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b8ta is here, in Austin, to make all of your tech dreams come true

(TECH NEWS) b8ta retail store opens on May 20th at the Domain Northside.

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Internet brought to life

There are tons of startup tech companies with innovative products that are ready to solve problems and/or add a little whimsy to life for as many people as possible. Unfortunately for the problem-riddled world, many of these startups only exist on the internet, and don’t have the resources for brick and mortar stores. Most tech products are really best experienced in person, not in a video online.

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An up and coming software-driven retailer is out to disrupt that disconnect between awesome products and the people who want to try and buy them. b8ta is a “retail destination” that features popular tech products, and they’ve announced that a new store will open in Austin’s Domain NORTHSIDE on Saturday, May 20.

b8ta

b8ta has adopted a retail-as-service model. That means that makers of awesome products can lease space in the storefront, and keep all the proceeds from any sales made in store. The retailer is also powered by software, which tracks the highest performing products and cycles products in and out on a month to month basis.

This is super cool both for makers looking for a chance to prove themselves, and for consumers looking for new products and experiences each month.

Designed by international architecture firm Gensler, the Austin location will feature over 3,000 square feet and more than 100 cutting edge products, including Soundwall, a flat panel speaker that can also serve as décor, and a Bluetooth-powered Neo Smartpen that captures data in the cloud as you write.

Numero quatro

This marks the fourth location for b8ta, which opened their first location in Palo Alto in 2015, followed by retail spaces in Seattle, Santa Monica, and now Austin. Located in a trendy new shopping district, the Austin store marks b8ta’s first departure from the West Coast, and will be its largest store to date.

The newest location will also feature a live performance area, and a space dedicated to emerging categories such as connected kitchens, like the June Intelligent Oven.

The Austin store will feature a range of popular consumer tech products, including the connected home robot by OhmniLabs, Soundwall, a flat panel speaker that doubles as art and a bluetooth Neo Smartpen that writes like a regular pen but captures information in the cloud.

where tech and real life meet

b8ta CEO and co-founder Vibhu Norby says the goal of the innovative retailer is to offer technology makers a cost-effective path to connecting with the public in real life. “The high tech products that we bring in are made by both engineers and artisans, and those makers are creating our new software-driven and networked culture. You couldn’t pick a better city than Austin for b8ta to open, the perfect melting pot of technology, arts, and culture.”

“b8ta empowers the entrepreneurs creating today’s most innovative products by making retail accessible to them—not just to the big companies that can traditionally afford a retail presence,” Vibhu said.

“At the same time, customers can expect to discover a variety of technology products they likely haven’t seen before, with inventory that changes monthly and a chance to touch, play, and learn about the latest innovations just coming onto the market.”

Real life experience

Ultimately, b8ta’s goal is to get cutting edge products into physical stores, and to facilitate real experiences for customers. Since their launch in 2015, b8ta has trained employees (“b8ta testers”) which have engaged with over 5.3 million shoppers, and led over 27,000 demos.
The retail-as-service model could be the saving grace of the struggling brick and mortar retail industry. Providing a real hands-on experience, and constantly evolving merchandise with a human element (here are the makers, here are their stories) gives customers something they just can’t get online

#b8ta

Staff Writer, Natalie Bradford earned her B.A. in English from Cornell University and spends a lot of time convincing herself not to bake MORE brownies. She enjoys cats, cocktails, and good films - preferably together. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Tech News

Uber has secretly set up tip limits for drivers #classy

(TECH NEWS) Uber has had a shaky year, but their latest move proves that perhaps a new leader doesn’t mean a new culture.

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After frequent requests from drivers, Uber finally added a tipping option to their ride-sharing app this June. But, after a few months to try it out, riders and drivers alike have been disappointed to discover that Uber puts an upper limit on how much a rider can tip.

Lyft has allowed riders to tip for almost five years, but Lyft too has a tipping maximum. In many cases, Lyft and Uber drivers aren’t aware that there’s a limit to tips until they have a generous customer who finds that they can’t tip as much as they’d like.

Initially, these apps were seen as a convenient, tip-free alternative to traditional cab services. However, because fares are calculated in mileage and not time, tips can be especially appreciated when rides take a long time but have low mileage, such as in dense traffic, or when the driver has to make multiple stops. And of course, tipping is always a great way to say thanks to a driver who goes the extra mile (no pun intended) to help out the rider or make the ride especially pleasant.

Unfortunately, some riders have found that they can’t tip as much as they’d like. Uber told CNET that they placed a maximum on tips to help avoid “fat fingers” typos, such as when a customer means to type $10, but accidentally types $100 instead – a problem that could seemingly be solved by adding a secondary confirmation before withdrawing the payment.

Uber limits tips to 200 percent of the cost of the ride, or $100. Lyft also limits to 200 percent of the fare, but also blocks tips above $50. Of course, riders can always tip in cash – but not having to carry cash was one of the perks of ride-sharing apps in the first place.

