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RSS agregátor | FLOPS

RSS agregátor

Customer 'paranoia' over Amazon Web Services could help Microsoft unseat it as the dominant cloud in the market, analyst says (AMZN, MSFT)

Business Insider SAI - 1 hodina 37 min zpět

  • Companies like Walmart have a certain "paranoia" of working with Amazon Web Services — a paranoia that they don't have when it comes to Microsoft, says RBC Capital Markets Managing Director Alex Zukin. 
  • While AWS is far and away the leading cloud computing platform in the market, that dynamic could help Microsoft catch up.
  • Zukin further says that AWS has a reputation for being difficult to use, and that the big Capital One data breach last year — which involved AWS, though it wasn't apparently at fault — may have reflected poorly on the company.
  • Click here to read more BI Prime stories.

Amazon is still the "800-pound gorilla" in the cloud wars – its market share is larger than Microsoft and Google Cloud put together. At the same time, though, its sheer size has translated into a slowing growth rate, and there are some weaknesses that leading rival Microsoft can easily target, says RBC Capital Markets Managing Director Alex Zukin. 

Chief among Amazon's cloud Achilles' heels: A certain amount of "paranoia" that customers have about working with Amazon, and a perception that Amazon trails behind Microsoft when it comes to customer service, Zukin says. RBS does business with both Amazon and Microsoft.

Zukin cites conversations with chief information officers (CIOs) and other industry insiders when he says that some customers, at least, are worried that by moving all of their IT infrastructure to Amazon Web Services, they're giving the retailer the keys to the kingdom. That's a problem, when Amazon is known for constantly breaking into new industries and dominating them.

"There's the perception that Amazon has access to all your data and owns all your data," Zukin told Business Insider. "That perception does sometimes get in the way of signing large long term strategic engagement in some industries that Amazon is particularly competitive with."

He cites the example of how Walmart is a big Microsoft Azure customer, seemingly entirely because Amazon is a major competitor. 

On the other hand, Microsoft has a reputation for mostly sticking to software — it'll almost certainly never get into the grocery business, for example.

"That is an advantage that Microsoft has as a trusted enterprise software company only," Zukin said.

A 'white glove service'

Zukin says that of the three major clouds — Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform — Amazon's has the broadest catalogue of services for companies to use, and they're tailor-made for developers on the cutting edge.

However, that's something of a double-edged sword: As powerful as those tools may be, they can be a lot for more mainstream developers to use, especially given how very many they are. And Amazon doesn't do enough to help customers figure that out, Zukin said.

"The issue is they don't have as developed of enterprise-grade services that can come guide you as a company on how you should architect and how you should plan and manage in order to scale," Zukin said. "They have a strong catalog of services but not every company is ready to adopt the breadth of the services and depth of the services right away."

Microsoft, meanwhile, knows how to help customers through that process, Zukin says, thanks to its decades of working with even the largest companies. 

"Microsoft is prescriptive in planning out what exactly it is you want to do and what is the best way to do that based on customers we onboarded and developed," Zukin said. "That's an advantage that does tend to play out over the marketplace."

Zukin also says that AWS is facing a drag on its reputation thanks to a massive security breach at Capital One, one of its flagship customers. While all indications show that the incident was thanks to a vulnerability in Capital One's software, and not any flaw in Amazon's cloud itself, it still caused customers to feel that Amazon was playing the "blame game" instead of doing more to help prevent such a breach from happening again, Zukin said.

"The intonation to CIOs is, instead of helping me either build it in a more secure way or helping me explain to my company and my board, they're basically saying 'it's not our fault, not our problem,'" Zukin said. "Their focus tends to be on features and functions more so than customer service and support at an enterprise scale where you need a white glove service."

Amazon Web Services declined to comment.

More choices in cloud

These concerns aren't necessarily causing companies to switch from AWS to another cloud, Zukin says. Rather, it impacts companies who haven't committed to any cloud yet, but are in the process of considering one.

AWS still has the advantage of being the first-mover in the market, given that in its early days, it was the only choice for large companies that wanted to move to the cloud. Nowadays, though, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and even international players like Alibaba Cloud are willing and able to take on the same kinds of customers.

"When you're a company trying to figure out how to architect your workloads through the cloud, you have multiple choices," Zukin said. "You don't have just one choice. The share gets split more evenly among vendors."

Zukin also sees more customers opting to buy from multiple clouds because they don't want to get locked in to just one vendor.

"There's an increasing approach to having a multi-vendor approach," Zukin said. "You start to architect such that you can move between the three clouds in a more meaningful way."

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at rmchan@businessinsider.com, Signal at 646.376.6106, Telegram at @rosaliechan, or Twitter DM at @rosaliechan17. (PR pitches by email only, please.) Other types of secure messaging available upon request. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

SEE ALSO: Google Cloud is inviting outside partners to its internal sales kickoff conference for the first time ever

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: A 45-year-long study discovered trends in successful hyper-intelligent children

Watch live: SpaceX is about to blow up a rocket in a crucial test to show NASA that its spaceship ready to launch astronauts

Business Insider SAI - 2 hodiny 3 min zpět

  • SpaceX plans to complete a crucial safety test this weekend to show NASA its Crew Dragon capsule is ready to carry astronauts to space.
  • You can watch the test live on Sunday, January 19 via the embedded video below. Coverage should start about 15 minutes before 10:30 a.m. ET, weather permitting, though SpaceX has until 2 p.m. ET to launch.
  • The aerospace company, founded by Elon Musk, plans to shut off the rocket in mid-flight to simulate an emergency. The rocket is likely to explode afterward.
  • If the test is successful, the Crew Dragon spacecraft (with no people inside) will fly away from danger, deploy its parachutes, and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship is launching again this weekend — likely the capsule's final uncrewed flight before it carries its first astronauts later this year. 

On Sunday morning, the aerospace company plans to conduct a crucial safety demonstration called an in-flight abort test. The goal: demonstrate to NASA that the spacecraft's escape mechanisms that can whisk astronauts away from a failing rocket or other emergency arises during their ascent. NASA requires this demonstration before it will allow SpaceX to fly its astronauts into space.

The mission is now slated to lift off at 10:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, January 19 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. However, SpaceX has until 2 p.m. ET today to wait for the best conditions for launch.

The flight was originally scheduled for Saturday but delayed due to weather.

You can watch the action in real time via the YouTube video player below.

A major milestone for SpaceX and NASA

The goal of the Crew Dragon spaceship is to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

NASA hasn't been able to transport astronauts on its own spaceships since July 2011, when its space shuttle completed its final flight. Since then, the agency has relied exclusively on Russia to ferry its astronauts to and from orbit in Soyuz spacecraft. To develop new American-made spacecraft, NASA launched the Commercial Crew program: a competition between private companies for billions of dollars' worth of government contracts. Of about a dozen entrants, only SpaceX and Boeing passed NASA's muster.

On Saturday, the Crew Dragon will sit atop one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets. After 84 seconds, engineers will intentionally cut the rocket's engines. By that point, it will be traveling so fast (nearly twice the speed of sound) that aerodynamic forces will rip the rocket to pieces. The fuel tanks should rupture, and an explosion will ensue. 

Before that catastrophe, though Crew Dragon is supposed to detach and escape by firing its own engines. If all goes well, the spaceship will get far enough away to stay safe, then deploy built-in parachutes and splash down about 20 miles away from Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean.

"We tried to design a way to save B1046, but not possible," Elon Musk wrote on Twitter, referring to the reusable first-stage rocket booster. He added that it would be "destroyed by dragon fire."

SpaceX's recovery ship, called GO Searcher, will be stationed nearby to retrieve it.

Crew Dragon has been in development since 2012. In March 2019, SpaceX launched it into orbit for the first time, carrying a dummy and a plush toy. Crew Dragon autonomously docked with the space station then later returned safely to Earth.

