Regulators suspend EasyMile’s self-driving shuttle trial after minor accident

When it comes to accidents involving self-driving vehicles, the rules seem to be fuzzy, and recent actions by U.S. regulators aren’t likely to clarify things.

Case in point: On Tuesday, an autonomous shuttle built by France’s EasyMile and being tested in Columbus, Ohio, activated its emergency breaking system, causing a passenger to slide off the seat. The passenger was taken to the hospital to be evaluated but didn’t appear to be seriously injured.

Still, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) halted passenger trials of EasyMile shuttles across the U.S. until the agency had the results of various tests. The shuttles run on limited, defined paths and can continue to do so without passengers onboard.

“Our vehicles are being allowed on the road for testing in each of the 10 states where NHTSA is performing its review,” said EasyMile’s U.S. senior VP Sharad Agarwal in a statement. “This is a clear indication it too considers them safe for other road users, cars, pedestrians, etc.”

The move to suspend passenger trials came the same day the National Transportation Safety Board offered a blistering critique of the NHTSA’s handling of a fatal 2018 Autopilot crash involving a Tesla car. The oversight agency took the NHTSA to task for its “hands-off approach,” according to its report. The safety board also noted that while NHTSA has investigated 14 Tesla crashes that may have involved Autopilot, the agency has yet to take any action against Tesla.

That inconsistency did not go unnoticed on Twitter:

EasyMile’s suspension is likely to be a short one. The trial in Columbus began in early February and involved two shuttles driving a 2.9-mile circuit at speeds under 25 miles per hour with a human operator onboard at all times.

EasyMile claimed this was the first such test of a self-driving shuttle in a residential area in the U.S. Typically, such autonomous shuttles have been conducting trials in limited, non-public spaces, such as waterfronts, roads around warehouses, or gated communities.

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All Fortnite Season 2 Challenges: Lighthouse, Phone Booths, And More

Season 2 of Fortnite Chapter 2 has finally arrived. Following a string of cryptic, spy-themed teases, Epic has released Fortnite’s 12.00 update, introducing a host of new content and other changes to the popular battle royale shooter.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is challenges. Every week throughout the season, Epic will roll out a new set of challenges for Battle Pass holders to complete. Clearing these will help level up your Battle Pass, which in turn will unlock exclusive cosmetic rewards like new skins when you hit certain milestones. You can take a look at some of the ones up that are for grabs in our Fortnite Season 2 Battle Pass skins gallery.

While Season 2 may have only just begun, there are already a handful of challenges waiting to be completed. We’ve rounded up our maps and guides for the trickier tasks below. We’ll continue to update this list with more maps and guides as the season progresses, so be sure to check back often if you need help leveling up your Battle Pass.

  • Brutus’s Briefing (Week 1)
    • Land At Lockie’s Lightouse, Apres Ski, And Mount Kay
    • Disguise Yourself Inside A Phone Booth In Different Matches

    Brutus’s Briefing (Week 1)

    • Search Chests at The Grotto or The Shark (7)
    • Deal damage to Henchmen (2,000)
    • Open doors locked by an ID Scanner in different matches (3)
    • Search Ammo Boxes in a single match (7)
    • Disguise yourself inside a Phone Booth in different matches (3)
    • Be crouched within 20m of unaware Henchmen for a total of 10 seconds
    • Throw different shield items or healing items (3)
    • Eliminate players while having a total of 100 health and shield or more (5)
    • Land at Lockie’s Lighthouse, Apres Ski, and Mount Kay (3)
    • Damage players using 2 different weapons within 10 seconds (1)

    Land At Lockie’s Lightouse, Apres Ski, And Mount Kay

    The object of this challenge is simply to land at three different landmarks: Lockie’s Lighthouse, Apres Ski, and Mount Kay. While actually landing at the locations is easy, knowing where each one is on the island may prove to be a little trickier. Lockie’s Lighthouse is found on the northernmost part of the map, in grid C1. Apres Ski is on the opposite end; you’ll find it atop a mountain southwest of Misty Meadow, in grid E8. Mount Kay is relatively close by; it’s located in grid G7. You can see where all three landmarks are on the map above.

