Lyft and Uber have experimented with oodles of partnerships in their war to distinguish their services — and lure ride app customers to platforms that provide essentially the same service. Lyft’s latest gambit, announced Tuesday, is partnering with Taco Bell to make it easier for riders to grab a bag of burritos on their way from Point A to Point B.
The company will soon be testing its so-called “Taco Mode” in Orange County, allowing riders to add a “pit stop” at a drive-thru between the hours of 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. (a time of day when tipsy individuals might find Taco Bell inordinately appealing). The companies have promised a “nationwide rollout” by next year.
The announcement comes on the heels of McDonald’stouting more delivery options through Uber Eats, offering orders of burgers and fries that might come to one’s front door with swag like a sweatshirt covered in hash browns and muffins.
Over the years, the ride app companies have partnered with credit card firms, professional sports teams, television shows, clothing companies and non-profits dedicated to stopping drunk drivers, to name a few.
The partnership with Taco Bell is a stunt that may well lead to regrets about dietary decisions the following morning. But it’s also a sign of how fierce the competition between those companies remains — as Lyft has cut into Uber’s market share — and what promise companies in other industries continue to see in these millennial-friendly services.
Both Microsoft and Google envision a not-so-distant future in which donning smart headgear to repair an elevator or assemble a tractor motor is the norm. Over the past several days, both tech giants have revealed they’re each taking concrete and compelling steps to make that happen.
Microsoft just revealed that it’s working on a new artificial intelligence chip to power its second-generation HoloLens headset. The coprocessor’s chief job will be implementing deep neural networks — a machine learning technique with a structure that loosely resembles the human brain — into the HoloLens’ core processing unit. A dedicated A.I. chip is necessary for a gadget like the HoloLens, says Microsoft, which must be able to comprehend large amounts of complex data gathered by its depth and camera sensors without latency. Microsoft hasn’t said when it will release the updated HoloLens headset, but speculation at this point has it arriving in 2019.
The announcement comes days after Google divulged new information about its plans for the next iteration of Google Glass. Its surprise informational salvo marks the first time the search giant has dished about the new version of Glass in development for the workplace, which it calls Google Glass Enterprise Edition. The refreshed model will offer faster, more reliable Wi-Fi connectivity, improved security, a faster processor, a sharper camera and longer battery compared to its predecessor.
Taken together, the announcements confirm that Google and Microsoft view technologies like smart headgear and augmented reality as strategically vital, particularly in the workplace. Google’s first stab at consumer-side smart goggles came in 2012 with its initial version of Google Glass. But privacy concerns, limited availability, boutique pricing and use-case haziness — to say nothing of the deeply creepy factor — ultimately produced a flop.
Both Google and Microsoft have apparently learned from Glass’s mistakes. Rather than marketing new versions of HoloLens and Google Glass toward thrill-seekers, fashionistas or photographers, both companies are focusing on applications in commercial scenarios. Google has tested Glass Enterprise Edition in some 50 businesses over the past two years, including companies like DHL, Sutter Health and Volkswagen. Microsoft counts Cirque du Soleil, Lowe’s and the PGA Tour among its clients, and recently expanded HoloLens availability to regions such as Australia, Ireland, France and New Zealand.
While the basic concepts behind HoloLens and Google Glass overlap, in execution they couldn’t be less alike. Google Glass is meant to be physically insubstantial like a pair of literal glasses, only noticeable when someone needs it for a specific task. It displays a small virtual screen above the wearer’s eye, which can be glanced at without disrupting other visual tasks. The new version is even friendlier, able to clip onto existing eyeglasses and rendering the technology more accessible for those who need prescription glasses or protective eyewear in their jobs (though it must remain in wireless range of a smartphone to work properly).
HoloLens, by contrast, is much more immersive, since it can display larger graphics that fall within the wearer’s field of view. And unlike Glass, it’s also a functionally holistic device, unconstrained by reliance on smartphone or virtual-reality-style computer tethers to operate. All of HoloLens’s necessary computing components are baked into the headset.
Note that none of these workplace-angled changes mean consumer-oriented versions of these headsets won’t follow at some point. For now, Microsoft and Google seem content to give the rest of us augmented reality by alternative methods. Google is developing smartphone-based augmented reality through its Project Tango technology, for instance, and Microsoft is working with PC partners like Acer and Lenovo to build cheap headsets that support Windows Mixed Reality — a version of Windows that runs a combination of augmented and virtual reality experiences. That said, these headsets must still be attached to a computer.