However, the following month, a Crew Dragon capsule exploded during a ground test — a different NASA safety check on its escape system. The company said the problem was due to an improper valve design, which cause leakage and a catastrophic blast.

The company has worked with NASA to investigate the issue, correct it, and re-perform the test late last year, which was successful.

"We are doing everything we can to make it not happen again," Kathy Lueders, the manager of the agency's program, said during a televised press briefing on Friday.

If the test needs to be postponed again, there is additional launch window set aside on Monday.

If all goes smoothly on Saturday, SpaceX's first crewed launch is expected later this year, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley at the helm.

NASA and SpaceX will provide joint live coverage — watch below

This story has been updated with new information. It was originally published on January 17.

SEE ALSO: SpaceX is about to launch a doomed rocket for NASA — and that's a good thing. Here's what you need to know about Saturday's explosive and crucial in-flight abort test.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Why Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are in an epic feud that's lasted years

Some top Pinterest influencers say they still earn more money on Instagram, where they have vastly fewer followers

Business Insider SAI - 2 hodiny 7 min zpět

  • In an influencer marketing world dominated by Instagram, having a large Pinterest following doesn't guarantee big sponsorship deals. 
  • Some top Pinterest influencers make more money on Instagram where they have much smaller followings, they told Business Insider.
  • We spoke to three influencers with a combined 15 million followers — Keiko Lynn, Erica Chan Coffman, and Jan Halvarson — on how they make money from the social platform.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Keiko Lynn, a personal style and lifestyle blogger, is one of Pinterest's biggest stars and gets more than a million monthly viewers on the platform.

But advertisers care more about reaching her fans on Instagram and her blog, KeikoLynn.com, than the board-based social platform.

"It's usually a secondary ask from brands," Lynn told Business Insider. "I think it's underutilized because I have such a huge amount of eyes on my Pinterest."

When marketers do request sponsored pins, it's often part of a larger package deal, Lynn said. A typical sponsorship package includes one Instagram post, two to three frames on Instagram Stories, a blog post, and a dedicated pin on Pinterest.

Lynn, who's represented by the social influencer marketing agency Digital Brands Architects (DBA), is not alone in struggling to sell Pinterest as a standalone channel.

Pinterest influencers Erica Chan Coffman and Jan Halvarson, who each have millions of followers, said the platform has best served their businesses indirectly through traffic referrals.

"Soon after Pinterest launched, it quickly became obvious that it was the top driver of traffic to my blog," said Coffman, executive editor at HonestlyWTF. Coffman, who has 6.2 million followers on Pinterest, includes sponsored pins in contracts with large brands.

But she says most of her direct income comes from Instagram and her blog. Even though she has nearly 50 times more followers on Pinterest than Instagram, Coffman is able to charge more for Instagram posts and Stories.

"I make most of my income from blog posts and brand partnerships on my blog," she said. "Social media is definitely secondary. The fact that I can keep my traffic numbers high thanks to a lot of traffic drivers like Pinterest is hugely beneficial for my overall business strategy."

Read the full breakdown of how much money these influencers charge for sponsored pins on Business Insider Prime.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns explains why country music is universal

Police robots keep malfunctioning, with mishaps ranging from running over a toddler's foot to ignoring people in distress

Business Insider SAI - 2 hodiny 15 min zpět

  • Security robots are being gradually adopted by some police departments and private companies, but there have been some recent hiccups.
  • The robots are autonomous and are designed to patrol property and respond to perceived threats.
  • Some robots, however, have been thwarted by obstacles like mall fountains, narrow sidewalks, and errant toddlers.
  • Knightscope, one of the most popular companies making security robots, has maintained that the mishaps are outliers.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Police robots are now a reality in some corners of the world — but we're still a far cry from high-octane RoboCops patrolling the streets.

As some police departments and private companies have begun to experiment with security robots built for surveillance, the robots have repeatedly hit obstacles (or, in some cases, fallen into them).

The most prominent security robot maker is Knightscope, which sells a fleet of egg-shaped robots that are already patrolling the streets of Silicon Valley.

Knightscope has more than 50 robots deployed across the US, which it rents out for $7 an hour. The robots cost about $60,000-$70,000 per year to lease, which is comparable to a police officer's annual salary. Knightscope has raised over $46 million in funding, according to Crunchbase.

Knightscope's robots use artificial intelligence, cameras, GPS, lasers, and thermal sensors to monitor their surroundings and report disturbances. The company drew backlash in 2017, when a San Francisco animal rights group deployed Knightscope robots to block homeless people from sleeping outside its headquarters.

Controversy aside, there have been multiple reports of Knightscope robots being incapacitated by obstacles like a mall fountain, malfunctioning by running over a toddler, and ignoring a woman's calls for help.

Knightscope did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story. In the past, the company has maintained that malfunctions like those are outliers, or stemmed from unique circumstances surrounding how private companies were piloting the use of security robots.

Here's a rundown of high-profile security-robot snafus from recent years.

SEE ALSO: AOC is sounding the alarm about the rise of facial recognition: 'This is some real-life "Black Mirror" stuff'

In October 2019, a police robot reportedly ignored a woman who was trying to report an emergency, instead telling her to 'step out of the way.'

The robot was being used by the police department of Huntington, California, and was labeled with "POLICE" on its body.

But when a woman attempted to report a fight that broke out in a public park by pressing the emergency alert button on the front of the robot, it didn't do anything other than tell her to "step out of the way," according to NBC News.



After making several attempts to get the robot to summon police officers to no avail, the Huntington woman dialed 911 on her phone, according to the report.

As the fight in the park wore on, the robot reportedly continued to roll down the sidewalk, playing a whimsical tune from its speakers and intermittently saying, "please keep the park clean."

Huntington's police chief told NBC News that the robot was still being tested by the department at the time, and that its emergency button was calibrated to call Knightscope's headquarters rather than 911.



A security robot rolled into a fountain in a Washington, DC office building in 2017, drowning itself.

Tweet Embed:
//twitter.com/mims/statuses/887025375754166272?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
Our D.C. office building got a security robot. It drowned itself.

We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots. pic.twitter.com/rGLTAWZMjn

The robot, nicknamed "Steve," rolled down some steps into a ground-level fountain, where it tipped over. It's not clear whether it survived the water damage, according to CNBC.



People then created a memorial shrine to Steve the security robot, which was decommissioned after the fountain incident.

Tweet Embed:
//twitter.com/mims/statuses/887662467014434816?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
This is the memorial for Steve the drowned security robot outside our office on his charging pad. The future is weird. pic.twitter.com/Pb7KLay1VO

In an "official statement" posted to Twitter, Knightscope said the robot learned that "humans can take a dip in the water in this heat, but robots cannot."



In 2016, a security robot in a Palo Alto mall knocked down and ran over a toddler, hurting his foot.

The 300-pound robot at the Stanford Shopping Center bowled over a 16-month-old boy that was in its way, then ran over his right foot, according to ABC 7 News.

Knightscope issued a statement calling the incident a "freakish accident" that had never occurred before. The company apologized to the child's family, but said that the robot was trying to avoid the toddler, who "ran backwards directly into the front quarter of the machine."



A San Francisco security robot was "fired" for encroaching on public sidewalks without the city's approval and making human enemies.

The robot, which was being used by the San Francisco SPCA to patrol its parking lot and grounds, garnered a huge wave of public backlash for irritating pedestrians and blocking homeless people from sitting outside the property.

It also earned a rebuke from the city, which warned the SPCA that the robot was encroaching on public sidewalks without a proper permit, according to Mashable. The SPCA ultimately nixed the robot.



A security robot in Mountain View lost a fight with a drunk man, who knocked it over before being arrested by human cops.

