The good, the bad, and the bizarre from CES

January 9, 2020

The Hustle

We’re diving right back into the CES-pool. If you thought yesterday was a wild ride, buckle up for another bizarre day of tech innovations that promise to take over the world — or, at least, take over your Twitter feed.  Today:

  • “Privacy is good!” say the world’s biggest data czars
  • You may soon be commuting to work in flying cars 
  • Gambling startups are shooting for the stars

And hey, who can blame ‘em? The sports betting biz is expected to grow from $1.5B to $81B by 2030. And that doesn’t even count the booming black market.

The Hustle Daily Email

We’re back with the best — and most bizarre — of CES Day 2

The brightest minds — and the thirstiest investors — were roaming the floors at CES yesterday. Here are 4 trends we noticed:

1. Everyone cares about privacy now

At least that’s what you’d think based on new privacy initiatives from Google, Amazon, and Facebook. But you shouldn’t believe everything you hear at trade shows… 

  • Google forced its smart assistant to forget. The search giant now lets users tell Google to forget what it just heard by saying “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you.” 
  • Amazon debuted a privacy control center for Ring. It lets users manage which apps can access their connected cameras and lets users opt out of sharing data with police — but still doesn’t require 2-factor authentication or ban 3rd parties from accessing data.
  • Facebook updated its “Privacy Checkup.” The new tool shows users how their data is used and who sees their profile (and also offers tips for boosting account security).

But… the default strategy for most of these tech giants remains the same: collect and monetize user data.

2. The future of food is a whole different flavor 

Investors seemed hungry to disrupt the ways we grow, eat, and store food. Here are the tastiest food-focused sound bites:

  • Impossible launched the other fake meat. After finding fast-food fame with faux beef, Impossible Foods launched Impossible Sausage patties and ground Impossible Pork. 
  • Food shopping got DNA-optimized. A startup called DnaNudge offers buyers food shopping recommendations based on their DNA. The system uses a swab of saliva to generate a profile and then give in-store recommendations — AKA “nudges” — about what customers should buy based on their genes.
  • Interest in indoor farms is growing. The startup n.thing unveiled Planty Cube, an indoor vertical farming system that enables future farmers (at hotels, schools, retailers, and restaurants) to grow veggies year-round. 
animated robot skateboarding gif

3. Robo-friends are on the rise

With loneliness increasing, the cultivation of companionship is an important project. Here are some of the computerized companions on display at CES: 

  • Lovot, a so-called “cuddlebot,” dances, coos, and follows its owners around like an adorable robo-pet. Available only to Japanese consumers for now, Lovot retails for $2.8k — AND a subscription starting at $83/month.
  • NEONs, Samsung’s computationally generated “artificial humans,” were made to hold real-time conversations with flesh-and-blood humans. They’re sh*tty conversationalists right now… but Samsung insists they’ll “work as TV anchors, spokespeople, or movie actors; or they can simply be companions and friends.”
  • Reachy the Robot, a $17k robotic human torso created by Pollen Robotics, was designed to — among other things — give buyers someone to play tic-tac-toe with. 

4. Flying cars are still cool

Flying cars have long been a caricature of the far-flung, utopian “future.” But now, they could really be close to getting off the ground:

  • S-A1, an all-electric air taxi prototype designed by Hyundai and Uber, featured 12 rotors and space for 5 people. The partners plan to mass produce these electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) flying taxis and deploy them in Uber’s air taxi network launching in 2023.
  • Nexus 4EX, another all-electric air taxi prototype designed by the helicopter company Bell, featured 4 ducted fans and space for 5.
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Cancel that Vegas vacay: Sports gambling is legal in 20 states, and startups are cashing in 

Go ahead and ditch that sketchy subscription to If sports gambling isn’t already legal where you live, it likely will be soon.

Less than 2 years after a Supreme Court ruling allowed any state to legalize and regulate sports betting, 20 states now offer or will soon offer sports gambling. And startups are muscling in for a piece of what could be an $81B pie by 2030, our Trends team found

No more Silicon Back Alley 

An estimated $150B is wagered every year on sports in the US on the black market, much of which happens through shady websites or your friend Fitz, who’s always hanging out in the backroom of that bar on the corner.

Sports gambling is now offered at casinos and sometimes online in states where it’s been legalized. But established players are likely the only entities that will get the licensing to run sportsbooks. 

Startups have to be more creative   

The Action Network has made a splash with its subscription website that provides news and insights related to sports gambling. It closed a $17.5m funding round last year, and now averages 2.5m to 3m unique visitors a month.

Marc Edelman, a consultant on legal and business issues in sports gaming and a professor of law at Baruch College, says other advice-oriented websites will be in demand.

Also in demand: social networks for sports gambling, and audience development and identification for casinos.

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🤖 Robo-chefs are getting canned. The coffee robot company Cafe X closed several of its locations (and laid off the employees who worked at them), and Softbank-backed pizza-making robot company Zume laid off 80% of its staff. The downsizing indicates that early hype for robo-chefs may have been premature.

💵 The US “shadow banking” sector hit $1.2T. The private, unregulated money-lending sector (like banking, but more shadow-y and with no rules) has tripled in the past few years, worrying analysts who fear a mass shadow-withdrawal could cause a recession.

🥛 There’s even more spilt milk to cry over… The dairy giant Borden filed for bankruptcy protection. Borden, which employs 3.3k employees, joins dairy competitor Dean Foods in seeking protections in the curdling dairy biz. The prevalence of milk mustaches is down 40% since 1975.

📹 Deepfakes are banned. Shallowfakes… not so much. Facebook announced that it will remove deepfakes — videos that have been heavily manipulated with AI to appear genuine. But the company will NOT remove “shallowfakes” — videos that use less advanced editing techniques to manipulate or rearrange videos. Critics worry that the announcement will do little to curb misinformation.

🤕 Speaking of disinformation… A BuzzFeed report shows that a whole cottage industry of misleading PR agencies cropped up in the past year to — in their own words — “use every tool and take every advantage available in order to change reality according to [their] client’s wishes.”

👶 It just got harder to target kids with ads. YouTube, which was fined $170m by the Federal Trade Commission in September for collecting children’s data without their parents’ permission, created a rule that limits how much data creators can collect from kids who watch their content.

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