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PrizePool raises $10M to reward people who save

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PrizePool raises $10M to reward people who save

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PrizePool has created prize-linked savings accounts, and it has raised $10 million to help further its gamification of savings.

The San Francisco-based PrizePool’s mission is to incentivize Americans to save more and build a better financial foundation by giving them prizes for saving money. It pays a higher interest rate than most bank savings accounts, and it makes saving fun by entering people into sweepstakes awards with cash prizes, said CEO Frank Chien in an interview with VentureBeat.

Launched during the pandemic, PrizePool has since seen good growth, enticing tens of thousands of savers to save tens upon tens of millions of dollars. PrizePool flips the concept of gambling on its head by applying the notion of winning to savings via sweepstakes prizes. This notion has the potential to benefit consumers for the long-term — gamifying a chore to help people save even more, Chien said.

“It’s been a crazy ride,” Chien said. “It’s basically adding a kind of gamification to saving money,” he said. “We’re gamifying or incentivizing people in a really critical area, which is your financial life. This is really popular outside of the U.S., especially in the United Kingdom, where 30% or 40% of the population saves money this way.”

How it works

Above: PrizePool gets you to come back and put more money into savings via a sweepstakes offer.

Image Credit: PrizePool

The company also has high engagement rates with 70 percent of savers coming back to the app weekly. Even if savers don’t win cash prizes, the account is FDIC-insured and will earn a 0.30% interest rate, which is higher than most high-yield savings rates.

To date, about 10,000 PrizePool savers have won more than $400,000, and at this rate, PrizePool will give away close to $1 million in prizes by the end of the year to help people achieve their financial goals. For every $1 in a user’s balance, they get one ticket per day, and all tickets will be automatically entered in a weekly drawing for over 18,000 cash prizes including a $25,000 grand prize in every four-week series. The prizes are guaranteed to total $50,000 every month.

“The drawings are completely randomized,” he said. “We register and bond with the states as part of the assurance model for sweepstakes. We have to be registered in the states. We have to publish winners. It’s completely legitimate.”

The app is available on iOS and Android.

M13 led the round, and seed investors including Accomplice, Bling Capital, World Innovation Labs, and Coatue also participated in the funding. Prior to this round, PrizePool raised $4.3 million in funding from seed investors.

A lofty mission

PrizePool offers a weekly drawing where you can win up to $25,000.

Above: PrizePool offers a weekly drawing where you can win up to $25,000.

Image Credit: PrizePool

Carter Reum, partner at M13, said in a statement that M13 cares about consumer wellness and financial wellness is related to that. He said he is impressed by Prizepool’s engagement and how the platform changes people’s lives for the better through savings.

“There are good ways to use gamification, like with health and fitness,” Chien said. “But gamification can also be done in not so good way, like a lottery in itself. The gambling aspect of it could be negative,” he said. “But I think using it for good can actually provide a very positive outcome for people. California just did a lottery for people who get vaccinated. It can increase vaccination rates and that’s really awesome.”

Before the pandemic, Americans were not saving enough, and when the global health crisis caused millions to lose their jobs, an emergency fund was a luxury many did not have. Meanwhile, a majority of Americans spend millions on the lottery every week in hopes of a big win – spending more than $91 billion on lottery tickets in 2019.

“It’s popular in other countries and I think it’s actually going to be really helpful for Americans here,” Chien said. “Over half of Americans play the lottery. They spend almost $100 billion on it, which is like insane.”

And the actual odds of winning the lottery are quite low, but people do it anyway.

“Roughly 70% of the users come back every Friday to see if they won a prize again, ranging from 20 cents up to $25,000, depending on the week,” he said. “I don’t know any other bank or product where 70% of the users come back every single week to do check on their savings.”

Chien said the company aims to expand its team by 150% and launch debit cards starting this fall. The debit cards will also have incentives.

To date, the company has raised $14.35 million and it has a valuation of $50 million. The company has 17 employees and it is hiring more. Chien said the company has figured out ways to make money without doing anything nefarious like selling user data.

“We can make more interest on the deposits because we essentially aggregate all deposits together, and we can work with different banks and essentially get paid more on those deposits,” he said. “Second, you know, we’re launching a debit card offering in three months. People can make money for using it or by paying their bills.”

PrizePool can make money on those transactions by taking a fee.

“I think this whole concept can be applied to not just savings, but to every financial product out there,” he said.

