el producto #110 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness

Google Maps AR navigation, Uber revenue in 2018, Waymo leading AV tests, In-App purchases growth, Cognitive biases, Amazon Go London, Instagram stats, …


Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto.

🎰 The week in figures

$13B - Google plans to invest in US data centers and offices this year; up from $9B last year; expects to hire tens of thousands of employees and to generate ~10k construction jobs.

$11.3B - revenue announced by Uber for 2018, up 43% YoY; the company saw $50B in bookings (rides and food delivery), up 45% YoY; EBITDA losses were $1.8B, an improvement over the $2.2B lost in 2017; the company filed in December to go public and might debut as soon as Q2.

$6B-$7B - valuation target by food delivery firm DoorDash, currently raising $500M; has raised more than $970M to date.

1.2M - miles covered by Waymo’s autonomous vehicles in CA last year, more than all its competitors combined; Cruise drove ~450k miles, while Apple covered ~80k miles; Waymo also had the lowest disengagement rate (when a human driver takes over) with 0.09 disengagements for each 1k miles driven.

$500k - Elon Musk says he’s confident moving to Mars will eventually cost less than $500k, possibly less than $100k, with a return ticket included.

$79 - average spent by US iPhone users on in-app purchases last year, $44 of which was on gaming; compares with $58 for 2017; entertainment spending reached $8 in 2018, up from $4.40 in 2017; music was $5, up from $4.10.

20% - YoY drop on iPhone shipments in China for Q4 2018; the overall market contracted by 9.7%; Huawei increased its market share to 29%, up from 23% in Q417.

3% - amount of grocery sales made online in the US. Compares to 20% in South Korea, and 7.5% both in the UK and Japan.


📰 What’s going on

Apple to launch its video streaming service in April or early May; Apple reportedly seeks 30% of revenue from customers who sign up for partner content through its video service; Starz, CBS, and Viacom are on board. Apple will also keep ~50% of fees from its upcoming news subscription service, expected to cost $10/month.

Apple acquires voice app company PullString; the deal reportedly values PullString at less than $100M; founded as ToyTalk in 2011 by former Pixar executives, the company started with voice apps for toys; later expanded to Amazon Echo, Google Assistant.

A number of magazine publishers have agreed to Apple’s 50 percent fee split for its news subscription service; publishers keep all their ad revenue.

Amazon acquires mesh Wi-Fi firm Eero; the company offers Wi-Fi hubs to provide coverage across homes; unclear whether Eero will remain a standalone brand; raised $148M to date.

Amazon cancels plans for a Queens campus; the company intended to split its HQ2 between Arlington, VA and Long Island City; VA expects to provide $750M in incentives; local NY lawmakers resisted incentives worth $3B.

Amazon plans cashier-less Go store in London; the company reportedly has acquired retail space; the company has 10 Go shops operational in the US.

Amazon now allows anyone to create and publish Alexa skills in the Alexa skills store; the company’s Alexa Skill Blueprints simplify skill creation; a simple audio feed integrates with news Flash Briefings; WordPress users will be able to publish blog posts as audio via the Amazon AI plugin.

LinkedIn launches live video-streaming feature LinkedIn Live in beta; currently invite-only; the company plans to showcase influencer content: conferences, product announcements, Q&As, etc.

Microsoft teases a press event for Feb 24 where it’s expected to announce HoloLens 2.

Google Maps is rolling out AR navigation to Local Guides for testing; the feature, intended strictly for walking, augments the camera feed with arrows and indicators to guide the user to a destination.

Google launches the Docs API; the REST API automates enterprise processes: workflow and content management, and bulk document creation; for instance, the API enables automated monthly invoice generation.

Google’s latest ARCore developer release, v1.7, includes a new Augmented Faces API and an ARCore Elements app; the API enables face overlay effects using devices without 3D sensors; the Elements app teaches designers and developers how to create more dynamic apps.

Gmail introduces additional features to the right-click context menu; provides options to reply, archive, search, and more; rolling out now to G Suite users.

Google plans to launch a budget phone this year; the sources say Google will also launch a new premium Pixel phone, smart speakers, web cameras, and wearables.

Chrome OS v72 features Android 9 Pie for more devices, native Google Assistant, a new Cast UI, picture-in-picture functionality; rolling out now.

Instagram begins testing direct messages for desktop and mobile web.

Facebook is negotiating a multi-billion dollar fine to settle an FTC investigation regarding the company’s privacy practices; reportedly would be the FTC’s largest fine against a tech company to date.

Uber releases Ludwig, an AI development toolbox built on Google’s TensorFlow; the open-source kit enables the user to train and test models without programming; Uber has used the tool for predicting food delivery times, identifying points of interest, more.

Chrome extension Language Learning with Netflix adds a second set of subtitles to Netflix content, so the viewer sees text in the native and target languages; hovering the cursor over a word provides a pop-up dictionary.

WeWork updates its app with user profiles and a feature that connects members for projects and jobs; a member can submit a request for help, and WeWork algorithmically suggests matches based on skill sets.

