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5 NFT trends that will bring social media audiences into web3

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5 NFT trends that will bring social media audiences into web3

As the debates on Twitter rage on, most tech founders and VCs have by now chosen a side: Web 2.0 or web3.

Proponents of web3 believe it is the future of the internet, and that blockchain-based products will completely supplant Web 2.0 within the next few years.

Web 2.0 stalwarts say it’s all just a bunch of hype being spewed by crypto bros looking to turn a profit, and that blockchain technologies are fundamentally limited in scope.

As a founder who has been building Web 2.0 apps for over a decade, and investing in crypto for nearly as long, I believe the most exciting opportunity lies at the intersection of these two worlds.

The true mass-market potential of blockchain will be unlocked with the merger of Web 2.0 and web3.

I spent $2,000 on a pair of sneakers I know I will never wear, because they exist only as an NFT. Is it any less crazy than the money I previously spent on toe-crushing stilettos?

It’s tempting to look at the energy, talent and resources being poured into web3 and harken back to the early days of the internet. For those of us who have been around Silicon Valley long enough to remember, the similarities are undeniable.

Except this time, the rate of growth seems exponentially higher. Web3 pundits point to these facts to support the argument that web3 is the future of the internet, and that Web 2.0 will soon be dead.

But there is one important distinction between the early days of the internet and today: Before Web 1.0, there was no internet. We all lived analog lives. When the internet came along, it was competing against a relatively boring existence. Free porn, chat rooms, gaming, music, email, videos, the world’s information at your fingertips versus … a sleepy Saturday trip to Blockbuster. It was never a fair fight.

Web3 is entering a different arena. People today are addicted to digital products with a very strong pull. You’re not going to get the average consumer to stop scrolling TikTok because they want to help usher in an era of decentralization, support the creator economy or battle inflation. They don’t care. And they can’t afford a BAYC or a cryptopunk.

What the average internet user does care about is how they appear and present themselves on social media. That’s the bridge. The key to this bridge will be NFTs.

Here are 5 NFT trends that will bring social media audiences into web3 en masse:

NFT verification

Skeptics are quick to point out that NFTs are dumb because you can simply right-click and save the underlying files. This is a temporary problem. In the near future, all major social platforms will implement NFT verification, allowing you to connect your wallets and display your verified NFTs on your profile. In parallel, fingerprinting technology will allow platforms to easily detect stolen files and take them down.

Once TikTok users can display and use their unique, verified NFTs in their posts, the game completely changes, because the social value of purchasing and broadcasting NFTs increases exponentially.

Sidechains

As sidechains like Polygon become increasingly prevalent, NFT prices will come down. Near-zero gas fees will also enable developers to build more interactivity and composability into NFTs, making them inherently more social.

Imagine Pokémon Go on the blockchain, where each Pokémon is an NFT that can be traded or sold. Every Pokémon you acquire has unique traits, and you uniquely impact how it evolves with the location-based achievements you unlock. As a Pokémon levels up, its powers get updated on-chain. As you progress in the game, you earn crypto tokens, which have value outside of the game. Fun!

Music

The NFT mania of 2021 was largely focused on visual art, but the next frontier, and one that I believe will ultimately be much bigger, is music. Whether it’s collecting physical art or NFTs, the impulses driving a collector’s behavior are the same: the desire to express one’s artistic tastes to peers; the desire to express one’s identity, either individual or group; and, in some cases, the desire to turn a profit.

Although there has been plenty of speculative frenzy behind the initial NFT craze, I think the impulses around self-expression and identity are the more fundamental drivers of art collection. And one of the most prevalent ways in which people express their tastes and identity is through music.

TikTok started as a music video app, and music tracks remain a core component of videos shared on the platform today. But the music available today is common. Everyone has access to the same songs.

Imagine your favorite artist releases a unique 60-second music track with a limited number available as NFTs. You purchase one and make a cool TikTok out of it. It goes viral. Millions of people suddenly want that song to make their own TikTok. But there are only 100 copies available anywhere. You get daily offers from people who want to buy the song from you, and you can decide if you want to flip it or keep it for yourself. Fun!