The man was accused of drunkenly tipping the security robot over outside Knightscope's campus, according to CNET. A Knightscope spokesperson said at the time that the man appeared intoxicated, and he was later charged with public drunkenness.

While the robot lost the fight, it ultimately survived with just a few scratches.



Some of the people who made an early bet on Google's ambitious attempt to revolutionize video games are losing patience (GOOGL, GOOG)

Business Insider SAI - 2 hodiny 37 min zpět

  • In November 2019, Google finally launched a major gaming platform that was in development for years: Google Stadia.
  • Rather than buying games on a disc, or downloading them from a digital store, Stadia streams games over the internet. The service launched with access limited to customers willing to pay $129 for the "Founder's Edition."
  • The platform's launch was rocky at best, with features missing and a paltry game library. Reviewers told potential buyers to wait and see.
  • Since launch, Google hasn't said much about Stadia — and early adopters are getting impatient with the lack of updates. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Two months ago, Google made its first-ever major push into the multi-billion dollar video game industry with Stadia — a Netflix-like game service that streams games to a variety of devices, no game console required.

Two months later, and Stadia's early adopters are starting to revolt. Look no further than the Stadia subreddit community on Reddit for ample evidence.

"I've lost a lot of the excitement I had for the service," said one user. "I'm not really excited because there simply doesn't seem to be anything to be excited about anymore."

"It feels like it's died already," another user wrote. "For anyone that's been around for a new gaming console coming out, it's crazy for the first year of it coming out, huge lineup of games constantly being thrown out, this feature, that feature all being announced...so much fun! Here I am trying to enjoy and justify the $130 I spent on this and I just can't at this point. We got tricked into being beta testers and it pisses me off."

Meanwhile, Google has gone largely radio-silent, with no word on when promised features or big-ticket exclusive releases will actually start coming to the nascent service.

So, what's going on? Why are Stadia's most diehard, early adopting fans already losing interest?

SEE ALSO: I've been playing games on Google's ambitious new Netflix-like game service for the last week, and it's clear the service isn't ready for primetime

A different kind of console launch.

Google Stadia is not a game console, nor is it a game platform, really — it's a digital storefront run by Google where you can buy individual games.

Right now, in order to access said storefront, you have to pay $130 up front for the Stadia "Premiere" edition. That comes with a Stadia gamepad, a Chromecast Ultra streaming device, and three months of access to Stadia "Pro" — a monthly subscription service that provides free games each month, enables users to stream games at ultra-HD 4K resolution, and offers a few other bells and whistles.

In so many words: The only way to play Stadia games when it launched in November was to spend $130 upfront. That remains the case in mid-January, despite Google's promise that a free version of the service will launch this year.

With most game console launches, you need the game console to play the games. That's what you're buying.

With Stadia, you don't need a box, nor do you need a Chromecast Ultra or Stadia controller. You can play Stadia games on any laptop with the Chrome browser installed, and you can connect whatever gamepad you want. Heck, you could just play with keyboard and mouse if you prefer.

So what are you paying $130 for, other than a few devices you don't need? You're paying for access — access to the Stadia ecosystem, where you then buy each game individually.



Early adopters.

$130 for access to a game store — a game store largely filled with games that are already available on other platforms, sometimes for less money — is a hard sell.

It's an especially hard sell with the kind of folks who buy game consoles at launch: Gamers who own current game consoles; who own many of the games on the launch list; who are distrustful of new entrants into the video game industry.

But tens of thousands of folks jumped in regardless, and the most dedicated of those early adopters can be found on places like Reddit's Stadia subreddit and the official Stadia Discord channel.

These folks represent the most dedicated Stadia users.

They write glowing threads about their first experiences with the service ("I am satisfied with my purchase...my experience has been excellent and I'm excited to see what the future has in store for Stadia."), and about bizarre use cases that demonstrate the promise of game streaming services.

Some are even gaming PC owners who talk about about how surprised they are that streaming games look as good as games that run locally. "I was actually shocked and was sure my games looked better on my PC," they said.

But these folks — who were not only willing to take a chance on a new game service from Google but who participate actively in that service's community — are also starting to get frustrated.

And there's one reason for that: A lack of updates.



Two months after launch, Stadia still has a small game library and is missing many key features.

There's no way to voice chat on Google Stadia — a stock-standard part of the PC, Xbox, and PlayStation online gaming ecosystems, and something that even Nintendo has started to come around to with its Switch console. 

"What's going on there?" one Reddit user wrote in the Stadia subreddit. "How can it be that there is still no chat in Stadia?" Moreover, there's no word on when a voice chat function is coming.

Both Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3, which launched over 10 years ago, had voice chat functionality built in from the start. 

There is no operating system or dashboard on the service, and there's no way to use the Google Stadia controller wirelessly on a computer or with a smartphone — it has to be connected with a wire. If you have an iPhone, Stadia doesn't work there yet, and the same thing goes for most Android phones; the only smartphone supported are Google's Pixel line. Even if you pay for the Pro version of Stadia, which is supposed to stream games in the highest 4K resolution, games played through Chrome don't stream in 4K.

That's before we start talking about promised features of Stadia that differentiate it from the competition, much of which isn't implemented. 

Google said you could watch a YouTube video of a game and, simply by clicking a button in the video, jump right into that game on Stadia. That has yet to materialize, nor is it clear when that's coming.

Thus far, Stadia is digital storefront that sells you games. Many of the platform features that people expect with a game platform are still missing, with no official word on when they'll actually drop.



Since launching in November, Google has said and done very little to update the experience — and it's still missing major features that were announced in March 2019.

"When Stadia launched in November, we delivered a great gaming experience for players, and we continue to work toward our long-term vision for the future of gaming," Google representative Patrick Seybold told Business Insider in a statement. "Stadia is an evolving platform, and we've been busy in the two months since launch adding great content, features and ways to play."

Specifically, Seybold identified six key ways that the service has improved since launch:

  1. More games were added to the library (which stands at 26 titles currently, one of which is exclusive to Stadia).
  2. Updated existing Chromecast Ultra devices so that they were able to run Stadia.
  3. Purchased a game studio.
  4. Added Google Assistant support and game Achievements.
  5. Added Stream Connect in "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint."
  6. Added a second "Buddy Pass" for Stadia users.

He also highlighted four key updates coming to Stadia in the first quarter of this year, including additional Android phone support.

It remains unclear when Stadia will support Apple devices, or when voice chat is coming, or when the free "base" version of the service will launch.

Of note, Google published a large Stadia update to its community blog on Thursday morning, after Business Insider reached out for comment on this story. We had asked for any form of message from Google for the early adopters who picked up Stadia last November — folks who are increasingly asking when Google is going to say something on the Stadia subreddit.



In 2020, Google is promising "more than 120 games" — including more than 10 exclusive games in the first half of the year. But will early adopters stick with it?

Google is promising a much bigger 2020, with "more than 120 games" scheduled to launch this year — over 10 of which are said to be exclusive to Stadia and launching in the first half.

Whether that will be enough to keep early adopters interested, let alone attract new buyers, remains to be seen.

The sentiment from early adopters isn't looking great for Google. For people who bought the Stadia "Founder's Edition" in November, which came with three months of Stadia Pro, there's a question to answer in the near future: Will I keep Stadia Pro after the three months runs out, which costs $10/month?

A discussion of who is and who isn't keeping their Stadia Pro membership paints a grim picture: The majority have already decided to cancel their membership, or are considering cancelling it.

Another thread from a few days ago, titled "Let me be real," says it all:

"For anyone that's been around for a new gaming console coming out, its crazy for the first year of it coming out, huge lineup of games constantly being thrown out, this feature, that feature all being announced...so much fun! Here I am trying to enjoy and justify the $130 I spent on this and I just can't at this point. We got tricked into being beta testers and it pisses me off."