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Varjo Reality Cloud lets you virtually experience a real place via ‘teleportation’

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Varjo is unveiling its way to teleport to virtual spaces today.

Where does your enterprise stand on the AI adoption curve? Take our AI survey to find out.


Varjo is unveiling its Reality Cloud platform for virtual teleportation. That means one person can capture the reality of a space in a particular location and share that reality in extreme detail for a remote person to experience, virtually.

The Varjo Reality Cloud shares the details of a room in photorealistic detail, showing someone remotely located a view of the room in real time. Yes, you heard that. Varjo lets one person scan a 3D space and another person experience it virtually at almost the same time, as it can transfer the necessary data in compact streams of 10 megabits to 30 megabits per second with almost no time delays, the company said.

It’s a pretty amazing technology that comes from the pioneering work that Varjo has done in creating high-end virtual reality and mixed reality headsets for enterprises such Volvo, which uses it to design cars in virtual environments. The caveat, of course, is if the tech really works as envisioned.

“We are introducing Varjo Reality Cloud, and this is something very different from what you’ve seen from Varjo before,” said Timo Toikkanen, CEO of Varjo, said in an interview with GamesBeat. “We have been working on a software platform that is the first in the world that enables virtual teleportation.”

The earlier VR and mixed reality tech that Varjo introduced in the past couple of years now uses cameras on a Varjo VR-3 virtual reality headset to capture the environment around a person. Then it transmits that slice of reality to someone else who uses a headset to experience the exact same physical reality, but in a virtual way. If Varjo can deliver the Varjo Reality Platform with the same quality it shows in its videos, then it will feel like you’re “teleporting” from your real location to a virtual location.

“You can you can be anywhere in the world,” Toikkanen said. “You can scan your surroundings, not just a 3D object or something like that. You can digitize the world around you if you like. And do that in super high fidelity, through Varjo Reality Cloud, so anybody anywhere in the world can join you in that location and see it exactly the way you see it, in perfect color, with lights and reflections, and so forth.”

It’s no joke, as Varjo has been working on this for years and it has raised $100 million to date from investors including Volvo (via the Volvo Cars Tech Fund), Atomico, NordicNinja, EQT Ventures, Lifeline Ventures, Tesi, and Swisscanto Invest by Zürcher Kantonalbank.

“It’s a sci fi dream come true. But we are fully grounded in reality. So we have been looking at the at the experience. How can we enable people to have similar interpersonal experience as you do in real life, and do that remotely,” Toikkanen said. “What really accelerated for us during last year was the realization how world will never be returning to the same after COVID and travel will forever be changed. And we saw that this is one of those moments when world is more ready than ever for the transformation of this nature in the way the communication and interaction is done. This is the right time to begin that change.”

A realistic metaverse

Above: Varjo is unveiling its way to teleport to virtual spaces today.

Image Credit: Varjo

Toikkanen said that this capturing and sharing of reality is like a true-to-life metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One.

He said that you will be able to see in real-time what your friend is seeing in another place through the cloud-based platform. One person can map their reality by looking around in a room, and that view is transported to the cloud and rebuilt as a room. The person that you share this reality with can view it and feel like they’re there, Toikkanen said.

“It’s a metaverse grounded in reality,” he said. “It really is like the science fiction, beaming yourself to the other end of the world and back. And we think we think this is a really big deal. If you think of the economical and ecological drivers in the world today, something like this makes travel unnecessary.”

He said it could pave the way for a new form of human interaction and universal collaboration.

“You can engage on a completely different level than you have ever been in the history of communications,” Toikkanen said. “It really does change things in a big way. Both for businesses as well as for private individuals. You can teleport to other people, to your family,  or you can teleport to a work project.”

The system lets anybody scan their surroundings, turning them into 3D imagery using a Varjo XR-3 headset and then transport that 3D space to another person. That person gets to see the exact physical reality, completely bridging the real and the virtual in true-to-life visual fidelity, said Urho Konttori, chief technology officer at Varjo in Helsinki, Finland.

“It’s super important that the latency is kept low enough so that you have you feel that the interaction is logical, and that you don’t have like motion-related latency,” said Konttori. “We have put immense amount of effort into making it so that human-eye resolution, fully immersive stream, from the cloud, can be sent in 10 to 30 megabits per second speeds.”

This real-time reality sharing will usher in a new era in universal collaboration and pave the way for a metaverse of the future, transforming the way people work, interact, and play, Konttori said.

