FreshRSS

🔒
❌ About FreshRSS
There are new available articles, click to refresh the page.
Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

Audi’s off-roading electric concept would be perfect for Tatooine

By Kirsten Korosec

Concept vehicles are a staple of the auto show circuit. And while most will never end up as a production vehicle, they can provide insight into an automaker and clues to where it’s headed.

Over at Audi, designers and engineers might have had a distant planet in mind. Or at least an expanse of wilderness.

The German automaker unveiled Tuesday at the Frankfurt Motor Show the Audi AI: TRAIL quattro, a concept electric vehicle designed for the “future of off roading.” The “Trail” off roader is one of four concept vehicles that Audi has presented at various auto shows since 2017. Other concepts included a sports car, luxury vehicle and one designed for megacities.

Audi argues that these concepts aren’t efforts of futility. Instead, the company says it these four vehicles show how Audi vehicles in the future will be designed for specific use cases.

“In the future, customers will be able to order any of these specialist Audi models from an Audi on-demand vehicle pool to suit their personal preferences and requirements and to lease them for a limited period,” the company said in its announcement.

Audi takes this idea of the on-demand subscription further by noting that vehicles will be configured to suit individual preferences of customers who use this still non-existent and totally conceptual on-demand product. All the essential customer information would be stored in the myAudi system and accompanying app, the company said.

In the video below, Audi’s head of design Marc Lichte explains the thinking behind these concepts.

 

In the case of the Audi AI: TRAIL, designers put an emphasis on exploration and seeing the surrounding environment. It even comes with five drones, which aside from replacing the headlights, can provide other tasks such as lighting up your camping area or picnic spot.

The all-electric concept, which has a range of up to 310 miles, is about 13.5 feet long and 7 feet wide and is outfitted with beefy 22-inch wheels. And because it’s a vehicle meant to off road, designers gave it ground clearance of 13.4 inches. This concept, if it really existed beyond the showroom floor, can ford through water more than half a meter deep. The range of the vehicle does drop on rough roads to about 155 miles, which would theoretically (if this vehicle actually existed) make wilderness travel more difficult.

[gallery ids="1880216,1880211,1880220,1880215,1880212,1880213,1880210,1880221,1880214,1880207"]

The battery unit is integrated into the floor providing a spacious interior that sits four people. Glass surrounds the cabin to provide unrivaled views of the environment, whether it’s an earthly vista or the binary sunset over the fictional Tatooine desert.

The remaining exterior body is made of a mixture of high-tech steel, aluminum and carbon fiber, giving it a total weight of 3,858 pounds.

The concept vehicle is equipped with four electric motors, systems for assisted and automated driving and all-wheel drive. What you won’t find are any screens for streaming video. This concept was designed for viewing the outside world.

The interior, which uses recycled materials, is scant. There are pedals, a yoke for a steering wheel, a few buttons, and a smartphone attached to the steering column as a display and control center for vehicle functions and navigation.

The second row features seats that are designed to function like hammocks — and can be removed and used as mobile outdoor chairs.

Drones as headlights!

Perhaps the most interesting feature is the inclusion of five rotorless electrically operated drones, which serve a variety of purposes. The drones, which have matrix LED lighting, can dock on the roof to get more power with the inductive charging elements.

Audi calls these drones Audi Light Pathfinders because of their ability to fly and illuminate the path ahead. These drones, Audi says replace headlights altogether. When the vehicle is parked, the drones can be used ti light up the surrounding area.

Occupants control the drones through their smartphones in this theoretical use case. The on-board cameras can generate a video image that can be transmitted to the display in front of the driver via Wi-Fi, turning the Pathfinders into “eyes in the sky,” Audi says.

Porsche Taycan sets fastest 4-door electric car record at Nürburgring Nordschleife

By Kirsten Korosec

Porsche’s upcoming all-electric Taycan has set a narrow, yet notable record lap time at the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife test track in Germany.

The company said Monday the Porsche Taycan, which will debut September 4, completed the 12.8-mile course in 7 minutes and 42 seconds. This is the fastest lap for a four-door electric vehicle. The record time was set in a pre-series Taycan driven by Lars Kern.

