Thursday, September 29, 2016
Via Business Insider: The Swedish Tax Agency is currently increasing its scrutiny of people who have let out apartments on the platform called Airbnb, Dagens Nyheter reports. With the quick rise of the sharing economy Swedish government agencies have lagged behind in struggling to adapt, leaving services such as Airbnb basically unsupervised. But now, earnings from apartment rentals could mean a lot of delayed taxes. Unlike Denmark, Sweden's regulations hold all earnings from rentals mediated by an intermediary like Airbnb as taxable income reagardless of the total amount. People who have earnings from Airbnb exceeding SEK 50,000 (~$5,800) or have let out on Airbnb for a total of 16 weeks or more also face an obligation to pay the VAT of 12%.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Via Business Insider: Swedish press can happily gloat that Mikz - a company founded 2013 on the idea of making statements from celebrities like Zlatan Ibrahimovic exclusively available on apps - has been unable to make any sort of money. The company, popularly called 'the Zlatan app' but now officially going by the name of United Influencers after a merger with the Norwegian company United Bloggers this year, reported a revenue of SEK 1 for the last year, Resumé reports. That's quite a surprise against the background that two years ago Veckans Affärer reported that Mikz already had 400.000 users. And Dan Olofsson, the investor behind the app, told the business magazine that every user on average followed seven premium channels. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the figurehead of the company with his own app 'Zlatan Unplugged', but while that may have been an effective way of attracting other celebrities, like Lionel Messi, it apparently hasn't done wonders for the revenue. Meanwhile, the business is somehow extremely expensive. In the last year, the single crown revenue was matched by a SEK 67 million loss, Resumé writes. In its short existence, the company's losses total a massive 300 million. "My channel has worked well, the others less well", Zlatan Ibrahimovic told DiWeekend in an interview earlier this year, "They've changed the concept now, so we'll have to hope it'll work better. But I'm going to continue with my app". Whether United Influencers will be able to make any money in the future remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the rest of the media industry can find consolation in that while Zlatan no longer fuels them with his commentary, at least no one else is cashing in on him either.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Via Business Insider: A study published in the Lancet finds Iceland to be tied with Sweden and Singapore as the healthiest countries in the world in terms of the indicators for the health-related Sustainable Development Goals as established by the United Nations. In the study, 188 countries were assessed based on factors such as mortality rates, pollution, sanitation, water quality, and disease, in combination with demographic indicators such as poverty and education. The leading countries scored 85 in the index. Finland is close behind with an score of 82, Followed by Norway (82) and Denmark (79), all tied with a few other countries with the same scores. Every nation has its particularities. For example, prevalence of overweightedness is high in Iceland, alcohol consumption is high in Denmark, and Norway needs to work on its disaster preparedness.
Monday, September 26, 2016
Via Gizmodo: So before you feel tricked by a technicality: Inuktitut does have a written language, but it’s just not an alphabet. Instead, as Tom Scott explains, it uses a related system of symbols to express sounds called an abugida. This writing system is in use in the far north of Canada and was originally invented by Christian missionaries. Inuktitut—which can use one compound word to say the equivalent of an English sentence—is built on consonant/vowel pairs. In order to accommodate the language’s sounds and structure, a new set of symbols was developed. (Because different parts of the Arctic were colonized at different times though, Inuktitut is only somewhat comprehensible by people in Alaska or Greenland.) In written Inuktitut, a letter’s shape determines the consonant sound while its rotation shows the vowels that follows it, e.g. ᐃ or ᐊ. Diacritical marks tell a reader if the vowel sound is long or short, and superscripted symbols show how the sound ends, like the ᖅ in that stop sign image. As a writing system it’s both elegant and alien, so if this is too difficult to visualize, I’d highly recommend watching Tom’s video.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
The Swedish Government Wants To Drastically Increase Police Mandate To Find And Return Denied Asylum Seekers
Via Business Insider: At a press conference the Swedish government just presented a proposal for effectivizing Sweden's way of dealing with asylum seekers who have had their applications denied. "Currently 500 people per week are leaving Sweden, but we want to increase that pace", says Anders Ygeman, Minister for Home Affairs, reports Svenska Dagbladet. The proposal contains nine main points, focusing on increasing the mandate of the police in finding, securing and returning asylum seekers, and clarifying the respective responsibilities of the police and the Swedish Migration Agency. One proposed point is to enable police to search for persons at workplaces. The reason behind the proposal is the perception that it's taking too long for the nation to return persons who have had their asylum applications denied. Another explanantion is that there are many employers exploiting such individuals for cheap illegal labor. Minister for Justice and Migration, Morgan Johansson, even thinks the proposed measures will improve Sweden's ability to accept refugees. "We think we'll see an even more effective reception", he said according to SvD. Here are the nine points of the proposal, as reported by Dagens Nyheter: 1. Increased enablement of the police to carry out workplace inspections. 2. The police will be enabled to take fingerprints at internal controls of foreigners. 