Wearables

At the dawn of the Web 2.0 era, when I was in my 20s, I would spend nearly all my disposable monthly income on fashion. Fancy jeans, stilettos, sunglasses and handbags — my appetite for nice things to wear was insatiable.

But as the majority of my social interactions shifted online over the past decade, my spending on clothing has dwindled. All I really want these days, other than exercise gear, is a handful of colorful tops for Zooms. Buying fancy clothes has lost its fun.

But the other day, I did something surprising. I spent $2,000 on a pair of sneakers I know I will never wear. I can’t wear them, because they exist only as an NFT. It’s difficult for me to explain to someone who hasn’t fallen down the crypto rabbit hole why I made this purchase, and I realize it probably seems crazy. But is it any less crazy than the money I previously spent on toe-crushing stilettos?

Wearables are about to usher in an era of massive spending on digital goods that social media audiences will use to primp and preen their digital selves. Although most existing wearables activity in the NFT space is tied to gaming and avatars, the killer use case that will help transition large audiences into the metaverse will be AR filters.

Imagine that Kim Kardashian launches custom AR filters — facelifts, lip fillers, makeup, hair, dresses, jewelry — and each one is unique. If you buy one, you can exclusively don that look in your TikTok videos for as long as you want, and then you can sell it when you get bored. Add me to your whitelist, Kim!

Dynamic avatars

OK, I get it. You cannot, for the life of you, imagine why anyone would change their profile pic to a hideous ape. I have to admit, I own a Bored Ape. But I can’t bring myself to make it my profile pic either. I chose a World of Women instead. Why did I swap a professional headshot of myself for an algorithmically generated cartoon image that only vaguely resembles me? It was fun. It allowed me to express a side of my personality I would have trouble capturing in a photograph.

But my profile pic is already starting to feel a little stale. I wish it weren’t so … static.

Dynamism, personalization and movement are coming to NFT avatars. Imagine you take a selfie, and an AI generates a unique, custom 3D avatar that looks like your ideal version of you. Like Bitmoji, but better. You can update the character’s expressions and poses, clothing and accessories; you can make it dance; you can make it say things in your own voice, just by typing. Think of how much easier it would be to create engaging TikTok posts where you feel good about how you come across. You could spend less time perfecting your acting and filming skills, and more time on the message you’re trying to convey.

Dynamic avatars will be an opportunity to democratize self-expression on social media and will give voice to a much larger audience of creators.

When Facebook first started, it was kind of dumb, but it was fun. When you logged on every few days, you would be reminded of your real friend’s birthdays, see their latest cheesy profile pics and poke them. Then came the feed, mobile phones and algorithms, Instagram models, lattes and perfectly filtered lives, and somewhere along the way, the fun was subsumed by a kind of social slavery. We keep scrolling through posts of people we barely know that make us feel bad, and we keep posting obnoxious things in return. Surely this is not how it all ends?

When Zuckerberg unveiled his vision for Meta, you could feel the collective eye roll. You’ve already ruined our lives with social media, we wanted to scream, and now you’re going to kill our last remnants of physical connection and turn us into vegetables living in the Matrix.

But the thing is, whatever the pros and cons, we are already on an inexorable march toward the metaverse. We are increasingly living virtual lives. What web3 enables is a richer experience in that virtual existence. One that will hopefully feel a little less hollow, a little more human.

I look forward to a future where NFTs, along with all the other promises of web3, help us create a virtual reality where human interaction is, once again, fun.

Source: Tech

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Boston Dynamics’ warehouse robot gets a $15M gig working for DHL

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Back in March of last year, Boston Dynamics unveiled its second commercial robot, Stretch. The system, built from its impressive box-moving Handle concept, is designed to bring the company’s advanced robotics technologies into a warehouse/logistics setting – easily one of the hottest categories in robotics, these days.

Today the Hyundai-owned firm announced its first commercial customer – and it’s a big one. Logistics giant DHL has committed to a multi-year, $15 million deal (or “investment” as the parties are referring to it) set to bring the robot to its North American facilities. Specific details on the number of robots being purchased haven’t been revealed, but Boston Dynamics says it’s going to be bringing a “fleet” of the robots to DHL logistics centers over the next three years.

