Oscar Health raises $165 million at reported $3B valuation

Oscar Health, the startup run by Josh Kushner (yes, brother of Jared), has raised $165 million at a reported valuation of $3.2 billion, CNBC’s Christina Farr reports. The funding comes from Alphabet’s Capital G investment company and Verily life sciences corporation, Founders Fund and others.

Oscar’s goal is to outpace existing industry-leading insurers, including UnitedHealth and Aetna, with an emphasis on mobile technology, including an appointment booking app and other tools for encouraging engaged consumers across its platform.

The startup seemed to be in some potential trouble because of its focus providing an insurance marketplace for Affordable Care Act beneficiaries, but the company has changed its model to one in which customers are charged higher premiums, and with closer relationships with a select group of care providers to help them work out more competitive pricing.

Per CNBC, Oscar Health also left the door open for potential partnerships with one of its newest investors, Verily. The Alphabet-owned healthtech company has a number of potential ventures it’s working on, and insurance could feature in a few of those plans, so this could turn out to be a very strategic investor partner.

Uber blocked from testing self-driving cars on Arizona roads

Uber has been barred from testing its self-driving cars on public roads in Arizona following the accident last week involving one of its testing vehicles that killed a pedestrian crossing the street in its path. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey released a letter sent to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in which he described the accident as captured by onboard cameras as “disturbing and alarming.”

The governor, who has been a strong proponent of self-driving testing in the state up until this point, advocating for Uber and other companies to bring their programs to Arizona roads, also directed the Arizona Department of Transportation to “suspend” Uber’s self-driving testing access.

Uber had already suspending testing of its autonomous test vehicles not only in Arizona, but in all markets following the crash and pending the results of its investigation.

The ride-hailing company had begun operations in Arizona in 2016, following its launch of its self-driving SUVs on San Francisco streets, in a test which was quickly shut down once the California DMV revealed they did not have the proper permit to test on state roads. Uber made a big show of transporting its test fleet to Arizona, where Ducey voiced strong support and welcome for the relocation of Uber’s self-driving pilot to within his state.

Elon Musk’s Boring Co. flamethrower ships in time for summer BBQs

Elon Musk raised a significant chunk of money for his tunnel boring venture, the aptly named Boring Company, via sales of a heavily marked up ‘flamethrower’ with Boring Co. branding. Those pre-sales are all concluded, but now people who put down cash to reserve one are finding out when they can get their flame on.

In an email to pre-order buyers, The Boring Company noted that the technically “not-a-flamethrower” production run should be wrapping up this spring, which means deliveries can be expected at least in time for “summer party” time. That’s good because people definitely need this fire generating device in time for the dry summer months, when forest fire risks are highest.

Another tidbit from the note to buyers: Customers can expect terms and conditions to be signed off ahead of shipments, which should be heading out in the next couple of weeks according to the company. The Boring Co. notes that these will be “rhyming,” and I presume they mean that literally – but they probably also have the serious purpose of making sure Elon’s corporate lawyers can once again enjoy something resembling sleep when these go out to customers.

Based on the shipping schedule of The Boring Company hat, which (full disclosure) I did buy (I did not buy the ‘not flamethrower’ flamethrower), if you ordered these you can probably still expect to wait a few more weeks if not months.

Rylo’s shoot first, frame later camera is ideal for casual adventure-seekers

Action cameras are a gadget that mostly cater to a person’s wish to see themselves in a certain way: Most people aren’t skiing off mountains or cliff diving most of the time, but they aspire to. The issue with most action cameras, though, is that even when you actually do something cool, you still have to shoot the right angle to capture the moment, which is itself a skill. That’s the beauty of Rylo, a tiny 360 camera that minimizes the skill required and makes it easy to get the shots you want.

Rylo is compact enough to have roughly the footprint of a GoPro, but with dual lenses for 4K, 360-degree video capture. It has a removable battery pack good for an hour of continuous video recording, and a micro USB port for charging. In the box, you’ll get either a micro USB to Lightning, or micro USB to micro USB and USB C cables, depending on whether you pick up the Android or the iOS version, and you handle all editing on the mobile device you already have with you always.

The device itself feels solid, and has stood up to a lot of travel and various conditions over the course of my usage. The anodized aluminum exterior can take some lumps, and the OLED screen on the device provides just enough info when you’re shooting, without overwhelming. There’s no viewfinder, but the point of the Rylo is that you don’t need one – it’s capturing a full 360-degree image all the time, and you position your shot after the fact in editing.

Rylo includes a 16GB microSD card in the box, too, but you can use up to 256GB versions for more storage. A single button on top controls both power functions and recording, and the simplicity is nice when you’re in the moment and just want to start shooting without worrying about settings.

The basic functionality of Rylo is more than most people will need out of a device like this: Using the app, you can select out an HD, flat frame of video to export, and easily trim the length plus make adjustments to picture, including basic edits like highlights, color and contrast. Rylo’s built-in stabilization keeps things surprisingly smooth, even when you’re driving very fast along a bumpy road with what amounts to nearly race-tuned tires and suspension.

Then, if you want to get really fancy, you can do things like add motion to your clips, including being able to make dead-simple smooth pans from one focus point to another. The end result looks like you’re using a gimbal or other stabilized film camera, but all the equipment you need is the Rylo itself, plus any mount, including the handle/tripod mount that comes in the box, or anything that works with a GoPro.