For the past five years, Varjo has been building and perfecting the foundational technologies needed to bring its Varjo Reality Cloud platform to market such as human-eye resolution, low-latency video pass-through, integrated eye tracking and the Lidar ability of the company’s mixed reality headset.

The company has already delivered these building block technologies in market-ready VR products that enterprises use to design their products. And now Varjo is uniquely positioned to combine them with Varjo Reality Cloud to empower users to enjoy the scale and flexibility of virtual computing in the cloud without compromising performance or quality.

Using Varjo’s proprietary foveated transport algorithm, users will be able to stream the real-time human-eye resolution, wide-field-of-view 3D video feed in single megabytes per second to any device. This ability to share, collaborate in and edit one’s environment with other people makes human connection more real and efficient than ever before, eliminating the restrictions of time and place completely.

Dimension10 acquisition

Varjo has been working on the Varjo Reality Cloud for years.

Above: Varjo has been working on the Varjo Reality Cloud for years.

Image Credit: Varjo

To further accelerate bringing the vision for Varjo Reality Cloud to life, Varjo today also announced the acquisition of Dimension10, a Norwegian software company that pioneers industrial 3D collaboration.

“We’re big fans of the company and have been for a long time,” Toikkanen said. “They have been pioneering collaboration, 3D models. And we think collaboration is at the heart Varjo Reality Cloud and us joining forces with them expedites progress.”

The Dimension10 virtual meeting suite is designed for architecture, engineering and construction teams and will become a critical component to making virtual collaboration possible within Varjo Reality Cloud. Dimension10 adds 14 people to Varjo’s team.

Additionally, Varjo added Lincoln Wallen to the company’s board of directors. Wallen currently serves as the CTO at Improbable, and he is a recognized scholar in computing and AI.

Previously, Wallen has worked as CTO of Dreamworks where he transitioned global movie production to the cloud, including the development of a cloud-native toolset for asset management, rendering, lighting, and animation.

Varjo Reality Cloud will first be available to existing customers and partners in alpha access starting later this year. For more information about Varjo’s new cloud platform and its vision for the metaverse, tune into a live, virtual event today, June 24, 2021, at 9 a.m. Pacific time via varjo.com.

Tech demos

varjo Press Image for Varjo Reality Cloud 4

Above: Varjo lets one person scan a 3D space and another person experience it virtually.

Image Credit: Varjo

In a video tech demo, Varjo showed a simplification to show how the world can be captured and streamed in real time as a 3D representation. It shows a time-lapse capture of a scene captured in real-time from a Varjo XR-3 headset. The video is converted into a 3D space that someone with a viewer and access to the Varjo Reality Cloud can use to see that room from any 3D angle.

In the beginning of the video, the user scans the room and then stops to watch Konttori give a talk. While Konttori is speaking, you see the naturalness of the movement, captured with just a Varjo XR-3 headset in the room, no additional cameras or recording devices. The camera is able to move freely as it’s all in 3D and not a flat video.

In a second video, Varjo teleports Konttori to the company’s Varjo HQ in Helsinki in mixed reality. A user wearing the headset sees the teleported Konttori mixed into a physical space at the headquarters. Later they mix the teleported surroundings together with the physical space in the headquarters.

Cool technology

Volvo is using Varjo headsets to design cars.

Above: Kia is using Varjo headsets to design cars.

Image Credit: Varjo

Varjo was founded in 2016, when other headsets like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive first appeared. But instead of targeting entertainment, Varjo went after enterprises with no-compromise technology.

It debuted its first VR headset, the XR-1, in early 2019 with human-eye resolution, or 1,920 pixels x 1,080 pixels per eye and an 87-degree field of view. That headset cost $10,000, but the company followed it up December 2020 with its XR-3 and VR-3 headsets that combined VR and augmented reality in the same headset.

That generation had twice the performance of the previous generation, with “human-eye resolution” of 1,920 pixels x 1,920 pixels per eye and a 115-degree field of view. It was also cheaper, ranging from $3,195 to $5,495 and it was available for cheaper enterprise subscriptions.

Now these headsets can be the jumping off point for the Varjo Reality Cloud, as they can connect to the datacenter and upload the scanned environment that someone can see via the cameras that are on the headset. The quality of the headset capture enables high-quality imagery in the cloud, Konttori said.