But it’s not the fastest lap for any electric vehicle. That honor goes to Volkswagen’s ID R electric race car, which completed the course in 6:05.336 minutes. The previous record was set in 2017 by Peter Dumbreck, who was driving a Nio electric vehicle.

Still, it’s a zippy time for any vehicle. Porsche has set out to show the speed and endurance of its first electric vehicle ahead of its debut. Porsche says its record run at Nürburgring Nordschleife and an endurance test at the Nardò high-speed track show the Taycan can do both.

Earlier this year, Porsche tested the Taycan’s ability to do successive acceleration runs from zero to 62 miles per hour. A video shows 26 successive starts without losses in performance. The average acceleration figure from the timed runs was less than 10 seconds, according to Porsche. The difference between the fastest and slowest acceleration runs was 0.8 seconds, the company said.

The German automaker also drove 2,128 miles at speeds between 128 and 133 mph within 24 hours, only stopping to charge the battery and change drivers, at the Nardò track in Italy.

At Nürburgring Nordschleife, development engineers started driving a Taycan around in a simulator to test and evaluate its performance on a virtual race track. Porsche said one of the main goals was determining electric energy with thermal management, which form an important contribution to achieving the lap time.

Porsche is aiming to prove to its existing customers, many of whom have never driven or owned an electric vehicle, that the Taycan will meet the same performance standards as its gas-powered cars and SUVs. It also hopes to attract new customers to the Porsche brand.

It appears the company is on the right track, if the thousands of reservations for the Taycan convert into actual purchases.

Inside the Porsche Taycan’s minimalist, 911-inspired interior

By Kirsten Korosec

Porsche has taken the wraps off of the interior of the all-new, all-electric Porsche Taycan ahead of its world debut September 4. Gone are the buttons and the clutter. This is a minimalist and sleek interior for the modern digital age.

Porsche released Thursday several images of the interior. Earlier this week, TechCrunch was among numerous media outlets that got an up close view of the interior (along with some other things we can’t talk about) and a chance to play around with the infotainment system.

Porsche didn’t just slap a bunch of screens in and call it a day. Here are the inside details and what stood out.

911 design lines

At first glance, the dashboard might give viewers a twinge of deja vu. And they wouldn’t be wrong.

Designers used the dashboard from the 1963 Porsche 911 as inspiration. And that’s evident in the pictures below, which shows a clean and sleek dashboard.

The 911 DNA is evident. But this isn’t some throwback. This is a modern vehicle with its own design story, which includes horizontal digital screens that are sandwiched between the upper and lower dash lines and stretch all the way over to the passenger seat.Taycan Interior 2

The elevated center console stretches down from the horizontal central screen to two air vents that are not the mechanically-operated louvres found most vehicles today. Instead, the direction of the airflow is controlled digitally via an 8.4-inch touch panel that is located just below the central screen. This touch panel houses the climate control system and includes a track pad with haptic feedback. The trackpad can also be used for quick address inputs.

Tucked under the touch panel is a small flat space to place a wallet or phone. Two cups holders and then a storage unit, which is equipped with wireless charging and two USB ports, completes the center console.

Porsche’s design team repeatedly talked to TechCrunch about the emphasis on the driver. And that shows. (The design team worked on the interface alone for 3.5 years.) Although there are plenty of passenger features here as well. From the driver’s seat, everything is in reach and without constantly looking over to the center display. Natural voice integration courtesy of Nuance is activated by a “Hey Porsche” trigger or simply pressing the voice button on the central display or dedicated button on the steering wheel.

The minimalist design continues to the all-digital instrument cluster. This free-standing panel, which houses the instrument cluster, has a slight curve to it. Interestingly, it doesn’t have the standard cowl or lip that is often used to prevent reflection. Instead, Porsche used glass coated with a vapor-deposited, polarizing filter.

Porsche-Taycan-Interior-instrument

The digital instrument cluster is the highest point of the dashboard in the Porsche Taycan.

