Culture juggernaut Hypebeast takes a majority stake in The Berrics to make skating huge again (still)

In the middle of LA there is a tin roofed warehouse that houses a machine shop. Behind that there’s a brick building dotted with loading dock doors. Behind this is are a row of taller, better looking warehouse slots spottily occupied by businesses and non profits. Tucked up against the Los Angeles River behind all of this is a obscure, low slung office building with no markings that, over the past decade, has become the physical totem of west-coast skate culture.

The Berrics was started by Steve Berra and Eric Koston (the collective’s name is a portmanteau) as a place for kids to skate without getting hassled on the street. Both are legendary skaters that have managed to ride the wave of booms and busts that have characterized the business of making skating your life over the past thirty years. Over that time, skating the business may have ebbed and flowed, but the culture never died and thanks to its influence [...]  read more

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Tandem launches a credit card that offers cashback and no fees when spending abroad

Tandem, the U.K. challenger bank that recently acquired the banking arm of the famous Harrods department store partly in order to get its banking license back on track, has launched its first banking product: a credit card that offers cashback on every purchase and no exchange fees when spending abroad.

The new card is designed to work with Tandem’s Personal Finance Manager (PFM) app, which you plug into your existing bank accounts and credit cards to get spending insights and set budgeting goals to help you better manage your money.

The challenger bank, like many other consumer-facing fintechs, wants to become your financial control centre from which it can connect to and offer financial services, either products of its own, such as the newly launched Tandem credit card, or through partnerships with other fintech startups or bigger providers. On that note, Tandem says it plans to offer a savings account in the near future.

Specifically, Tandem says its new credit card brings customers [...]  read more

Nuance ends development of the Swype keyboard apps

The party is over for third party keyboards. But hey, it was fun while it lasted. Nuance, the company that acquired veteran swipe-to-type keyboard maker Swype — all the way back in 2011, shelling out a cool $100M — has ended development of its Swype+Dragon dictation Android and iOS apps.

The news was reported earlier by the Xda developer blog, which spotted a Reddit post by a user and says it got confirmation from Nuance that development for both the Android and iOS apps has been discontinued. We’ve also reached out to the company with questions. A search for the Swype app on iOS now results for rivals keyboard apps.

As Xda points out, Nuance has been concentrating on its b2b business using its speech recognition tech to enable speech to text utility — such as a dedicated version of its dictation product which is targeted at healthcare workers.

The b2b space also provides the business model that’s so often been lacking for keyboard players in the consumer space (even those [...]  read more

Uber parks its service in Morocco

Uber is pulling the brakes on its service in Morocco, which will cease on February 23, as it waits (and hopes) for local regulators to accommodate app-based ride-hailing.

The company announced the move on its country blog yesterday, writing that it has “not had any clarity” on how its service can be integrated into the existing transport model since it launched in the market three years ago.

“[T]he current regulatory uncertainty does not allow us to provide a safe and reliable experience that meets the requirements of our customers, both drivers and passengers. So, as long as there is no real reform and an environment conducive to new mobility solutions, we are forced to suspend our operations this week,” it writes. 

It does not explain why it took three years to decide to stop operating if doing so was unsafe.

Uber says it has 300 drivers using its app in the market and “nearly 19,000 regular users”. It adds that it remains committed to returning to the market “ [...]  read more

Sony Corp. to launch an AI-based taxi-hailing service in Japan

Sony Corporation said today that it will build an AI-based ride-hailing system in Japan in partnership with five taxi companies. The service will use artificial intelligence to manage taxi dispatches and forecast demand based on factors like weather, traffic and local events.

Sony’s announcement came just before Uber chief executive officer Dara Khosrowshahi, who is currently visiting Asia, said the company wants to form more partnerships with Japanese taxi companies. According to Bloomberg, Khosrowshahi, who joined Uber last August, said he believes Japan is an “incredibly opportunity,” but that the company’s previous approach “frankly didn’t work.”

