Elon Musk, SoundCloud rapper

How’s your weekend going? Good, good. Now, here, have a billionaire’s super autotuned rap track about a famous deceased gorilla:

Tesla/Space X/Boring Company guy, Elon Musk has apparently uploaded a SoundCloud track titled “RIP Harambe,” about the 17-year-old Western lowland gorilla who was shot to death at a Cincinnati zoo in 2016 after a three-year-old boy climb into his enclosure. No word yet on precisely what role Musk played in the creation of the track, beyond releasing it on his “failed […] record label.”

This might be my finest work

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 30, 2019

“This might be my finest work,” the billionaire tweeted about the track, uploaded to his Emo G (emoji) Records SoundCloud account. The song, which includes lines like “RIP Harambe / Smoking on some strong hay” appears to be more meme-centric that serious musical pursuit. But as James Dolan can happily attest, you should never let a little thing like being an ultra-wealthy executive get in the way of your dreams.

So, happy early April Fool’s Day, I guess. Honestly, I don’t really know anymore. Now back to your regularly scheduled weekend plans.

China’s grocery delivery battle heats up with Meituan’s entry

Fast, affordable food delivery service has been life-changing for many working Chinese, but some still prefer to whip up their own meals. These people may not have the time to pick up fresh ingredients from brick-and-mortar stores, so China’s startups and large companies are trying to make home-cooked meals more effortless for busy workers by sending vegetables and meats to apartment doors.

The fresh grocery sector in China recorded 4.93 trillion yuan ($730 billion) in total sales last year, growing steadily from 3.37 trillion yuan in 2012 according to data collected by Euromonitor and Hua Chuang Securities. Most of these transactions still happen inside wet markets and supermarkets, leaving online retail, which accounted for only 3 percent of total grocery sales in 2016, much room for growth.

Ecommerce leaders Alibaba and JD.com have already added grocery to their comprehensive online shopping malls, nestling in the market with more focused players like Tencent-backed MissFresh (每日优鲜), which has raised $1.4 billion to date. The field has just grown a little more crowded with new entrant Meituan, the Tencent-backed food delivery and hotel booking giant that raised $4.2 billion through a Hong Kong listing last year.

Screenshots of the Meituan Maicai app / Image: Meituan Maicai

The service, which comes in a new app called “Meituan Maicai” or Meituan grocery shopping that’s separate from the company’s all-in-one app, set out in Shanghai in January before it muscled into Beijing last week. The move follows Meituan’s announcement in its mid-2018 financial report to get in on grocery delivery.

Meituan’s solution to take grocery the last mile is not too different from those of its peers. Users pick from its 1,500 stock keeping units ranging from yogurt to pork loin, fill their in-app shopping carts and pay via their phones, the firm told TechCrunch. Meituan then dispatches its delivery fleets to people’s doors in as little as 30 minutes.

The instant delivery is made possible by a satellite of physical “service stations” across neighborhoods that serve warehousing, packaging and delivering purposes. Placing offline hubs alongside customers also allows data-driven internet firms to optimize warehouse stocking based on local user preferences. For instance, people from an upscale residential area probably eat and shop differently from those in other parts of the city.

Meituan’s foray into grocery shopping further intensifies its battle with Alibaba to control how Chinese people eat. Alibaba’s Hema Supermarket has been running on a similar setup that uses its neighborhood stores as warehouses and fulfillment centers to facilitate 30-minute delivery within a three-kilometer radius. For years, Meituan’s food delivery arm has been going neck-and-neck with Ele.me, which Alibaba scooped up last year. More recently, Alibaba and Meituan are racing to get restaurants to sign up for their proprietary software, which can supposedly give owners more insights into diners and beef up customer engagement.

As part of its goal to be an “everything” app, Meituan has tried out many new initiatives in the lead-up to its initial public offering but was also quick to put them on hold. The firm acquired bike-sharing service Mobike last April only to shutter its operations across Asia in less than a year for cost-saving. Meituan also paused expansion on its much-anticipated ride-hailing business.

But grocery delivery appears to be closer to Meituan’s heart, the “eating” business, to put in its own words. Meituan is tapping its existing infrastructure to get the job done, for example, by summoning its food delivery drivers to serve the grocery service during peak hours. As the company noted in its earnings report last year, the grocery segment could leverage its “massive user base and existing world’s largest intra-city on-demand delivery network.”

Alibaba and Amazon move over, we visited JD’s connected grocery store in China

Lyft

Are internet unicorns really worth billions?

This week has been a momentous one for the US stock market. Lyft, the ride-hailing company, sold its shares to the public for the first time, heralding a march of the „unicorns”…

Mark Zuckerberg asks governments to help control internet content

Image copyright AFP Image caption Mark Zuckerberg wants a common set of rules that all tech companies have to stick to Mark Zuckerberg says regulators and governments should play a more active role in controlling internet content.
In an op-ed published in the Washington Post, Facebook's chief says the responsibility for monitoring harmful content is too great for firms alone.
He calls for new laws in four areas: „Harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.”
It comes two weeks after a gunman used the site to livestream his attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
„Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree,” Mr Zuckerberg writes, adding that Facebook was „creating an independent body so people can appeal our decisions” about what is posted and what is taken down.
Facebook charged with discrimination over housing ads Can you stop your parents sharing photos of you online? Amol Rajan: The constant influence of dark ..