3. Extended mandate for the police to confiscate passports and identity documents. 4. Employees of the Swedish Migration Agency will be obliged to inform the police of contact with an individual whose asylum application has been denied. 5. The police will be able to return responsibility for enforcement to the Swedish Migration Agency when voluntary expulsion is possible. 6. The police will be the enforcing authority by default also in cases of renewed enforcement. 7. Extended possibilities to place persons taken into custody in places other than those specifically designated for that purpose. 8. Facilitation of the authorities' expulsion of families with children. The police and the Swedish Migration Agency should handle the custody of children the same regardless of which of the authorities made the decision. 9. Legislation concerning which agency has responsibility for what should be clarified.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Via Business Insider: The Norwegian car market has the highest percentage of electric car sales in the world. Generous subsidies make even Tesla's affordable for many, but not all Norwegian's are satisfied with their purchases, and are seeking reimbursement. 126 Tesla-owners from Norway are uniting in a lawsuit against Tesla Motors on the claim that Tesla has falsely represented the performance of their cars. The claim concerns the upgraded model of the Model S sedan P85D, Bloomberg reports. According to Tesla the car is able to accelerate from 0 km/h to 100 km/h in 3.1 to 3.3 seconds in tests, but that is incorrect in the car-owner's exerience. The proposed reason is that the model's engine simply lacks the required amount of horsepower. The case will be addressed in court in December.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Via Business Insider: This morning, Sweden's center-left government presented its proposed budget for 2017, and Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson was painting a bright future for Sweden. ”The Swedish economy is very strong", Andersson said and continued: "We have the highest growth in our region, unemployment is falling and the large deficit we inherited when we took power has been basically wiped out". Andersson predicts that finances will return to balance in 2018, and stuck to a growth forecast of 3.5 percent for this year. The Government now wants to increase spending by around 0.6 percent of GDP in 2017, with 23.6 billion kronor ($2.68 billion) in budgeted reforms in 2017. This number will then increase to 28.1 billion ($3.28 billion) in 2018, 33.4 billion ($3.9 billion) in 2019, and 36 billion ($4.2 billion) in 2020. The Government also presented a number of tax proposals to increase tax revenues by about 7 billion kronor. The proposals include: * prohibiting deductions for interest expenditure on certain subordinated liabilities * abolishing the right to income tax deductions for official meals * limiting upward adjustment of the threshold for state income tax * introducing tax on chemicals in certain electronic products * increasing the tax on alcohol Spendning will focus on increasing welfare, with ”major investments” in health, education and social services, according to Andersson. ”Sweden's growing population makes strengthening welfare particularly important. The Government continues to prioritise welfare services and in this bill proposes that an additional SEK 10 billion a year be made available to municipalities and county councils in general government grants. This will enable them to take a long-term approach to developing their welfare services taking local conditions into account. Together with the Government's previous welfare investments, these resources correspond to the cost of roughly 30.000 employees in welfare services", Andersson writes in a statement.
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Via Unknown Country: A recent photograph of something in Loch Ness that appears to have a head, a hump and a tail has generally dismissed as seals at play. And indeed, the head on the right bears some resemblance to the head of a seal. The problem is that seals are not indigenous to Loch Ness because the waters are too murky for them to navigate. If the photograph was indeed taken at Loch Ness, there is a genuine chance that this is an unknown animal.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Via Business Insider: Samsung is finally recalling its Galaxy Note 7 after reports that some batteries were exploding inside the device. The fact that roughly 70 Note 7 devices have overheated in the past few days, in the US alone, is definitely scary. And this isn’t the first time batteries have exploded within their host phones. But Swedish serial entrepreneur Christina Lampe-Önnerud, also known as the Queen of Batteries, has the solution. ”A safety problem such as what's unfolding with the Samsung Galaxy 7 takes all of us back to basics. The global battery industry must assign to safety the same priority it gives to energy density and cost when batteries are designed and manufactured. This should include having the fire retardants be an integral part of the battery cell design, combined with simplification of the cell structure", she tells Business Insider. Lampe-Önnerud states that her startup Cadenza Innovation was founded to bring these new approaches to the market. ”Our battery product architecture and design prevent the thermal runaway that causes batteries to catch fire - while also enabling industry-leading energy density and low cost. Our team members have spent their entire careers in the lithium-ion battery industry. We're hopeful that by sharing our innovation through licensing, we can contribute both to better performance and higher safety - and do that at prices that drive the new energy paradigm for electric transport and electric grid solutions". She has no doubts about the future of lithium-ion batteries. ”They have proven to be the best portable energy storage solution for nearly two decades, and will be for many years to come - for uses ranging from mobile phones and laptops to vehicles and the grid”.
