— (x)* —

Uber Eats World

Uber, which means both over and above in German (depending on the context), certainly lives up to its name. This company could have stopped at making a more efficient taxi service, one you can beckon from your phone at will, and it would still be considered a revolution: you can scale your ride by ordering a limo or going for a cheap, local uberX driver; you can organize a carpool (UberPOOL) or split your fare; you have the convenience of tracking your car before a pickup, and knowing your drivers name (and star rating).

But Uber never seems to stop. It wants to go over and above the traditional taxi service and disrupt, well, everything it can think of that requires transportation. Uberfor Business lets you build a custom car service for your employees. UberCARGOwill help you move some big items across town (goodbye van rentals). UberRUSHwill messenger pickups and deliveries (goodbye couriers). UberEATS will deliver a hot lunch to your office in ten minutes from your favourite restaurant (goodbye delivery drivers).

But these are just the minor disruptions. UberCEO Travis Kalanick intends to eliminate the need for all Uber drivers (goodbye Uber drivers!). He’s already started the research to build his own fleet of self-driving cars. And here’s where it could get radically different ridiculously fast. Zack Kanter cites studies which suggest the following is possible if cars don’t need human drivers:

  • Obsolescence of rental car companies, public transportation systems, parking, speeding tickets
  • 99% reduction of road vehicles (PricewaterhouseCoopers)
  • Goodbye automobile insurance, automotive financing, automotive aftermarket, and parking lots
  • 90% crash reduction, saving 30,000 lives every year (Morgan Stanley)
  • 38 hours of productivity gained per commuter annually
Eliminating the needs for car ownership will yield over $1 trillion in additional disposable income.

Not all of this will happen, but it’s amazing that it could, and all within a few years. One thing is certain though: unheard of sums of money are going to pour into lobbying for one side or the other, because when this much money is at stake the threatened industries don’t take it lying down. Expect self-driving cars to be demonized over the next five years by select media outlets (I’m looking at you, FoxNews).

— (x)* —

Seeing Outside The Box

The 1983 movie Brainstorm, starring Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood, explored a world where sensory experiences could be recorded. While we’re not yet capturing people’s brains, we are certainly prodding them with visually immersive technology. And this tech just keeps improving. A few years ago, Oculus Rift exploded on the scene with a $2.4 million Kickstarter campaign followed by a controversial $2 billion buyout by Facebook. Google, Samsung, HTC, Sony, and many others are trying to figure out how to bring virtual reality (VR) to the masses as soon as this year. GoPro just purchased Kolor and their VR software, allowing users to begin creating their own immersive content. Once Netflix, Facebook, YouTube, XBox and Playstation start offering VR experiences the adoption will explode.

But what will it look like? How will it work exactly? What will designers, developers, and content creators have to understand in this new space? Matt Sundstrom has written a beautiful piece of work called Immersive Design: Learning To Let Go Of The Screen. He illustrates (literally) his learnings from experimenting with VR.

  • Think like a human (VR allows interfaces to revert from the abstract 2D symbology back to more instinctual, environmental cues)
  • Use perspective to your advantage (think about the virtual distance from the user, and whether the information is locked to the environment or part of a heads-up display)
  • Look around (An interface may be centred in a small cone-of-focus, but can be distributed through space)
  • Build to scale (Remember that the sensory characteristics of your design need to imply their function and work in multiple interface situations, like the ‘hand’ icon which appears on rollover when using a mouse, trackpad, or stylus)
  • Focus on the experience (not too bright, not too fast, not too wobbly, not too much info, not too dense, etc)

This is a must read, as it redefines what the user experience may consist of in the very near future.

— (x)* —

Recharging America

If there’s one theme in this week’s (x)*, it’s disruption. Self-driving cars could disrupt a trillion dollar industry. VR could disrupt entertainment and communication. And Elon Musk’s vision for a battery-powered America could disrupt the entire energy sector. In an April 30th keynote address, the CEO of Tesla Motors unveiled Tesla Energy and the Powerwall battery that could change the way people power their homes. That relatively small blue square in the map below shows how much surface area is required to run the entire United States with solar panels (an area easily achieved across the unused rooftops of America). This poses a throw-down to oil and gas companies, as well as nuclear power.

As solar panels become more and more affordable, adoption will increase and require home batteries for storage. And if the batteries are mass produced (starting with Musk’s new Nevada Gigafactory 1) they too will become more and more affordable — not only for homes but for electric cars as well. Suddenly the scale of Tesla’s vision becomes much larger. It’s possible that Elon Musk will transform the visual and economic landscape of America as much as Henry Ford did a century earlier.

Over the next five years it’s going to be very interesting to see how much money is spent on marketing different versions of the future: preservationists, opportunists, and idealists all want a piece.

The times, they are a changin’.

— (x)* —

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INTERNE(x)T UNVERTISING* — or (x)* for short — is published sporadically and includes my best digital marketing finds on Medium, Zite, Feedly and other sources. Follow the Flipboard Magazine for these stories and more.

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