Via TechCrunch: Food startup Deliveroo raises $275M as Uber eats into its European market

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Deliveroo, a popular on-demand restaurant food delivery startup in Europe, has raised another $275 million in funding, a Series E investment that we have heard from sources values the company at around $1 billion. This latest round is led by new investor, Bridgepoint, previous investors DST Global and General Catalyst, and also had participation from existing investor Greenoaks Capital.

Deliveroo says the investment will go into growing its service in both new and existing markets, where it’s now live in 84 cities. It’s also going to keep investing in its new initiatives. These include a new B2B remote kitchen service, RooBox, which gives restaurants access to delivery-only kitchens in key locations. Other new services have included an expansion into alcohol delivery.

Deliveroo, who is not confirming its valuation, has now raised $475 million to date.

This latest funding comes at a time when the startup is facing a lot of heat from others who are also targeting the higher, foodie end of the prepared food market (typical Deliveroo restaurants include artisanal pizza and burger joints, trendy Middle Eastern delis, and hipster donut bakeries).

Rivals include Uber, which has stormed into Europe with Uber Eats; as well as others like Delivery Hero and Just Eat, and now, it seems, Amazon too (whose own food delivery project in Europe is currently codenamed “Hot Wheels”).

The intense competition in the market has led to a distinctly sink-or-swim climate, with other hopefuls like Take It Easy closing down last week after failing to raise money.

Sky News reported news of Deliveroo’s round earlier today, and we have confirmed the details with Deliveroo directly.

“After seeing strong growth in the markets we launched in November, our new focus is to drive further innovation in food delivery,” founder and CEO Will Shu said in a statement. “In particular, I’m excited about exploring completely new ways to solve the hardest problems restaurants face when offering delivery. RooBox is the first illustration of this approach, and innovations like these are at the heart of our mission. We’re proud and honoured to have the support of Bridgepoint, DST Global and General Catalyst in this endeavour.”

We had been hearing about Deliveroo’s attempts to raise this round for months now, and it came with several other interesting details.

For one, this round has been taking some time to close –nine months, by one person’s estimate — as the size and terms have fluctuated. We also understand from multiple sources that the company had hired Morgan Stanley either to help arrange financing for this deal, or potentially to find a buyer for the company. Among those that were approached as potential buyers or partners: Uber, Delivery Hero, Amazon, Just Eat and Takeaway.com. Those talks have not come to anything at this point.

Deliveroo, however, has been growing. It says that since its last round of funding ($100 million in November 2015), it has grown 400 percent and “reached profitability in a number of its established markets,” which would include London. It has also added 29 new cities and 9,000 new restaurant partners to its footprint in the last eight months.

And if we’re in a sink-or-swim climate at the moment, for now competitors are just happy to see Deliveroo seal the deal, since rising tides will help lift all (remaining) boats. “It’s good news that they managed to finally close,” another food delivery founder told me. “I think everyone was nervous it would be one of Europe’s largest failures… It would have effected the whole industry.”

Notably, Uber opted to partner up and sell off its operation in China to arch rival Didi Chuxing after it proved too costly to compete against it. Whether that might be a precedent for other geographies and categories beyond basic transport remains to be seen.

For now, there has been a lot of competition between Deliveroo and Uber Eats in markets like London, not just to secure restaurants for delivery and to find loyal customers, but to pick up drivers to complete orders.

Anecdotally, drivers who we have interviewed who have made the leap to Uber from Deliveroo tell us the pay is better — meaning Uber’s competing by sacrificing margin to gain market share.

Confusingly (or serendipitously?), the green-lettered black delivery boxes for Uber Eats and Deliveroo look nearly identical.

Deliveroo says that since its Series D, it has added 6,500 new riders to its network.

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Via TechCrunch: How VR could have you walking in circles in future without knowing it

 

VR’s promise of boundless virtual worlds to explore is, in practice, rather more tethered to reality, given physical limits on play spaces meaning you can only walk so far in the corresponding virtual world before you’re out of sensor range and/or about to bump into a (real) wall. So how to square the circle of infinite virtual worlds vs finite play space?