The Instrument Cluster

Inside the 16.8-inch cluster display, the driver will see three round instruments that display information. Drivers can customize what each of these instruments displays. Drivers can also remove the information for a more streamlined look in “pure mode.”

This pure mode displays only essential information such as speed, navigation or traffic sign recognition (so you know what the speed limit is). Pure mode, which manages to give the interior an even more minimalist look, could be a handy and fun feature for a Taycan owner on track day.

Perhaps one of the most functional features is the map mode. The map replaces the central power meter in this mode. But it really becomes useful when “full map mode” is turned on, which extends the map across the full display. TechCrunch wasn’t allowed to take photos of the interior during its visit to Porsche North America headquarters, so readers will have to imagine it a digital map taking up most of the instrument cluster.

Finally, just to the left and right of the main instrument cluster, drivers will see small, touch-control fields at the edges of the screen for operating the light and chassis functions. One of these buttons is a trigger key, which lets drivers customize what it operates.

All The Screens

The Porsche Taycan has several screens. Oh, so many screens. Beyond the digital instrument cluster is a horizontal 10.9-central display. Directly below this is a tilted screen that houses climate control as well as a digital track pad that gives haptic feedback.

From the central screen and moving to the right, is a display for the passenger. The passenger display cannot be turned on if the driver is the only one in the vehicle, according to Oliver Fritz, director of driver experience at Porsche.

Porsche is experimenting with streaming video on the passenger display. This likely won’t be available when Porsche begins delivery before the end of the year. But could be rolled out in future over-the-air software updates. For now, the company is testing technology that would prevent the driver from being able to view the screen. Fritz emphasized that this idea was still in testing and Porsche won’t roll out streaming video unless it’s sure the driver cannot see the screen.

Dark Mode

Porsche designers have made “dark mode” the default in the instrument cluster and rest of the infotainment system. That can be changed to a white background, Porsche said. TechCrunch doesn’t recommend that though. The dark mode, and the ability to turn off the central 10.9-inch infotainment display and optional passenger one, should let drivers enjoy the road and escape the annoying “blue light” that is emanates from so many vehicles these days.

Interior colors and leather-free options

Porsche will offer a number of color combinations in the interior, including an all-black matte look, which TechCrunch viewed. The company’s design team didn’t reveal the total number of interior color combinations, but they did list a few. There will be four exclusive interior colors for the Taycan, a black-lime beige, blackberry, Atacama beige and Meranti brown. An optional interior accent package will include black matte, dark silver or neodyme, which is like a champagne gold color.

The doors and center consoles can have wood trim, matte carbon, embossed aluminum or fabric.

The company is also offering a leather-free trim interior, which includes the steering wheel. Porsche designer Thorsten Klein was careful not to call it vegan. He told TechCrunch that even synthetic materials can be treated using animal products. Porsche is pushing to source materials that don’t use these processes, but until then Porsche won’t use the vegan term.

Apple Music and more

Earlier this week, Porsche announced it will integrate Apple  Music into the Taycan, the first time the music streaming service has been offered as a standalone app within a vehicle.

But Apple Music is just one of the many features in the infotainment system. The user interface is laid out to always show a home, vehicle and messages button, which will lists notifications coming into the vehicle. The voice feature can also be used so the driver doesn’t need to glance at the screen.

Other buttons on the central screen include navigation, phone, settings, climate, news, calendar, charging information, weather and Homelink, which can be used to open the owner’s garage door.

The Bugatti Centodieci is an $8.9 million homage to the early 90s EB110 supercar

By Kirsten Korosec

The Bugatti Centodieci is the French automaker’s most powerful supercar yet — coming in a skosh above the Chiron at 1,600 horsepower. But it’s not just the power — or the $8.9 million price tag — that makes the Centodieci stand out.

The angular supercar, still dotted with the signature Bugatti design elements, tips its hat to the mid-engine EB110 supercar that debuted in 1991 when the company was owned by Romano Artioli.

