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Marble released its first food robot in San Francisco

(TECH NEWS) Food delivery is getting an upgrade in San Francisco with the help of a new food robot from Yelp24 and Marble.

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food robot

Food robot?!

San Francisco residents who order takeout food delivery may soon have a robot delivering them, thanks to the partnership between Yelp24 and the small robotics startup Marble, founded in 2015.

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Yelp acquired Eat24 back in 2014 for $134 million, with an explicit goal of expanding beyond business listing services. Now, three years later, their dream is finally taking shape on an experimental basis.

Play by play

Starting April 12, residents of Mission and Potrero Hill neighborhoods who order takeout on Yelp’s Eat24 food delivery service will have an option to have a Marble food robot shuttle their food. To make sure customers are not utterly confused, they will receive a text message explaining the new test delivery program, and asking their permission to participate.

If they text back with a ‘yes’, a robot shall be sent for delivery.

On arrival, customers receive their food on the sidewalk (the robots cannot climb stairs, mind you!) Customers are sent a password on their phones ahead of time. This password gives access to the robot’s compartment containing food.

The food is kept warm by Yelp24 heatbags.

However, that may soon change as developers at Marble plan to equip the food robot with temperature control, acting as either refrigerators or ovens.

The set up

The Marble robot, a miniature dryer lookalike, is essentially a white, moving box, with four wheels clearly visible. It shuttles food between the Marble HQ, restaurants and customer homes. Only five restaurants have signed up for the food robot delivery program.

So far, the distances travelled has also been small, typically within a mile.

Even so, for now a human will accompany the Marble robot to ensure smooth operation and perhaps prevent vandalism.

Specs

At top speed, the robot matches human walking. At intersections, the robot checks for incoming cars before crossing. The robots also ignore busy streets and heavy foot-traffic paths, selecting fastest routes to its destination.

Nvidia’s Jetson TX1 AI supercomputers, on-board lidar, cameras, and ultrasonic sensors power the robot.

It can operate day and night using high-resolution 3-D maps, avoid mailboxes, pedestrians, and curious pets.

Marble has not disclosed the cost of the robots, but it is likely very expensive, given that it is a prototype that took a long time to develop, and a first of its kind. The economic viability of a ground-based autonomous is not clear at all.

Food robot squad

CEO of Marble, Matthew Delaney claims that the goal of the company is to create a fleet of robots and partner with companies for delivery, from which it will receive a recurring fee. “We’re initially starting with the meal delivery, we’re also looking at other markets like grocery, and pharmacy,” he said.

But Marble has raised only $ 4 million in seed funding round last April, led by Eclipse, and partnered with Maven Ventures, Amplify Partners and Lemons Labs. Its revenue, if any, is not known.

Marble is sure to face competition from other robot delivery makers like Flirtey, Starship Technologies, and Dispatch.ai.

For now, however, UberEATS and Favor has advantage over these pioneering technologies.
But that is not holding Marble back. A world in which robots deliver anything and everything would save time, money and free people to more worthy things. “This is the biggest opportunity for robotics in front of humanity right now,” Delaney said.

#FoodRobot

Barnil is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. With a Master's Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

Tech News

For meetings that should be an email? There’s an app for that

(TECH NEWS) If you’re tired of having your precious work time taken up by useless meetings, there may be a solution.

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standupmeet

Have you ever attended a meeting that turned out to be a waste of time and set you back on your work? I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that every person reading this article is nodding in agreement.

Meetings, if executed appropriately (and sporadically,) can be effective. However, having weekly (or even daily) meetings that are designed to catch-up or give reports can add up to a ton of wasted time.

Across the board, meetings are generally geared towards productivity, and oftentimes they are counterproductive. So, how can you still get that need for touching-base with employees while still being productive? StandupMeet might just have the answer for that.

StandupMeet is a tool designed to make meetings more productive and agile. According to their statistics, more than $37 billion per year are being spent on unproductive meetings.

The main features include: the digitization of meetings, the instantaneous sharing of minutes, and the ability to assign actions and keep track of progress.

By making the meetings digital, you organize meeting points in one place. Decisions, actions, and key points can be logged in real time and accessed before the meeting.

This makes projects more agile and helps to increase critical success factors.

With instantaneous sharing of minutes, you can collaborate and share minutes of the meeting, key result areas, and action points. This is also done in real time and is shared with colleagues to make sure that each person is on the same page.

Finally, by assigning actions and keeping track of projects helps to ensure data integrity and provides accountability to each team member. Automated reminders are available so that you can spend your time on the more valuable tasks first.