    Disguise Yourself Inside A Phone Booth In Different Matches

    Tying into Season 2’s spy theme, this challenge asks you to disguise yourself in a phone booth in three different matches. There are several booths scattered around the island, many in the new areas that were introduced at the start of this season. We’ve marked where three of them are on the map above. Once you track down a phone booth, enter it and press the interact button to change your disguise. Do this in three different matches and the challenge will be complete.

    Phone Booth Locations

    • The Rig (the small island off the southwest corner of the map)
    • Outside of the Agency in the center of the map
    • At The Grotto on the easternmost end of the map

    Fortnite News

    • Fortnite Chapter 2 Season 2 Patch Notes Are MIA, But Fans Create Unofficial List
    • Deadpool Skin Is Fortnite's Season 2 Secret Unlock
    • Fortnite Season 2 Battle Pass Skins And Rewards
    • Fortnite Chapter 2 Season 2 Is All About Spies, Hideouts, And Deadpool

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Xbox Games With Gold March 2020: Free Games Revealed

March is just around the corner, which means a new slate of Games with Gold will soon be available. Microsoft has revealed the next batch of free games for Xbox Live Gold members, and as usual, it includes two titles for Xbox One and two for Xbox 360.

Kicking off the month are Telltale’s Batman: The Enemy Within for Xbox One and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 for Xbox 360. The former will be available throughout the entire month, while the latter will be free to download from March 1-15.

Two more free games will be available starting March 16. First is Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, which will be up for grabs until April 15. Joining it is the well-liked Xbox 360 Sonic game, Sonic Generations; you’ll be able to download that until March 31. As usual, both of March’s free Xbox 360 titles are backwards compatible with Xbox One.

You can see the full list of March’s free games below. In the meantime, you still have a couple of days to grab some of February’s free Games with Gold. TT Isle of Man and the original Star Wars Battlefront will both return to their regular price on February 29, while Call of Cthulu will be free until March 15.

An Xbox Live Gold membership costs $10 a month, while an Game Pass Ultimate subscription–which includes all the benefits of Xbox Live Gold along with access to the Xbox Game Pass library–runs for $15 a month. Microsoft recently confirmed that Halo Infinite will be available on Game Pass for Xbox One and the company’s upcoming Xbox Series X console. If you’re interested in trying the service, you can get three months of Game Pass Ultimate for $25.

Xbox Games with Gold for March 2020

Xbox One

  • Batman: The Enemy Within (March 1-31)
  • Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (March 16-April 15)

Xbox 360

  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (March 1-15)
  • Sonic Generations (March 16-31)

Xbox Series X And Xbox One News

  • February 2020 Xbox Games With Gold Revealed
  • Xbox Series X: Release Date, Specs, Price, And Everything We Know
  • Xbox Series X Gets New Details On Ray-tracing, SSD, Game Suspension
  • Xbox Series X Will Be Backwards Compatible With All Previous Generations
  • Why You Can't Pre-Order Xbox Series X Yet
  • Xbox Series X Exclusive Details: Say Hello To Microsoft's Next-Gen Console

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Humanization of AI in Retail

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning tools as a whole have taken important steps in development within the last decade. Specifically, AI tools have been getting more sophisticated in their learning and human-like decision-making.

Optimal Pricing

In the past, competitive pricing was almost purely human-oriented. Those in charge of pricing analytics would check their competitors’ prices and respond accordingly, taking into account other factors such as demand or brand loyalty. The key consideration here, especially with online shopping, is that customers are usually comparing prices in multiple stores before deciding to buy. Forrester Consulting found that in 2014, 81% of surveyed Americans compared online prices before buying.

Seeing as competitive pricing is nearly a must in the consumer-oriented market, doing such pricing analytics by hand is not only time consuming but also limited in scope. Because there are so many factors to consider—demand, brand power, competitor prices, seasonality—it isn’t easy to get a full picture of optimal pricing decisions. With the advent of AI in retail market analysis, a load of extensive research and uncertain decision-making is taken off of employees’ shoulders.