One look at the Bugatti Centodieci, which had its world debut at the Quail Gathering during Monterey Car Week, and it’s clear that the early 1990s supercar was an inspiration.

bugatti front

The Bugatti Centodieci

But the Centodieci isn’t a copycat of the wedge-shaped, seemingly two-dimensional EB110. Instead, Bugatti designers aimed to bring the EB110 into the modern era.

“Transporting this classic look into the new millennium without copying it was technically complex, to say the least,” Bugatti head designer Achim Anscheidt said in a statement. “We had to create a new way of combining the complex aerothermal requirements of the underlying Chiron technology with a completely different aesthetic appearance.” 

The Centodieci, which means 110 in Italian to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the company’s founding, has a newly developed, deep-seated front spoiler along with three-section air intakes. The iconic Bugatti horseshoe is smaller than its counterparts — a decision made to fit in with the car’s the low-dropping front. The Centodieci also has new, very narrow headlamps with integrated LED daytime running lights and five round air inserts to ensure sufficient air intake for its 16-cylinder engine.

bugatti centodieci

The nod to the 1990s ends inside the Centodieci. In here, it’s all modern-day engineering. The 8.0-liter W16 engine produces 1,600 horsepower and can accelerate from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 2.4 seconds. The top speed has been electronically limited to 236 mph.

Here’s a 360-degree view of the vehicle.

Bugatti will only produce 10 of the Centodieci and they’re already sold, Pierre Rommelfanger, Bugatti’s head of exterior and structure development confirmed to TechCrunch. Typically, supercars such as these can be highly customized to meet the desires of their owners.

And the Bugatti Centodieci will be no different — to a point. “There are limits in order to reduce complexity,” Rommelfanger said.

Deliveries to the first Centodieci customers will begin in 2022. Bugatti has other orders to fill besides the Centodieci. The company is also producing 40 of the Bugatti Divo and just one La Voiture Noire, which is the world’s most expensive new car ever sold at $18.68 million. The company also plans to produce 500 Bugatti Chiron cars.

If president Stephan Winkelmann sticks to his plan to introduce two new products each year, more Bugatti models will soon join the Centodieci, Chiron, Divo and La Voiture Noire.

Fantasy football startup Sleeper nabs VC funding to take on ESPN

By Lucas Matney

Sleeper is looking to take on fantasy league apps from major players like ESPN and has amassed venture funding from Silicon Valley investors to take them down.

The Bay Area startup is aiming to treat a fantasy football league more like a social platform than a loose jumble of league mechanics, distinguishing itself as a simple and free, ad-free option.

Sleeper has done limited press as it has been ramping up its app over the past two seasons, but the team has been courting the interest of investors to scale the product, raising more than $7 million from VCs to date. The company closed a $5.3 million Series A late last year led by General Catalyst. In early 2017, the startup also closed a $2 million seed led by Birchmere Ventures with participation from Uber co-founder Garrett Camp’s startup studio, Expa.

There isn’t much in terms of monetization options at the moment. CEO Nan Wang tells TechCrunch that the focus right now is “amassing a large base of users and making it the stickiest and highest engagement product in the category.”

Wang says the app’s users spend 50 minutes per day on average during the season, numbers he calls “Instagram-like.” The main contributor to that number seems to be that chat is always a swipe away and that all of the actions that are happening during the season show up inside chats to encourage engagement.

This unifies the experience for users, many of whom have had to piecemeal their experience by using a WhatsApp or GroupMe group in addition to the other fantasy league apps that they’ve been using. Sleeper’s more differentiated UI seems to be largely popular among early vocal users as well as the up-to-the-minute notifications that deliver league updates.

Screen Shot 2019 08 14 at 1.41.00 PM

Poaching users from other platforms is definitely a priority, but Wang says the team has really been looking at how to nab users who have stayed away from the convoluted confusion of fantasy leagues as well. Taking on the leading apps from ESPN, Yahoo and NFL can be daunting; another stress for the younger startup is just how tight the user acquisition window is, though things compound quickly if you can create one loyal user that brings their entire league to the platform.