In addition, StandupMeet also offers: project wised meeting, customized meeting types, organized agendas, shareable meeting minutes, accountability, reminders to ensure time is being appropriately applied, recurring meetings, conflict-free meeting scheduling, locations, automated follow ups, automatically tracked action points, and flexibility across time zones.

This can save time and increase productivity for on-site workers and can also be beneficial for teams that are remote.

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Business Finance

Personal finance steps every freelancer must take to avoid ruin

(FINANCE) The government shutdown showcased financial instability, but what do people that have no paycheck guarantee need to do to be secure?

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personal finance

In light of the recent government shutdown, there has been a lot of attention in regards to how missing paychecks impacts the average American. Most Americans don’t have a regular savings account and could not handle a $1,000 emergency, let alone miss practically a month of pay.

While things look positive for the backpay of those government workers, we all could benefit from some careful reflection about the precarious nature of our personal finances.

Particularly those of us who don’t receive a regular paycheck.

Entrepreneurs and those invested in the gig economy have volatile incomes, and literally no promise of a paycheck ever – that can impact your personal finances in a number of ways.

Variable incomes are normal for this group and can impact entrepreneurs in ways as simple as handling debt.

If this is you – here a few things to keep in mind that can help you deal with the volatility of living on a variable income and handling your personal finances.  

  • Set up an emergency fund. Start with 500 if you have too, and remember this an emergency fund for your personal expenses, not your business. If you have an emergency fund, make sure you identify what an emergency is and also be prepared to put money back when it comes out. If you have a hard time not spending money in front of you, put your money in a local bank or CU that you don’t have immediate access too.
  • Stick to a budget. when you can’t forecast your income appropriately, controlling expenses is so critical it’s the few things that are in your control.
  • Don’t mix business with personal. While you may be pouring your personal energy and time into your start up or gig, be careful about mixing expenses for two reasons: First, it messes up your budget. You need to have separate budgets for personal and business. Second, there could be tax challenges – consult a tax professional for more information. Here’s a little primer to get you started.
  • Save for retirement. There are tax benefits and come on, don’t wait till you can’t work anymore. Also, an IRA IS NOT AN EMERGENCY FUND.
  • Practice good financial behaviors. Automate bill pay. Online statements. Digital receipt tracking. The more you can automate your life, the better you are. You already have so many demands on your time, reduce that so you can spend more time doing what you love and what matters.
  • Consider diversifying your income. Either ensure you have multiple strings or a backup gig (even if it’s just uber driving); or be prepared to do temporary or contract labor during your slow seasons.

The path to entrepreneurship is rough. What we can learn from the very struggles of the federal employees and the government shutdown is that if the government can be unstable, those of you who work in the world of startups, gigs, and entrepreneurship, need to be even more on our toes. The “normal recommendation” for saving is 10% of your income, but normal may not be enough for you. Be prepared and save (more).

Disclaimer: I am neither a tax or investment professional. This is personal financial advice and I encourage you to visit a professional if you need more specific plans of action.

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Business Finance

Delivery startups skim customer tips to pay employees #wth

(FINANCE) Grocery delivery startups are flourishing, but stealing from employees isn’t a sustainable move…

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theft delivery startups

Popular grocery app Instacart has been using customers’ tips to pay its guaranteed $10/hour rate to employees, rather than using the tips as, you know, bonus money paid to workers on top of their normal pay. The way that you’d expect something called a “tip” to work.

According to the report, “Instacart confirmed that when its payment algorithm determines a driver should be paid below that guaranteed $10, the company uses the customer’s predelivery, ‘up front’ tip to cover the difference. The ‘up front’ tip is automatically set to 5% on the Instacart app; if the customer removes the tip, and the payout would be below $10, Instacart itself covers the cost.”

In this system, the customer’s tip for the deliverer subsidizes the company’s commitment to its employees. Once the change to the tipping policy was announced in workers began complaining about how it affected their earnings in 2017.

Even though the app’s customers have taken to social media to compare the policy to wage theft, the practice is actually legal. Because Instacart and other apps in the gig economy classify their workers as contractors instead of employees, they do technically still get 100 percent of the tips in their wages (even if the company doesn’t supply the same percentage of the wage they’d give the worker without the customer throwing in).

This kind of payment structure may be familiar to you if you’ve ever working in restaurants, bars, or another establishment that uses subminimum wages.

Sadly, Instacart is not the only grocery app that uses a dodgy tipping system. Shipt, DoorDash, and others have similar tipping policies. And they aren’t interested in changing them after all this week’s backlash.

If you’re concerned about making sure that you’re supporting the contractors for these grocery delivery services, some of the contracted workers have requested that you provide the tip in cash instead of tipping through the app and activating its algorithm.

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