Sony Interactive will skip E3 again this year

Sony Interactive Entertainment will skip E3 again this year and participate instead in “hundreds of consumer events across the globe,” the company told GamesIndustry.biz today. The company, which is preparing to launch the PlayStation 5 before this holiday season, missed the show for the first time last year, after two decades of being one of its biggest exhibitors.

A Sony Interactive spokesperson told GamesIndustry.biz that the company has “great respect for the ESA as an organization, but we do not feel the vision of E3 2020 is the right venue for what we are focused on this year.” Instead, it will “build upon our global events strategy in 2020 by participating in hundreds of of consumer events across the globe.”

As TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey noted last year, Nintendo hasn’t held a formal E3 press conference in years, but still has a booth where attendees can play their games and hosts a live stream. Before skipping the event last year, Sony used E3 to debut new consoles and flagship games, though focusing on other events gives it more flexibility for when it announces major news.

TechCrunch has contacted Sony Interactive and ESA, the organizers of E3, for comment.

Kids with lazy eye can be treated just by letting them watch TV on this special screen

Amblyopia, commonly called lazy eye, is a medical condition that adversely affects the eyesight of millions, but if caught early can be cured altogether — unfortunately this usually means months of wearing an eye patch. NovaSight claims successful treatment with nothing more than an hour a day in front of its special display.

The condition amounts to when the two eyes aren’t synced up in their movements. Normally both eyes will focus the detail-oriented fovea part of the retina on whatever object the person is attending to; in those with amblyopia, one eye won’t target the fovea correctly and as a result the eyes don’t converge properly and vision suffers, and if not treated can lead to serious vision loss.

It can be detected early on in children, and treatment can be as simple as covering the good eye with a patch for most of the day, which forces the other eye to adjust and align itself properly. The problem is, of course, that this is uncomfortable and embarrassing for the kid, and of course only using one eye isn’t ideal for playing schoolyard games and other everyday things.

And you look cool doing it!

NovaSight’s innovation with CureSight is to let this alignment process happen without the eye patch, instead selectively blurring content the child watches so that the affected eye has to do the work while the other takes a rest.

It accomplishes this with the same technology that, ironically, gave many of us double vision back in the early days of 3D: glasses with blue and red lenses.

Blue-red stereoscopy presents two slightly different versions of the same image, one tinted red and one tinted blue. Normally it would be used with slightly different parallax to produce a binocular 3D image — that’s what many of us saw in theaters or amusement park rides.

In this case, however, one of the two tinted images just has a blurry circle right where the kid is looking. The screen uses a built-in Tobii eye-tracking sensor so it knows where the circle should be; I got to test it out briefly and the circle quickly caught up with my gaze. This makes it so the other eye, affected by the condition but the only one with access to the details of the image, has to be relied on to point where the kid needs it to.

The best part is that there isn’t some treatment schema or tests — kids can literally just watch YouTube or a movie using the special setup, and they’re getting better, NovaSight claims. And it can be done at home on the kid’s schedule — always a plus.

Graphs from NovaSight website.

The company has already done some limited clinical trials that showed “significant improvement” over a 12-week period. Whether it can be relied on to completely cure the condition or if it should be paired with other established treatments will come out in further trials the company has planned.

In the meantime, however, it’s nice to see a technology like 3D displays applied to improving vision rather than promoting bad films. NovaSight has been developing and promoting its tech over the last year; it also has a product that helps diagnose vision problems using a similar application of 3D display tech. You can learn more or request additional info at its website.

Oscar Health now has 400,000 members and expects to bring in $2 billion by the end of 2020

Oscar Health, the upstart healthcare insurance company and technology developer, expects to have roughly 400,000 members insured under its healthcare plans, who collectively will bring in roughly $2 billion in revenue for the company by the end of 2020, according to slides of a presentation from the JP Morgan Healthcare conference seen by TechCrunch.

Those figures, based on the open-enrollment period that just closed, would represent 50% growth both in membership and revenue for the healthcare provider co-founded by Mario Schlosser and Joshua Kushner, founder of VC firm Thrive Capital and the brother of senior Trump advisor Jared Kushner.

Earlier today, Oscar announced that it was partnering with Cigna to provide services to small business owners. Commercial health insurance is a small but growing proportion of Oscar’s total membership, and it’s one area where the company hopes to expand. Essentially, Oscar can bring its technology-enabled healthcare services to small businesses in concert with the large healthcare networks with which businesses are used to working.

To date, Oscar counts around 375,000 individual members on its insurance plans, with another 20,000 coming through small-group insurance and the balance derived from Medicare Advantage customers, according to a person familiar with the company’s business.

Only three years ago, Oscar was a much smaller business, with only 70,000 members after retrenching its coverage and pulling out of markets in Dallas-Fort Worth and New Jersey. From a footprint that encompassed New York, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Francisco, Oscar now expects to operate in 29 markets by the end of 2020.

Fueling that expansion is prodigious capital infusions the company has received over the past few years. In 2018 alone, Oscar raised $540 million from investors including Alphabet, Founders Fund, Capital G (Alphabet’s later-stage investment firm) and Verily, Alphabet’s investment firm focused on life sciences. In all, Oscar Health has raised $1.3 billion to fulfill its vision of providing better healthcare services through technologies like a mobile app for telemedicine, physician consultations, booking appointments, prescription refills and a more concierge-like healthcare experience for its members.

Initially, the company took advantage of the Affordable Care Act’s creation of new marketplaces for individuals to buy health insurance when it launched in 2012, but is now looking to buoy its growth by adding more deals with insurance providers like Cigna for small businesses.