Generally, drivers for Lyft get more tips than Uber drivers. That’s because Lyft riders receive a prompt to tip upon reaching their destination, whereas Uber drivers have to reopen the app and rate the driver before tipping. Since few Uber riders take the time to rate their driver, even fewer ever make it to the tip screen.

Granted, an extra big tip is a rare and precious thing. But it shouldn’t be up to the company to cap tips if riders feel compelled. Says Denise, a Los Angeles Uber driver, “Generosity should be something that you have no limit on.”

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Tech News

Tesla to build largest ‘virtual power grid’ on this round Earth

(TECH NEWS) Tesla teams up with Australia to create a virtual power grid, cutting energy costs and preventing blackouts.

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Tesla’s teaming up with Australia to provide an energy efficient solution to blackouts and price surges in the Southern Australian state.

Premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherill announced a new partnership with Tesla that will provide solar panels and batteries to homes in the southern state. Since the area consistently struggles with adequately powering homes, Weatherill and Tesla hope to create a “virtual” power grid to stabilize electricity infrastructure.

In the extreme wilderness area of South Australia, nearly half of all power comes from wind farms. Last September, issues with wind farms caused a statewide blackout. Sure, tornadoes were to blame too, but backup generators also failed, so the whole system collapsed.

To address this issue, a combination of solar panels and Tesla batteries will eventually be installed in 50,000 homes in the state. Any surplus energy generated by the home’s solar panels can contribute back to the larger grid.

Excess energy can be routed back to a centrally controlled grid to provide energy to the rest of the state as needed.

For the initial test, 1,100 public housing properties will receive the batteries and solar panels free of cost, using the sale of electricity to cover expenses. An additional 24,000 more public houses will get added to the program as well.

If the trial runs succeed, private homes will be included by 2019. Eventually, the plan is to have batteries and panels installed in 50,000 homes, creating a 250MW Virtual Power Plant.

Participating homes will have 5kW solar panels and Tesla Powerwall 2 13.5kWh batteries installed, providing a more reliable source of power, and potentially lowering power bills by thirty percent.

Installation is proposed to take four years, and according to Tesla, the virtual power plant will have as much capacity as a coal plant or large gas turbine.

Funding comes from a $2 million Australian ($1.6 million USD) grant, and a loan from the state’s Renewable Technology Funds for $30 million Australian ($23.8 million USD).

While the plan seems well-meaning, Austalian Prime Minister Malcomlm Turnbull called Weatherill’s previous strategies as “reckless” experiments, leading to excessive energy costs. Partnering with Tesla may give Weatherill some street cred for the upcoming South Australian election, proving he has a game plan for curbing energy costs.

According to the South Australian government, the virtual power plant could provide around twenty percent of the state’s daily average energy requirements. Tesla plans to review all properties to determine if the homes can support their systems and be able to participate.

If you happen to live in South Australia and are reading this, you can register to participate in the program. Registration doesn’t guarantee participation, but if initial interest exceeds original estimates, the government may consider extending the program.

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Tech News

Intel to launch smart glasses we might actually want to wear

(TECH NEWS) Smart glasses have launched and died, to be reborn as warehouse worker tools, but Intel’s giving it a shot, and this design might actually stick.

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Even though Google Glasses and Snap Spectacles totally bombed, tech companies keep trying to make smart glasses a thing.

Intel’s plans to make a go of it, betting on a sort of “less is more” design concept. Previous smart glasses were bulky, didn’t conform to the wearer’s head, and frankly, looked kind of dorky. People also found them invasive, awkward to interact with, and were especially creeped out by the notion that smart glasses wearers could be filming them or taking their picture without consent.

Intel’s smart glasses, called Vaunt, are much more stripped down – no camera, no buttons, no distracting messages or images floating in your vision. Says Itai Vonshak, head of products for Intel’s New Devices Group, “We wanted to make sure somebody puts this on and gets value without any of the negative impact of technology on their head. Everything from the ground up is designed to make the technology disappear.”

Vaunt glasses weight only 50 grams and look totally unassuming, like a regular pair of glasses. They work with prescription or non-prescription lenses. They use a very low-power laser to project messages directly into your eye. In order to get that right, you have to have the distance between your pupils measured so that Vaunt glasses are custom made to fit your eyes.

Intel wants their smart glasses to be helpful, but not invasive. Notification messages only appear if you look slightly down. Looking straight ahead, the messages disappear. Messages can also be scrolled through or dismissed with small nods of the head.

What exactly will Vaunt glasses be used for? Intel is taking a “if you build it they will come” attitude towards this question. They’ll have an early access program to encourage developers to come up with apps and uses for the smart glasses. Some ideas include driving directions, reminders, and recipes.

Will a set of simplified Vaunt smart glasses win over the same consumers that have rejected the bells-and-whistles versions of the past? That remains to be seen, but crazier things have happened.

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