One technique involves the player reorienting their visual perception by turning on the spot and stopping after a few turns facing in a new direction, allowing them to carry on walking straight again. However spinning around can make people dizzy so isn’t exactly an ideal solution given VR’s extant nausea problem. This method also inevitably breaks up play.

A team of Japanese researchers reckon they have come up with a better idea — which they’ve named Unlimited Corridor. The technique uses visual and haptic feedback to trick gamers into perceiving they are walking in a straight line, when in fact they are walking in circles. Which in turn allows for VR game worlds to appear to have infinitely long passageways. The gamer merely has to tap their way along one side of a (real) wall in the play space, an action which naturally orientates their walk alongside it, to perceive they are walking straight within the game. But in fact the wall is a circle. The team’s test world was developed on the Unity platform.

The project, which has been led by Dr Takuji Narumi of the University of Tokyo along with Unity Researcher Yohei Yanase, does still require a rather large real-world installation (of said circular wall unit) in the VR play space — and works best with mobile or portable VR (they used a high performance gaming laptop in a backpack on their testers) — so it’s not without its own real-world limits. But the team say they’ve now managed to shrink the wall to a radius of 2.5m, and reckon they could squeeze it further by increasing the strength of the visuo-haptic interaction — the other key component of the technique.

So what exactly is visuo-haptic interaction? Narumi describes it as “a kind of illusory effect in our brain” — which allows for a particular perception/sensation to be generated by combining sensory inputs in different ways.

“It alters our proprioceptive sensations corresponding to visual sensations by the combination of visual and haptic stimuli,” he tells TechCrunch. “It has long been thought that different sensory modalities operate independently of each other. However, recent behavioral and brain imaging studies are changing this view, now suggesting that cross-modal interactions have an important role in our perception. In cross-modal effects, the perception of a sensation through one sense is changed by other stimuli that are simultaneously received through other senses.”

The team has also developed what Narumi describes as a “flavor display”, also using cross-modal interaction, that alters the perceived taste of food — allowing for people in VR to virtually select a choice of cookie flavoring and taste that when they eat the real world (plain) cookie in their hand. (Although ‘augmented gustation‘, as they dub this, also requires the VR player to have an olfactory cap on their head which puffs flavored air into their nostrils at the moment of mastication, corresponding with their taste choice, in order for them to experience the sensation of a eating a chocolate cookie, for example. So it’s getting pretty out there, even by VR standards…)

“In case of ‘Unlimited Corridor’, we can reduce the required space for forever walking with a cross-modal (visual and haptic) VR. Therefore we believe the utilization of cross-modal effects becomes a key technology for next generation of VR,” adds Narumi, who has also conducted research into the perceived metamorphosis of shape, again using cross-modal interactions.

The team used a split circle design for their Unlimited Corridor wall which allows the player to make turns within a game, and also enables the installation to accommodate multiple players at a time without them bumping into each other. (Watching that part of the video it’s almost impossible not to be reminded of Pacman ghost-avoidance tactics.)

The core tech on the visuo-haptic side is a method for simultaneously matching the visual and haptic stimuli being presented to the player. The timing between visual and haptic presentation has to be within 200ms, according to Narumi, who notes the team investigated the acceptable gap between the visual and haptic curvatures via “various experiments”.

While the researchers assert the illusion of their Unlimited Corridor is “very strong”, they concede a few people will still sense the wall is round based on touch. So the technique won’t work for everybody. There’s also no absolute guarantee against warding off VR sickness, although the team claims this occurred “much less often” with their system than with normal VR or redirected walking (RDW), i.e. turning around on the spot, experiences.

While Unlimited Corridor is primarily a research project to explore how the boundary between reality and the brain’s perception of it can be manipulated, the team envisage their technique having potential outside the lab, for entertainment, education and simulation use-cases — noting that entertainment companies have expressed interest, including one that has started experimenting.

Via 9t05 Mac: Disney launches child-focused messaging app w. built-in games & safety features

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Just when you think there can’t possibly be room for yet another messaging app, along comes Disney with what looks like a decent attempt to prove us wrong. Disney Mix is a new messaging app designed for use by kids as young as four, using the tagline ‘chat, share, play.’