You can even set a specific follow point, allowing you to track a specific object or person throughout the clip. This works well, though sometimes it’ll lose track of the person or thing if there’s low light or the thing it’s following gets blocked. The app will let you know it’s lost its target, however, and in practice it works well enough to create good-looking videos for things like bicycling and riding ATVs, for instance.

Other companies are trying to do similar things with their own hardware, including GoPro with the Fusion and Insta360 with its Insta360 One. But Rylo’s solution has the advantage of being dead simple to use, with easily portable hardware that’s durable and compatible with existing GoPro mount accessories. The included micro USB to Lightning cable isn’t easily replaced, except for from Rylo itself, and it’s also small and easy to lose, so that’s my main complaint when it comes to the system as a whole.

In the end, the Rylo does what it’s designed to do: Takes the sting out of creating cool action clips and compelling short movies for people working mostly from their mobile devices. It’s not as flexible for pros looking for a way to integrated more interesting camera angles into their desktop workflow because of how tied content captured on the Rylo is to the Rylo app itself, but it seems clearly designed for a consumer enthusiast market anyway.

At $499, the Rylo isn’t all that much more expensive than the GoPro Hero 6. It’s still a significant investment, and the image quality isn’t up to the 4K video output by the GoPro, but for users who just want to make cool videos to share among friends using social tools, Rylo’s ease of use and incredibly low bar in terms of filming expertise required is hard to beat.

Uber said to be negotiating sale of self-driving tech to Toyota

Uber might begin selling its autonomous driving systems to outside companies, including major automakers, according to a new report from Japan’s Nikkei. The report claims that Uber has had talks with Toyota regarding supplying the automaker with self-driving tech, and that the two are currently in negotiations around how this would work, with talk of putting the autonomous tech developed by Uber into a Toyota-made minivan.

The deal comes as a Toyota VP and Toyota Research Institute CEO Gill Pratt met with Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi at Uber’s Pittsburgh Advanced Technologies Group R&D center. Uber has also teamed up with Volvo to co-develop self-driving technology, and uses the XC90 SUV as its test platform for its own current autonomous vehicles.

For Uber, partnering with more automakers could mean speedier development of its own AV systems, and a way to prime the market for a network of autonomous ride-hailing vehicles sourced from consumer and automaker fleets. Rival Lyft is making its own autonomous systems with Magna, one of the world’s leading auto suppliers, and the fruits of that collaboration could put it in fine form to see its products introduced in many automaker vehicles.

Meanwhile, Toyota has just introduced a new company springing out of its Toyota Research Group – TRI-AD, or Toyota Research Group-Advanced Development, which will focus specifically on brining TRI’s work on autonomous driving to market. This recent move could be an indicator that TRI’s work on self-driving isn’t translating to something ready for commercial products quite quick enough, so teaming with Uber could be a means to try to help accelerate those efforts.

This isn’t a done deal yet, however, according to the report, so anything could happen. But it’s an interesting glimpse into the autonomous driving strategy at both Uber and Toyota.


Wikipedia wasn’t aware of YouTube’s conspiracy video plan

YouTube has a plan to combat the abundant conspiracy theories that feature in credulous videos on its platform; not a very good plan, but a plan just the same. It’s using information drawn from Wikipedia relevant to some of the more popular conspiracy theories, and putting that info front and center on videos that dabble in… creative historical re-imaginings.

The plan is being criticized from a number of quarters (including this one) for essentially sloughing responsibility about this harmful content on to another, volunteer-based organization. But it turns out that’s not even a responsibility that Wikipedia even know it was taking on.

Wikimedia Foundation exec director Katherine Maher notes that YouTube did this whole thing “independent” of their organization, and an official statement from Wikimedia says that it was “not given advance notice of this announcement.”

Everyone on the Wikimedia side is taking this pretty much in stride, however, expressing happiness at seeing their content used to drive the sharing of “free knowledge,” but it does seem like something that YouTube could’ve flagged in advance before announcing the new feature on stage at SXSW.

Maybe YouTube couldn’t say anything because the Illuminati bound them to secrecy… because of the chemtrails.

Ford envisions a future where a drone can sub in for your car’s sensors

 Cars of the future will be heavily reliant on their suite of sensors for proper functioning; vehicles today already pack a ton of cameras, ultrasound and radar arrays, but they mostly use these for non-core driver assistance and other features, and if they weren’t working, it wouldn’t be the end of the road because the human driver’s built-in sensors are the real fall-back.… Read More

Elon Musk shares updated pedestrian-first Boring Co. Hyperloop transit plan

 Elon Musk has shifted his pans for The Boring Company: While it will still focus on digging tunnels to provide a network of underground tubes suitable for use by high-speed Hyperloop pods, the plan now is to use that Hyperloop to transport pedestrians and cyclists first, and then only later to work on moving cars around underground to bypass traffic. Read More

The Tapplock One is a fingerprint padlock with solid smarts

 Apple’s Touch ID was a step change in convenience for securing its mobile devices, and now that same level of convenience is available in a padlock. The Tapplock One is now shipping, and features a fingerprint sensor for unlocking, as well as a companion app with a Bluetooth unlock backup. The Tapplock One began its existence on Indiegogo with a crowdfunding campaign back in 2016, but… Read More

Nintendo is bringing Super Smash Bros. to Switch in 2018

 This is the best news you’ll hear all day: Super Smash Bros. is coming to the Nintendo Switch this year. Nintendo dropped a new teaser for the game, which is as-yet untitled, during its Nintendo Direct webcast on Thursday. If you’re not familiar with the franchise, you are living a sad, unfulfilling existence. Actually, though, you should know about Nintendo’s brawler… Read More