We’re live in a rather humble little room at the W hotel in San Francisco, where Sony is showing off the latest prototype of its Project Morpheus VR headset to a handful of reporters.
Externally, the latest prototype looks… about the same.
At this point, though, it’s what’s on the inside of a VR headset that counts. Without beefy hardware inside, that sense of “presence” is lost.
Here’s what’s changed in Prototype 2:
– The 5 inch LCD has been bumped up to a 5.7″ Screen OLED Display with a resolution of 1920xRGBx1080
– It now has a 100 Degree Field Of View (Original: 90 degree FOV)
– 120Hz Refresh Rate (Up from 60hz). Higher refresh rate means less blur, better immersion, and less motion sickness.
– They’ve added three more LED trackers, bringing the total up to 9
– They’ve brought latency down beneath 18ms
– The headset can be slid in and out without removing it completely, allowing you to adjust it for comfort and peek at the outside world around you.
And as they ended the presentation, Sony dropped one more bit of news: Project Morpheus will launch to consumers in the first half of 2016.
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Valve continues its push into hardware, as the company has announced that it plans to release a new gadget later this year that will let Steam users stream games from their PCs to any room in the house.
Valve says the new gadget, which it’s calling the Steam Link, will sell for $49 when it arrives in November. This puts it at half the price of the Razer Forge TV, another mini-set-top box meant to stream high-end PC games. The box will work with Windows, Mac, Linux, and the upcoming Steam Machines, the line of console-like PCs that resulted in last year’s Alienware Alpha and other miniature gaming PCs based on Windows when Valve wasn’t quite ready to go with Steam OS. The device seems intended to sit in the living room, with a max 1080p output at 60 Hz.
The announcement follows the unveiling of the HTC Vive, a virtual reality headset based on the research Valve’s been doing semi-privately over the last several years. After what seemed like forever without news regarding Valve’s hardware (including its novel controller, which Valve announced will also arrive in November), Valve is showing that it’s taking a multi-faceted approach to hardware. It’s working to provide value to hard-core gamers who already have their own PCs, as well as to those who want the wide selection and graphical fidelity offered by PCs but prefer the convenient console form factor.
Featured Image: Valve
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It’s been a good week for game developers. Unreal Engine 4 went free. Unity 5 came out, and a massive chunk of its once premium features went free.
And now: Valve has just announced Source 2, the next generation of their Source game engine… and sure enough, it’s “free to content developers”.
Best known as the engine that powers games like Half-Life 2, Team Fortress, Counter-Strike: Go, Left 4 Dead, and Portal 2, the original Source engine* was primarily used for Valve’s own titles. While a handful of third-party titles (Stanley Parable, Garry’s Mod, Titanfall) are Source-powered, they’ve never really been Source’s bread and butter.
Perhaps with this news, that’ll change.
* built in 2004. Two thousand and friggin’ four!
Now, a bit of a caveat: we don’t know much about Source 2 yet. Hell, we don’t even know the exact definition of “free”.
So far, all Valve has said on the matter is that Source 2 will be “available for free to content developers”.
Is that 100% free, or will they charge royalties a la Unreal (who charges 5% on every dollar after $3,000)? What, exactly, is a “content developer” — just indie developers, or are they giving it away to any and all?
It’s something of a golden age of video game engine licensing. Not too long ago — hell, 5 years ago, licensing a big, brand name engine (including Source) involved gnarly negotiations, NDAs, and a small mountain of cash. Then Unity came along and changed the game.
Now you just find the engine with the most agreeable terms and start cracking away.
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Ryan Hoover is the becoming the iconic modern founder. Big on transparency. Quick to admit mistakes. And always trying to galvanize the Product Hunt community. So rather than wait for its upcoming launch, today Hoover previewed Product Hunt‘s next iOS build by livestreaming its developer’s work in progress via Meerkat.
The new mobile version of community product review site Product Hunt is heavy on Collections. Released in December, Collections lets users create themed lists of apps, like “crowdfunding for X”, “Tinder clones”, “Recruiting” or “Blogging Tools”. You’ll be able to view, create, add to, and edit Collections through the Product Hunt mobile app for the first time. This turns mere product judges into curators.
Search is also getting beefed up, with a three-tabbed interface for searching products, people, or Collections. Hoover said the app will be released “Soon” but wouldn’t provide a date.
While those features might seem like sensible additions that bring the app to parity with its sister on the web, what’s more fascinating is how it was teased. Rather than give a few hardcore users a demo build they’d have to download, or putting up a static blog post, Hoover used Meerkat to create a live conversation about the product.
This wasn’t a one-way broadcast. Hoover frequently stopped to ask for feedback, read the overlaid comments that flooded onto the Meerkat stream, and noted he’d try to work in some of the audience’s suggestions.
You could say this preview might reduce the newsiness of the launch, or expose the small startup’s rough edges, but that’s kind of the point. Product Hunt is embodying its own ideal of crowdsourced critiques. It doesn’t move at the speed of press releases scheduled for 6am eastern time. It moves at the speed of Internet, communicating and iterating in real-time.
And when community members are part of the process, they feel a lot more invested in using the final product…hunt.