Given the cultural and technical challenges of cracking augmented reality’s consumer-side code, making enterprise deployment the next step for HoloLens and Google Glass is a sensible decision. Google Glass didn’t resonate because it couldn’t distinguish what it offered from simply pulling out your smartphone. Most of Glass’s perks — like first-person photos and videos — were novelties that couldn’t justify the Explorer Edition’s whopping $1,500 price tag. (Microsoft charges $3,000 for the developer edition of HoloLens and $5,000 for the commercial suite).
The situation reverses when you put Glass or HoloLens on an engineer or mechanic. Being able to see critical information at a glance, like how much torque should be applied to a wrench, or whether a new piece of equipment will fit in a medical facility’s operating room, both upends and streamlines workflow. The question then becomes whether HoloLens or Glass will eventually dominate the workplace, and whether supremacy in one domain can tee up success in another.
(NEW YORK) — A person who reported eating at a Chipotle in northern Virginia has tested positive for norovirus. But health officials say that’s not yet enough to determine the cause of the roughly 60 reported illnesses it has identified.
The location in Sterling, Virginia, was temporarily closed for cleaning this week after customers reported symptoms that Chipotle said were consistent with norovirus. That sent shares of the restaurant chain down, underscoring how vulnerable its reputation remains almost two years after an E. coli outbreak that sent its sales plunging.
Norovirus is a leading cause of illnesses from contaminated food, and infected employees are a frequent source of the outbreaks. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. Overall, one out of six Americans get sick each year by consuming contaminated food or drinks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Loudoun County Health Department in Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., says it is still awaiting further test results that should be available early next week. David Goodfriend, director of the health department, says that having another person test positive for norovirus would be a “very strong indication” that norovirus was behind the illnesses. The health department says it has identified about 60 sickened people who said they ate at the Chipotle in question.
Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has stressed the safety measures it has taken to prevent such occurrences or respond quickly when they do happen. But its image is still fragile, and the chain was dealing with more bad publicity Thursday after mice fell from the ceiling in a Dallas location. Chipotle says it was an “extremely isolated incident,” and that the mice got in the restaurant because of a structural gap in the building. It said the gap has been fixed.
Shares in Chipotle fell 4.5 percent to close at $356.05, their lowest point since April 2013. The shares had been above $390 on Tuesday.
The evidence for repealing net neutrality rules isn’t good enough, Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.) told Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai yesterday.
Pai claims that the rules issued in 2015 are reducing investment in broadband networks, but Markey pointed out during a Senate hearing that ISPs have not reported any dramatic problems to their investors.
Children who play with Hot Wheels and Barbie today—two iconic Mattel brands—were born in the iPad and Instagram-era. They’re a different kind of consumer, and one Mattel CEO Margo Georgiadis aims to win over.
“A lot of people call them Generation Glass,” Georgiadis said on stage at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. “This is definitely a generation that has grown up expecting the world to be immersive, adaptable, and increasing customized. And they want to be in charge.”
However, simply throwing tech into toys isn’t the answer, said Georgiadis, who left Google to become CEO of Mattel in February.
“We have to figure out a way to integrate the two,” said Georgiadis, referring to the tech found in devices and toys. “Generation Alpha has very different expectations for the entire world. Everything that’s going to happen in their lives needs to be visual, on demand, adaptive, in demand, and we have to find a way to embed that into our toy experiences.”
As Georgiadis puts it: “We don’t want to get distracted by shiny objects.”
“There are a lot of toys that have been released that have tried to stimulate engagement with kids, but they’re actually fundamentally not that fun,” said Georgiadis. “And kids don’t want to eat spinach. If you don’t integrate the technology in a way that’s actually fun, the kids don’t stay with the play pattern.”
One example, is Code-a-pillar, a Fisher-Price toy that brings basic coding skills to kids as young as three and four years old.
Georgiadis has her work cut out for her. She has spent her first six months as CEO at Mattel grappling with the immediate problem of slipping sales as well as trying inject innovation into its products and operations that will boost the toy maker’s long-term outlook.
Over the past three years, Mattel has seen sales fall from $6.5 billion to $5.5 billion, gross margins tumble from 53.6% to 46.8%, while net income dropped from $904 million to $318 million.