The free app offers stickers from just about every Disney movie you could name, customized cartoon avatars, built-in games and safety features designed to keep things family-friendly …

 

Disney Mix is a social messaging app where friends can chat, share, and play in a whole new way! Get creative and express yourself using some favorite Disney and Pixar characters like Flash from Zootopia, Hank from Finding Dory, Jenny from Adventures in Babysitting, Danny from Future-Worm!, and more! Add Disney Channel, Disney😄, and Disney Movies to your Friends List and receive the latest videos and photos directly from them. Personalize an avatar, chat with friends, play games, make memes, and send funny stickers and sounds… do it all in one place with Disney Mix.

On the safety side, Engadget notes that chat threads have a whistle icon at the top that kids can press if anything concerns them. An adult moderator will then step in to check things out. Disney has a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and harassment, and users are reminded to be respectful and keep it clean.

Disney Mix is a free download on the App Store, with an Android version available too.

Via Techcrunch: Amazon launches Prime Air, its own dedicated cargo planes to speed delivery

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A Boein 767 of Prime Air in the hangar of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

 

Drone delivery or self-driving trucks may not be here any time soon for Amazon.com.

But the e-commerce juggernaut plans to launch its first ever branded cargo plane, the Amazon One, at Seattle’s SeaFair Air Show on Friday.

The plane is a a Boeing 767-300 operated by Atlas Air, an existing provider of air cargo services for Amazon.com.

In a press statement ahead of the event, the company’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, Dave Clarke, outlined plans for a more expansive “air transportation network.” The company will lease 40 planes in total from Atlas Air and another partner, ATSG, for its Prime Air cargo operations in the next two years, he revealed.

The move is part of a broad effort to speed delivery for ever-demanding customers.

A time lapse video of the plane being painted is up for Amazon superfans who want to catch a glimpse before it flies in the airshow in Seattle.

On the ground, Amazon.com has also launched initiatives aimed at making delivery times as fast as possible for its Prime and other customers.

Among other things, these efforts include the addition of 4,000 trailers to its fleet of delivery trucks; the launch of Flex, a mobile app to let vetted freelance drivers start using their own vehicles to make Amazon.com deliveries; and the use of robotics and other technology to speed packing and sorting at its facilities.

How to Watch Rio Olympics 2016 Live Online

The biggest and the most exciting multi-sport extravaganza, Rio Olympics 2016, will start on 5th August 2016. Like me, you too must be excited to watch your favorite sports. Keeping that in mind, I took the liberty of preparing an instant guide for you to assist you in how to watch Rio Olympics Live Online.

The opening ceremony of the games will be held in Rio de Janeiro on 5th August, 2016 where athletes from the 205 participating nations will appear. Millions of fans globally are anxiously waiting for the opening ceremony and most of them will turn towards online routes to watch the action packed gala. You can watch Olympics opening ceremony on any device of your choice from anywhere you want using a fast and secure VPN.

Olympic is not just a multi-sport event but a gathering that unites the world providing them a platform to compete and excel, along with spreading a positive message around the world. Athletes from every part of the world take part in these games to prove their worth. That’s not it! Fans also love to see their favorite players compete in thrilling and exciting battles in various disciplines.

42 disciplines, 306 events and 205 nations; what else is needed! Use the following list of official broadcasters of Rio Olympics 2016 to see who is airing which sport in your region:

BBC iPlayer (UK)
NBC (USA)
Seven Network (AUS)
Fox (BRA)
CBC (CAN)
Canal+ (FRA)
ZDF (GER)
RTE (IRE)
Sky Italia (ITA)
Star Sports (IND)
RTVE (ESP)
Sky TV (NZ)

The stats show that not everyone will be using TV to watch Olympic Games as majority will be live streaming Rio Olympics online. I have prepared this Rio Olympics live streaming guide so you can avoid the hassle of searching the right online channels for Rio Olympics.

Feel Free to know more about Rio Olympics 2016 click here.