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Wealthfront, the automated investment services company that competes with traditional financial advisory behemoths like Fidelity, has today crossed the $2 billion mark in terms of assets managed.
The achievement for a company, which two years ago was managing approximately $500 million in client assets, is impressive, and it makes Wealthfront the first in its space to rake in that much cash.
Most of Wealthfront’s clients are in their 20’s and 30’s, and their account with Wealthfront is most often their first investment account ever. Nash says that of the ~22,000 clients, the average puts around $90,000 in the hands of Wealthfront, with the biggest account topping out at $10 million.
“We’re not very concerned about the large companies being able to keep pace,” said CEO Adam Nash. “They simply can’t innovate and deliver features fast enough. Instead, we’re focused on defining a better way to invest for this generation.”
Though Wealthfront has shown tremendous growth, $2 billion is but a grain of sand compared to the trillions of dollars in assets managed by incumbents Charles Schwab and Fidelity.
Massive players are not only competing through traditional means, but giants like Charles Schwab (with more than $2.5 trillion in assets managed) have announced algorithmic asset management tools as well. CS’s “Intelligent Portfolios” product, which is branded as a horror film set in cyber space, is set to launch later this month.
Schwab and Fidelity also have a leg up in industries outside of technology, where they’re the default asset manager for many of the largest companies in the U.S.
Wealthfront has made its name (and carved out the bulk of its user base) mainly among the tech companies who also put their trust in algorithms.
The company uses its own set of complex algorithms and software to make financial advisory decisions for clients looking to save up for their future, a job traditionally handled by (ostensibly) very intelligent humans. Alongside managing more than $2 billion in client assets, Wealthfront also says that it has saved its clients a total of nearly $10 million in fees they would have been charged with a traditional advisor.
Two years ago, Wealthfront hired Adam Nash to take the CEO position. At the time, the company had less than $100 million in management.
Wealthfront raised roughly $70 million in October of 2014, preceded by a $35 million raise in April that was led by Index. In total, the company has raised nearly $130 million across five rounds.
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Last August, payments startup Square acquired San Francisco-based food delivery startup Caviar for a reported $90 million. Since then, the company has been growing fast, both in terms of order volume and the size of the internal team.
For Square, the acquisition follows a trend of diversifying the company’s portfolio of products and services. As it moves beyond just providing a card reader and processing payments for SMBs, the company has added inventory, invoicing, analytics, and financing products.
On the consumer side, the company has launched apps that enable customers to place orders at local restaurants ahead of time, as well as to easily exchange cash. But its acquisition of Caviar is perhaps its biggest bet on wooing new customers to using its products, both on the consumer and enterprise side.
“It is part of our strategy to provide a suite of services that can help businesses grow,” Square product engineering lead Gokul Rajaram told me in an interview at Square’s offices. He said that part of the reason Square made the acquisition was that during due diligence, every partner restaurant they talked to reported significant increases in businesses after working with Caviar.
That’s given them confidence to make a big investment in the food delivery service. On top of the reported $90 million it paid to acquire the startup, Square has also throwing a lot of resources behind Caviar since it came in-house. A year ago, the company had just 10 employees, and was at a headcount of 40 when Square acquired it. But the team has grown to well above 100 and now occupies a separate floor in Square’s Mid-Market office building.
In the short term, Square’s support of Caviar has been about accelerating its expansion to new markets and adding new products. The service is now available in 15 markets, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Manhattan and Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Portland, Seattle, and Washington D.C.
Square’s backing has also enabled the company to move a lot more quickly on product rollouts. When Caviar was acquired, it had a web-only ordering system, but it was able to launch an iOS app four months after being bought. That product focus continues with the launch of an Android app, which rolls out today.
Due to the number of new markets it serves, as well as the recent availability of a mobile app, it’s not a big surprise that order volume is accelerating. According to Caviar founder Jason Wang, the number of orders it delivers has tripled in the past six months since acquisition, and that volume shows no sign of slowing down.
Despite the demand — or maybe because of it — Caviar has actually been able to reduce its average order delivery time by 20 percent. As more orders come in, it’s necessary to have more couriers to service that demand, which means it’s more likely orders will be picked up, and delivered, more quickly.
For now, both Rajaram and Wang says Caviar is laser-focused on the task at hand — that is, making its service as widely available as possible. And why not? People have to eat, and food is a $1.6 trillion market opportunity, according to Rajaram.
That said, It’s not hard to see how the use of Caviar in different restaurants could lead to adoption of other Square products and services — e.g. its register point-of-sale system, or its accounting and analytics offerings. One could also Caviar restaurants becoming integrated into Square’s Order app, or Caviar logistics being applied to enable deliveries from merchants using that app.
Who knows? Given the order volume it sees, Square could possibly even extend financing to eligible Caviar restaurant partners through its Square Capital offering.
The possibilities are seemingly endless, but Wang downplays any integration between Caviar and Square’s other products, at least in the short term. After all, he says, any engineer he commits to building links with Square apps is one less engineer he has to work on Caviar’s core products.
Until they get that down, you can expect Caviar to continue operating more or less as an independent entity within Square. And that seems to be just how each side likes it.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story said Caviar had 10 employees when it was acquired. That was the headcount from a year ago. At the time of acquisition, Caviar had about 40 employees.
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