Despite those challenges, Georgiadis is optimistic about what Mattel is trying to achieve and how it’s helping children to develop.
Storytelling—specifically developing toys like Barbie that allow children to invent and create their own play—as well as promoting inclusiveness are a important components of the toy maker’s mission.
“It is our job to ensure everyone feels included and empowered,” said Georgiadis. “We are living in a world that is increasingly diverse and part of helping kids develop, and be those successful leaders of tomorrow is helping them learn how to embrace multiculturalism and diversity.”
You can thank social media for changing how World Wrestling Entertainment portrays women.
Speaking Tuesday at Fortune’sBrainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo., WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon discussed how pushback from Twitter users over the term “diva,” among other concerns, led to the company rebranding its women’s professional wrestling division.
In a nod to larger-than-life personalities like soul singer Aretha Franklin, the WWE once referred to female wrestlers as “divas,” McMahon explained. The sports entertainment company even debuted in 2008 a Diva’s championship belt, which contained an oversized image of a butterfly with several different shades of pink.
But a new wave of female athletes also emerged, like tennis superstar Serena Williams and mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey, who captivated popular culture and put women athletes in the same spotlight as their male counterparts, she said.
WWE fans began criticizing the company via Twitter and asking it to change its portrayal of women wrestlers, which seemed out of touch with mainstream culture. Eventually, Twitter users created the hashtag “GiveDivasAChance” to call attention to their concerns about wanting women featured in more prominent storylines and ask that women get the same amount of television airtime as male performers, McMahon said.
The “GiveDivasAChance” hashtag “trended worldwide for three days,” said McMahon, which eventually led to her father and WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon to tweet back at fans saying that the company was listening.
Since then, the WWE dropped the term “diva” and now calls both women and male professional wrestlers “superstars,” McMahon said. The WWE reality show Total Divas, which portrays the semi-real lives of some of its female entertainers, still carries the diva term in its title, McMahon said.
The culmination of the rebranding came during the company’s flagship Wrestlemania event in 2016, when Lita, one of the WWE’s most successful female wrestlers during the late 1990s and early 2000s, introduced the new WWE Women’s Championship, sans the word “diva.” WWE changed the look of the title belt “from the design of a butterfly to someone more akin to the men’s belt,” McMahon said.
McMahon said that women professional wrestlers are now “a focal point for our programming,” underscoring how vocal WWE fans on social media can influence the company.
An Australian millionaire sent the Internet into a tizzy earlier this year when he used avocado toast as a symbol of millennial irresponsibility and excess, saying that choices such as “buying smashed avocado for $19” were making it hard for young people to afford homes. While the nuances of the housing market and the life choices of millennials may be fodder for endlessdebate, new data from Square makes one thing clear: the avocado toast business is booming.
Square, a tech company that helps businesses process credit card payments, crunched data from sellers around the U.S. and found that Americans are spending nearly $900,000 per month on crusty bread topped with mashed green fruit. That’s a huge increase from what the company was seeing in 2014, when Square’s sellers were only moving $17,000 worth of avocado toast per month.
Though that’s a drop in the urn compared to the amount people spend on coffee, for instance, the hard figure for how much Americans are spending on such toast is certainly much larger, given that the Square data does not include the many avocado-toast-offering restaurants and food trucks and fast-casual counters that are not using Square’s services. And the jump remains proof of how hot the commodity has become. The company says the increase in sales has far outpaced Square’s growth in sellers.
So what of millionaire Tim Gurner’s claim that millennials are spending $19 a pop for this green-and-creamy brunch fave? Based on data from hundreds of Square sellers, the company found the average cost to be $6.78, with the cheapest avocado toast going for $2 and the most expensive going for $18. Given that the Australian dollar is weaker than the U.S. dollar ($19 Australian = about $15 U.S.), Gurner was within Square’s range. The average price was highest in Los Angeles, at $8.50 a pop, and lowest in D.C., at a mere $4.
Avocado toast consumption levels in U.S. cities vary, as do creative local spins on the item, which Square sellers are hawking in varieties like grilled cheese avocado toast and avocado toast lobster rolls. Per Square, the highest consumption per capita is (predictably) in San Francisco, followed by Honolulu, Nashville and Portland, Ore.