In a way, competitive pricing AI takes all the information that would have been researched by people and combines the data into one decision-making paradigm. These algorithms can analyze things like competitor pricing or behavior (promotion patterns, the regularity of price changes, etc.), and a retailer’s essential products to draw a transparent pricing system. They can detect patterns that humans would have trouble with; one such example would be product matching, wherein the machine learning tools recommend products that are more likely to be bought in tandem. Another example is pricing simulations, where different pricing scenarios are tested (you can dive deeper into this subject in this Competera’s blog post).

Artificial Intelligence can be implemented in practically any industry for optimal pricing—even for something like an online pet store. In short, AI has completely changed the way retailers look at dynamic pricing, and turned the human guessing game into a science.

Customer Support

Advanced technologies and software have been advancing customer service for decades. Keeping your customers happy is one of the keys to a successful and prosperous business and is vital to building a loyal consumer base. Thus, using the newest technology to get the edge in customer service is a recurring theme in well-liked retailers.

A large portion of customer satisfaction is contingent on the speed at which any issues are resolved; if your support team has limited hours or a waiting list, customers could be kept waiting. This is why chatbots are essential in the digitized retail market. They are up 24/7 and can often help resolve the user’s issue without the need for a representative. If the bot can’t solve the customer’s problem or question, it can always transfer the subject and some necessary information regarding it to a human rep.

Some chatbots are even advanced enough to offer advice and learn the types of problems customers often report. The North Face’s AI bot is capable of providing advice based on user input, effectively acting as an in-store representative. Similarly, Lidl’s chatbot Margot helps buyers pick out a wine, and boasts the ability to mimic natural speech. All in all, chatbots are a vital auxiliary, if not vital, tool for around-the-clock customer support.

Personalized Experience

Machine learning has revolutionized targeted advertising and suggestions due to the volume of customer data available nowadays. Every action, from search history to browsing patterns, is carefully analyzed to tailor shopping or even browsing experience. The most prevalent form of this is probably targeted advertising; while it can come off as an invasion of privacy at times, the ads we see online are largely based on what these algorithms believe we are likely to click on or be interested in.

If your browsing history is filled with product pages for headphones or searches like “best noise-canceling earbuds”, you are reasonably likely to see ads for headphones soon enough. It’s almost like having someone next to you throw out suggestions based on your browsing patterns. Sometimes, their ideas might be neat and useful.

A similar personalization of experience can be seen on sites like Netflix. Based on what you’ve seen and enjoyed in the past, it’ll suggest shows or movies the AI thinks you’ll like. The reason AI works so well in this regard is that it analyzes more than basic categories, and can extrapolate real-time insights into a customer’s preferences. Another example would be Amazon—products are suggested to you based on your browsing and purchase history.

Customer Outreach

Before email became the dominant means of communicating with consumers, businesses would have to rely on telephone and post for marketing purposes. Of course, these methods are far more expensive and effectively obsolete in the retail sphere. In the early days of email’s prevalence in marketing, though, businesses had to rely on pre-written text for all customers—sort of like a TV commercial.

Since then, email marketing has taken huge strides and often boasts higher conversion rates than social media marketing and similar means. One key component in the evolution of email is its personalization; in 2016, Starbucks revamped its rewards system in a push for more engagement. They went from cycling through 30 email variations to sending 400,000 personalized emails per week.

The personalization of email marketing increases the likelihood that consumers will be interested in reading an email, and, as Starbucks proved, can improve sales and customer engagement. At its core, it also adds a particular “human” aspect to a very calculated and automated marketing strategy.

Conclusion

Artificial Intelligence is vastly reshaping the way retailers make business decisions and connect with their consumers. At the start, technology was more of a means for people to optimize their work. In recent years, though, AI has been gaining the knack of identifying patterns and connecting with consumers, bridging the gap between human intelligence and cold, calculating machinery.