A look at new power banks from OmniCharge and Fuse Chicken

When you’ve been doing this job long enough, you start to develop strange interests (though some might compellingly argue that strange interests are a prerequisite). Lately for me it’s been power banks. Quite possibly the least sexy product in all of consumer electronics outside of the ever-ubiquitous dongle.

I don’t know what to tell you. Blame the fact that I’m traveling every other week for this job. There are also all of the liveblogs from years’ past that got cut off in the last few minutes as my poor ancient MacBook put itself to sleep during those last precious battery percentages. Low batteries give me anxiety. I’m the guy who’s the first to notice when your phone’s screenshot is below 10 percent.

So the power bank has become constant accessory in my life, both home and on the road. Until last year, I used to carry a massive one that was just north of 20,000mAh. The peace of mind to back pain ration seemed sensible enough, but I learned the hard way that, not only do Chinese airports have a limit on battery size, they chuck yours in the trash without a second thought if you go over. It’s a quick way to lose $150.

The good news, however, is that between USB-C, wireless charging and the magic of crowdfunding, it seems we might be living through the golden age of the power bank. I know, right? What a time to be alive.

Point is, there are a lot of choices out there. Anker and Amazon’s house brand RAVPower both offer some good options on a budget. There’s also mainstay Mophie for those who don’t mind paying a bit of a premium for design.

Fuse Chicken was actually a brand that was new to me when they hit me up to try out their latest product. It’s a name I definitely would have remembered — because, honestly, it’s pretty terrible. Memorable, but terrible. Maybe that’s why the company went with such a mundane name for what’s a really interesting charger.

My dad ones told me that he gave my sister and I boring first names because we had such an unusual surname. I have no idea if this is true, but it’s an interesting story and could well apply here.

The Universal is a good example of making the most of out a form factor. It manages to jam a lot of features in without creating a Frankenstein’s Monster worthy of the name Fuse Chicken. On its face, the product looks like a black and white version of Amazon’s default power bricks. It serves that purpose, of course, coupled with a trio of swappable international wall adapters (bonus points for travelers).

But the brick also sports a 6,700mAh battery inside, so you can continue charging gadgets while unplugged. That’s ideal for a phone — you can keep a laptop alive for a bit as well, but you’re going to burn through that pretty quickly. There’s also a wireless charging pad up top, so you can power up another phone or, say, a new set of AirPods at the same time. The side of the device features a small display showing off how much juice is left.

It’s great having a bank that’s also a plug, though like Apple’s brick, it’s much too massive to plug into many vertical outlets. I learned this lesson the hard way on a recent coast to coast flight. Thankfully, though, it’s compatible with Apple’s extension cable.

OmniCharge, meanwhile, is a company I’ve been following since their earliest Kickstarter days. Matter of fact, the aforementioned power bank that’s currently sitting in a Chinese garbage dump is one of their products. R.I.P. noble battery pack.

The Omni Mobile 12,800 mAh is a much more basic product that the company’s earliest offerings. There’s no display for power information here — instead you have to rely on four lights to let you know how much juice is left.

As with most of the company’s products, I do quite like the design language. It’s subtle and unobtrusive and fits nicely inside a backpack. It’s definitely too big for carrying around in a pocket, however. Thanks the wonders of USB it will charge a laptop, as well, though once again, you’re going to run through that 12,800 mAh pretty quickly, if you do.

The Fuse Chicken and OmniCharge run $85 and $99, respectively. They’ve both served me well as travel companions these last few weeks. Here’s to long flights and avoiding life’s landfill.

CMU team develops a robot and drone system for mine rescues

On our final day in Pittsburgh, we find ourself in a decommissioned coal mine. Just northeast of the city proper, Tour-Ed’s owners run field trips and tours during the warmer months, despite the fact that the mine’s innards run a constant 50 degrees or so, year round.

With snow still melted just beyond the entrance, a team of students from Carnegie Mellon and Oregon State University are getting a pair of robots ready for an upcoming competition. The small team is one of a dozen or so currently competing in DARPA’s Subterranean Challenge.

The multi-year SUbT competition is designed to “explore new approaches to rapidly map, navigate, search, and exploit complex underground environments, including human-made tunnel systems, urban underground, and natural cave networks.” In particular, teams are tasked with search and rescue missions in underground structures, ranging from mines to caves to subway stations.

The goal of the $2 million challenge is design a system capable of navigating complex underground terrains, in case of cave-ins or other disasters. The robots are created to go where human rescuers can’t — or, at very least, shouldn’t.

The CMU team’s solution features multiple robots, with a foul-wheeled rover and a small, hobbyist style drone taking center state. “Our system consists of ground robots that will be able to track and follow the terrain,” says CMU’s Steve Willits, who serves as an adviser on the project. “We also have an unmanned aerial vehicle consisting of a hexacopter. It’s equipped with all of instrumentation that it will need to explore various area of the mine.”

The rover uses a combination of 3D cameras and LIDAR to navigate and map the environment, while looking for humans amid the rubble. Should it find itself unable to move, due to debris, small passage ways or a manmade obstacle like stairs, the drone is designed to lift off from the rear and continue the search.

All the while, the rover drops ultra rugged WIFI repeaters off its rear like a breadcrumb trail, extending its signal in the process. Most of this is still early stages. While the team was able to demonstrate the rover and drone in action, it still hasn’t mastered a method for getting them to work in tandem.

Testing the robots will begin in September, with the Tunnel Circuit That’s followed in March 2020 by the manmade Urban Circuit and then a Cave Circuit that September. A final event will be held in September 2012.