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MoviePass’s finances show that it might be too good to be true

MoviePass seems like a deal that’s too good to be true: $9.95 per month allows you to see one 2D movie per week (or up to four per month) in movie theaters. (It’s worth nothing that this is a change from the company’s previous plan, which was one movie per day for the same fee.) Considering that’s less than the price of a single movie ticket, it’s a pretty great price. But many have wondered how MoviePass will make money; after all, the company is paying theaters full price for movie tickets. Now, Business Insider reports that an external auditor has “substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern” based on MoviePass’s 10-K filing.

The auditor in question is Rosenberg Rich Baker Berman & Co., and the firm specifically had concerns about negative cash flows that MoviePass reported. Because of the levels of these losses, the auditors question the viability of the company over the next year.

MoviePass has attracted over 2 million subscribers since the company dropped its subscription price last year. The problem with their business model is that each customer costs them money every time they see a movie. That’s the reason they reported a $150.8 million loss.

That being said, it’s not uncommon for a startup to burn through cash as it’s getting up and running. These kinds of dire warnings happen relatively regularly when a new company is posting losses. MoviePass does need to eventually solve the profitability problem, but for now, the company can continue relying on outside investment for funding, as so many other startups do at this stage.

Source: Business Insider


Lyft promises to make all rides carbon neutral

Lyft announced today that it will purchase enough carbon offsets to make every Lyft ride carbon neutral. Just within the first year of this program, the company says it will put millions of dollars towards the effort and expects to offset over a million metric tons of carbon. To make every ride carbon neutral, Lyft will fund “emission mitigation efforts, including the reduction of emissions in the automotive manufacturing process, forestry projects and the capture of emissions from landfills.” The company 3Degrees will work with Lyft on the effort.

“The stark reality is that transportation is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. As a growing part of the transportation ecosystem, we are holding ourselves accountable to being part of the solution,” said Lyft co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green in a Medium post. “We’re in the unique and fortunate position to be a driving force in bringing forward a more sustainable future, and we don’t take that lightly.” The company hired environmentalist Paul Hawken to be its environmental advisor last year and it signed onto Michael Bloomberg’s We Are Still In coalition, committing to upholding the ideals of the Paris climate agreement after Donald Trump removed the US from the accord.

Both Apple and Google recently published updates on their efforts to offset their energy use with renewable energy. The new carbon offset projects funded by Lyft will be near its largest markets and all will be based in the US. “This action is not the full solution, but a real step forward,” said the company.

Source: Lyft


‘Football Manager 2018’ ads promote mental health awareness

Football Manager 2018, like previous games in the long-running franchise, is known for being the digital equivalent of crack. But in addition to providing endless hours of entertainment, its loyal UK playerbase may well get something more important out of the José Mourinho simulator. As part of a new NHS initiative, pitch-side advertising boards within the game have begun featuring messages for MindMate, a youth mental health awareness and support service run by the NHS Leeds Clinical Commission Group. The idea is to engage young people on home turf, pointing them towards the MindMate website if they click on the ads — assuming they notice them while they’re watching their team get thumped 4-0 in the relegation playoffs.

In-game ads have long been considered a beeline to a younger demographic. Barack Obama famously used ads in Burnout Paradise and other titles to garner support before and throughout his presidency. This type of campaign is a first for the NHS, but equally interesting is the way in which it’s being delivered. Football Manager 2018 actually has a unique, native advertising platform run by a company called Bidstack. It’s able to target ads based on location, date and time of day, which is why the month-long NHS campaign will only be seen by players in Leeds that can access MindMate’s support services.

Last November, Bidstack also partnered with the Movember Foundation to run in-game ads in Football Manager 2018 to raise awareness of men’s health issues, particularly testicular and prostate cancer.