Friday, September 16, 2016
Via Business Insider: A few days ago Spotify reached a huge milestone as Daniel Ek, CEO and founder, revealed that the company now had over 40 million paying users. Today the renowned Swedish investment company GP Bullhound, which has a stake in Spotify through one of if its funds, updated its view on the company. And the expectations are high, to say the least. ”We think a US IPO in 2017 is likely but also don´t discard the possibility of a sale to Facebook. Historically, building social networks around its offer has been a week spot for Spotify. In that sense a deal with Facebook would be something positive. It would also make Spotify stronger against Apple, as Apple today doesn't have a social network connected to its offer”, says Joakim Dal, analyst at GP Bullhound to Breakit. He adds: ”Daniel Ek and Mark Zuckerberg know each other well and if Facebook would choose to move into a new area music is very likely”. A clear evidence of the true friendship between Ek and Zuckerberg was the fact that the Facebook founder was one of the many prominent guests at Daniel Ek's wedding a few weeks ago. GP Bullhound also revealed a drastically changed scenario overview for the Swedish streaming company. The analysts update the base case scenario from 50 million paying users in 2017 to more than 100 million users before 2020. At 2020 the base case valution for Spotify will be $20 billion, according to GP Bullhound. In the best case scenario Spotify manage to increase its margins and reaches a market value of $53 billion in 2020. ”Growing the video content business and implementing best-of-class social features is key to reaching our best case scenario”, the report says. At a 2017 IPO, Spotify is expected to have more than 50 million paying users, more than 100 million non-paying users and $5 billion in annualized revenue, according to GP Bullhound. ”Our target 2017 IPO valuation range for Spotify is between 15 to 20 billion dollars", Dal says.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Via Business Insider: The refugee crisis makes it easy to presume that most who move to Sweden travel far and wide to do so. But new statistics show that close neighbors play a bigger part. Statistics Sweden’s (Statistiska Centralbyrån) latest numbers reveal that as of 2015, Sweden’s biggest foreign-born community hails from the far-off land of... Finland, with 156,046 Finns now residing across the border. The two countries have a relationship dating back hundreds of years, and when the stats are broken down by gender, the Swedish-Finnish link is shown to persist particularly strongly among women. Over eleven percent (11.1) of the foreign-born women in Sweden were born in Finland, amounting to 94.077 people and the biggest group by a clear distance. The second-largest group of women came from significantly further away (Iraq, 7.2 percent), but the third were also near neighbours, with Poles making up 5.5 percent. A different group is dominant among men however, with Iraq providing the largest proportion of foreign-born males in Sweden (8.6 percent) at 70.815 people in total. The second-largest group was once again the Finns (7.5 percent), followed by Syrians in third (6.8 percent). Once a wider net is cast and continents are taken into consideration geographical proximity and free movement in the EU appear to play a big part. Europeans make up almost half (49 percent) of the foreign-born people living in Sweden, significantly more than the second-largest group by continent, which is Asians (34 percent). The third largest group by continent is Africa at 11 percent. Here's a list of the top-15 birth countries among foreign-born residents, according to Statistics Sweden. Statistics Sweden’s figures say that the foreign-born population in Sweden grew by 72.713 in 2015 to a total of 1.7 million people. Since 2000 it has increased by a whopping 67 percent, proof of how much more diverse Sweden has become in recent years. The Swedish population currently hovers around the 9.906.331 mark, and is on course to hit 10 million by 2017.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Via Business Insider: Volvo has previously said it will launch its self-driving vehicle experiment called "Drive Me" in Sweden in 2017. But that won’t be the case. In fact, the experiment starts already toady, as Volvo just revealed it has already finished production of the first out of 100 self-driving XC90 SUVs that will be part of the ”Drive Me”-project, according to Swedish Veckans Affärer. After being thoroughly tested, Volvo will start delivering the cars to families in Gothenburg. And as soon as the cars are autonomously driving in the streets of Gothenburg, Volvo will collect data and feedback. “This is an important milestone for the Drive Me project”, said Erik Coelingh, Senior Technical Leader Active Safety at Volvo Cars, as he observed the final touches being put to the car. “Customers look at their cars differently than us engineers, so we are looking forward to learn how they use these cars in their daily lives and what feedback they will give us”. The Drive Me pilot project in Gothenburg is only the first in a number of planned public trials. A similar project will be launched in London next year, and Volvo is also in discussions with cities in China to launch a Drive Me project there within the next few years. Volvo's ultimate goal is that "no one will be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo by the year 2020".
