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Real Virtual and Augmented Reality Apps, Coming Soon From Facebook

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Oculus VR, the Virtual Reality (VR) technology company acquired by Facebook earlier this year, announced recently that they are acquiring two small start-up companies,  Nimble VR and 13th Lab, to fill gaps in their virtual reality capabilities, Seeking Alpha reports. The acquisitions may indicate that, besides VR games and social worlds, Facebook may target Augmented Reality (AR) applications, like Google is doing with Google Glass.

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Oculus VR was acquired by Facebook for US$2 billion in cash and Facebook stock, leading to speculations that Facebook may soon launch VR applications and virtual worlds. When you put the Oculus Rift headset on, you step into an immersive VR world where you are surrounded by computer-generated scenery and sound. The Oculus interface is powerful enough to persuade the user to suspend disbelief and accept the virtual world as real. If the virtual world is well designed, users feel a powerful sense of “being there.”

Also read: Facebook’s Oculus Rift is Going to Change Everything

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Plenty of immersive video games already exist in which you can move around entire cities and interact with hundreds of characters. Many users emerge from their first experience with the newest version of the Oculus Rift with the impression that “it is going to change everything.”

Early applications focus on gaming, but Oculus sees a day, as forecast by the epic book [Snow Crash], in which people use virtual reality goggles to interact with each other in life-like three dimensional settings while each sitting in their own living rooms.

According to company statements, Facebook acquired Oculus to bring virtual reality to social networking and other online experiences, for example watching sports games or taking virtual classes. The first VR initiatives of Facebook, perhaps in 2015, will be very interesting to watch.

SLAM for Augmented Reality Apps

Ball Invasion

13th Lab’s Ball Invasion is the first (and only) iPad application to use the NASA-invented Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) technology to build real-time 3D maps of the environment as you move the iPad’s camera around.

But the recent acquisitions may indicate that Facebook is even more ambitious. 13th Lab technology analyzes video streams from a camera moving through a site. In addition to building a 3D model of the environment based on video streams, their technology can track the camera’s location in real-time as it moves around the site, based only on information gleaned from the video. This technology is called “Simultaneous Localization And Mapping” (SLAM).

“As speculation, imagine if Oculus, or Facebook, brought the Oculus goggles to market not only for immersive virtual reality, but also for wearing around during every-day life, as Google is doing with Google Glass? In such a model, the goggles would deliver augmented reality rather than virtual reality, with the computer-generated imagery augmenting the view of the real world rather than replacing it. Obviously the glasses would need to be less like virtual reality goggles and more like fashionable eyeglasses.”

Augmented Reality (AR) doesn’t place the user in a game world but enhances the real world with synthetic imagery, from simple text and icons used for navigation and directions to sophisticated interactive 3D features.

Images from 13th Lab, Stefano Tinti and Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.




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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Rod Ricky Brown

    December 27, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    I believe their spreading their wings too thin here…. Focus on the killer app which is “gaming” right now and 3rd party will find other uses. This will only delay adoption.

  2. Jonjon Taka

    December 27, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Facebook probably wants to become our eyes, and register everything we see and interact with in the real world. Soon we’ll be watching people through our reality augmented vision and pull up their facebook profile, send friend request on the spot or poke them with sensory stimulus without actually interacting at all with them in the real world.

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Walmart’s Flipkart Deal: The Dawn of a New Day in India

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It’s the dawn of a new day in India, particularly cross-border investment, thanks to Walmart’s groundbreaking controlling stake in Bengaluru-based e-commerce darling Flipkart. Walmart has tried for years to no avail to enter the South Asian country, until now.

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As a result of the deal, Walmart now has five seats on the online retailer’s board and is poised to play an influential role on the direction of the company — including a possible Flipkart IPO — setting the tone for further investments into the region in the interim.

It’s $16 billion deal values Flipkart at a whopping $21 billion and helps the Arkansas-based big-box retailer to compete more fiercely with Amazon, considering that the integration goes smoothly. Walmart has chosen a controversial target company to kick things off. Flipkart has been at the center of a saga ironically surrounding a previous cross-border investment.

Amazon is fighting back, however, as evidenced by it reaching into the belly of western India including Gujarat’s Bhuj, where some residents don’t even have online access. Amazon is taking an Etsy-like approach there with a focus on handmake craft items that are unique to this corner of the world.

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No doubt corporations around the world have it on their radar as a possible harbinger of more cross-border investment activity to unfold in the region.

Gopal Jain of Mumbai-based private equity firm Gaja Capital told The Financial Times: “India continues to be perceived in global boardrooms as a tough place to do business in.” But he also said that as a result of this deal, global executives have gone from “being on the heels to being on the toes.”

India’s Cross-Border Investment

The overhaul of India’s international investment has been two decades in the making. And while India Prime Minister Narendra Modi says his administration has opened the doors to foreign investment, there still hasn’t been much evidence of that. For instance, cross-border M&A into India totaled $14.5 billion last year, lagging the performance of other developing countries including Brazil and China by as much as 50%, as per Dealogic data cited in the FT.

Indeed, the last time that a deal of anything close to the size of Walmart’s Flipkart acquisition was more than a decade ago in the telecom space when Vodafone took a majority position in Hutchison Essar. That deal left a sour taste in the mouths of would-be pursuers given hostile tax environment in which Vodafone was forced to operate.