“We have innovated for the last five years on making that high fidelity possible,” Toikkanen said. “It links directly to the investment we have made on the headset side into gaze tracking, eye tracking, if you like, because that enables innovation. We have also invested in transporting the data between the locations, to the cloud and back, so that we can do this ensure high quality or super low latency. So that’s essentially what we are. We think of it as nothing less than the next form of human interaction.”

The hard part

Varjo is targeting professionals such as product designers with its XR/VR headsets.

Above: Varjo is targeting professionals such as product designers with its XR/VR headsets.

Image Credit: Varjo

“Nobody else is at the place that they have the hardware even near the quality that we have, let alone the software stack that allows us to actually pull this off,” Toikkanen said. “And we have of course be developing this simultaneously. And now is the culmination of all that work.”

Gaze tracking is important because if you can track where someone’s eyes are moving, then you know what they’re looking at and you can transport that view with low latency. That allows the company to create foveated transport algorithms, which means it only sends the data that you can see and that you are looking at, rather than other data that isn’t needed in real time at that moment.

“It’s a huge undertaking, and so we developed a year and a half ago a new way of doing that transport,” Konttori said. “The video stream focuses at the place that you’re looking at. That’s where we have the full resolution in the video stream. And then the degrades gradually from that towards the edges of the screen. And does that very quickly. It means that we can send the data that we send at the moment on cables from the computer to the headset, which is running at like 20 gigabits per second, and we can send that with our new compression technology at 10 megabits to 30 megabits per second.”

That means it works that you can share imagery with someone 2,000 miles away, Toikkanen said.

Enterprise applications

Varjo's XR-3 and VR-3 headsets.

Above: Varjo’s new XR-3 and VR-3 headsets.

Image Credit: Varjo

It’s a level of quality that is 10 times the resolution difference of other headsets out there, Konttori said.

“You get real-time presence because when we’re scanning, we’re just not just making a 3D model of the surroundings that you’re in and make that a teleport location,” Konttori said. “We’re actually updating that in real time.”

You could have a manager on a factory floor put on a headset. They can create a teleport node, and people from other countries can join and see what the manager sees. It’s all updated in real time and people get a sense they are truly at that location. They can fix the things that the manager is looking at, and then take off a headset and be at home.

“If you want to visit your family, it’s the same thing,” Konttori said. “You can share that physical location and people can instantly perceive the world as if they were actually there themselves.”

Once you scan a place, you don’t have to scan it again, Toikkanen said. And you can use any headset to teleport to a location, or use a phone and still have the freedom of movement to look around. But the Varjo XR-3 is the only device that can be the teleportation node that broadcasts and streams the 3D space to someone else.

Toikkanen said it’s like moving from the telephone to a video conference, and moving from that to something that is even more transformative.

“We think there are going to be a billion people using this kind of service over the next 10 years or 20 years,” he said. “We are in the alpha phase with real customers and partners this year.”

A cousin of the Omniverse

BMW Group is using Omniverse to build a digital factory that will mirror a real-world place.

Above: BMW Group is using Nvidia’s Omniverse to build a digital factory that will mirror a real-world place.

Image Credit: Nvidia

I asked if this would be a way to scan the world into Nvidia’s Ominverse, the metaverse for engineers that lets them simulate photorealistic details in a virtual world to test how they will work in reality. BMW is using the Omniverse for creating a “digital twin,” or a car factory it can design in a virtual space before it builds an exact copy in the physical world.

Toikkanen said that both tools are useful for the metaverse and they are complimentary.

“They’re both part of the like, movement towards metaverse, and this teleport functionality is adding a completely new node into the sphere of discussion of a metaverse, which is that one part of that can be the real world itself,” Toikkanen said. “And we make it so that you get the benefits of a metaverse also in real world setting. And we think that’s at least equally transformative as the metaverse which is typically seen only in virtual reality.”

GamesBeat

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

How will you do that? Membership includes access to:

  • Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
  • The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Special members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staff
  • Chatting with community members, GamesBeat staff, and other guests in our Discord
  • And maybe even a fun prize or two
  • Introductions to like-minded parties

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Immutable will launch Ethereum token for Gods Unchained

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Immutable will launch Ethereum token for Gods Unchained

Where does your enterprise stand on the AI adoption curve? Take our AI survey to find out.


The gods are evidently fond of tokens. Immutable said today that the Gods Unchained blockchain card game will launch a new Ethereum token dubbed $GODS in partnership with Nine Realms.

Sydney, Australia-based Immutable will launch the $GODS token to scale its trading market and play-to-earn systems in the game. That means that players will be able to buy and sell the tokens in the game and gain a voice on how the blockchain game is run.