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Pokemon Home Transfers: How To Bring Pokemon From Go, Bank, Sword & Shield, And Let's Go

Pokemon Home is now live on Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android devices. The new service lets you store Pokemon you’ve caught in various games in the cloud and bring them into the series’ latest installments, Sword and Shield. (You can even nab free Pokemon just for using the service.)

Among other things, Pokemon Home gives you the ability to bring over Pokemon you have stored in Pokemon Bank on 3DS to the Switch, meaning it’s now possible to get a handful of non-Galar Legendaries in Sword and Shield, as well as other regional forms. However, the transfer process can be a little confusing, so we’ve put together this guide explaining how to move Pokemon from Bank and other games to Home.

Before we get into how to transfer your pocket monsters, it is recommended you first download Pokemon Home on your mobile device and link that to your Nintendo Account before doing the same on Switch. If you want to bring over monsters from Bank, you’ll also need to have a paid Pokemon Home subscription, as that is one of the features reserved exclusively for the premium plan. You can learn more in our Pokemon Home pricing guide.

How To Transfer From Pokemon Bank To Pokemon Home

If you have a paid Pokemon Home plan, you can use either the Switch or mobile version of the service to bring over Pokemon you have stored in Pokemon Bank. If you’re already a Pokemon Bank user, you’ll need to download the latest version of the app from the 3DS Eshop before you begin. If you’re new to the service, you can use Pokemon Bank for free for 30 days, letting you transfer your pocket monsters even if you don’t have a subscription.

Once the Pokemon Bank update is installed, a new option to Move Pokemon to Pokemon Home will appear on the menu. Choose this and you’ll be presented with a list of all your Pokemon Bank boxes. You can then select which boxes you’d like to transfer over to Home. Note that this will move the entire box; you won’t be able to individually select Pokemon within a box to transfer over.

After choosing which boxes you’d like to move, press Done on 3DS. You’ll then need to go into Pokemon Home to obtain a Moving Key and perform the actual transfer. In the mobile version, you can generate a key by selecting Move Pokemon from the Options menu; in the Switch version, you’ll need to select the 3DS icon at the bottom of the main menu. Press Begin Move and the service will generate a Moving Key, which you’ll then need to type in on 3DS. The Moving Key will only be valid for three minutes, however, so you won’t have much time to use it.

After you enter the Moving Key in Pokemon Bank, the transfer will begin. The process may take a couple of minutes, but afterward you’ll find the Pokemon you moved waiting in one of your Home boxes. Before you bring any Pokemon over, however, keep in mind that Pokemon transferred from Bank can no longer be returned to that service, so only transfer monsters if you don’t plan on using them any longer on 3DS.

How To Transfer From Sword/Shield And Let’s Go To Pokemon Home

Pokemon Home is also compatible with Let’s Go Pikachu / Eevee and Pokemon Sword / Shield, so you can store any Pokemon you’ve captured in those titles to the service. Fortunately, this process is much simpler than transferring Pokemon from Bank. In the Switch version of Home, select Pokemon on the main menu and you’ll be presented with a list of the Switch Pokemon games you own. Choose a title and you can move Pokemon from it to Home, and vice versa.

As with Bank transfers, there are a couple of caveats to keep in mind when moving your pocket monsters. Any Pokemon you transfer from Let’s Go to Home can be retrieved in their original game or in Sword and Shield (if they appear in the Galar Pokedex); however, if you bring a Pokemon from Let’s Go into one of the Gen 8 games, it can no longer be returned to its original title. Pokemon from Sword and Shield, however, can freely be moved to and from the service.

How To Transfer From Pokemon Go To Pokemon Home

At present, it is not possible to directly move Pokemon you’ve caught in Pokemon Go to Pokemon Home; however, The Pokemon Company says it plans to add that functionality to the service sometime in the future.

That said, while there isn’t a direct way to transfer Pokemon from Go to Home just yet, there is a roundabout method for bringing certain Pokemon over from the mobile game. If you have a copy of Let’s Go Pikachu or Eevee, you are able to transfer any Gen 1 Pokemon (plus the Mythical Meltan) that you’ve caught in Pokemon Go to those titles through the Go Park, a facility located in Fuchsia City.