Via: Eurogamer

Source: NHS Leeds Clinical Commission Group


Amazon will make Gillian Flynn’s ‘Utopia’ adaptation, not HBO

Thanks to collective feet-dragging and pre-production hell, Amazon has scored a win over HBO. The US adaptation of Utopia will live on under Jeff Bezos’ roof, retaining novelist (and former Entertainment Weekly writer) Gillian Flynn as executive producer, creator and showrunner. The nine-episode limited series focuses on a group of youths who met online, found a graphic novel and as a result are being hunted by a “shadowy deep state organization.” The graphic novel deals explicitly in conspiracy theories, and it turns out that the stories on its pages could actually be real. Across the pond, the original series ran for two seasons.

While the show was still at HBO, auteur director David Fincher was attached. The tone and overall arc was perfect for the worlds he’s used to playing in. Reportedly, the creative team and business side couldn’t come to an agreement regarding budget. At the same time, Fincher was working on Mindhunter for Netflix. Currently the director is developing a sequel to World War Z with the UK Utopia‘s creator, Dennis Kelly.

The original version was incredibly dark. In the pilot, members of the teenage group are murdered before the opening credits even roll. In the second episode, one commits suicide in the same timeframe, while later on in the show someone gets their eye carved out in real time. There’s also a school shooting in one episode. It isn’t clear if the domestic edition will maintain the brutal tone and imagery of the UK version.

Flynn still has ties to HBO with an adaptation of her novel Sharp Objects set to debut this spring. She’s best known for Gone Girl, a pulpy thriller that she adapted for film with Fincher. In the announcement, Amazon was keen to mention Flynn’s work with HBO on Sharp Objects more than once, seemingly as a way to put a little salt in the wound. No release date is set.

Source: Amazon


Oculus updates privacy controls to comply with GDPR rules

By and large, Facebook has chosen to weasel out of its earlier claims to extend GDPR privacy protections worldwide, even though it really could. Meanwhile, other parts of the company are grappling with the EU’s rules, which go into effect on May 25th. One of those is Oculus, which announced changes to its privacy controls, terms of service and a new code of conduct to safeguard users in VR environments — which will apply to users globally.

In regards to the current privacy fears circling around Facebook, Oculus made a blog post to accompany the changes addressing obvious questions. The company assured that it doesn’t feed Facebook user data that would be used by third parties to target advertisements based on an individual’s behavior on the Oculus platform. The information shared with the social media giant is “limited” — for example, if someone is flagged on one service, that will transfer over to the other. But users could be sharing even more info if they link accounts on both platforms.

The ‘My Privacy Center’ feature will go live on May 20th and give users a look at the data Oculus has collected on them. They won’t be able to see any information that’s been anonymized, including the movements made while in VR, which previously got the company in hot water with then-Senator Al Franken. The privacy center also won’t show data stored locally on an Oculus device, like height, or sensitive stuff like credit card info.

The new code of conduct prohibits users from using or hawking sexually explicit content; Like Facebook’s code, it also bans content that is “hateful or racially offensive” or that “attacks people based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, diseases or disability.” Users also cannot harass others or encourage illegal activity or real-world violence.

If a user deletes their account, they should expect it to be gone within 90 days. That won’t wipe every trace from the company’s servers, as Oculus will still hold on to pieces like certain purchase information, which is retained for tax and financial purposes.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Oculus blog, Oculus Code of Conduct


Cambridge Analytica was looking to jump on the crypto bandwagon, too

Before news broke that it had improperly obtained millions of Facebook users’ data and undercover videos showed executives listing entrapment among the nefarious ways it could halt political opponents, Cambridge Analytica was reportedly working on a digital currency. And, interestingly, the cryptocurrency was apparently going to be marketed as a way to fund a system through which users could store and sell their online data. Sources told Reuters that the data firm had consulted a company on how to structure an initial coin offering (ICO).

