facebookFacebook Dives Back into E-Commerce Competition

The world of e-commerce just got more interesting as Facebook jumped back into the competitive arena with a new commitment to online shopping.

Facebook Inc. is making another run at building a shopping empire -- and this time it has the direct involvement of the company’s most important executive, Mark Zuckerberg,” writes Kurt Wagner of Bloomberg News. “The Facebook chief executive officer announced a handful of updates Tuesday signaling the company’s commitment to online shopping and commerce, one of the areas he highlighted as a priority for this year. The main product, called Shops, is a new version of an existing Facebook feature with a similar name, and will let retailers upload product catalogs to their Facebook page or Instagram profile. Users can find these Shops directly from the retailer’s page, or by clicking on an ad that will redirect them to a Shop inside Facebook instead of the retailer’s own website.”

Clearly, Zuckerberg sees this as a pivotal moment in which Facebook can capture market share from established e-commerce players such as Amazon and Walmart. How much share – and in what form – remains to be seen.

payrollPayroll platform for Remote Workers Secures $14M Series A Led by Andreessen Horowitz

In a strong sign of future directions in venture capital, a digital platform for making payments to distributed workforces has been backed by one of Silicon Valley’s legendary investors.

“A payroll platform for remote workers called Deel has secured a $14 million series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz, sources told CNBC exclusively. As part of the investment, Andreessen general partner Anish Acharya is joining the San Francisco-based company’s board,” writes Hugh Son of CNBC. “While the venture capital industry has long relied on in-person meetings to create the trust needed between parties before investing large sums of money, the round was done completely on videoconferencing tools, according to Deel chief operating officer Dan Westgarth.”

I find it fascinating that the deal was done virtually. From my perspective, this truly signals a sea change in Silicon Valley culture.

healthcareVirus Accelerates Adoption of Mixed Reality Techniques in Healthcare Settings

In another sign of how numerous industries are adopting new tech to cope with the pandemic, physicians and healthcare providers are using mixed realty gear to increase communications with peers while limiting direct exposure to patients.

“Doctors in the U.K. have started using mixed reality headsets to communicate with their peers, drastically cutting down how many medical workers need to come into contact with COVID-19 patients,” writes Dan Robitzski of Neoscope. “The Microsoft goggles let the wearer communicate with colleagues or request information like x-ray results from technicians waiting safely in a different room, BBC News reports. And while the idea seems alien at first, doctors told BBC News they think the technology will definitely help limit future spread of the coronavirus.”

videogameThe New Normal Includes Expanded Use of Video Games for Social Interaction

Video games are rapidly filling gaps left by social distancing, revealing how quickly society can transforming itself in the wake of a crisis.

“These games are more than escapist entertainment, though; they’re helping to reshape how we connect in a future where social distancing might become the norm. Video games are letting people chat, connect, and meet new people,” writes Tanya Basu in MIT Technology Review. “While the pandemic and ensuing lockdown have dramatically changed the way we live our lives, video games offer a way for us to safely indulge in our basic human need to connect.”

babyplanetScientist Spot Signs of ‘Baby’ Planet’s Birth

Here’s an interesting item from the world of high-tech astronomy: Researcher have discovered what they believe may be indications of a newly-born planet, according to the European Southern Observatory.

“Observations made with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) have revealed the telltale signs of a star system being born,” according to the ESO. “Around the young star AB Aurigae lies a dense disc of dust and gas in which astronomers have spotted a prominent spiral structure with a ‘twist’ that marks the site where a planet may be forming. The observed feature could be the first direct evidence of a baby planet coming into existence.”