The crowd-free future of shopping is here
Image: Marco Verch
Good morning! This Thursday, a look inside the stores of the future, the game you better be playing in quarantine, and a fun future for streaming movies.
Don't forget to register for today's Virtual Meetup! Protocol's Issie Lapowsky and Emily Birnbaum are talking with Rep. Will Hurd about cybersecurity, coronavirus, tech regulation and more. It kicks off at noon PDT / 3 p.m. EDT. See you there!
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Facebook and Shopify may be working together now, but Om Malik said Shopify should be wary:
Josh Hawley took to the Senate floor to take China to task:
When we all go back to stores, we're going to want to touch fewer things, interact with fewer people, and generally just get in and get out as quickly as possible. Doesn't it sound like every brick-and-mortar shop is going to turn into a cashierless Amazon Go store?
We're about to find out. Jordan Fisher, the CEO of Standard Cognition, a company working on ways for stores to go cashierless, said the first Standard-equipped partner stores will open in the coming weeks. (He said four to 12 will open initially, but was being conservative.)
Standard is mostly focused on "high-velocity retail sectors," the phrase Fisher uses to describe places that people shop all the time. (Think bodegas and Walgreens, not Macy's or Home Depot.) That's what Standard's tech handles best, and where Fisher thinks it can be most helpful.
Its first job is rebooting checkouts, but as Standard gets into stores, Fisher and his team are already full of new ideas for what a post-COVID shopping experience might look like.
For shopping experiences you want to savor, for now you'll have to settle for the internet. At least you've got options: We already talked about Facebook Shops here. And yesterday, Shopify announced new features, while former Stitch Fix COO Julie Bornstein launched a new shopping app called The Yes.
All of a sudden, there's a much larger race to win ecommerce. The reason seems obvious: Coronavirus is keeping storefronts closed.
But when physical stores open again, their online counterparts won't just go away.
But there is a tradeoff for business owners using new tech tools to move sales online: They hand over some control of their business in the process.
Walmart Continues to Launch COVID-19 Testing Sites
To increase access to COVID-19 testing, Walmart is partnering with Quest and eTrueNorth to bring mobile sites to underserved areas of America and make tests available at no cost to the individual.
If you haven't played Horsepaste, you're not quarantining correctly. The oddly named site is an online way to play the game Codenames. It works over video chat and it's great for groups — it's the perfect lockdown board game.
But that wasn't even the goal. Jackson Owens, the game's developer, told me he built Horsepaste in 2016 for playing in a room with his friends. "I wanted to be able to have the words on a TV or on a computer," he said, "and I also found it kind of annoying mapping the little cards to the words." It was also a way to try coding in React.
Fast forward a few years, and Owens gets a notification one day this March. "Someone opened a GitHub issue saying 'Hey, I love your site, but I think it's down right now.'" So Owens loaded his stats on DigitalOcean and saw that Horsepaste was taking off.
I asked Owens if he'd thought about going all-in on Horsepaste. Raise money, launch Horsepaste Pro, the whole thing. He said no. "I think a lot of the appeal of Horsepaste is how it's just really accessible. You just put in a URL and you can instantly have a game. I can't think of a way where you can turn that into a company and still maintain that experience."
But while the rest of us are playing his game, Owens said he's kind of over it. "I went through a Codenames phase, and that phase has kind of ended," he said. Working on the game seems to be more fun than playing it.
Ola cut 1,400 jobs, about 35% of its workforce, as the Indian ride-hailing company said it's lost 95% of revenue in the last two months. "It is going to take a long time for people to go out and about like before," CEO Bhavish Aggarwal wrote to the Ola team.
Paul Copioli is the new CEO of Sphero. Meanwhile, former COO Jim Booth is spinning off a company called Company Six, which will take what Sphero learned from building tiny robots based on Star Wars characters and apply it to firefighting, EMT, military and other uses.
Intercom laid off 39 people, and is moving another 47 jobs to Dublin (where Intercom was founded) as a cost-cutting move.
Sometime in 2021, the whole of Twitter is going to lose its mind. Because finally, after years of begging and pleading and hashtagging, we're getting the Snyder cut of "Justice League" on HBO Max. (Which may, by the way, be the single most anticipated thing coming to the service.) I'm hoping this is just the beginning. What if Disney+ had every cut of every "Star Wars" flick? Or you could watch every version of "Blade Runner" back to back? Bring on the director commentaries, the blooper reels, the deleted scenes, all the things that made DVDs worth owning back in the day. Worst-case scenario, this is just a chance to spend more miserable hours watching Superman be unhappy. Best-case? It's the beginning of a new, weirder, more fun streaming era.
Walmart COVID-19 testing: 100+ sites by the end of May
By the end of May, Walmart is working toward more than 100 sites, which will allow the company to deliver 20,000 tests a week to people who need them, especially in underserved areas and hot spots.
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