Stretch will get to work unloading trucks to start – a feature its creators have highlighted as a key part of its initial rollout. Additional tasks will be added, over the course of the roll out, in an effort to further automate the package handling process.

Says CEO Robert Playter, “Stretch is Boston Dynamics’ newest robot, designed specifically to remedy challenges within the warehouse space. We are thrilled to be working with DHL Supply Chain to deliver a fleet of robots that will further automate warehousing and improve safety for its associates. We believe Stretch can make a measurable impact on DHL’s business operations, and we’re excited to see the robot in action at scale.”

The partnership will be a key proving ground for Boston Dynamics’ commercial ambitions beyond its on-going Spot deployment. Package handling is an intensive, highly repetitive job that requires long hours, strain and multiple points of failure. This will be a major test for the company under Hyundai, which has sought to further its commercial ambitions.

For DHL, meanwhile, it’s an opportunity to automate some logistics roles during a time when blue collar jobs have proven difficult to keep staffed. It’s also a chance to more fully embrace automation as it competes with the likes of Amazon, which has begun steadily encroaching on the package delivery space.

Source: Tech

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Polly snags $37M in Menlo-led Series B to automate workflows for mortgage lenders

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Polly, a SaaS technology startup aiming to “transform” the mortgage capital markets, announced today that it has raised $37 million in a Series B funding round led by Menlo Ventures.

New backers Movement Mortgage, First American Financial and FinVC joined existing investors 8VC, Khosla Ventures and Fifth Wall in participating in the round. The latest financing brings the San Francisco-based startup’s total funding raised to $50 million.

Adam Carmel, founder and CEO of Polly, says the company has increased its customer count by nearly 3x over the past year, including “several of the country’s top 100 lenders.”

He founded the company in 2019 under the premise that while many industries have undergone digital transformation initiatives, the mortgage industry is still largely reliant on “the same expensive and cumbersome processes and tasks that have been in use for decades,” Carmel said. 

Polly’s mission is to fundamentally change the way lenders and loan buyers operate by giving them the ability to make data-driven decisions. The company’s software is “uniquely configured to automate customer workflows and improve execution — from rate lock to loan sale and delivery,” Carmel said.

Carmel previously founded Ethos Lending (which sold to Fenway Summers in 2014) and it was that experience that helped him conclude there were serious gaps in the market for automating workflows for lenders.

The need certainly seems to be there. For example, one company in the space is Optimal Blue, which was purchased by Black Knight for $1.8 billion in 2020. 

Carmel believes Polly stands out from others in the industry in that it is helping create a fourth category in the mortgage sector — capital markets.

“I viewed it as a sizable opportunity to build a vertically integrated software platform that would automate workflows for a mortgage company,” Carmel told TechCrunch. “My view is that over time consumers are going to expect not only a digital experience but also a mortgage product, loan and associated pricing that are customized and tailored for specific purposes.”

To that end, he added, Polly is laser focused on doing just that so that its customers “can configure individual loans as dynamically as they would like.”

“The goal is that ultimately, they are able to deliver a lower mortgage price to their consumers or to their customers while increasing their own profitability,” Carmel said. “We want to help these lenders move away from spreadsheets and telephony and email as a transaction medium, and instead do everything in the cloud. Over time, we want to be able to transition into a system of record for the customers themselves.”

Polly, he said, is able to help configure loans on a multi-dimensional basis.

The startup has increased its customer count by nearly “3x” over the past year and signed several of the country’s top 100 lenders. While it invested mostly on its product in 2021, it plans to put some of its new capital toward its go to market strategy while continuing to be “heads down focused on product.” That includes expanding its product and engineering teams and investing in AI and machine learning capabilities. 

“The next year or two is going to be a really exciting time for us,” Carmel said. “We see this as a compelling window and opportunity to really help transform the market.”

Menlo Ventures partner Tyler Sosin, who is joining Polly’s board of directors as part of the financing, believes the startup is “taking on a sector held back by sclerotic incumbents with dated, disconnected and dragging solutions” and “driving transformation and winning customers at an impressive rate.”