After recapturing the Pokemon you transferred over from Go, you’ll be able to store them in Pokemon Home. You can then retrieve them again in either Let’s Go or in Pokemon Sword or Shield (provided they appear in the Galar Pokedex); however, if you bring the Pokemon into one of the Gen 8 games, you will no longer be able to use them in Let’s Go.

Pokemon Sword And Shield News & Guides

  • Pokemon Sword & Shield: How To Breed Regional Forms
  • Pokemon Home Is Now Available On Nintendo Switch
  • Pokemon Home FAQ: Price, Release Date, Compatible Games, And More
  • Pokemon Sword & Shield DLC: All The Confirmed Returning Pokemon So Far

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The Division 2 Will Be Free To Play This Weekend

From Friday, February 27th until Monday, March 2nd, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 will be free to play on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The promotion is most likely in place to encourage new players to try the game out ahead of its upcoming expansion, Warlords of New York, which will launch on Tuesday, March 3rd.

When The Division 2 first released back in February of 2019, the game received high praise from critics, but just simply did not appeal to the wider audience Ubisoft had hoped it would. Fast forward merely a year later, and you can often find The Division 2 on sale for less than $10.

Despite combining the modern military atmosphere of games like Call of Duty with the looter-shooter RPG mechanics of titles like DestinyThe Division 2 simply couldn’t find its target audience. The game’s failure to meet its financial goals despite its critical praise shows just how saturated the shooter genre has become.

Now, Ubisoft hopes to reinvigorate the game with its new extensive expansion, Warlords of New York. As you might have guessed from its title, the expansion will bring players back to the Lower Manhattan setting of the first game, with new story content involving the return of antagonist, Aaron Keener.

Along with new content, The Division 2 will reportedly be reworked from the ground up, introducing a new loot system, reworked weapon attributes, new talents, mod slots, and set bonuses. The overhaul is Ubisoft’s attempt at reinvigorating the game while hopefully introducing it to a wider audience at the same time.

This is likely the reason why The Division will be free to play this weekend. That being said, Ubisoft may just be better off making the game free to play all of the time with a battle pass system similar to games like Fortnite and Modern Warfare. The fact that players will need to purchase The Division 2 after this weekend may discourage them from trying it in the first place.

Either way, it’s good to see that Ubisoft is at least trying to give The Division 2 the attention that they once hoped it would receive. We’ll just have to wait and see if this face lift is enough to bring more players to the Tom Clancy title.

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Tempo’s $1,995 fitness tracker taps AI to improve your workout routine

Can AI and machine learning improve the quality of your workout routine? As the wearable AI market climbs to $180 billion, Tempo (previously Pivot), is betting that it can. Today, the startup launched a $1,995 AI-powered home fitness system (with a $200 down deposit and $35 monthly subscription) that will begin shipping in Summer 2020. CEO and cofounder Moawia Eldeeb claims it’s the first weight training solution that counts reps and calories burned, recommends weights, and makes real-time technique corrections.

“In my own life, having access to trainers who could teach, inspire, and hold me accountable made all the difference,” said Eldeeb. “A workout video, even if it’s broadcast live, just doesn’t compare — be it through a TV, laptop, or phone. That’s why Tempo is building technology to bridge the gap between you and the trainer, build that core relationship, and deliver the same hands-on guidance and motivation you’d expect from an in-person experience.”

Tempo — which has $17.5 million in series A funding contributed by Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures, DCM, Bling Capital, Khosla Ventures, Signal Fire, Y-Combinator, and others — says its device’s 3D infrared sensors can scan users’ movements 30 times per second for performance tracking and form feedback. It packs a 42-inch touchscreen display and comes with “competition-grade” barbells, dumbbells, and change plates that range from 7.5 pounds to 100 pounds, along with accessories like a workout mat and recovery roller in a free-standing industrial design.