Buzzy mattress maker Casper is pitching itself as a tech company, just like WeWork did. Here why business experts are dubious. (AAPL, FIT)

Business Insider SAI - 3 hodiny 22 min zpět

  • Online mattress company Casper tried to pitch itself as a tech company in its recently filed initial public offering paperwork.
  • Private investors have given it a tech-like premium, valuing it at $1.1 billion.
  • Public investors may well have a different take on the company, especially since it acknowledged in its IPO document that a "significant" portion of its business still comes from selling mattresses.
  • While it believes that technology products will spur its future growth, thus far, it only offers one tech gadget — a smart lamp.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Casper's initial public offering paperwork had a familiar ring to it.

Yet again a company that, on its face would seem to have little in common with Google, Apple, or Microsoft, was trying to present itself as a tech company. Following in the footsteps of WeWork and Peloton, the online mattress company, in the paperwork it filed last week, mentioned "technology" or "technologies" dozens of times — more times than even WeWork did.

But business experts who spoke with Business Insider aren't buying it. And they doubt whether Wall Street investors will either.

"This is not really a tech company," said Phillip Braun, a finance professor at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. "It should be valued analogous to other mattress providers."

As Braun suggested, the importance is more than just semantic. Investors tend to pay a premium in terms of price-to-earnings or price-to-sales for technology companies, figuring they'll grow faster and eventually be more profitable than comparably sized non-tech peers. They also have often been more tolerant of losses by tech companies, particularly younger ones, than they have of red ink from other firms.

Casper does have some tech under its roof

At least in the private markets, Casper has convinced investors that it's more akin to a tech company than a plain old mattress maker. Its price-to-sales ratio, based on the $1.1 billion valuation it achieved last year, is at 2.7. By contrast, public mattress vendors Tempur-Sealy, Sleep Number, and Purple collectively trade at about 0.8 times their revenue.

Private investors have also accommodated Casper's losses while it has focused on growth. It lost $65 million in the first three quarters of last year, or about 21 cents for every $1 of revenue it took in. Its cash outflow during that period was even worse; its operations and investments in property and equipment burned through about $73 million.

In its public offering document, Casper tried to make the case that it was worth such a premium. And to be sure, Casper's tech story is not a complete mirage. The company has had three patents issued in the US and has another six pending, it said. It's got a "large" team devoted to digital products and engineering that's building out desktop and mobile apps, it said.

It has an in-house group that analyzes data collected from its website and physical stores to inform its pricing strategy and its efforts to improve existing products and develop new ones. It's developing "sleep technologies," including, potentially, a gadget that would track wearers sleep patterns. It's already released a smart lamp; owners can schedule it to wake them up at particular times using a smartphone app.

New technologies will be a key part of its future growth, the company said in its IPO filing. In a chart depicting the various "sleep economy" markets within its reach, Casper list a variety of gadgets from sleep tracking bracelets to medical devices.

"We believe that well-designed sleep technology can significantly improve sleep quality and behaviors," Casper said in the document. "We aspire to develop new sleep technologies ... such as products that address the environmental factors of light, sound, touch, and scent."

But there's little evidence Casper is a real tech company today

While Casper may be particularly savvy in its use of technology and may have a bunch of tech products in the works, there's little evidence right now it actually should be considered a tech company.

In its IPO paperwork, the company didn't break out its sales by product, so it's not clear exactly how much of its revenue comes from selling things other than mattresses. But Casper acknowledged in the document that the mattress business is still a big part of its operations.

"While we have expanded and continue to expand our product and services offerings, a significant portion of our business consists primarily of designing and distributing our mattress products," the company said in the filing.

It would be hard to believe that technology products in particular account for anything more than a small fraction of Casper's sales. The company only started selling its Glow Light smart lamp — its only real tech product to date — last year. The lamps cost around $130 each, a small fraction of what Casper charges for its mattresses. In other words, the company would have to sell multiple lamps to bring in the same amount of revenue as selling just one of its more basic mattresses.

"I can't call this a tech," said Dan Morgan, a senior portfolio manager at Synovus Trust and a longtime tech investor.

As for Casper's aspiration to become a leader in sleep technologies, there's a big question about whether it will be able to meet that goal. Numerous bona fide tech companies are developing or have already released products in that space.

Fitbit's smart watches include sleep tracking technology. Electronics maker Withings has a sleep tracking mat. And Apple has long been rumored to be working on adding a sleep tracking app to the Apple Watch.

Casper seems to want to become the Apple of the sleep industry, said Robert Hendershott, an associate finance professor at Santa Clara University's Leavey School of Business.

"But you know, Apple wants to be the Apple of sleep, and I think they're much better positioned to do that," Hendershott said.

Got a tip about Casper or another startup? Contact this reporter via email at twolverton@businessinsider.com, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

SEE ALSO: WeWork wants investors to think of it as a tech company. These 5 slides illustrate how its numbers tell a different story.

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I cuddled with strangers at a San Francisco cuddle party alongside other members of the city's intimacy-starved workforce. No, it wasn't that weird.

Business Insider SAI - 3 hodiny 22 min zpět

  • Cuddle parties are intimate gatherings where strangers meet, practice consent, and enjoy human touch.
  • There are some hosted in San Francisco, a city with a long track record of bucking social norms and celebrating innovation — in technology, sex, intimacy, or otherwise.
  • The events are non-sexual, and while they may not be experiences for everyone, their message of proactive consent and communication can help build healthy relationships, trust, and confidence.
  • I decided to go to a cuddle party out of keen curiosity. I found that intimacy takes many forms, but I prefer the kind that exists when established emotional connections, romantic or otherwise, are in place.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

I'm lying with my leg draped over a fellow cuddler, my head resting on the collar of his shirt and his arm wrapped around me with his hand stroking my hair. There's another cuddler, a woman who, like me, had never been to a cuddle party, on his opposite side in the exact same position as me. Her face is inches from mine across from our male companion's chest.

I feel his foot move toward mine. "Is it okay if I run my foot over yours?"

"Yep," I said.

There were about seven clusters of platonic cuddlers in the space. Some were forming "spoon drawers," where multiple people curl around each other in one direction. Some were forming puppy piles. Others laid down with their body nested in another whose body was nested in another and so on, as a chain, in a so-called human train. Consent is the focal point of these cuddle parties, which are explicitly non-sexual. Before you lay a hand on a fellow attendee, you must ask them if it's alright. Around us, murmurs of "Can I put my hand on your shoulder?" "Can I rub your back?" and "Can I touch your face?" could be heard. Soft music, like Bob Marley's "One Love" and John Mayer's "Gravity," played. 

I had met the people with whom I was now snuggling about two hours beforehand. And they were there for the same reason that we all were: human touch.  

SEE ALSO: I moved from the Texas suburbs to the biggest tech hub in America. Here are the 11 things that surprised me most.

Are you lonely? Let's cuddle

The modern cuddle party concept and movement as we know it kicked off in 2004 out of a New York City apartment. Sixteen years later and there's the largest organization of its kind, Cuddle Party, with so-called cuddle party facilitators (like my party's, the jovial, bearded San Francisco-based sex educator, consultant, and professional cuddler Dr. Yoni Alkan) worldwide that host groups of strangers in need of intimacy and platonic human touch, among other areas of practice and focus. There are some in Dallas, New York City, and beyond the US in Ireland and Sweden.

The concept of non-sexual, stranger-with-stranger cuddling has steadily seeped into other areas of the 21st-century job market. Professional cuddlers trained through certification programs like Cuddlist sprang into being, with some charging $60 to $80 for a one-on-one cuddle session. Cuddle shops opened, like Cuddle Up To Me in Portland, Oregon, and the smaller, Los Angeles-based Cuddle Sanctuary.