He said Menlo was interested in leading the company’s Series A round but “was a little bit too slow.” Impressed with Polly’s traction even at that point, the firm still participated in that financing with a smaller check and stayed close to the company.

We’ve gotten to know Adam and seen how the customers and the product and the team had evolved, so we leaned into the lead this round,” Sosin told TechCrunch.

Source: Tech

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Tinder updates its approach to handling reports of serious abuse and harassment

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As a result of its ongoing partnership with nonprofit and anti-sexual assault organization RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), Tinder today announced a handful of product improvements as well as training for internal teams at the dating app maker designed to better support survivors of abuse and harassment. Soon, Tinder also says its members will have access to background checks on their matches through Garbo, a nonprofit the dating app maker invested in last spring.

One key aspect of the partnership with RAINN involved training Tinder’s customer care team. Through the training, staff learned how survivors may report abuse and harassment, and how to spot reports of serious abuse — even if the reports use vague language to describe the events. The training, which is now also a mandatory part of Tinder’s onboarding and training curriculum, additionally provides instructions on how team members should respond to these types of reports when they occur.

Meanwhile, in the Tinder app, survivors will gain access to a more direct way to report someone they’ve unmatched with, even if they’ve waited some time before making their report. And they can now opt whether or not they want to receive follow-up information about actions taken, as some prefer to receive updates and others do not.

The app will also provide alternative support options, as not everyone will feel comfortable making a direct report. Through the Tinder Safety Center, a dedicated Crisis Text Line will be provided as well as the upcoming feature offering access to background checks on matches from Garbo. Tinder invested a seven-figure sum into New York-based Garbo in March 2021, which offers an alternative to traditional background checks that surface a wide variety of personal information — like drug offenses or minor traffic violations. Garbo instead focuses on whether or not someone’s background indicates a history of violence. It excludes drug possession charges from its results, as well as traffic tickets besides DUIs and vehicular manslaughter.

The Tinder Safety Center is now also accessible from anywhere in the app, reducing the number of taps it takes for a user to locate the resource.

“Our members are trusting us with an incredibly sensitive and vulnerable part of their lives, and we believe we have a responsibility to support them through every part of this journey, including when they have bad experiences on and off the app,” said Tracey Breeden, VP of Safety and Social Advocacy for Tinder and Match Group, in a statement about the changes. “Working with RAINN has allowed us to take a trauma-informed approach to member support for those impacted by harassment and assault,” she added.

Breeden, who held a similar position at Uber, joined Tinder in September 2020 as Match Group’s first-ever head of safety and social advocacy, tasked with overseeing the company’s safety policies across its apps, including Tinder, Hinge, Match, OkCupid, and Plenty of Fish.

Tinder and other dating apps have put a higher focus on member safety features after a 2019 report revealed how dating apps run by Tinder parent Match Group allowed known sexual predators to use its apps, due to the lack of background check features. Other reports have highlighted the very real safety concerns that accompany the dating app market, particularly those impacting young women — a key dating app demographic.

In early 2020, Tinder invested in Noonlight to help it power new safety features inside Tinder and other Match-owned dating apps, ahead of its investment in Garbo.

But Tinder’s changes aren’t only about protecting dating app users — they’re about protecting Tinder’s business, as well.

Tinder’s top U.S. competitor, Bumble has marketed itself as being more women-friendly, launching a number of features designed to keep users safe from bad actors, like one that prevents abusers from using the “unmatch” option to hide from victims, for example. Tinder has followed suit, launching new safety features of its own.

The company has also felt the pressure to get ahead of coming regulations impacting tech companies, like those operating social media apps and dating services. Tinder, which dominates the dating app market, today plays in social networking as well, with additions like quick chat features, an interactive video series, and other additions to its new Explore hub in the app.

“By adopting more trauma-informed support practices, Tinder will be better positioned to support members who may have experienced harm and take faster, more transparent action on bad actors,” noted Clara Kim, Vice President of Consulting Services at RAINN, in a statement.

Source: Tech

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