the name for a couple seconds until a box appears with a list of options. Note: This only works on Kindles outfitted with a touchscreen. If you have a Kindle with directional controls — i.e., most models before the Kindle Paperwhite — press the left directional button while the title is highlighted to bring up the aforementioned list of options.

Step 3: Within the resulting list of options, you should see an option to Remove from Device, or something along those lines. The exact phrasing will depend on your Kindle model, as well as the content at hand. Once found, select that option and confirm your decision. You’ll be able to download the title again wirelessly if you made a mistake, but you’ll need an internet connection and your Amazon login credentials in order to do so.

how to remove books from a kindle

Note: The aforementioned steps should also work with your Kindle app! The biggest difference is that the Kindle app will likely use a different or more advanced format; just make sure you’re holding down on the title or book cover in question. There might also be an option to add to collection for an alternative type of storage. However, keep in mind that any content in the Kindle app that is not purchased from the Kindle Store won’t be saved in the cloud — you’ll be deleting it permanently.

How to delete a book permanently

How to remove books from a Kindle

As you might have already guessed, Amazon also allows you to permanently delete a book from your account. This can be useful if you have documents and textbooks on your Kindle that you really don’t need anymore. However, be warned: If you delete a book using this method, it will be wiped from your account. If you want it back, you will have to buy it again.

Step 1: Log into your Amazon account as you would normally. Afterward, go to the section that says Manage Your Content and Devices — this link can take you directly there. Here, you can see all the titles that were purchased from your Amazon account and are available on your Kindle, along with information pertaining to what kind of downloads they are and when they were downloaded.

How to remove books from a Kindle: Manager Your Content and Devices

Step 2: Next, find the content you want to delete. You can change what sort of titles are shown and the order they’re shown in via the Show menu, or you can search for something specific. Select the titles you’d like to delete by clicking the checkbox under Select, which is located on the left-hand side of the window.

Step 3: At the top of the list, you’ll see a button that says Delete, which will become selectable once you’ve checked a title. Click this option to confirm that you want to permanently delete this content. Again, keep in mind that the process is irreversible. If you do happen to make a big mistake, however, give Amazon customer support a call and see if they can recover your deleted item.

HotelFlex lets you check in and out of a hotel at whatever time you want

Most would agree that the worst part of traveling is timing the hotel check in. Either you get off a redeye and have to figure out what to do all day while waiting to check in, or you arrive late at night and waste money paying for a room you didn’t get to use all day.

Enter HotelFlex. Part of Y Combinator’s summer 2017 batch, the startup wants to change the way hotels operate so guests can check in and check out at whatever times they want – and pay accordingly.

So if you just need a place to sleep and check in at midnight but leave town the next morning at 7am, you’d pay a lot less for the room than someone checking in at 3pm and out at noon.

Or you could check in five hours late and leave five hours late and pay the same price as you would for standard check in times.

There are also benefits for hotels – they can generate additional revenue by getting guests to pay a little extra to check in early to rooms that would otherwise be empty during the day.

Right now the pricing is essentially pro-rata. Meaning HotelFlex will take the total price of the hotel and divide it by 20 hours, which is the standard one-day hotel window. They then multiply this hourly rate by how many hours you spend in the hotel. While this simple formula works well enough, the startup wants to tweak this to account for things like variable demand. This way hotels could charge more if a lot of guests want to check in early on particular morning, or tempt guests to extend their checkout at a discounted rate on a slow weekday.

HotelFlex has no plans to become a full-fledged booking platform – right now they are providing hotels and the property management systems they use with the technology to let guests book rooms with varying check in and check out times. In return the startup takes 15 percent of any extra revenue generated by the hotel.

HotelFlex’s cofounders, Max Shepherd-Cross, Pete Turnbull and Rich Turnbull explained that properties like this integration because it lets them entice guests to book directly through their own website, where there customer acquisition cost is much lower than a third-party platform like Expedia. That being said, eventually HotelFlex wants to eventually integrate with third-party booking platforms, so people set on using these sites can still make these types of reservations.