These gatherings are places to get high for a little bit on some oxytocin, a hormone that, in part, acts as a bonding agent for humans as well as an "antidote to depressive feelings," according to Psychology Today.

It's a "happy" chemical released through human touch, among other activities, that counteracts cortisol, a hormone that, in addition to other roles, is known as the "stress hormone." That hormone is part of the reason why there were 30 strangers, myself included, filed into a cozy San Francisco building for a cuddle party in the first place. Stress is something we were all too familiar with.

Humans are living increasingly fast-paced lives with little work-life balance — especially in the work hard/play hard tech industry of Silicon Valley. We're married to our electronic devices, and, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center study, are waiting longer to find partners or start families, if at all — a valid decision but one that can mean a lack of physical intimacy with a significant other. A 2019 US News and World Report survey ranked San Francisco as one of the best places for singles to live in the country, referencing the 52% of its population that is without a partner.

"We live in these little boxes and we're disconnected and our groceries can be delivered — our everything can be delivered — [when] we press a button," Dr. O. Christina Nelsen, a sexologist and psychologist and the CEO and founder of San Francisco Intimacy and Sex Therapy Centers, told me. "So there are a lot of people that don't have that daily connection through touch or even eye-gazing."

In a city, and society, where people are more digitally connected than ever, there can be a true lack of human connection. While loneliness hasn't been identified as a mental health condition, studies have shown a link between loneliness and a higher risk of early death, cardiovascular issues, and poor mental health, among other conditions. 

Lonely people of the world may unite at cuddle parties, but their inclusion in the San Francisco Bay Area market specifically could be categorized as part of a larger trend in the city: organized intimacy, as Vice's Andrew Chamings wrote in March 2019. There are eye contact parties, which one writer described as being "more intimate than an orgy," $35-$60 tantra speed dating sessions for singles, and then, of course, actual sex parties. Cuddle parties are much more G-rated than many of such events you'll find in the city, but either way, San Francisco is the perfect place for them.



Cuddle parties are nothing new in San Francisco

The city has long possessed a proclivity for embracing innovation, for technology or intimacy or otherwise. Counterculture is a mainstay in San Francisco — that was true in the city's hippie-era 60s heyday and it's true in today's predominantly experimental, biohacking tech environment. San Francisco's Haight Ashbury district became the birthplace for the bohemian movement that would sweep the nation. The neighborhood was where thousands flocked for the Summer of Love that helped shape the city's social norms and defining traits of sexual liberation and letting it all hang out.

So cuddle parties may be experiencing a 21st-century reawakening, but Nelsen, the psychologist and sexologist, said they're nothing new.

"I see this as probably a really positive way that people are exploring ways to get their needs met, but also that it's a continuation that's been happening for decades," she said.

The city's long-standing reputation for, and openness to, experimentation may be to thank for its burgeoning market for previously taboo concepts like cuddling with strangers. But Nelsen said a need for connection obviously isn't unique to San Franciscans.

"I think it's easy to look at it like, 'Oh, well it's more liberal, it's different and wild, San Francisco having cuddle parties and all that," Nelsen, a San Francisco resident of 25 years, said. But, she said, humans in various cultures across the world have rituals that breed connection, community, and a space where core needs are met. These gatherings are just another example of that.

"We have a biological need and a psychological need for connection and for touch," Nelsen said. "And we live in such a disjointed culture these days, and a lot of people don't have that."

In such a lonely, disjointed world, intimacy has become a commodity that can be packaged and sold, in this case on a Saturday afternoon in a San Francisco building for $35.



'Spoon drawer' anyone?

Alkan, the facilitator of the party I attended, has been hosting these non-sexual cuddle parties for three years now. He's the only San Francisco party facilitator for the Cuddle Party organization and the events can be difficult to get into, Alkan told me on a video call days after the cuddle party. They typically sell out a month in advance due to popularity, but space and San Francisco's high rent costs are also two big factors.

"When people charge you the amount of money that you are about to make from the event, it makes it very difficult to find a venue," Alkan later told me.

I booked mine a month and a half beforehand. I showed up donned in loungewear to the secret "Cuddle Castle" 10 minutes before showtime, sober (attendees are told to not consume alcohol beforehand), and I was the first one there. Alkan gave me a warm greeting and instructed me where to put my shoes. The restroom was down the hall, and there's the guacamole, with the name tags beside it, he said. We'll begin as soon as everyone shows up.

And show up people eventually did. About 20 to 30 of us were crammed into the warm, lit space. There were blankets sprawled everywhere, with pillows in every crevice of the room. Inflatable beds and couches were placed among the more typical-looking living room furniture. 

We lounged around the room, with tags stuck to the front of our shirts indicating our names and our pronouns. Mine read "Katie, she/her." There was a tangible tentativeness in the room — some were repeat party goers, already cuddling as we waited for Alkan to take the stage. Others, like me, had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

I immediately fired up a conversation of pleasant small talk with the attendee who I would later cuddle with. This was her first time, she said. She was curious about what it was like. Another woman, a free spirit with flowing tendrils of dirty blonde hair, had met a friend at a separate mindfulness-related event who suggested she try a cuddle party. She was clearly in her element.

Later, after Alkan introduced himself and announced that a full refund would be given to anyone who decided in the next couple of hours that this wasn't their cup of tea, we began taking turns going around introducing ourselves and saying why we were there. Some participants were part-time professional cuddlers, booking one-on-one sessions with clients on top of their "day job." Some were what they called "bodyworkers," some held IT jobs, some were mindfulness therapists, and some were from out of town.

And everyone had their own reason for being there. Some were lonely, some wanted to learn more about consent ("a muscle," Alkan said, that can never be too strong), and some just wanted touch. One woman said she liked cuddle parties because they could recharge your batteries. Others said they usually got their cuddling fix from casual dates they matched with on dating apps, but they wanted to try the cuddling aspect without the disappointing sex that usually preceded it.

One young woman, who I later decided was quite possibly the bravest of the bunch, tearfully explained that she had recently gotten out of a serious relationship and was adapting to the crushing new lack of human contact in her life. She was there to take the edge off.

The first portion of the four-hour event was very much like a workshop, with breakout group sessions and the like. First, Alkan launched into explaining the 11 rules of the cuddle party. Rule No. 1: pajamas stay on. Alkan made it very clear that being attracted to or aroused by other attendees was normal and not something to be ashamed of. "It's how our bodies work," he said. But he did stress that this was a non-sexual event and to remember that. Even in the disclaimer at the time that I bought the online ticket, it was spelled out that if sex was desired, people should leave the premises after the fact if they wish to engage.

"We all have a hard time asking for what we want," Alkan said.

Other rules were that "yes" and "no" should be heartily exercised when you're discussing with a fellow cuddler what you want. Do you want them to put their hand on your shoulder? And more specifically, do you want them to massage it or squeeze it? He and his assistant demonstrated how to properly ask someone to touch them: Ask, and then wait for an answer before reaching your hand toward the intended spot on your fellow cuddler's person.

Another rule was that changing your mind is encouraged. If you say yes to something but decide halfway through that you don't like it after all, voice that to your cuddle partners.

Perhaps the one I found most interesting was that as important as it was to say no to what you didn't want, Alkan stressed that it was just as critical a focus to practice saying yes to — and also asking for — what you did want. As humans, we've evolved into an independent-minded society, one where seeming needy is feared. "We all have a hard time asking for what we want," Alkan later told me, whether that's touch or asking for a raise at work. 

Then came the exercises. One was grouping into threes and practicing saying yes or no, regardless of what the question was. For example, two of us aimed rapid-fire made-up questions, like "Will you go to the zoo with me?" or "Will you cut my hair?" at the third person, and that person had to practice saying no to every question. Then we'd switch.