“The user acquisition window for fantasy football leagues is strongest from the second week of August until the first week of September. Historically, we’ve seen that about 70% of users create their leagues in that three-week window,” Wang tells me.

The funding has been used to build out its team, which is still just 10 full-time employees, as well as expand their ambitions beyond fantasy football alone into other sports, including basketball and soccer.

Watch a Tesla Model 3 play chess against the top-ranked player in the US

By Darrell Etherington

Tesla cars can now take on human players in a game of chess, thanks to a software update it pushed out to vehicles last month. Its programmers likely didn’t imagine they were designing a chess program to take on the best players in the world, however: U.S. No. 1 ranked chess player Fabiano Caruana (also currently ranked No. 2 in the world) played a Tesla Model 3 in a recent match… but Deep Blue versus Kasparov, this was not.

Caruana bests the vehicle in just under five minutes of playing time, and he’s not particularly stressing the time, plus he’s offering a running commentary. The car makes some questionable moves, but to be fair, it’s not a super computer with deep artificial intelligence, and Caruana is one of the world’s best. He also gives it credit at the end, calling the game “challenging” and you can hear it’s probably more than he was expecting from a car’s infotainment system.

The car would probably beat me, but I’m unranked and haven’t played a game of chess in probably 15 years, so there’s that.

This $3.5 million new Pagani hypercar got its world debut in a Zynga mobile game

By Kirsten Korosec

High-priced, handmade boutique sports cars typically make their debut where the well-heeled and the media gather. Pagani took a different approach this time around.

The Italian supercar manufacturer unveiled its new nearly $3.5 million Huayra Roadster BC in CSR2, the mobile game produced by Zynga .

The physical car will eventually get its moment. Pagani will show off the hypercar to the public next month at the Monterey Car Show. In the meantime, Zynga rebuilt the Pagani Huayra Roadster BC in CSR2, giving users a chance to “drive” the supercar.

Pagani HuayraBCRoadsterPB 2019 RaceScreenshot 2

“When Horacio Pagani first began designing cars 44 years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine that a car like the Roadster BC would ever be unveiled to the world in a mobile game,” Michael Staskin, managing director of Pagani Automobili America, said in a statement. “We chose to partner with CSR2 on the reveal of the Roadster BC because we are both leaders in our respective industries, we both show incredible attention to design and detail and we both continue to disrupt what is considered normal in the automotive industry.”

CSR2 players can enter the 80-race ladder by using a Pagani Huayra Coupé. During the game, players get the chance to add the Pagani Huayra Roadster BC to their collection. Using augmented reality, players can also park their Pagani cars in their real-world driveways and open every panel to study the details close up.

In the real world, the Pagani Huayra Roadster BC gets its power from a 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V12 engine built for Pagani by Mercedes-AMG. The result is an engine that produces 800 horsepower at 5,900 rpm and 774 pound feet of torque. It boasts a seven-speed, single-clutch automated manual transmission and weighs 2,756 pounds, just a skosh lighter than the regular Huayra Roadster.

As one might expect, the Roadster BC is a fast can-you-handle-how-it-corners beast that accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds and generates 1.9 of lateral grips through corners.

Sadly, few will get to drive this real-world version. Pagani will make only 40 of Roadster BCs.

Porsche Digital expands US presence beyond Silicon Valley with new Atlanta office

By Darrell Etherington

Porsche Digital, the subsidiary of car maker Porsche, is opening its second U.S. location after launching its first in 2017 in Silicon Valley. The second North American office for this software and digital product-focused wing of Porsche will open in Atlanta, which is also the seat of Porsche’s North American car business. Porsche Digital cited proximity to their auto business headquarters as one reason they picked Atlanta, but also pointed to Atlanta’s “local tech talent” and “robust and constantly growing startup and tech sector” as key factors in its selection.

The need for a second office is specifically about serving the U.S. market, Porsche Digital notes, and the company expects to have 45 employees total in the U.S. across both offices within the next year. The subsidiary overall has 120 employees worldwide, with offices in Berlin, Shanghai and Tel Aviv, as well as the U.S.