Tempo

Tempo’s machine learning algorithms help plan workouts tailored to an individual user’s progress. During live classes, instructors are notified when a mistake is made, enabling them to provide guidance in real time. To further motivate fitness enthusiasts, a live leaderboard allows them to compete with friends and others and to request personalized weight recommendations that take into account their overall experience level.

Tempo’s alluded-to classes — which are available live and on-demand and led by National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified trainers — combine traditional weight lifting with high-intensity training intervals (HIIT) for full-body workouts based on accepted sports science principles. Optional trainer-curated programs deliver a sequence of courses designed to target different muscle groups daily, while algorithms track progress to inform the system’s real-time feedback features.

Above: The Tempo trainer experience.

The version of Tempo’s software that will ship to early adopters can recognize bicep curls, seated shoulder presses, lunges, front squats, bent over rows, hammer curls, and other exercises while simultaneously collating data to show users how recent performances compared with past performances. It’s powered by a data set captured by Tempo’s successor system, SmartSpot, which contains over 1 million tagged workout sessions.

Tempo notes that analysts recently pegged the U.S. fitness industry at $30 billion and that the popularity of boutique fitness classes has grown 10 times in the last five years. The startup will compete with better-funded rivals like Peloton, which in August 2019 raised $550 million at a valuation of $4 billion to further develop its range of web-connected home fitness equipment and content, and Tonal, which last April raised $45 million for its AI-powered in-home fitness system. Meanwhile, Vi raked in $20 million to expand availability of its earbuds and AI-powered running coach products.

Tempo

But backers like DCM partner Kyle Lui assert that Pivot’s proprietary software and machine learning technology will give it a leg up on the competition.

“Tempo’s product differentiation was clear to me the first time I tried it, and I’m incredibly excited for the company’s launch,” said Lui. “Tempo’s technology combines world-class machine learning, software, and hardware to create an at-home weight training and fitness experience comparable to what Peloton has achieved for at-home spin.”

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The Group Stage for the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Season 3 Minor is set

On Thursday, March 5th, the next event in the
Dota 2 Pro Circuit season will begin as the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor
Season 3 kicks off with its Group Stage and the split of the teams into their
groups has now been decided.

The third Minor in the DPC season is set to be held in Kiev, Ukraine and beginning in just over a week, the eight teams involved will begin their journey as they battle for the one spot at the ESL One Los Angeles Major. The group stage of the event will see the teams split into two groups of four each as they fight in a GSL format bracket where the top two teams from each group advance into the playoffs while the bottom two will be eliminated from the Minor.

Group A

  • Business Associates
  • Forze
  • Team Aster
  • Boom Esports

Group B

  • Alliance
  • Gambit Esports
  • Fighting Pandas
  • NoPing e-Sports

With a prize pool of $300,000 on the line as well as a spot
at the Major, the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 3 is definitely set to
create some intense rivalries between all teams involved. While the likes of
Forze and Gambit Esports will have the homeground advantage, they will have to
fight the likes of Alliance, Aster, business associates and all other teams
involved if they want to claim a CIS victory in Kiev.

All the Minor action from the Group Stages and the playoffs
will be covered on the StarLadder Twitch channel starting from Thursday next
week and running through the weekend. With this being the third Minor in the
DPC, there are only a few chances left for teams to reach The International 2020,
so it will be interesting to see which teams will come out on top and grab
themselves a spot at ESL One Los Angeles.

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Dota Pro Circuit introduces regional leagues

Valve has changed the format of the Dota Pro Circuit, introducing six regional leagues and three majors.

The changes will be implemented following The International 10, which takes place in August.

RELATED: ESL establishes Dota 2 Southeast Asia Championship

Following TI10, the annual Dota Pro Circuit will be split into three seasons – each of which will wrap up with a Major. Each season will comprise of regional leagues for China, Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, South America, and CIS.

Each regional league will have a prize pool of $280,000 (£216,213.20) for each season and is split into two divisions. There will be eight teams in the upper division and eight teams in the lower division of each league. The bottom two teams in the lower division will be relegated and replaced with two teams from open qualifiers.