The idea was to familiarize yourself with the concept of saying no to something, even if the question was ludicrous and out-of-place, so that you could more easily and firmly answer "no" truthfully in the future to something you don't want to do. 

Part of these exercises was also to practice being rejected. "We're adults, we can take care of ourselves," Alkan said in regard to handling rejection. He later told me that as a cisgender, heterosexual, white man, that's one of the biggest lessons he's wanted to teach through the gatherings that he facilitates: that it is possible to possess a type of masculinity that isn't diminished by vulnerability or the grace with which to handle a rejection, though of course, that skill can apply to everyone regardless of gender.

Once the rules were spelled out and the workshop was complete, we jumped into the first step of cuddling: We hugged.

Alkan instructed us to stand and walk around the room, asking one another for a hug before embracing for as long as we'd like. I couldn't remember the last time I stood with my arms wrapped around someone and vice versa for more than 20 seconds. You could feel how equally foreign and pleasant it was, a bunch of strangers in a room hugging while the rest of the world went about its business.

I eventually grouped up with two others and we started out slow and simple — sitting in a row against the wall atop pillows, all holding hands with our legs stretched out and crossed in front of us, chatting. We transitioned into laying down, with the male in our group on his back and us two women draped over either side of him.



A Band-Aid for loneliness, but a boon for consent

I lay there, eventually sinking into a cocoon of relief. There undoubtedly was a sense of fulfillment that I don't typically find outside of this kind of physical intimacy. But I couldn't let my feet leave the ground completely. However nice his arm felt, with his hand running through my hair, I knew there was something missing.

Attendees were encouraged to make cuddle bonds with each other and then separate to form new ones with others. Eventually the male cuddler who held me so gently announced he was moving on to find new cuddlers, thanked me for the touch, and joined another group. It made me wonder: Is intimacy something you can find with a stranger or do you only feel the true breadth of it with actual emotional bonds in place? My first instinct was that I agreed with the latter. It was a tough pill to swallow that we all were magically being cured of our loneliness there. It felt more like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.

But Nelsen told me that that conclusion was a product of my own personal need when it pertains to intimacy and physical touch. For others like me that were, even subconsciously, yearning for a more heartfelt, established connection, cuddling with strangers was not going to meet the same level of need as being with somebody that you have a close bond with. But for certain people, that stranger-with-stranger cuddling can fit their needs perfectly. She said it was still genuine intimacy and, either way, your body reacts the same way physiologically and neurophysiologically.

"It makes sense that we're, in some pockets, creating opportunities then to have connection," Nelsen said. "Even if it's not the type of connection you have with an intimate that you have an ongoing relationship with, it's still going to meet a lot of those same in-the-moment needs, at least."

A few days after the cuddle party, I spoke again with Alkan. He was honest when he, too, pointed out that cuddle parties were not a magic pill to cure loneliness and that it's not a substitute for an intimate relationship, sexual or not, with a person you see often and have a personal rapport with. But on the other hand, experiencing touch with a stranger is a different brand of excitement than intimacy with an established partner might be. And besides, he said, that's not the entire purpose of these intimacy events. The purpose of these cuddle parties is multifaceted, about consent and intimacy and comfort and so many other things, despite my own personal motives or preconceived notions. People, in San Francisco and outside of it, attend for various reasons. 

As much as touch is missing in our lives, Alkan said consent is a practice that is even more sorely needed, which cuddle parties can address. Internalized gender roles and associated shame are issues that can be ironed out. And, as we practiced in the workshop portion of the party, cuddle parties can also help foster better communication for participants when asking for what they do or don't want.

"The more we practice it, the better we get," Alkan later told me.

It took me a while to feel comfortable enough practicing it, at least when it came to asking for things beyond simply laying down together. While lying in my tame cuddling position at one moment, I could see and hear in my periphery the more experienced cuddlers giggling and experimenting with how to contort their bodies together on the sofa, the inflatable bed, the pallet of blankets on the floor. If this was a swimming class, I was the one wearing floaties and they were diving off the platform into the deep end.

By the end of the party though, it had become a bit more second-nature. I was eventually the second spoon in a four-person "spoon drawer," with two male cuddlers on either side of me. If I wanted to stroke their neck or shoulder, I asked and they said yes before I moved my hand to do so. If one of them wanted to rub my side, they asked and waited for my consent before moving their hand to my hip.

At the end, Alkan gave us an end-of-party spiel. It included how we were essentially high off of oxytocin, and if we were driving home, to be very, very careful while doing so. And I could definitely vouch for that — I felt lighter, my head was fuzzy, my muscles relaxed, and residual stress from the week and even months beforehand had dissipated. A part of me was fulfilled, thanks to the hours-long snuggling — the fact that it felt half empty instead of half full was my own personal problem.

We stood in a circle holding hands while Alkan "signed us off." And then it was over.

I gave hugs to the people that I'd talked to, the strangers who I now felt were my friends. I hugged Alkan, after asking if it was alright that I do so, and he genuinely squeezed me back. "I'm glad you could be here," he told me.

I left the warmly lit, cozy space and stepped out into the cold, dark night. The windows of apartments nearby were wide open, and I could see friends and families and loved ones laughing and eating and connecting with one another, free of charge.

I waited for my Uber, went home, and climbed into bed, hyper-aware of the absence of an arm around my shoulder.



SpaceX is launching a doomed rocket for NASA — and that's a good thing. Here's what you need to know about the company's explosive in-flight abort test.

Business Insider SAI - 4 hodiny 49 min zpět

  • SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday morning — and cause the rocket to fail 84 seconds into flight and explode shortly thereafter.
  • The goal of the mission is to show that a new spaceship called Crew Dragon can safely escape from a rocket that's not working correctly.
  • The in-flight abort test is a penultimate step toward SpaceX launching its first human passengers into space: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
  • If the flight is successful, SpaceX should launch Behnken and Hurley this year.
  • Click here to read more BI Prime stories.

SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, is about to do the unthinkable.

On Sunday morning, the company plans to launch a doomed Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with a brand-new spaceship for NASA, called Crew Dragon, perched on top.

The 230-foot-tall vehicle is expected to heave itself off the ground between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. ET, but then suddenly shut down its engines about 84 seconds into flight. At that point, the Falcon 9 will be traveling nearly twice the speed of sound some 13 miles above Earth's surface. 

What comes next for the rocket will be catastrophic. Within seconds of cutting its engines, aerodynamic forces will throttle the uncontrolled, tube-shaped body and rip it to pieces. Inside, huge tanks full of liquid oxygen and RP-1 kerosene propellant will rip open — so a large explosion and fireball is almost a given.

But if all goes according to plan, the Crew Dragon will escape to safety moments after the failure begins. 

Such a scenario is one of an astronaut's worst nightmares, but NASA is excited to get on with the flight. That's because the spectacle is part of a highly orchestrated, human-free, and strenuous test of the Crew Dragon's launch escape or abort system. 

If the empty spaceship flies away to safety and splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean, as planned, SpaceX will be a penultimate step closer to launching astronauts — its first-ever human passengers — who are part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

"We are purposely failing a launch vehicle to make sure that our abort system on the spacecraft that we'll be flying for our crews works," Kathy Lueders, the manager of the agency's program, said during a televised press briefing on Friday. "This is a very important test."

'Way past ready for this to happen'

More than the safety of SpaceX's launch system for astronauts is riding on the in-flight abort test. In fact, NASA's ability to launch astronauts from American soil at all partly depends on it.

In July 2011, NASA retired its space shuttle fleet without a new American ship to get astronauts to and from orbit from the International Space Station — a $150 billion, football field-size laboratory that orbits Earth. Since that time, the agency has had no practical choice but to buy tickets aboard Russia's Soyuz spacecraft for astronauts, to the tune of about $80 million per seat today.