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Via Business Insider: The first seed for a Nordic edtech communtiy has just been sown. Finnish xEdu, the only EdTech statup accelerator in the Nordics, is joining forces with the EdTech Sweden, the region’s major arena for education technology. That will bring a lot of Swedish startups within the sphere of influence of the xEdu accelerator, while giving xEdu access to a larger network. “We really look forward to our partnership, as we see many Swedish edtech startups with great potential. We’re interested in contributing to their growth and we see great value in creating opportunities for Finnish and Swedish edtech companies to meet. Then we can learn from each other and maek use of each other’s networks. It’s a clear win-win. We look forward to presenting the accelerator to the Swedish edtech scene. It’s the first step in building a Nordic edtech community”, says Niko Lindholm, Program Director at xEdu. The partnership will also make it easier to give edtech startups the chance to go international, by giving them easier access to both the Swedish and Finnish markets. And looking forward, a larger Nordic edtech community would make for even better opportunities. “The collaboration with xEdu, the only Nordic edtech accelerator, will build bridges between our markets, but is also a first step in supporting the companies internationally, as our common network now expands”, says Jannie Jeppesen at EdTech Sweden. Edtech is a huge global market with a lot of potential. A report by EdTechXGlobal estimates that the market will grow 17% year-on-year during the forseeable future and that it will reach the size of $252 billion by 2020, Startups writes. That makes it one of the world's top five fastst growing markets, according to Rektorsakademien Utveckling. The report appecriates the size of the global education market to $5 trillion, only 2% of which is currently digitized. Following the global trend, edtech investments in the Nordics are increasing and the international interest in Nordic innovation and educational solutions is big, according to Rektorsakademien Utveckling. Finland has achieved international renown for its excellent education system, and the country already has a strategy for edtech development and the educational system as an export product. xEdu is part of that strategy and with the new partnership with EdTech Sweden, the other Nordic countries have a chance to follow Finland's lead.
Monday, September 12, 2016
Via The Local: There are few things more Swedish than snus, the popular tobacco product used by almost a quarter of the population. Placed under the lip rather than smoked, it has grown in popularity in the years since Sweden introduced a smoking ban in bars and restaurants in 2005. Its widespread use among Swedes is something of an oddity due to a EU ban preventing it from being exported to the rest of Europe. Now a Norwegian university has been brave enough to risk the wrath of its bigger neighbour by publishing a study suggesting snus is more dangerous than previously believed. The new Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) paper highlights the damage snus can cause to blood vessels. Their study looked at the endothelial function of around 1.600 healthy men (the endothelium is a layer of cells that lines the interior of blood vessels and helps to regulate blood pressure). Among snus users, endothelial function was on a par with that of a smoker, and worse than those who neither smoke nor use snus. Those who use snus and are inactive showed an even worse level of endothelial function. “Snus is more dangerous for blood health than what we previously thought. It looks worse than we believed”, researcher Eli-Anne Skaug of NTNU commented to Norway’s TV2. Swedes don’t like being told what to do when it comes to their peculiar tobacco habit, but so far they seem to have taken the study in good humour. “I’m likely already dead and living on borrowed time, so I’d best take another snus”, read one comment from Richard Drott on Twitter. “I’m putting in a snus just now. Coffee and snus. Yum”, said another response. “Not the news you want to hear on a Monday morning. Snus is one of my best friends”, bemoaned Martin Genberg, meanwhile. The Norwegians have got off lightly judging by previous standards. A less understanding response to snus-meddling was delivered in 2014 when Uppsala county in central Sweden attempted to prevent council employees from coming into work smelling of it. The council was forced to quickly backtrack when the proposal faced huge public opposition, including outcry from the leader of the national Left party. “If you try to forbid and regulate everything you do not like, we will end up having an unbearable society”, Jonas Sjöstedt told Swedish news agency TT in 2014.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Via TechCrunch: Each Saturday during the college football season ESPN hosts College GameDay, an pre-game show with a bunch of football experts and hundreds of screaming college kids in the background. Today one of those screaming college kids was Sam Crowder, a student who brilliantly decided to hold up a sign with his Venmo username asking his mom to send him beer money. Cue the Internet, and instead of of getting a few bucks from his mom more than two thousand people sent him money on Venmo, including $50 from Venmo themselves. Since Venmo has no minimum transaction amount, it’s possible that a lot of these were just $.01 – but more than likely most were at least a dollar, meaning Sam’s Venmo balance is probably looking pretty good right now. Even though the internet is going crazy about the brilliance of Sam’s idea, it’s important to note this isn’t without precedent. In fact someone basically did the exact same thing three years ago. Another enterprising student also went to College Gameday carrying a sign with a QR code pointing to their Bitcoin address, and ended up getting $24.000 sent to him that day. It seems like 3 years is how long it takes for the world to forget about this little trick, so expect to see someone holding up a sign during the 2019 football season asking for donations on whatever the latest payment platform happens to be.