Lyft giving Uber a run for its money with new self-driving facility

Why it matters to you

If you were part of the #DeleteUber campaign, Lyft’s latest move in self-driving tech will come as welcome news.

Lyft has been coming after Uber’s crown at full force, and it’s showing no signs of slowing. The ridesharing company has continued to charge through the door that’s been left wide open by Uber, and in its latest move, has begun developing self-driving technology of its own. On Friday, the firm announced that it was venturing into autonomous vehicles, and has opened a new self-driving-research center in Palo Alto, California. In the next few weeks, Lyft expects to hire a number of new engineering and technical folks to staff this new facility, and hopefully, overtake Uber as the leader in the future of transportation.

“We aren’t thinking of our self-driving division as a side project. It’s core to our business,” Luc Vincent, vice president of autonomous technology at Lyft, wrote in a blog post. “That’s why 10 percent of our engineers are already focused on developing self-driving technology — and we’ll continue to grow that team in the months ahead.”

This is by no means Lyft’s first foray into the self-driving space. Earlier in 2017, the company created the world’s first open self-driving platform. Heralded as “the most efficient way to bring your autonomous technology to market,” this platform set the tone for the kind of approach Lyft has taken in terms of autonomous tech. Whereas its primary rival Uber largely works on its own when it comes to self-driving practices, Lyft has been more than happy to collaborate.

“We want to bring the whole industry together with this, and we think there’s a unique opportunity in time right now for Lyft to become a leader while doing it,” said Raj Kapoor, Lyft’s chief strategy officer, as reported in the New York Times.

And it certainly seems as though there are plenty of takers when it comes to Lyft’s offer of collaboration. Partners that have already signed on to work alongside the company include Waymo, NuTonomy, Jaguar, Land Rover, and General Motors. And while we don’t know much about the terms of these partnerships, they’re all dedicated to working alongside one another to make self-driving cars the cars of the future.

But don’t worry — Lyft assures its riders that it will “always operate a hybrid network, with rides from both human-driven and self-driving cars.” Ultimately, Lyft says that it hopes to usher in a new generation in which self-driving cars make for cheaper and more efficient transportation.

Amazon Prime Now launched in Singapore, then quickly couldn’t cope with demand

Image: victoria ho/mashable

Just hours after it launched in Singapore to great fanfare — Amazon Prime Now is down.

The e-commerce giant’s launch on Thursday marked its first foray into Southeast Asia.

But for all the initial hype and excitement it drummed up, it seems like the delivery service is unable to cope with demand. 

The app, which launched Thursday morning, showed that delivery was “unavailable” from Thursday afternoon till Friday afternoon, when Mashable tested it out.

Image: screenshot/mashable

Prime Now has now resumed its delivery service, though the app still states that “delivery availability may be limited”.


And people were not happy:

Amazon sent Mashable a statement saying: “We are delivering thousands and thousands of orders each day. 

“Due to great customer response, delivery windows are currently sold out. We are rapidly opening up new windows.”

The Singapore fulfilment centre.

The Singapore fulfilment centre.

Image: Victoria ho/mashable

Amazon had initially boasted that its 100,000 square feet store, its largest Prime Now warehouse to date, would ship products at “lightning fast speeds.”

“We know how busy Singaporeans are….[and] we know [they] are going to love the convenience of Amazon’s fastest delivery method yet…shipped in lightning fast speeds,” said Aarif Nakhooda, director of Prime Now on Thursday. 

But unlike U.S. warehouses, which rely on robots to locate goods, the Singapore outlet relies on humans who do everything from placing goods to sending your parcels. 


Image: victoria ho/mashable

The e-commerce store had initially promised to offer consumers in Singapore a free two-hour delivery for orders placed over $29 (S$40). For orders under $29, two-hour delivery would cost $4.40 ($5.90).

For now, orders can only be made through the app.

Even CEO Jeff Besos’ half-day stint as the world’s richest man lasted longer than Amazon’s delivery service did — now that’s saying something. 

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