The first crewed flights of NASA's commercial program were supposed to start taking off around 2015. But neither SpaceX nor Boeing, which is also part of the agency's program, have not yet completed rigorous mandatory testing required to launch astronauts.

"Most of us are just way past ready for this to happen. It has taken a lot longer than anybody thought," Wayne Hale, an aerospace engineering consultant and retired NASA space shuttle program manager, told Business Insider. "This year we really need to do it. It really needs to be done."

Saturday's test is the next-to-last step toward that goal, which is why it's so crucial that everything go right.

"The number-one most important thing is we launch them safely," Benji Reed, SpaceX's director of crew mission management, said during NASA's briefing at Kennedy Space Center on Friday.

Hale said that "everybody hopes at this stage that success is the outcome." But he added that in-flight abort tests are not only rare — only a handful of them have been done since the Apollo moon program in the 1960s — but also "a very difficult situation" where "many things can go wrong."

SpaceX has had trouble with its parachutes, for example, though Hale noted that tweaking and testing has apparently resolved those difficulties. Meanwhile, Boeing also saw a parachute deployment hiccup with its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft due to an incorrect rigging. A clock error on the Starliner also caused Boeing's first uncrewed launch of the vehicle toward the space station to veer wildly off-course.

A rocket mission designed to fail — then to fall

Benji said the Crew Dragon is pre-programmed to detach itself from the Falcon 9 rocket "at the right point in time" if anything goes wrong.

"We're looking for anything that's off-nominal," he told Business Insider.

In the case of Sunday's test, the rocket will shut down while the vehicle is moving through extreme, though not maximum, forces in the atmosphere — what Lueders described as "a stressing test" for the entire system, and one that SpaceX ultimately chose over less trying and expensive ones.

"Getting this test behind us is a huge milestone," she said. (The launch was originally scheduled for Saturday, but NASA and SpaceX delayed it due to worsening weather conditions.)

Shortly after detaching from the rocket on Saturday, Reed said Crew Dragon should fire its SuperDraco escape engines for about 10 seconds. That should be enough to put many miles between the doomed rocket and the spaceship.

"We expect there to be some sort of ignition, and probably a fireball of some kind. Whether I would call it an explosion that you would see from the ground? I don't know," Reed said of the rocket. "We'll have to see what actually happens."

As the rocket breaks up, Crew Dragon will coast to an altitude of about 25 miles, shed its aerodynamic "trunk" (which serves as dead weight), and begin to fall toward Earth, according to a SpaceX animation on YouTube (below). The plummeting capsule will then use clusters of small rocket engines, called reaction-control thrusters, to right itself at high speed. The goal is to keep the gumdrop-shaped base facing down — and its parachute pods pointed up.

About 4 minutes and 30 seconds after launch, two small drogue shoots will pop out of the capsule's top to stabilize its fall. Four enormous main parachutes will deploy about a minute later and dramatically slow down the vehicle. A little while later — about nine minutes total into the mission — the Crew Dragon is supposed to splash down about 20 miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean, where SpaceX recovery crews on boats should be ready and waiting to recover it.

SpaceX and NASA will then review all of the data they collect from the safety test and see if it matches their predictive computer models. That process could take months, and smaller tests may be required afterward.

Assuming the abort test is a success, SpaceX will be poised to fly its first-ever humans — NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley — on a demonstration mission called Demo-2. (In March 2019, the company launched an uncrewed Crew Dragon to the space station and back on a mission called Demo-1.)

"The main objective of this test is to show that we can carry the astronauts safely away from the rocket in case anything's going wrong," Reed said.

This story has been updated with new information. It was originally published on January 17, 2019.

SEE ALSO: 2020 will be a groundbreaking year in space. Here are the biggest upcoming rocket missions, meteor showers, eclipses, and more.

DON'T MISS: Elon Musk keeps traveling to Texas to work on SpaceX's new Starship rocket. A local thinks the CEO now uses a historic home as a crash pad — take a look inside.

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Samsung is among the most inventive companies in the world after topping a US patent list

Business Insider SAI - 6 hodin 51 min zpět

  • Samsung is among the most inventive companies in the world after topping a US patent list compiled by data journalism site Sqoop.
  • The study ranked companies on three metrics: number of utility patent grants applied for; number of utility patent applications granted; and number of design patents published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Samsung topped all three, and IBM was ranked second.
  • Speaking to Business Insider about the study, Sqoop's founder and CEO, Bill Hankes, said it is "staggering" how many patents Samsung and IBM are applying for and being granted.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Samsung has topped a US patent list compiled by data journalism company Sqoop, one metric to indicate its intellectual property dominance.

Sqoop measured companies on three metrics: number of utility patents applied for; number of utility patent applications granted; and number of design patents received, as recorded by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Korean tech giant Samsung was top of all three lists, with US tech giant IBM ranked in second place for number of utility patent applications granted and number of utility patents applied for.

The study's methodology combined subsidiary firms under their parent firm, treating them as single entities.

In 2019, Samsung was granted 9,413 utility patents; made 8,668 utility patent applications; and received 605 design patents, while IBM was granted 9,190 utility patents and made 8,292 utility patent applications.

Speaking to Business Insider about the study's findings, Sqoop's founder and CEO, Bill Hankes, said: "I think it's very interesting when you look at IBM and Samsung in particular, [to see] how many more patents they have in their portfolios on an annual basis than, say, LG, Canon, Microsoft and the rest.

"When you look at it on a weekly basis, it's staggering how many patents [Samsung and IBM] applying for and that they're granted," Hankes continued. "It speaks to the value that they place on their patent portfolios.

"If you take a look at the increase in patent applications, in particular, as well as [the number of] design patents [they received], it suggests these companies – not just Samsung and IBM, but other technology and automotive companies – are investing even greater amounts of resources in shoring up their portfolios."

Meanwhile, none of the so-called big four companies – Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon – ranked especially highly.

On the list for number of design patents received, only Apple made the top ten, placing in fourth; while on the list for number of utility patents granted, only Google/Alphabet made the top ten, placing in ninth. None of the big four made the top ten for number of utility patent applications made.

Asked about the relatively low rankings of Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, Hankes said people should remember IBM's and Samsung's status as older tech giants. Samsung was founded before the outbreak of World War Two, while IBM is over a century old. Accordingly, he said, the big four would ramp up their inventiveness over time.

Hankes said: "When you think of IBM, it doesn't have the sex appeal that companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon have, and yet, its value by the patent portfolio would suggest its got very high value. [Samsung and IBM] are also hardware companies, and they're much older companies.

"Facebook, in particular, has moved up steadily over the past few years; Amazon has as well. I think you'll see more investment in patents from these companies moving forward."

SEE ALSO: Samsung has unveiled a dog-like robot called Ballie that follows its owner to act as a personal photographer and maid

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AI 101: How learning computers are becoming smarter

Business Insider SAI - So, 2020-01-18 23:01

Many companies use the term artificial intelligence, or AI, as a way to generate excitement for their products and to present themselves as on the cutting edge of tech development.

But what exactly is artificial intelligence? What does it involve? And how will it help the development of future generations?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in AI 101, a brand new FREE report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, that describes how AI works and looks at its present and potential future applications.

To get your copy of the FREE slide deck, simply click here.

Join the conversation about this story »

AI 101: How learning computers are becoming smarter

Business Insider SAI - So, 2020-01-18 23:01

Many companies use the term artificial intelligence, or AI, as a way to generate excitement for their products and to present themselves as on the cutting edge of tech development.

But what exactly is artificial intelligence? What does it involve? And how will it help the development of future generations?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in AI 101, a brand new FREE report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, that describes how AI works and looks at its present and potential future applications.

To get your copy of the FREE slide deck, simply click here.