Via Gizmodo: Darkwing Duck creator Tad Stones revealed that the terror that flaps in the night doesn’t flap anywhere near Duckberg, because Darkwing and DuckTales exist in two separate universes. Excuse me for a moment, my own universe is collapsing. Stones chatted with Heat Vision this week to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Darkwing Duck’s series debut. In the midst of chatting about the show’s legacy and its portrayal of a complex father-daughter relationship, Stones dropped a truth bomb the likes of which we’ve never seen. According to Stones, Darkwing Duck is not a spinoff of DuckTales, it’s actually its own separate universe. This, despite the fact that it aired alongside DuckTales on The Disney Afternoon and featured DuckTales alum Launchpad as the costar. Stones said Darkwing’s Launchpad was more an alternate universe version, rather than a continuation of the character. “Because Launchpad appeared in DuckTales and we used Roboduck as the Superman character, the hero who gets all the glory as opposed to Darkwing, fans try to connect the two realities. They are two different universes in my book. We work in the alternate Duckiverse”, says Stones. In the midst of all this uncertain chaos, we must ask ourselves: Why do we need multiple duck universes? Darkwing Duck already has several of its own, including the horrifying Negaverse. Plus, Disney now owns Marvel, making Howard the Duck yet another duck universe in the Disney MultiDuckiverse. Nothing makes sense anymore.
Saturday, September 10, 2016
Via Gizmodo: Scientists have been arguing over the authenticity of an ancient document called the Grolier Codex for 50 years. A new analysis published in a special section of the journal Maya Archaeology has concluded that the codex is indeed genuine, making it the oldest surviving manuscript from the pre-Colombian era. Perhaps you’re not familiar with the Grolier Codex. It’s the surviving pages of a 20-page book, made of stucco-coated bark paper folded into an accordion shape. The pages are painted with typical Maya iconography—gods, warriors, slaves, and hieroglyphs, for instance—and include a calendar charting the movement of the planet Venus. Legend has it that looters ransacking a cave in Mexico came across the badly damaged pages in the 1960s, along with a turquoise mask, a sacrificial knife, and some blank pieces of fig-bark paper. That’s according to a Mexican collector named Josue Saenz, who claimed he was contacted by the looters and taken by plane to a remote airstrip to collect the items—although at least one archaeologist, Donna Yates, has called this account “fantastical”. Saenz’s questionable account and subsequent actions cast doubt on the authenticity of the fragments from the start, even though the other artifacts have since been shown to be genuine. Scientists tested the codex in 2007, but couldn’t decisively settle the matter of its authenticity, partly because while many of the materials used were pre-Colombian, some of the wear and tear in the pages seemed artificial. It was possible a gifted forger may have used materials from the right period to throw off archaeologists. And radiocarbon dating revealed the blank pages of bark paper found with the codex pegged them to around 1230 AD. “It became a kind of dogma that this was a fake,” co-author Stephen Houston of Brown University said in a statement. “We decided to return and look at it very carefully, to check criticisms one at a time. Now we are issuing a definitive facsimile of the book. There can’t be the slightest doubt that the Grolier is genuine”. Along with Harvard University’s Michael Coe, and Mary Miller and Karl Taube of the University of California, Riverside, Houston reviewed all the known research on the codex. That included assessing the manuscript’s origins, the carbon dating results, the various deities depicted, how the bark paper was made, the Maya blue pigments, and thin red sketch lines underneath the paintings, among other aspects. The team concluded that a forger in the 1960s simply could not have known all the details required to create such a forgery. Many of the deities shown in the codex hadn’t even been discovered then, for example, and scientists didn’t successfully make Maya blue in the lab until the 1980s. There are three other known (authenticated) ancient Maya manuscripts, known as the Dresden, Madrid, and Paris Codices, in addition to the Grolier Codex. There are variations among them, but all include astronomical calendars tracking the movements of heavenly heavenly bodies. And radiocarbon dating shows the Grolier predates the other three. “A reasoned weighing of evidence leaves only one possible conclusion”, the authors wrote. “Four intact Mayan codices survive from the Precolumbian period, and one of them is the Grolier”.
Friday, September 09, 2016
Via Business Insider: The Swedish government has announced that it is proposing legislation for gender quotas on the corporate boards of listed companies and state-run companies. "We have clearly communicated that we would review the situation after this year's general meeting period. There has been a slight improvement, the percentage of women has reached 32%. But it's progressing very slowly", said Sweden's Minister for Enterprise, Mikael Damberg. The proposal would impose penalties on companies not having achieved corporate boards composed of at least 40% women by 2019, Omni reports. So far there is no indication the law would concern itself with genders outside of the male-female dichotomy. The law would affect 280 companies listed in Sweden and about 50 state-run companies, reports Sveriges Radio. Sveriges Radio also reports a written comment by Annie Lööf, leader of the Centre Party: "I see big problems with women having difficulties reaching the top and seeing their careers progress, but I don't believe the government should instill this change with pointers and legislation".