RELATED: RNG’s Dota 2 team dress to impress with Kappa partnership

The leagues will last for six weeks each season and consist of a best-of-three round robin format that includes all of the competing teams. The upper division matches will have studio broadcasts and the lower division clashes will be featured on DotaTV.

DPC points are still a major feature in the circuit, with the top five teams in the upper division each receiving points towards qualifying for The International. Majors will also distribute $500,000 (£386,185) and DPC points. The new-look circuit will kick off with the Season 1 Fall League on October 5th. Third-party tournaments will be hosted in between league play.

Esports Insider says: It’s good to see a format that allows the top teams to consistently compete among each other in a system that matters, while allowing up-and-coming teams to earn their spot on three separate occasions. This change shows that Valve is thinking proactively about how to improve the Dota Pro Circuit and that’s got to be encouraging for players and organisations alike.

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Plume raises $85 million to bring smarter Wi-Fi networks to more homes

Plume, a Comcast-backed startup developing an AI-powered adaptive home Wi-Fi mesh network system, has raised $85 million in a mixture of equity and debt financing. The $60 million series D equity investors included Qualcomm, Charter Communications, Belkin, Service Electric Cablevision, Liberty Global, and Shaw Communications, while the debt facility was provided by Silicon Valley Bank and WesterRiver Group.

This takes the San Francisco-based startup’s total funding to $127 million, at a valuation of $510 million.

Founded in 2014, Plume is one of a number of companies seeking to improve Wi-Fi connectivity by strategically placing multiple routers throughout a home. Plume continuously learns and adapts to each household — monitoring internet usage and allocating bandwidth based on the devices that need it most. Other notable players in the Wi-Fi mesh network space include Eero, which Amazon bought last year, Google’s Nest, Netgear’s Orbi, and even new Plume investor Belkin.

Above: Managing home Wi-Fi through the Plume mobile app

Blackspots

The increase in connected devices in the home — from fridges and smart speakers to TVs and light bulbs — has created more potential for internet blackspots, something mesh network companies are eager to fix.

Charter Communications, which trades under the Spectrum name, is one of the largest cable TV and internet companies in the U.S. and recently announced that it was adopting Plume’s open source OpenSync framework. The framework, which launched back in 2018 in partnership with existing customer Samsung, is available for any company developing its own services — such as Wi-Fi mesh networks, parental control systems, or any new product that requires managed Wi-Fi. Today, Plume claims more than “650 million devices communicating with 16 million OpenSync switches across 14 million households,” according to a statement.

By way of example, Charter launched a new “advanced in-home Wi-Fi” service last year, giving its customers greater control and visibility into their home broadband. This includes mobile apps that show all devices connected to the network and may also allow homeowners to set up guest Wi-Fi accounts (e.g. for an Airbnb guest) or cut access to a single device (e.g. a child’s smartphone).

Above: Plume’s managed Wi-Fi service at work

As a result of this new round, Andrew Ip, senior VP for emerging technology and innovation at Charter Communications, has joined Plume’s board of directors.

“Our partnership with Plume has been critical to the success of Charter’s advanced in-home Wi-Fi rollout and has enabled Charter to accelerate innovation and more rapidly deliver new features to our Spectrum Internet and Wi-Fi customers — from the ability to optimize their home networks to greater control over their devices,” said Ip.

Besides Charter, Plume’s cloud-based service has been adopted by more than 30 communications service providers, including Comcast and Armstrong in the U.S., as well as major telecom companies in Canada, Europe, and Asia. Earlier this week, the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) — a membership-based working group kickstarted in 2016 by heavy hitters like Facebook, Nokia, and Intel — revealed that it too was adopting the OpenSync framework.

“We believe in the cloud, a massively scalable data-driven platform, a SaaS delivery model, and an open source approach to build[ing] a market-leading, high-growth enterprise efficiently and with operating leverage,” said Plume cofounder and CEO Fahri Diner.

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