Sony’s ride-hailing system will launch this spring in partnership with taxi companies Daiwa Motor Transportation, Hinomaru Kotsu, Kokusai Motorcars, Green Cab and Checker Cab Group. Sony’s services, including apps, will also be offered to other taxi operators in Japan. Due to regulations that require taxi drivers to [...]  read more

Homie raises $4M to help London’s ‘Generation Rent’ find their next property

So bad is London’s housing crisis, which sees house prices make homeownership a pipe dream for many, a 2015 report by PWC reckons that by 2025 more than half of under 40 year olds will be living into rental properties.

The answer, of course, is to build more affordable and/or social housing, but that hot political potato is continually kicked to into the long grass and, even at its most optimistic, will take a generation to fix. In other words, so-called ‘Generation Rent’ is real and here to stay.

But one societal crisis is another startup’s opportunity, and we’ve already seen a number of companies crop up to serve the rental needs of Londoners and people living in other housing stock-starved cities.

These include consumer-facing apps like Acasa, which wants to make it easy to move from one houseshare to another, B2B services like the recently troubled Goodlord[...]  read more

Amazon’s Prime Rewards Visa cardholders now get 5% back at Whole Foods if they pay for Prime

Amazon has already rolled out price cuts for Whole Foods shoppers as a result of its acquisition of the grocery chain. It has also rolled up its Treasure Truck deals service to Whole Foods locations, and began delivering Whole Foods groceries through Prime. Now, it’s offering Prime members 5 percent back at Whole Foods when they shop using the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa card, too.

The company has just announced that it will, in conjunction with the grocer and Chase, extend grocery rewards to those who shop Whole Foods with this card. In addition to the 5 percent back for Prime members, non-Prime members will earn 3 percent back on Whole Foods Market purchases. Non-Prime members will also continue to earn 3 percent back on all Amazon.com purchases, and all cardholders earn 2 percent back on gas stations, restaurants and drug stores, and 1 percent back on all other purchases.

Prime members with the card were already earning 5 percent back on Amazon.com but this is the first time the [...]  read more

Algorithmic zoning could be the answer to cheaper housing and more equitable cities

Zoning codes are a century old, and the lifeblood of all major U.S. cities (except arguably Houston), determining what can be built where and what activities can take place in a neighborhood. Yet as their complexity has risen, academics are increasingly exploring whether their rule-based systems for rationalizing urban space could be replaced with dynamic systems based on blockchains, machine learning algorithms, and spatial data, potentially revolutionizing urban planning and development for the next one hundred years.

These visions of the future were inspired by my recent chats with Kent Larson and John Clippinger, a dynamic urban thinking duo who have made improving cities and urban governance their current career focus. Larson is a principal research scientist at the MIT Media Lab, where he directs the City Science Group, and Clippinger is a visiting researcher at the Human Dynamics Lab (also part of the Media Lab), as well as the founder of non-profit ID3.

One of the toughest [...]  read more

Author Brian Dear talks about the amazing PLATO computing system

Before Xerox Parc there was PLATO. This amazing computing system came to life in 1960 and by the 1970s was running a number of graphical terminals well before the rise of Xerox PARC and the Alto. This wild little system used some unique hardware and software to create true early educational computing projects and author Brian Dear has written an amazing book on the project. Called Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture, it is available now.

In this week’s Technotopia I talked to Dear at length about the project and the future of cyberculutre. It’s a cool discussion with someone who knows his stuff.

Technotopia is a podcast by John Biggs about a better future. You can subscribe in Stitcher, RSS, or iTunes and listen to the MP3 here.

social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #techcrunch http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/Xa31SFQJJ7A/

The $20 Wyze security camera gets a sequel with improved intelligence and Amazon Echo support

The team behind WyzeCam is full of surprises. First they introduced a $20 plug and play security camera in October of last year, and now they’re already back with the sequel. The simply titled WyzeCam v2 is here, less than half a year later, bringing with it some pretty welcome updates.

The first version of the camera actually scored some pretty decent reviews for all it was able to pack into such a low cost piece of hardware. The original did 1080p video with night vision and featured such security camera mainstays as motion and sound detection, sending alerts when it heard the beep of a smoke alarm going off.

Still priced at $20 through the company’s site, the v2 packs many of those same features and adds key updates like upgraded AI to help identify the objects it sends motion alerts for. There’s also some Alexa support on board here, according to Engadget.

It’s not the full deal with voice commands, but you will be able to view videos through [...]  read more