Thursday, September 08, 2016
Forget Everything You Thought You Knew About TV - This Startup Is Bringing You Interactive Mixed Reality NOW
Via Business Insider: This headline should probably have been written all in capital letters. Today, a Norwegian startup called The Future Group just revealed itself to the world, after operating in stealth for three-and-a-half years. We all knew Virtual Reality and/or Augmented Reality is coming - we just didn't know which, or when, or where, or how. The answer is both, in every TV and every phone and in VR googles, all connected, now. As if Nolan Bushnell's involvement wasn't enough to speak for the importance of this tech, 'The Wonderful Wizard of Woz' Steve Wozniak has also been tied to it. Why? Because it's going to be big. The future of entertainment is here. Forget Pokémon Go. This is it, the future of Television, of content, of video games and esports. Mixed Reality is now a product ready for the global market. "You're not just running around picking up balls or whatever. You're fighting trolls, riding on the backs of dragons, racing spaceships, etc. Now we can place all this in a game-show setting, because it's happening real-time as we see it", says Bård Anders Kasin, co-founder and CEO of The Future Group. "And what's really interesting is that the audience can be made part of the show. Through the mobile app or VR-googles you can be immersed in the virtual environment". Imagine gigantic multiplayer games where you have a TV-show in the middle running the whole thing. Compete against your family or friends sitting next to you in your sofa, or how about against the whole nation - you can be participating on your own device and have it rendered in the virtual environment live as part of the show. Or imagine having cities compete against each other in real-time. The possibilities are endless, and soon there will be no need to imagine them... The technology is years ahead of its time, and the competition. What The Future Group is presenting to the world, and making available for content creators everywhere is years ahead of its time. There are startups who are independently displaying bits and pieces of the same technological capabilities, but to put all the pieces together in something like The Future Group's already working platform would take any company trying to catch up at least three years, in Bård Anders Kasin's estimation. Starting today it's publicly available to every content creator in the world. That being said, The Future Group has already been approached by many - if not most - of the major media producers AND are already in production with "at least one of the biggest TV entertain production companies in the world". The first show will be released before the summer of 2017. The virtual environments are rendered using the Unreal game engine. At the core of the technology is a Virtual Reality studio that allows real-time live broadcasting of unscripted action that would otherwise take hours upon hours of animation time to produce. Bård Anders Kasin says he realized where entertainment tech was headed when he worked on the production of the Matrix. "The Matrix was the first production ever to use a game engine for animation. That made me realize where the industry was heading. Some of those things we'll now be able to do live". Since then he's been working on various projects during which many of the basic components of the technology have been developed. That's how The Future Group can be so far ahead of its time. The co-founders Jens Petter Høili, Chairman of the Board, and Bård Anders Kasin, CEO, were introduced by a producer three-and-a-half years ago while working on a project for Norway's channel 2. At that time they were both pursuing individual projects. "We realized that if we combine our two projects we would get something that's really extraordinary". And they have some very complementary experience. Jens Petter Høili is a serial entepreneur with a lot of experience, not least from the Høili Group, and Europris - a leading Nordic retail chain which had its IPO last year. He has also founded several first-mover ventures such as EasyPark and FairChance Group. Bård Anders Kasin has a more technical background. He entered the entertainment industry early and has served as the Technical Director at Warner Bros, working with some of the largest movie productions in history, such as the Matrix trilogy. He has also done advanced research and development in rocket science (with NASA), industrial simulation, augmented reality and high-end digital cinematography. Both have lots of international experience but express that they're a bit tired of Silicon Valley and glad to now be based in Oslo. Recruiting has proved easy. The future group already has employees of 14 different nationalities. The technology opens for a really versatile business model. Investors have so far funded The Future Group with NOK 250 million, or about $30 million. The company employs about a hundred people already, with 40 more coming soon. Expectations are high. The Future Group is already in production with world-leading TV entertainment production companies, but the business model is far from limited to licensing the technology. Besides selling all manner of services to the companies using the technology, The Future Group also sees a huge opportunity in building a big user base. "The really exciting thing is the business-to-consumer side", says Bård Anders Kasin. The Future Group is of course eyeing the rapidly growing esports industry, because they don't expect the technology to only be used for TV. And that means they'll be able to apply typical game commercialization models - in-app purchases in freemium games for example. The platform also means completely new possibilites for marketers wanting to display their product in an immersive environment, to name a few.
