HypeHop is a product to fix sponsored videos

I’ve been thinking hard about the concept of sponsored content — you can find some of it on TechCrunch if you look hard enough, and it appears almost everywhere else. It’s an important consideration, because as an online journalist I’ve heard everything from “How much did Apple pay you to post this?” to “How much can I pay you to post something to TechCrunch?”

And I’m sick of it.

Journalists afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Marketers comfort the comfortable. The only person who wins in that struggle is the guy with the biggest wallet to buy as much coverage as possible. Crypto, for all its faults, promises to change that.

Now I’d like to introduce something else I built (and I never do this on TC so I think it’s pretty important and interesting). It’s called HypeHop and it’s an experiment in sponsored video. Most sponsored video appears in front of your YouTube selections like a cold sore — you know it’s there, it’s unwanted and you know it will take a while for it to go away. For example, this deeply applicable ad appeared as my son was watching Nerf videos, for example, proving that algorithms aren’t always the smartest.

Enough.

In the current system marketers pay media platforms for their audience. The marketer gets eyeballs, the media platform gets money and the user gets bupkus. I wanted to try to change that.

With a few friends I made something called HypeHop. It basically pays you for watching videos. At this point it’s a proof-of-concept that accepts uploaded videos, a small payment for hosting, and then watches the viewer to ensure they are watching the video. “Watching the viewer?,” you ask? Sure. We’re being surveilled every day. Isn’t it time we were paid for it?

Viewers currently get about 40 cents in BTC per view. I created a demo video with my son here to show off how it worked and preseeded some videos with BTC to test. Thus far it’s been an interesting experiment.

I’d love to talk to like-minded folks about expanding this technology. I could, for example, see this as a tool to make sponsored posts more interesting to readers — who doesn’t want a few pennies for reading marketing dross — and a way to monetize many marketing tools for readers, producers and marketers. Ultimately this is a win-win-win in a win-win-lose world and it’s vitally important we look at it as a way forward in our fight against fake news and faker marketing.

SoftBank invests in parking startup ParkJockey pushing valuation to $1 billion

SoftBank continues to invest in the future of transportation — this time in ParkJockey, a startup that has built a technology platform aimed at monetizing parking lots. And ParkJockey, which was founded in 2013, is already using that capital to scale up.

Along with the SoftBank investment news, ParkJockey also announced that it was acquiring two of the largest parking operators in North America. The startup, with help from Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Capital and debt financing from Owl Rock, said it had reached an agreement to acquire Imperial Parking Corporation, a North American-based parking management company often referred to as Impark. The agreement follows ParkJockey’s acquisition of parking management operator Citizens Parking Inc.

The investment puts the ParkJockey valuation to more than $1 billion, reported Miami Herald.

Miami-based ParkJockey developed a parking management platform that helps commercial property owners better monetize parking lots as well as handle operations at large venues and stadiums. The company’s platform offers features like automatic license plate recognition and pay-by-app, among others.  The company’s app also can be used by drivers to find parking spaces more efficiently.

Financial terms of the SoftBank investment or the acquisitions weren’t disclosed. The announcement follows an Axios article last week that reported SoftBank was backing the startup.

The Impark transaction is subject to regulatory approvals. The acquisition is expected to close in the first half of 2019, ParkJockey said. 

SoftBank’s investment in parking might seem rather, well, pedestrian. It’s actually a bet on an automated future from present-day parking management issues like electric vehicle charging, designated areas for ride-hailing and automatic pay, as well as a day when vehicles are fully autonomous.

CTRL-labs’ first dev kit is a gesture-tracking neural controller

The race to replace the mouse and keyboard has yielded a lot of weird tech, but as various hardware startups try to find the missing link between what we have now and some sort of embedded brain chip, we’re seeing some fascinating solutions surface.

New York-based CTRL-labs just announced its first developer kit that’s aiming to refresh how people interact with computers — an armband that can track a user’s finger movements by measuring electrical impulses. It’s not quite a brain controller, though in practice this type of tech can definitely feel like it’s reading your mind, taking minor finger movements and yielding a surprising amount of insight into the position of your hand and the pressure you’re applying on your finger tips.

CTRL-labs’ investors are betting big on the insight this unconventional interface type can deliver. The startup closed a $28 million Series A in May with funding coming from Vulcan Capital, GV and others.

The use cases for something like this seem to be a little up in the air at the moment, hence the interest in getting a developer kit out into the wild. There are some more obvious use cases in the VR space, but pushing a theoretical input type on an industry with theoretical appeal obviously isn’t the best basket in which to put a Series A.

The system (called CTRL-kit) is, indeed, a developer kit, so there hasn’t been the highest premium placed on miniaturizing all of the tech in the tethered system, but the company tells TechCrunch that the intent is definitely to get into a wrist-worn form factor like a smartwatch in the future. Watch a few of the tech demos and you’ll see what an interesting proposition this is for the wearable of the future.

CTRL-kit

Think about the link between some lightweight glasses with a heads-up display and an Apple Watch-type controller that can parse hand gestures and you can see a more predictable endgame for this kind of tech.

Controlling augmented reality systems has always been a big UX question. Hand-tracking startups like Leap Motion have delivered very polished solutions that offer finesse but sidestep realistic user behaviors. Who’s going to wave their hands in front of their face while walking down the street? Microsoft has dumbed this down into optically tracked gestures like the “air tap” for HoloLens that let you select things in a pretty straightforward, yet cumbersome way. Magic Leap integrates a few input types into their system but seems to be pushing developers toward a physical controller while the current hardware is more focused on home use.

The company says they’re also intrigued by potential with the automotive industry and more conventional desktop applications. Like a good amount of technologies that are attractive for VR and AR tech, what CTRL-labs is building has an attractive endgame but suspect near-term utility. Startups like Thalmic Labs, now North, tried and failed to gain an audience for a consumer-grade motion-control armband like this. For the time being, the company expects a decent amount of developer attention to go toward using this tech for gaming.

The company says it plans to begin shipping the CTRL-kit in the first quarter of next year.