Ultimately, the company envisions a healthcare industry where employer-defined plans will disappear as more consumers turn to Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangements. In that environment, Oscar’s bespoke services — like the recent partnership with the startup Capsule Pharmacy to provide same-day prescription delivery for Oscar’s members in New York — or the company’s tight relationship with providers like the Cleveland Clinic, become competitive advantages.

Atrium lays off lawyers, explains pivot to legal tech

Seventy-five-million-dollar-funded legal services startup Atrium doesn’t want to be the next company to implode as the tech industry tightens its belt and businesses chase margins instead of growth via unsustainable economics. That’s why Atrium is laying off most of its in-house lawyers.

Now, Atrium will focus on its software for startups navigating fundraising, hiring and collaborating with lawyers. Atrium plans to ramp up its startup advising services. And it’s also doubling down on its year-old network of professional service providers that help clients navigate day-to-day legal work. Atrium’s laid-off attorneys will be offered spots as preferred providers in that network if they start their own firm or join another.

“It’s a natural evolution for us to create a sustainable model,” Atrium co-founder and CEO Justin Kan tells TechCrunch. “We’ve made the tough decision to restructure the company to accommodate growth into new business services through our existing professional services network,” Kan wrote on Atrium’s blog. He wouldn’t give exact figures, but confirmed that more than 10 but less than 50 staffers are impacted by the change, with Atrium having a headcount of 150 as of June.

The change could make Atrium more efficient by keeping fewer expensive lawyers on staff. However, it could weaken its $500 per month Atrium membership that included some services from its in-house lawyers that might be more complicated for clients to get through its professional network. Atrium will also now have to prove the its client-lawyer collaboration software can survive in the market with firms paying for it rather than it being bundled with its in-house lawyers’ services.

“We’re making these changes to move Atrium to a sustainable model that provides high-quality services to our clients. We’re doing it proactively because we see the writing on the wall that it’s important to have a sustainable business,” Kan says. “That’s what we’re doing now. We don’t anticipate any disruption of services to clients. We’re still here.”

Justin Kan (Atrium) at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017

Founded in 2017, Atrium promised to merge software with human lawyers to provide quicker and cheaper legal services. Its technology can help automatically generate fundraising contracts, hiring offers and cap tables for startups while using machine learning to recommend procedures and clauses based on anonymized data from its clients. It also serves like a Dropbox for legal, organizing all of a startup’s documents to ensure everything’s properly signed and teams are working off the latest versions without digging through email.

The $500 per month Atrium membership offered this technology plus limited access to an in-house startup lawyer for consultation, plus access to guide books and events. Clients could pay extra if they needed special help such as with finalizing an acquisition deal, or access to its Fundraising Concierge service for aid with developing a pitch and lining up investor meetings.

Kan tells me Atrium still has some in-house lawyers on staff, which will help it honor all its existing membership contracts and power its new emphasis on advising services. He wouldn’t say if Atrium is paid any equity for advising, or just cash. The membership plan may change for future clients, so lawyer services are provided through its professional network instead.

“What we noticed was that Atrium has done a really good job of building a brand with startups. Often what they wanted from attorneys was…advice on ‘how to set my company up,’ ‘how to set my sales and marketing team up,’ ‘how to get great terms in my fundraising process,’ ” so Atrium is pursuing advising, Kan tells me. “As we sat down to look at what’s working and what’s not working, our focus has been to help founders with their super-hero story, connect them with the right providers and advisors, and then helping quarterback everything you need with our in-house specialists.”

LawSites first reported Saturday that Atrium was laying off in-house lawyers. A source tells TechCrunch that Atrium’s lawyers only found out a week ago about the changes, and they’ve been trying to pitch Atrium clients on working with them when they leave. One Atrium client said they weren’t surprised by the changes because they got so much legal advice for just $500 per month, which they suspected meant Atrium was losing money on the lawyers’ time as it was so much less expensive than competitors. They also said these cheap legal services rather than the software platform were the main draw of Atrium, and they’re unsure if the tech on its own is valuable enough.

One concern is Atrium might not learn as quickly about which services to translate into software if it doesn’t have as many lawyers in-house. But Kan believes third-party lawyers might be more clear and direct about what they need from legal technology. “I feel like having a true market for the software you’re building is better than having an internal market,” he says. “We get feedback from the outside firms we work with. I think in some ways that’s the most valuable feedback. I think there’s a lot of false signals that can happen when you’re the both the employer and the supplier.”

It was critical for Atrium to correct course before getting any bigger, given the fundraising problems hitting late-stage startups with poor economics in the wake of the WeWork debacle and SoftBank’s troubles. Atrium had raised a $10.5 million Series A in 2017 led by General Catalyst alongside Kleiner, Founders Fund, Initialized and Kindred Ventures. Then in September 2018, it scored a huge $65 million Series B led by Andreessen Horowitz.

Raising even bigger rounds might have been impossible if Atrium was offering consultations with lawyers at far below market rate. Now it might be in a better position to attract funding. But the question is whether clients will stick with Atrium if they get less access to a lawyer for the same price, and whether the collaboration platform is useful enough for outside law firms to pay for.

Kan had gone through tough pivots in the past. He had strapped a camera to his head to create content for his live-streaming startup Justin.tv, but wisely recentered on the 3% of users letting people watch them play video games. Justin.tv became Twitch and eventually sold to Amazon for $970 million. His on-demand personal assistant startup Exec had to switch to just cleaning in 2013 before shutting down due to rotten economics.

Rather than deny the inevitable and wait until the last minute, with Atrium Kan tried to make the hard decision early.