Wednesday, September 07, 2016
Via Tech Crunch: Parrot, the French company that is probably best known for its AR.Drone and Bebop drones, today announced the Parrot S.L.A.M.dunk, a new development kit for helping drones and robots navigate indoors, avoid obstacles, and map its surroundings. The S.L.A.M.dunk (I know I’ll never tire of typing that out), which the company announced at the annual Interdrone conference in Las Vegas today, will be available in the last quarter of the year. The company has not announced pricing yet. The 4.9oz kit uses an Nvidia Tegra K1 processor and runs Ubuntu 14.04 with the Robotic Operating System framework on top. It uses two fisheye cameras for stereoscopic imaging at 60 frames per second, as well as an ultrasound sensor, an inertial measurement unit, a barometer and a magnetometer. The kit also features USB and HDMI plugs. Parrot says the ultrasound sensor should be able to pick up objects that are up to 50 feet away. Parrot expects that developers, researchers and integrators will use the S.L.A.M.dunk to prototype drones and robotic solutions and use it for autonomous navigation and 3D mapping products. While Parrot itself is best known for its drones, the kit is also meant to work for rolling robots and even articulated arms. “Developed by robotic researchers for robotic researchers, Parrot S.L.A.M.dunk is a ‘ready-to-use’ module that will accelerate the development of tomorrow’s application for drones and robotic platforms”, the company says in its announcement today. This announcement may feel unusual for a company that is mostly known for its consumer drones, but Parrot actually offers a number of professional drones under its SenseFly brand and the company has long invited tinkerers to write applications for its drones with the help of its SDKs. Today’s announcement takes this one step further. It also signals the company’s intentions to bring its expertise to a wider range of robotics products, too. And who knows, maybe the Parrot T-shirt will even feature an ultrasound sensor and help you avoid objects as you drunkenly stumble home at night.
Tuesday, September 06, 2016
Via The Swedish Wire: The Stockholm startup scene continues to go from strength to strength, with a record amount being invested in the city’s technology companies by international investors so far this year. During the first six months of 2016, more money was invested in Stockholm-based startups than during all of 2015, which also was a record year, according to a breakdown by Nordic Web, a resource on venture capital for the Nordic startup scene. A total of $1.2 billion was invested between January and June this year, dwarfing the $892 million that was invested during the whole of 2015. At the same time, the number of investments swelled, from 90 in 2015 to 111 so far this year. Behind the numbers are some interesting trends. Like last year, companies in financial technology continued to attract most investments, with 20 finalized rounds in total. With groundbreaking firms like iZettle, Tink and Klarna, the Swedish capital has become the second leading fintech city in Europe. The biggest difference in this year’s investments is the focus on healthcare and wellness startups. This sector was second when it came to the number of investments, with 11. It represents a dramatic increase; health and wellness was not even in the most popular list last year. Media, e-commerce, recruitment, and sales and marketing startups also closed new investment rounds. The biggest investments so far this year have been in music streaming service Spotify, mobile advertising firm Widespace, med-tech firm Irras, mobile banking app Tink, health app Lifesum and Universal Avenue, which lets companies access a local sales force on demand. Another striking trend is who is investing in Stockholm’s tech firms. This year, the capital is getting increased attention from some of the world’s largest and most prestigious investment companies. 500 Startups, one of the world’s leading early-stage venture funds and seed accelerators, has launched an ambitious program in Stockholm with seven investments so far this year. Significant investments were also made by GV, the venture capital arm of Alphabet formerly known as Google Ventures, Index Ventures, Balderton Capital and Accel. The record investment is yet anther sign that Stockholm has become the startup capital of Europe. Indeed, the city is the second most prolific tech hub in the world on a per capita basis, behind Silicon Valley, producing 6.3 billion-dollar companies per million people, according to analysis by London-based Atomico.
Monday, September 05, 2016
Via The Swedish Wire: Switzerland has been ranked the most innovative economy in the world, followed by Sweden and the United Kingdom, in the annual Global Innovation Index (GII). European economies dominated the ranks, but China was fast climbing the ladder, according to a joint study by Cornell University, Insead and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). "Investing in innovation is critical to raising long-term economic growth", Francis Gurry, director general at the WIPO, told CNBC. "In this current economic climate, uncovering new sources of growth and leveraging the opportunities raised by global innovation are priorities for all stakeholders", he added. Well, our planet will not be free until 2396, when the era of Corporate War exemplified by greed, profit, and private property finally comes to an end.
Sunday, September 04, 2016
Via Before It's News: Never before in U.S. history have so many Americans chosen to be unaffiliated with any particular religious group. The percentage of “nones” in America has absolutely skyrocketed over the past decade. But not all faiths are losing members in the United States. In fact, Islam, Buddhism, Wicca and various New Age organizations have all experienced excellent growth in recent years. Sadly, almost all of the growth for the “nones” has come at the expense of Christianity. Americans are leaving the Christian faith in droves, and this is why many of the churches are less than half full on Sunday mornings. But one of the beneficiaries are the Orthodox communions. Today we are certainly seeing the influx of evangelicals, Catholics, and Episcopalians or Anglicans, coming into the Orthodox Church communions in America. Evangelicals have increasingly been entering the Orthodox churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more efforts aimed at the "conversion" of Evangelicals to the Orthodox traditions.