Long before smashed avocados were raising haunches, the City by the Bay was grappling with another great debate over the price of browned bread. Tensions over inequality have risen in San Francisco in recent years, and in 2014 stakeholders zeroed in on the fact that people were purchasing $4 toast as evidence that one-percenters were fueling an affordability crisis.
Back then, the small business offering the $4 toast had options like whole-wheat-sesame-poppy bread with butter. These days, millennials can get an “avocado mash” on toast at the same spot for twice the price. But, as many pointed out in the wake of Gurner’s comment, it would take a lot of toast to make a real difference in one’s housing situation. In fact, a person would have to save the equivalent of 475 of those mashes just to afford one month’s rent on the average San Francisco apartment.
(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump vowed Monday to boost U.S. manufacturing by cutting the $64 billion trade deficit with Mexico as he showcased products made in all 50 states — everything from a fire truck to a baseball bat.
“No longer are we going to allow other countries to break the rules, to steal our jobs and drain our wealth,” Trump said at a White House event that spilled from the East Room to the South Lawn.
Shortly after Trump’s remarks, the U.S. trade representative released an 18-page report about its goals for updating the decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. In addition to reducing the trade deficit, the administration wants to insert a chapter on the digital economy into the deal. It also wants to strengthen labor and environmental obligations, as well as amending the rules of origin so that more of the products traded come from the United States and North America.
Facing an investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia and a tax and health care agenda struggling to make headway as quickly as promised, Trump is turning his focus to trade this week. Administration officials are to meet Wednesday with economic officials from China, a nation the president has accused of dumping steel on the global market to hurt U.S. steelmakers. The White House emphasis on trade follows a string of other recent theme weeks on energy, job-training and infrastructure that mostly failed to draw much attention away from the Russia inquiry.
The president took his time checking out products from all over the country: Trump donned a cowboy hat from Texas. He swung a baseball bat from Louisiana. And he even climbed into the cab of a Wisconsin-built fire truck and pretended to be a firefighter, saying, “Where’s the fire? Where’s the fire? Put it out fast!”
The new NAFTA objectives, a requirement to begin talks on updating the agreement in the next 30 days, contain the first specifics for a Trump administration that has made bold promises on trade. Trump has pledged to recover factory jobs and boost wages by crafting new trade deals. Supporters note that NAFTA enabled companies to charge cheaper prices for products that range from cars to vacuum cleaners, helping many U.S. consumers.
The president said he only seeks a level playing field for U.S. companies and workers, but “if the playing field was slanted a little bit toward us, I would accept that, also.”
But the president has a conflicted relationship with global trade. His namesake clothing business depended on the work of low-wage workers living overseas, as does the fashion line of his daughter and White House aide, Ivanka Trump.
As of now, Ivanka Trump’s firm continues to have its products made overseas. Her lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, said in a statement Monday that the president’s daughter “has resigned from the company, does not control its operations, and has been advised that she cannot ask the government to act in an issue involving the brand in any way, constraining her ability to intervene personally.”
Trump has blasted trade deficits as hampering the economy by sending money abroad. But the trade deficit has actually improved from $762 billion in 2006 to $505 billion last year, a change brought about largely because U.S. consumers cut back spending during the Great Recession. His administration already is pursuing multiple trade cases on individual products and is weighing whether to impose tariffs and quotas on foreign steel in hopes of curbing production in China, even though that country represents a fraction of U.S. steel imports.
Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the administration’s NAFTA objectives “will be further developed as the negotiations proceed.” The senator said he wants stronger protections for intellectual property rights as part of an amended agreement with Canada and Mexico.
Democratic lawmakers said Monday that Trump should move away from trade agreements that favor multinational companies to focus on workers.
Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-MI, said that any new agreements must provide for more jobs and higher wages that he has pledged to generate.
“He’s got to deliver on those promises he made to my constituents and the working men and women across the country,” Dingell said in a phone call with reporters.
When NAFTA went into effect in 1994, the United States ran a small trade surplus in goods with Mexico and a slight deficit with Canada. But the size of the deficits steadily began to increase afterward.
By last year, the United States ran a $64 billion trade deficit with Mexico and a nearly $11 billion gap with Canada. Neither trade deficit is near its peak level. The trade deficit with Canada hit a high in 2008, while the trade gap with Mexico nearly reached $75 billion in 2007.