IBM announces some of its Watson AI services now work with other cloud providers, not just IBM’s cloud; for example, a client could develop a conversational app using Watson on AWS servers.

InVision acquires version management firm Trunk; Australia-based Trunk provides collaborative tools to manage Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch files.

Samsung leaks its upcoming wearables lineup via its Galaxy Wearable app for Android; the app APK features images for Galaxy Watch Active, Galaxy Fit, and Galaxy Fit e; also includes a graphic for Galaxy Buds; Samsung is expected to announce the products on Feb 20. Samsung teaser video hints at the unveiling of a foldable on the same date.

Ubisoft partners with Mozilla to co-develop AI-powered coding assistant Clever-Commit; Ubisoft already uses the tool internally; learns from a code base’s data on bugs and regression to identify new problems.

Go-Jek is in advanced talks with airline Garuda for a logistics partnership; would enable long-distance delivery of products ordered via the Go-Jek app.

India is planning its own Great Firewall. The Modi government’s new internet censorship plan is on par with China and Russia.

Lawmakers in India are calling for a ban against short video app TikTok claiming it is leading to “cultural degradation”; some people claim the app is encouraging sexually-explicit behavior and heated debates. Indian lawmakers are also preparing draft legislation which could make services such as WhatsApp and Twitter responsible for the content on their platform; lawmakers have asked for access to encrypted WhatsApp messages, but the firm claims the requests run counter to its privacy policies.

Russia is set to temporarily disconnect from the global internet as part of a cyberwar defense test; the experiment will mean those in Russia will only be able to access and share data within the country; the test will be before Apr-1.

ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com uses GANs to generate endless fake faces. A new website offers a convincing education about the power of generative adversarial networks.

Drone maker DJI announces a new geo-fencing system for Europe after drones flying near Gatwick airport caused numerous flight cancellations; Geospatial Environment Online v2.0 is rolling out in 19 countries this month. On Friday 15-Feb Dubai International Airport halted departures for 30 minutes due to suspected drone activity.

Grover, a Germany-based device rental firm, launches GroverGo, an e-scooter subscription service; for €50/month users can rent a foldable Xiaomi scooter.

Tesla begins rolling out Sentry Mode; allows unattended cars to monitor their environment and record any potential threats via external cameras; if the vehicle detects a minimal risk (i.e. someone leaning against it), the internal touchscreen displays a warning; if the car detects a severe threat (such as a smashed window) it will activate the alarm and play music loudly. Tesla also introduces Dog Mode, a setting that keeps pets at a comfortable temperature while owners are out of the car; the touchscreen lets passerby see the internal temperature and shows a notice that the owner will be back soon.

Chinese teachers are using AI by Tencent to grade homework. An app checks students’ handwritten answers through the snap of a photo and has amassed millions of data points on educational performance.


📚 Something to think about

25 stats on Instagram worth looking at. Instagram is kind of a big deal right now, driving super high engagement, and growing 300% over the last couple of years to 500M active users.

How Ikea is applying neuroscience to user research. This example demonstrates the difference between an organization talking about experimenting, and an organization truly experimenting in ways that can dramatically impact the future through bringing an understanding to how customers and employees think about transformative opportunities.

Trump launches the American AI Initiative. The US president signed an executive order to make the development of AI a national priority. The initiative aims to achieve 5 key things:

  • Redirect funding. The order directs federal funding agencies to prioritize investments in artificial intelligence.
  • Create resources. It seeks to make federal data, computer models, and computing resources available to AI researchers.
  • Establish standards. It directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology to create standards that foster the development of “reliable, robust, trustworthy, secure, portable, and interoperable AI systems.”
  • Retrain workers. It asks agencies to prioritize preparing workers for the changes brought about by AI through apprenticeships, skills programs, and fellowships.
  • Engage internationally. It calls for a strategy for international collaboration that ensures AI is developed in a way consistent with American “values and interests.”

Building a cross-platform messaging platform at Netflix. Another great (and a bit technical) Netlfix post walking us through their messaging architecture, challenges and wins.

A novel approach to onboarding. Through exploring mental models, David Power came up with a way to minimize users’ time to the “aha” moment.

Cognitive biases. When it comes to assessing risk, humans often fail to make rational decisions because our brains take mental shortcuts that prevent us making the correct choice. Avinash Kaushuik shares the most common ones.

Kara Swisher interviews Jack Dorsey via Twitter; covers a range of topics including abuse on Twitter, the decision to stop reporting MAUs, and the possibility of a premium Twitter service; Dorsey also acknowledges Twitter’s format makes such interviews hard to follow and says it’s something the company needs to fix.

How Linkedin uses Jobs To Be Done on its Premium product, focusing on value to consumers = making progress towards the changes they want to make.

Prioritize Opportunities, not Solutions. Teresa Torres shares her opportunity solution tree framework to help group similar but distinct opportunities, simplifying prioritization decisions.

What Do Product Leaders Worry About? Rich Mironov surveyed 120 product leaders to figure out their concerns.

Updated list of 2019 UX conferences by Invision.


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