Porsche Digital focuses on creating software and digital products for the automaker’s customers, but it’s actually probably more valuable to its parent company as a sort of distributed tech talent scouting and business development arm of the company. Its offices definitely occupy global hotspots when it comes to startup tech companies, and having a permanent presence in these locations has got to come in handy when looking to attract engineering talent and potential acquisitions of complementary early-stage companies.

Fortnite World Cup has handed out $30 million in prizes, and cemented its spot in the culture

By Jonathan Shieber

The Fortnite phenomenon — the wildly popular battle royale game from Epic Games — has manifested itself in concerned articles and cultural shoutouts, and now has sealed its place in the cultural firmament by wrapping up its first “World Cup,” which saw the company give away $30 million in prizes.

Congrats to all of our winners this weekend at the #FortniteWorldCup Finals

Solo Champion: @bugha
Duos Champions: @nyhrox @aquaa
ProAM: @Airwaks @RLGRIME
Creative: #FishFam @cizzorz @hiimtylerh @suezhoo @zandOfficial pic.twitter.com/ilBs7RTeTv

— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) July 28, 2019

The big winner in today’s solo challenge was 16-year-old Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, who won $3 million for beating out the competition in the solo tournament. And, as sports writer Darren Rovell noted on Twitter, Giersdorf’s prize pool is only $850,000 smaller than the pot for the winner of the U.S. Open, which is set to begin in a few weeks at the same stadium.

Indeed, the esports prize pool is one of the biggest awards for a popular competitive event. Wimbledon winners took home less than $3 million and Tiger Woods won $2 million for besting the field of competitors at the Masters.

Fortnite’s big moment is also a big deal for competitive esports in the U.S. The biggest prize pool for an esports event in the U.S. was likely meant to plant a flag and show that competitive gaming is something that can capture the attention of a younger audience that has drifted away from watching more traditional pastimes and watching less sports, according to a McKinsey study.

Screen Shot 2019 07 28 at 6.01.13 PM

Courtesy of McKinsey

Giersdorf, who hails from Pennsylvania and plays professionally for the Los Angeles-based esports team, the Sentinels, became the inaugural Fortnite World Cup solo champion by putting in a dominant performance over the entire weekend of competition.

For folks who’ve never played the game (or had it explained to them), Fortnite involves dropping 100 players onto an island where they have to find weapons, build bases and try to eliminate the competition until only one player is left standing.

It’s a cartoon version of the Hunger Games, with no bloodshed, a lot of victory dances and hours of social networking.

The game has turned its publisher, Epic Games, into a multibillion-dollar business. Certainly, it’s one that can afford to front a $30 million prize purse for a few days of competition.

The tournament wasn’t just about solo play. The company had different rounds for the duos competition featuring two-player teams. That competition, which ended on Saturday, also featured a $3 million prize pool and was won by the European duo of Emil “Nyhrox” Bergquist Pedersen and David “Aqua” W.

Epic pulled out all the stops it could for the multi-day event at Arthur Ashe stadium. In addition to pulling in some of the top names in live streaming and competitive esports to participate in the event, the company also brought in the DJ Marshmello for a performance.

The tournament pulled in nearly 9 million viewers on YouTube alone for the final day of the competition. More than 40 million people tried out for a slot in the World Cup finals.

And while the prize pot takes a significant chunk out of the $100 million that Epic has committed to spend on competitions this year, the returns in terms of the social capital and cachet that Epic has given to the esports world can’t be underestimated.

It’s certainly going to change the life of its first World Cup champion, a fact that Giersdorf knows all too well himself.

“Emotionally, right now, I don’t feel too much, except I know that this could pretty much change my life forever,” Giersdorf said in an interview with ESPN. “It’s just absolutely unreal.”

How skate legend Per Welinder finds an investing niche amid US-China trade tensions

By Rita Liao

Months of tit-for-tat trade negotiations between China and the United States have damaged cross-border investment interest between the superpowers, especially in areas that involve deep technology and intellectual property. But one sector has so far stayed relatively intact: lifestyle.