Immutable said this helps give players a stake in the game and its economy, shifting power from the developers to the players by providing in-game assets that players can actually own.

The $GODS token will sit at the heart of the game’s ecosystem, providing both in-game and external utility. At launch, $GODS will operate as a utility and governance token, giving holders a voice in the digital space, as well as active staking opportunities that allow players to earn rewards through gameplay campaigns. Over time, functionality will expand to embed the token within Gods Unchained’s play-to-earn game loops, allowing players to earn $GODS tokens by simply playing the game. I call this the Leisure Economy, where we get paid to play games.

$GODS will then directly interact with Gods Unchained’s nonfungible token (NFT) assets, which are new NFTs that players can wield in-game and trade or sell on the marketplace. That means that those games will have uniquely identifiable digital items that players can earn or buy or sell, allowing the players to own the items permanently.

Immutable X

Above: The $GODS Unchained token.

Image Credit: Immutable

Immutable X has created a marketplace for players in games such as Gods Unchained to buy and sell the items they have collected. Immutable X is the brainchild of Immutable, an Australian game team that runs the NFT trading card game Gods Unchained. Gods Unchained is an important NFT game, as it is built by a development team headed by Chris Clay, the former director of Magic the Gathering: Arena. Gods Unchained is a “play to earn” game, where players can earn collectibles over time, Immutable founder Robbie Ferguson said in a recent interview with GamesBeat. And they can make money by trading those collectibles, including the unique NFTs that can be proven by the blockchain, the secure digital ledger technology, to not be copies.

In the past few months, NFTs have exploded in other applications such as art, sports collectibles, and music. NBA Top Shot (a digital take on collectible basketball cards) is one example. Published by Animoca Brands and built by Dapper Labs, NBA Top Shot has surpassed $540 million in sales, five months after going public to a worldwide audience. And an NFT digital collage by the artist Beeple sold at Christie’s for $69.3 million. Investors are pouring money into NFTs, and some of those investors are game fans. The prices for NFTs have fallen, but many of those fans are undeterred.

As one of the highest-grossing blockchain games of 2020, Gods Unchained has logged millions of matches during its ongoing beta and boasts over 4 million assets. The token launch comes off the back of Gods Unchained’s latest expansion set, Trial of the Gods. That set completely sold out, and a new expansion is on the horizon.

$GODS is being created, issued and distributed by Nine Realms for use within the Gods Unchained ecosystem.

gods unchained

Above: Gods Unchained

Image Credit: Immutable

$GODS is an ERC-20 token that will interact natively with Immutable X, the layer 2 scaling solution for Ethereum trading. The Immutable X platform allows for peer-to-peer trading without the hindrance of gas fees, and will be expanding to include ERC-20 tokens once the $GODS token drops.

In 2020, Immutable partnered with StarkWare, a company that taps the benefit of using the Ethereum cryptocurrency and its security without incurring huge fees. Immutable X is built on top of StarkWare’s layer 2 scaling technology. Essentially, users don’t have to trust in Immutable lasting permanently in order to keep owning their NFTs — they can just trust in Ethereum. Immutable X’s mainnet is now available as the first layer 2 solution for NFTs on Ethereum, the company said.

Other solutions to Ethereum are creating alternative, faster cryptocurrencies with different methods of reaching a consensus. But these alternatives aren’t as popular as Ethereum. Another solution is to create a side chain, with a different kind of processing for transactions. But Immutable believes those solutions can fail because their security isn’t still as strong as Ethereum’s. If the security fails, then so does the authenticity of the NFT, and that would be disastrous, Immutable said.

For more information on $GODS, keep an eye on this link for updates around eligibility, distribution methods, and ways to claim and earn tokens. Immutable has about 100 employees, with 40 of them working on Gods Unchained.

GamesBeat

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

How will you do that? Membership includes access to:

  • Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
  • The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Special members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staff
  • Chatting with community members, GamesBeat staff, and other guests in our Discord
  • And maybe even a fun prize or two
  • Introductions to like-minded parties

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Continue Reading

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Survey-style measurement of IT isn’t effective, a ‘rigged lottery’

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Survey-style measurement of IT isn’t effective, a ‘rigged lottery’

Survey-style measurement of IT is a rigged lottery as it falls far short of providing a true measure of Digital Employee Experience (DEX).Read MoreK3d9ZEjzwis

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