Saturday, September 03, 2016
Via Business Insider: NASA's Juno spacecraft became the first ever to fly above and below Jupiter on Aug. 27, and at a breakneck speed of 130.000 mph. Scientists say the images of the gas giant's north and south poles - the first ever taken - are "like nothing we have seen or imagined before", according to a statement about the mission that NASA released on Sept. 2. While we're absolutely obsessed with these unprecedented views of the largest planet in the solar system, a huge part of the pinwheel-shaped spacecraft's mission is to record data about unseen processes that are happening in and around Jupiter. Take, for example, Jupiter's auroras. NASA has managed to capture views of these particle storms in Jupiter's clouds using the Hubble Space Telescope. No spacecraft has manage to get as close to them as Juno, though, and record them with a suite of powerful instruments. In addition to taking a fearsome-looking infrared image of a southern Jovian aurora (with JIRAM), Juno turned on at least seven other instruments to gather data. To visualize this "invisible" information, NASA turned it into animated video and sound, the space agency wrote in a YouTube video description: "Thirteen hours of radio emissions from Jupiter's intense auroras are presented here, both visually and in sound. The data was collected when the spacecraft made its first orbital pass of the gas giant on Aug 27, 2016, with all spacecraft instruments turned on. The frequency range of these signals is from 7 to 140 kilohertz. Radio astronomers call these 'kilometric emissions' because their wavelengths are about a kilometer long". And if you're into other hidden visual spectacles, gaze at this incredible animated movie of Jupiter's aurora, which the JIRAM instrument also recorded. It looks like a mashup of classic scenes from "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "The Terminator".
Friday, September 02, 2016
Via Business Insider: The first half of 2016 has seen record activity in Danish startup investing – a total of 57 investments have been made in Danish tech startups during the period. During the summer, Denmark saw to major exits in Autobutler and Game Analytics, and Unity Technologies – a popular game developing platform – even rose to the mythical status of unicorn. "Danish startups are currently on course for 100+ investments for the first time in a calendar year in 2016. This is remarkable growth, and demonstrates an ecosystem that is truly on the rise, with Copenhagen at the heart of it”, says Neil Murray, founder of the venture capital database The Nordic Web. The 57 investments so far in 2016 totaled almost $184 million. That represents a significant increase in momentum compared to 2015, when investments numbered 65 and totaled $274 million for the whole year. And going back to 2014, there were only 38 investments totaling $180 milllion according to data from The Nordic Web. It’s safe to say a lot is happening on the Copenhagen startup scene. The figures may speak for themselves, but there are other indicators Copenhagen is heating up. Just-Eat, Skype, Momondo, Trustpilot, Sitecore and Tradeshift have all put Denmark on the map in recent years. Along with the growth on the scene its actors and agents have become more organized. Copenhagen For The Win (CPHFTW) functions like a trade organization for startups. It was founded in 2013as a grassroots movement, and the idea is to work together to improve the business ecosystem around Copenhagen with matchmaking, investor- and mentoring initiatives. CPHFTW is now active in the whole transnational Øresund Region, comprising eastern Denmark with Copenhagen and the southern Swedish region of Scania, with Malmö. “We are representing all of Denmark and southern Sweden. All the startups that are part of the community don’t actually consider themselves as Danish or Swedish, but Nordic. People are participating and driven by self-interest, that’s why it works”, Christoffer Malling, CEO of CPHFTW, tells The Nordic Web. 132 tech startups from the region are already part of the organization, and this year the collaboration has resulted in a startup festival called Copenhagen Tech Fest, spanning throughout September, and anticipating 10.000 attendees.
Thursday, September 01, 2016
Via Business Insider: The debate about profits in the welfare system, such as in schools and in healthcare, has been a contentious one in Sweden. Recently, the debate was ignited by a report suggesting a cap limiting the profits of welfare businesses to 8 percent. The report is produced for a study currently conducted by the Swedish government which will be presented November 1. The study is expected to suggest a way in which profits from welfare businesses can be reinvested without affecting the number, and nature, of operators. After details of the report emerged this Tuesday, businesses engaged in the welfare business fell on the stock exchange in Stockholm. Ilmar Reepalu, former local government commissioner for the Social Democrats, is leading the study. Attendo, a company specializing in outsourced health care, has lost around 8 percent of its market value, or approximately 60 million dollars. According to the study, the profits of Swedish welfare businesses exceeding the proposed cap currently amount to 15 billion SEK, or approximately 1.75 billion dollars. The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise calls the cap an 'unresonable attack on private companies' and on property rights, according to the Swedish newswire TT. The suggested law is an assault on property rights and does not address problems in the healthcare sector and in schools, said Carola Lemne, the CEO of the confederation to public service broadcaster SVT. "Without profits, there is no way to build reserves and keep investments up", she said. Ilmar Reepalu, a former local government commissioner for the Social Democrats, is leading the study. He recently commented on the matter by telling Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet that the possibility of making profits that are deemed to be 'too large' will be 'shut down'. He was, however, reluctant on specifying what is 'too large'.