Prime Minister Modi has the opportunity to prove to the rest of the world that India indeed is open for investment. If the Walmart deal can somehow help to shake the stigma that is attached to foreign investment into India, as evidenced by the “tax terrorism” that’s been attached with the region, it, in fact, could reflect the dawn of a new day for cross-border M&A in India.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.4 stars on average, based on 7 rated postsGerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. Full disclosure, she's invested in bitcoin.




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Netflix Shares Surge After Hours amid Record Growth in Subscriptions

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Netlix Inc. (NFLX) has proved it can raise prices and still attract a record number of new users. The Los Gatos, California-based streaming service added 7.41 million customers in the first quarter, smashing analysts’ forecasts by about 1.7 million.

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Netflix Earnings

In addition to adding a record number of subscribers, Netflix posted per-share earnings of 64 cents on revenue of $3.7 billion. Analysts in a consensus estimate called for earnings of 64 cents per share on sales of $3.69 billion.

International streaming dominated subscription growth with a net gain of 5.46 million new users. Europe and Latin America were largely responsible for the better than expected growth. U.S. additions totaled 1.96 million.

Netflix succeeded in adding new subscribers even as it hiked the price of its streaming service, a sign the company was delivering desirable content. In addition tot he 700 titles planned for release this year, the company is investing billions into original content. Moving to in-house production will allow Netflix to save money by avoiding hefty markups charged by rival studios.

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After falling 1.2% on Monday, share prices spiked 5.2% in after-hours trading. At $323.70 per share, the company should surpass $140 billion in market cap at the start of trading on Tuesday. That’s a 600% increase since 2014.

Share prices are recovering after a difficult stretch for so-called FAANG stocks, an abbreviation that represents Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet. FAANG investments lost more than $320 billion over a three-week stretch ending Apr. 2.

At the close:

Dominance of Over-the-Top Content

Netfix has established a dominant position in the market for over-the-top content, or OTT, which generally refers to internet-based streaming services. Cord cutters in the U.S. market alone topped 22 million between 2016 and 2017, bringing the total number of consumers without pay TV to about 57 million.

High-speed internet is not only disrupting traditional media, it is destroying it. This extends far beyond the entertainment segment to also include broadcast news and other mainstream media outlets.

OTT content could be worth $62 billion by 2020, putting companies like Netflix at the top of the heap for investors looking for promising plays during the tail end of the bull market.

The success of Netflix has spawned several paid and free alternatives, including emerging juggernauts like Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Sling TV. Traditional media companies like HBO have also adopted the subscription streaming model.

As cord-cutting continues, price elasticity of demand could grow for streaming services. In other words, companies can charge more for their service without fear of lost revenue. That was certainly the case with Netflix during the past quarter.

 

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 415 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Revolut: Apps For Cryptocurrencies

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For the last few months, it seems like we have been transfixed in the collapse of crypto prices, trying to figure out what is going to cause the next move up.  The answer is not easy to find. So I thought it might be an interesting change of pace to look at a fintech company that is participating in the crypto movement but has a few other cool things going as well.

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This may not fatten your investment account immediately but it should take your mind off bitcoin for a few minutes.  After that, who knows.

Big Valuation

Revolut is a UK based payments company in business since July 2015.  Last summer Revolut founders Nikolay Storonsky and Vlad Yatsenko raised over $66 million in VC funding and another $23 million from crowdfunding.  Yes, the Crypto buzz had something to do with their success. But there is quite a bit more.

Storonsky must be pretty good with a pitch deck considering the implied $200-$400 million valuation of the company.  He and his partner have deep experience in the global payments business. Nikolay spent years as a currency trader with Credit Suisse so he understands the absurd level of fees charged by the current system.

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The technical wizardry, however, rests with his partner Yatsenko. Vlad spent over ten years building financial systems for major Wall Street investment banks.  He serves as the company’s CTO.

Crypto Link: An Interesting Approach

According to company literature, the Revolut app allows customers to open a current account in under a minute, and includes a prepaid contactless MasterCard debit card.  So far there is nothing unusual about Revolut. But wait, there’s more.

The firm launched personal international bank account numbers (IBANs) across Europe just recently, and plans to integrate virtual currencies like bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin in the future.  This includes plans to add a wealth of new services in the coming months from the integration of cryptocurrency to pay-as-you-go travel insurance at the tap of a button.

Even before this gets accomplished, Revolut offers a currency exchange with 25 different currencies and a peer-to-peer payments service.  As Storonsky tells his story, “ . . . what we are demonstrating goes beyond banking.”

The one question investors are raising is how all these wonderful free services will be monetized.  An announcement this week should provide at least some answers.

CNP Fraud Prevention

Revolut has a new product aimed at tackling online card fraud. The mobile-only bank unveiled a virtual card that wipes a user’s card details and introduces new details each time they make a payment.

When people make an online payment, they enter card details and most often online retailers hold onto the data. This is where fraudsters have a field day.

In the trade it is known as Card Not Present (CNP) fraud.  As online shopping has increased steadily, CNP fraud has risen exponentially – something like 50% annually.

What happens is, every time you make a transaction, Revolut software deletes the card details so it’s impossible to make any transaction after that.  Just in case you were wondering, all the data remains in the browser of the customer. So the quality of customer service is not sacrificed.

Full Disclosure  

Revolut is not your typical ICO (i.e., all whitepaper and no product).  It is not fueled by any cryptocurrency or token. I first came across Revolut following their VC round last year and was impressed with the valuation, background of the founders and the business model.  I have no vested interest in the company. Someday the VC will want to cash out most likely through an IPO. So Revolut is a name you will want to keep track of.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.4 stars on average, based on 76 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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