A Cambridge Analytica spokesperson didn’t discuss the ICO but did tell Reuters, “Prior to the Facebook controversy, we were developing a suite of technologies to help individuals reclaim their personal data from corporate entities and to have full transparency and control over how their personal data are used. We were exploring multiple options for people to manage and monetise their personal data, including blockchain technology.” And while that seems laughable in light of all of the recent discoveries about the firm and its actions, former Cambridge Analytica employee Brittany Kaiser told the New York Times, “Who knows more about the usage of personal data than Cambridge Analytica? So why not build a platform that reconstructs the way that works?”

Cambridge Analytica was also reportedly involved in the creation of a digital token called the Dragon Coin, which was designed to help gamblers get their money into Macau casinos and has been linked to an infamous Macau gangster.

Cryptocurrencies and ICOs have come under intense scrutiny in the US. The SEC formed a Cyber Unit last year and has brought fraud charges against a number of individuals and companies, as has the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The SEC also issued a warning that it was “looking closely” at companies that suddenly shift their interests to blockchain or digital currencies and it sent subpoenas and requests for information to a number of firms last month. The agency also warned celebrities about endorsing ICOs. In February, a study noted that nearly half of the ICOs launched in 2017 had already failed.

Via: Gizmodo


Apple unveils its newest recycling robot ahead of Earth Day

Looks like Liam, Apple’s phone-dismembering robot, now has a little sister. Just ahead of Earth Day, the Cupertino-based company revealed the newest member of its robo-recycling team: Daisy.

Like her predecessor, Daisy was developed by Apple’s in-house R&D team and even leverages some of the same components that were initially created for Liam. The new robot is tasked with disassembling iphones, stripping them of their reusable parts and sorting out the refuse. Daisy is reportedly capable of dismantling nine different iPhone variants and stripping up to 200 handsets an hour, all without damaging any of the salvageable parts.

Apple also announced the start of its GiveBack program, which runs until April 30th. For every phone that customers turn in at an Apple store or online, either directly for recycling or as a trade-in, the company will make a donation to Conservation International. For their environmental efforts, customers will receive an in-store credit or an Apple Gift Card, whichever they prefer.

This news comes on the heels of Apple’s announcement earlier this month that its entire operation — stores, offices, data centers and co-located sites across 43 countries — are fully powered by green energy (though technically the company does rely on carbon credits and offsets to hit that number).


eBay for iOS Gains Barcode Scanning Feature That Can Complete Listing Process ‘Within Seconds’

eBay today announced a new update for its iOS and Android apps, aimed at further simplifying the item listing process. The headlining feature of the update is a new barcode scanner, allowing sellers to quickly scan the box of an item (if they still have it), select a condition, and click “list your item.”

The barcode scanner will automatically populate the listing with all of the requisite details (images, description, suggested starting price), and the process can be finished “within seconds,” according to eBay. If you don’t have the item barcode you can still search for it by typing in a description, which should populate the listing at around the same rate as the barcode scanner.

eBay’s announcement states the streamlined update is aimed at new sellers who aren’t yet familiar with the service’s in-depth listing options.

“At eBay, we’re dedicated to delivering a seamless and efficient selling experience for both first-time and seasoned sellers alike,” says Kelly Vincent, eBay’s VP of Consumer Selling Product & Engineering.

“This latest update continues to leverage eBay’s structured data, which helps catalogue the 1.1+ billion items on the platform, to instantaneously populate product details, pricing and shipping information in the listing flow. Not only does the catalogue facilitate a superior listing experience, it enables buyers to easily find the great deals offered by our sellers. This is one of many enhancements we’ll be making this year. We’ll continue to leverage structured data and new technology developments to help our sellers ‘get it sold.’”

Late last year eBay updated its search function with the ability for users to find items on its marketplace by taking pictures. Using computer vision technology powered by AI, Image Search lets buyers snap a picture or upload one from their iOS device’s Camera Roll to find similar results based on their image.

More recently in 2018, eBay announced major changes that will be coming to its online marketplace regarding how buyers and sellers exchange money. The company’s three-year plan is to phase out its partnership with PayPal and eventually make Amsterdam-based payments company Adyen its “primary partner for payments processing globally.”