That’s what got Per Welinder, the legendary skateboarder-turned-entrepreneur who recently moved into venture investing, to look toward China for opportunities. In early 2018, Welinder teamed up with Chinese venture investor Curt Shi — a skateboard amateur himself — to launch early-stage angel fund WelinderShi Capital, focusing on bringing western lifestyle brands to China.

So far, Welinder & Shi has deployed all of its first fund into five consumer brands with the potential to capture China’s increasingly sophisticated middle-class, among whom Welinder observed a “growing individualism away from collectivism that is positive for lifestyle brands,” Welinder told TechCrunch in a phone interview.

Rather than taking the “spray and pray” approach, the fund picks a smaller number of companies compared to many other venture capital firms because it focuses on brands, which take time to build.

“There has been a headwind when you talk about cross-border opportunities with China in general. However, lifestyle is usually not a national security threat to either Chinese or to the U.S.,” Welinder observed. “Yes, there may be tariffs here and there, but it’s not a national threat to consume a pair of pants by a cool brand originating from the U.S.”

Per Welinder, a former skateboarding legend who is now hunting for western brands that can appeal to Chinese consumers (Photo: Per Welinder)

That being said, Shi, in a separate interview with TechCrunch, admitted that trade tensions have in recent times generated doubts from limited partners on the fund’s methodology to help overseas portfolio companies “slingshot to China.”

“China and the U.S. can’t afford a real economic fight with each other… I believe once China and the U.S. reach a consensus, the investment between them will be booming again,” Shi noted.

Unlike a successful venture capital investment in tech that can generate a 200x type of exit, the return in brand investment is less lucrative. The appeal is that even if a portfolio company goes south, there remains some value in the brand, whether it’s the trademark itself or graphics.

“When you use branding as a differentiator, you may get pennies on the dollar even on the bad investment. But it will not go to zero like so many tech investments do, so we feel that is a somewhat less risky formula,” Welinder said.

The portfolio counts the likes of a Swedish electric off-road motorbike startup called Cake and premium gin manufacturer Wilde Irish Gin. Welinder makes a deliberate decision to back premium brands because even when tariffs are on the high side, the extra costs generally don’t have an obvious effect on consumers who like to treat themselves to the really good things in life.

When it comes to identifying potential investments, Welinder leans on spotting what he calls a “movement.” He cited his personal experience in the 80s and 90s when skateboarding became a movement. First, he started to see other people getting hooked on either participating or watching skateboarding. With the help of VCRs, DVD players and gaming consoles, skateboarding-culture blossomed into a global commerce phenomenon.

“And people got excited and then said, hey, mom and dad, can I have a skateboard? Can I have a T-shirt? Can I have a pair of shoes? That’s the kind of the way we like to look at things. Where do we see movements, what technology can be leveraged to really speed up that movement, and is that movement big enough for more than just one player.”

MLB Ballpark app adds Apple Business Chat-powered concierge experience for All-Star game

By Brian Heater

Just in time for tonight’s Home Run Derby, Major League Baseball is rolling out a new feature on its Ballpark app that utilizes Apple’s Business Chat feature for a customized in-person experience. MLB says it’s the first league to roll out out the feature, letting users ask location specific questions. Though Apple Business Chat has been used for things like drink orders in the past.

Clicking into the Indians section will bring you Progressive Field, the center of this week’s festivities, where you can access the new All-Star Concierge feature. Developed alongside New York-based AI startup Satisfi Labs, the feature is designed to answer simple questions.

IMG 0046

From there, it will either answer straight away or open the appropriate app, like Maps and Calendar. In the case of this week’s events, that could mean something as simple as the start time for the derby or something more specific like where to pick up a shuttle to a specific hotel.

The feature is being rolled out to start with tonight’s Home Run Derby and tomorrow’s All-Star game, but it should start arriving in more parks after the All-Star break as different stadiums begin to implement it. MLB has been experimenting with a number of different features to enhance the ballpark experience via smartphone, including, notably, the addition of an AR stat feature.

❌