Join the conversation about this story »

AI 101: How learning computers are becoming smarter

Business Insider SAI - So, 2020-01-18 23:01

Many companies use the term artificial intelligence, or AI, as a way to generate excitement for their products and to present themselves as on the cutting edge of tech development.

But what exactly is artificial intelligence? What does it involve? And how will it help the development of future generations?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in AI 101, a brand new FREE report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, that describes how AI works and looks at its present and potential future applications.

To get your copy of the FREE slide deck, simply click here.

Join the conversation about this story »

AI 101: How learning computers are becoming smarter

Business Insider SAI - So, 2020-01-18 23:01

Many companies use the term artificial intelligence, or AI, as a way to generate excitement for their products and to present themselves as on the cutting edge of tech development.

But what exactly is artificial intelligence? What does it involve? And how will it help the development of future generations?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in AI 101, a brand new FREE report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, that describes how AI works and looks at its present and potential future applications.

To get your copy of the FREE slide deck, simply click here.

Join the conversation about this story »

AI 101: How learning computers are becoming smarter

Business Insider SAI - So, 2020-01-18 23:01

Many companies use the term artificial intelligence, or AI, as a way to generate excitement for their products and to present themselves as on the cutting edge of tech development.

But what exactly is artificial intelligence? What does it involve? And how will it help the development of future generations?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in AI 101, a brand new FREE report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, that describes how AI works and looks at its present and potential future applications.

To get your copy of the FREE slide deck, simply click here.

Join the conversation about this story »

AI 101: How learning computers are becoming smarter

Business Insider SAI - So, 2020-01-18 23:01

Many companies use the term artificial intelligence, or AI, as a way to generate excitement for their products and to present themselves as on the cutting edge of tech development.

But what exactly is artificial intelligence? What does it involve? And how will it help the development of future generations?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in AI 101, a brand new FREE report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, that describes how AI works and looks at its present and potential future applications.

To get your copy of the FREE slide deck, simply click here.

Join the conversation about this story »

AI 101: How learning computers are becoming smarter

Business Insider SAI - So, 2020-01-18 23:01

Many companies use the term artificial intelligence, or AI, as a way to generate excitement for their products and to present themselves as on the cutting edge of tech development.

But what exactly is artificial intelligence? What does it involve? And how will it help the development of future generations?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in AI 101, a brand new FREE report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, that describes how AI works and looks at its present and potential future applications.

To get your copy of the FREE slide deck, simply click here.

Join the conversation about this story »

AI 101: How learning computers are becoming smarter

Business Insider SAI - So, 2020-01-18 23:01

Many companies use the term artificial intelligence, or AI, as a way to generate excitement for their products and to present themselves as on the cutting edge of tech development.

But what exactly is artificial intelligence? What does it involve? And how will it help the development of future generations?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in AI 101, a brand new FREE report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, that describes how AI works and looks at its present and potential future applications.

To get your copy of the FREE slide deck, simply click here.

Join the conversation about this story »

AI 101: How learning computers are becoming smarter

Business Insider SAI - So, 2020-01-18 23:01

Many companies use the term artificial intelligence, or AI, as a way to generate excitement for their products and to present themselves as on the cutting edge of tech development.

But what exactly is artificial intelligence? What does it involve? And how will it help the development of future generations?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in AI 101, a brand new FREE report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, that describes how AI works and looks at its present and potential future applications.

To get your copy of the FREE slide deck, simply click here.

Join the conversation about this story »

Scientists found a new way to get 'forever chemicals' linked to cancer out of our water. They're in the bloodstreams of 99% of Americans.

Business Insider SAI - So, 2020-01-18 20:57

More than 70 years ago, a group of chemicals known as PFAS promised to make people's lives easier and more efficient. The category of chemicals — whose full name is per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — was developed in the 1940s to resist heat, grease, stains, and water. That made them ideal coatings for food packaging, paper plates, and cookware. 

They were also used as firefighting foam for military training exercises and emergency responses starting in the 1970s.

But since then, scientists have uncovered links between PFAS and cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease, and developmental issues.

Today, the chemicals are in the bloodstreams of 99% of Americans, The Intercept reported. They've been found at more than 700 sites across 49 US states, according to EWG.

PFAS can linger in water and air for thousands of years, so consuming or inhaling them means they could stay in the body for life — hence their nickname, "forever chemicals."

But a group of researchers at Clarkson University in New York is developing a way to destroy PFAS in water. Together with the US Air Force, the team is using machines called plasma reactors to sever the chemicals' carbon-fluorine bonds — the same bonds that make them virtually indestructible in the environment. 

The technology applies only to PFAS in groundwater. (The researchers are working on a separate project to remove PFAS from soil.) But it could eventually be cheaper than the current water-filtration process.

Scientists are splitting PFAS molecules apart

The Air Force began using a new firefighting foam that doesn't contain PFAS in July 2018, but it still has to contend with the legacy of the old one. The chemicals have gotten into the groundwater at numerous Air Force bases across the US, forcing the military to spend more than $2.2 billion to clean up PFAS-contaminated sites, according to a report on the Environmental Protection Agency's website. 

That's why the Air Force is looking for a cheaper way to clean contaminated water.

To test their technology, the Clarkson researchers built a 20-foot-long mobile trailer that holds two plasma reactors. For two weeks in September, they pumped PFAS-contaminated groundwater from the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio into the reactors.

Argon gas at the bottom of the reactors carries the PFAS molecules to the surface. The researchers then use high-voltage electrodes to generate plasma, an ionized gas made of free-roaming electrons and positive ions. 

The plasma zaps the water's surface, where it spreads across like fire, hitting the PFAS molecules and splitting them apart. Once the carbon and fluorine molecules have been separated, the PFAS compound is effectively destroyed. 

Selma Mededovic, the principal researcher overseeing the project, said treating a single gallon of water this way takes one minute.

That's far slower than one of the standard methods for removing PFAS: adding carbon to contaminated water. With that approach, the chemicals stick to carbon, allowing clean water to be filtered out. Hundreds of gallons of water per minute can be treated this way, but Mededovic said the spent carbon needed to be incinerated afterward.

That incineration process costs about $3 to $4 per gallon of contaminated water, she said. Her plasma method, by contrast, is at least 40% cheaper (though the estimate does not include the cost of the reactors).

Mededovic said she would have a better sense of how much the reactors cost once the first commercial prototype is built. She expects it to be operational by the end of this year.  

In the meantime, her team is ramping up the technology to treat 15 gallons of contaminated water per minute. Eventually, they hope to treat about 200 gallons per minute.  

"We are working on scaling up our process to be competitive to carbon," Mededovic said. 

The EPA doesn't have a legal limit for PFAS in water

The Clarkson team's plasma reactor reduces PFAS concentrations in water well below the EPA's general limit for drinking-water contaminants: 70 parts per trillion.

But environmental groups have expressed concern that the limit is too high when it comes to PFAS. (The nonprofit Environmental Working Group endorses a limit of one part per trillion). 

The EPA pledged to develop national drinking-water regulations for PFAS by the end of 2019, but the deadline came and went.

On Friday, the US House of Representatives passed a group of measures that would require the EPA to set that guideline. The measures would also label PFAS as "hazardous substances," which would allow the EPA to require industrial manufacturers to clean them up. 

The Trump administration has threatened to veto the measures, however, calling them "problematic and unreasonable" and a "litigation risk."

But Mededovic said even scientific innovations like hers weren't enough without regulations.

"Elevated levels of PFAS have been found in many public and private water sources, and we need to regulate these compounds," she said. "Companies need to be accountable for what they're producing and releasing."

SEE ALSO: A scientist who worked at a company that's being sued over dumping 'forever chemicals' warns the toxins 'stay in your blood and don't leave'

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