Tag: eBay
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Tim Cook Insists Merging Mac and iPad Would Result in Compromises

Apple CEO Tim Cook remains against the idea of merging the Mac and iPad to create one unified hardware and software experience, according to a brief conversation he had at Apple’s education event in Chicago last month.

“We don’t believe in sort of watering down one for the other,” said Cook, speaking with The Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Wells. “One of the reasons that both of them are incredible is because we pushed them to do what they do well. And if you begin to merge the two … you begin to make trade offs and compromises.”

“So maybe the company would be more efficient at the end of the day, but that’s not what it’s about,” he added. “It’s about giving people things that they can then use to help them change the world or express their passion or express their creativity. So this merger thing that some folks are fixated on, I don’t think that’s what users want.”

Cook reiterated that he generally uses a Mac at work, and uses an iPad at home and for travel, but added “I use everything and I love everything.”

Apple’s boss also revealed that an Apple IIc, released in 1984, was his first computer. “I first used it for a project, as a senior in engineering school, making an inventory control program or for a rental business that was close by,” said Cook, who majored in industrial engineering at Auburn University.

Cook’s comments echo those he shared with the Irish Independent in 2015, when he said Apple is not interested in creating a “converged Mac and iPad.”

“What that would wind up doing, or what we’re worried would happen, is that neither experience would be as good as the customer wants. So we want to make the best tablet in the world and the best Mac in the world. And putting those two together would not achieve either. You’d begin to compromise in different ways.”

While the Mac and iPad will remain distinct products, Apple has and will continue to bridge the gap between its desktop and mobile platforms. In 2014, for example, it introduced Continuity features like Handoff and Universal Clipboard that enable more seamless experiences across Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.

Apple may go one step further in iOS 12 and macOS 10.14, as Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman recently reported that developers will be able to design a single third-party app that works with both a touchscreen, and a mouse or trackpad, depending on whether it’s running on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, starting later this year.

Tag: Tim Cook
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Apple Debuts New iPhone Disassembly Robot Daisy and GiveBack Environmental Program

Ahead of Earth Day on Sunday, Apple today announced a few initiatives that support the company’s commitment to the environment, including its goal of making its products using only recycled or renewable materials.

Apple’s new iPhone disassembly robot Daisy
First, for every device traded in or recycled at Apple Stores or on worldwide between today and April 30, the company will make a donation of an undisclosed amount to the non-profit environmental organization Conservation International, which has worked to protect the nature in more than 30 countries.

Second, Apple introduced a new iPhone disassembly robot named Daisy as an improved version of Liam, its first disassembly robot launched in 2016. Daisy is located in Austin, Texas, with a second robot coming to Breda, Netherlands.

Daisy is made from some of Liam’s parts and is capable of disassembling nine versions of iPhone and sorting their high-quality components for recycling. Daisy can take apart up to 200 iPhone devices per hour, removing and sorting components, so that Apple can recover materials that traditional recyclers can’t — and at a higher quality.

Apple’s environmental chief Lisa Jackson:

At Apple, we’re constantly working toward smart solutions to address climate change and conserve our planet’s precious resources. In recognition of Earth Day, we are making it as simple as possible for our customers to recycle devices and do something good for the planet through Apple GiveBack. We’re also thrilled to introduce Daisy to the world, as she represents what’s possible when innovation and conservation meet.

Apple will also release its annual Environment Report today, detailing the company’s environmental progress in three priority areas: reducing its carbon footprint by using renewable energy sources, conserving precious resources, and pioneering the use of safer materials in its products and processes.

Last week, Apple announced its global facilities are now powered with 100 percent clean energy, including its retail stores, offices, data centers and co-located facilities across the United States and 42 other countries.

Last, Apple Watch owners today will receive a notification about an Earth Day activity challenge, as we revealed earlier this week. To earn the badge, users will have to complete any workout for 30 minutes or longer on April 22.

Tags: Apple environment, Earth Day
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