Netflix launches a new ‘Mystery Box’ feature to help kids discover new content

Netflix is introducing a new “Mystery Box” feature aimed at helping kids discover new movies and TV shows, the company announced on Thursday. The new feature, which is similar to a shuffle button based on your preferences, is rolling out globally on the company’s connected TV platforms today. Netflix notes that since kids often love rewatching their favorites, it can be hard to get them to try something new, which is why it’s rolling out this new feature.

Kids and their caregivers can access the new feature by finding the ‘Favorites Row’ featured at the top of the Netflix homepage when logged onto a Netflix Kids profile. From there, you need to hover over the sparkly “Mystery Box” to discover a new title. Once you hover over the box with a question mark, a preview of a TV show or movie will automatically start playing.

Image Credits: Netflix

“Kids are drawn to what they love — their favorite toys, foods, songs — and it’s hard to get them to try something new,” said TJ Marston, Netflix’s director of product innovation, kids and family, in a blog post. “We hope that kids will love the surprise and delight of revealing the next show or film recommended for them.”

Although there are already ways to discover new content on Netflix, this new feature is designed to be a more fun and interactive way for kids to get new suggestions. The company says the new feature will give kids a tailored experience that will help them find their next favorite series or movies, or even reconnect them with a familiar character.

The company has been introducing a number of new features aimed at kids over the past year. Last July, Netflix launched bi-weekly kids recap emails to give parents a better understanding of their child’s viewing preferences. The emails give parents access to coloring sheets and activities based on their child’s favorite characters. Among other things, they also include recommendations based on a child’s favorite shows and movies. At the same time, Netflix rolled out a “Kids Top 10” row featuring the most popular children’s content in your country.

Netflix also visually revamped its Kids profile last year to make it easier to navigate. Prior to the update, the layout for the Kids profile was similar to an adult’s, with rows that showed Trending shows and other suggestions. With the revamp, the top row now features the kid’s most-watched content. It made sense for Netflix to change up the user interface, especially since younger kids often navigate Netflix visually.

What’s more stable than Bitcoin or UST? AriZona Iced Tea

ICYMI, stablecoins are in deep shit right now, and the chaos that unfolded this week has thrown the entire crypto ecosystem into turmoil with over $400 billion in losses from just one coin alone. In these times of uncertainty, all we can rely on is that we can purchase a can of AriZona Iced Tea for 99 cents, the same price that the refreshing beverage sold for in 1996. Mossy, a collective of three techy artists, thinks that an (unofficially) AriZona-backed stablecoin can save the crypto economy.

A stablecoin, as the name implies, is supposed to be stable because it tracks the value of another asset — similar to how gold bars once backed the U.S. dollar during gold-standard times.

In the case of TerraUSD (UST), formerly one of the largest stablecoins that fell from grace this week, each UST coin was supposed to stay consistently equivalent in value to one U.S. dollar. But there were no physical reserves — instead, the group behind UST used algorithms and reserves of other cryptocurrencies to manage its price. That system went haywire, leading some holders of UST to withdraw their money, and before investors knew what had hit them, the panic and fear compounded and UST was trading as low as nine cents on the dollar. UST’s sudden collapse has led to over $400 billion in losses for investors over the past week or so, leaving people to question the, well, stability of stablecoins as a whole.

Mossy’s solution for the calamitous sector, a stablecoin called USDTea, is backed by what they claim is America’s most stable asset: cans of AriZona Iced Tea. For over 30 years, AriZona founder Don Vultaggio has been working tirelessly against inflation to keep the cost of each can at exactly 99 cents, playing hardball with suppliers to keep input costs low and sacrificing his own profit for the sake of consistency.

As for Mossy, you may have seen their work before. The group launched the “Non-fungible Olive Gardens” project that got them in some hot water over copyright laws as well as the “Blockedchain” NFTs that only Twitter users who have been blocked by famed (and pugnacious) venture capitalist Marc Andreessen can mint.

Mossy quietly announced the USDTea stablecoin project on Twitter one and a half hours before selling out all 1,000 tokens they initially supplied. We sat down with Brian Moore, one of the three members of the artists’ collective — another member is Mike Lacher, who recently went viral for his AI that harshly judges your music taste, while the third member chooses to remain anonymous. Moore regaled us with his (mostly) straight-faced, highly serious explanation of Mossy’s ambitions to bring stability to an unstable world — one can of iced tea at a time.

TC: So, who are you? What is this collective that tries to save crypto through AriZona Iced Tea?

BM: We’re a little group called Mossy, and the last three things we’ve made have all been web3 projects. We created non-fungible Olive Gardens, and then we did Blockedchain, which was an NFT series that you can only mint if you’re blocked by specific people on Twitter, like Marc Andreesen. And now the latest is USDTea, which is a stablecoin that’s linked to the most stable asset we know on planet Earth, which is AriZona Iced Tea.

Can you literally connect your wallet to this and get a token? 

Well, first of all, I just got word that we are fully out of the 1,000 that we started with [after about an hour and a half post-launch]. That’s the weirdness of this world. It was the same thing with non-fungible Olive Gardens; we quietly released it, and then it was gone within I think 10 hours.

AriZona Iced Tea might be $0.99, but what about gas fees?

The way the flow works is the fees aren’t super high. It’s an ERC 20 token. I bought some and I think it was, you know, negligible, like $4 or something in gas fees. And then, just like any other stablecoins that are pegged to currency, you can always switch back. In this case, you can burn your USDTea and we will ship you cans of AriZona Iced Tea, because it wouldn’t be backed by it if we didn’t actually do that. So we have our strategic reserves of AriZona Iced Tea to use if people want to convert it back at any given time.

Do you actually have 1,000 cans of tea? 

It’s 1,000 cans where we’re starting. That might expand in the future. And if we do that, I think we’d probably be open to external auditing depending on the situation, but currently, we’ve got 1,000 cans basically, and we will distribute them as necessary. Right now we do have reserves split around different locations around the U.S.

Do you make these satirical web3 projects as your full-time job?

The more we do this, the more it becomes something that is more full time, but I’d say we’re mostly artists.

How many people are you?

We’re three people. So we’re pretty … I guess the word would be nimble. It allows us to make things very quickly. In the case of the destabilization of currency-pegged cryptocurrencies, you know, when did that whole snafu go down? We’re trying to bolster the crypto economy as quickly as possible, and we can only do that with a small team.

Did you conceive of this idea last week when Terra was collapsing?

Exactly. There’s something to be said about the stability of stablecoins, right? That’s half the word, stable. And then you think, what’s the most stable thing you can imagine? AriZona Iced Tea, you really can’t beat it.

How do you make money off of this, or is making money not the goal? 

It’s not necessarily the goal, really, but I think we want to support ourselves at some point. We’re in the interest of making interesting work on the internet, and that is the ultimate goal. If it makes us money, great, and if it doesn’t, then that’s fine too. Ultimately, we’re just making interesting things — making people think, making people laugh, or, you know, stabilize their assets in canned iced teas.

How would you make money?

These are fungible assets, so it’s meant to be more of a currency replacement than, say, an individual art piece. One USDTea is equal to one USDTea. There’s no one of them that’s better than the other or rarer than the other. They’re all equal to one can of AriZona’s Iced Tea.

But to redeem your can of tea, you have to pay a $20 flat processing fee. What is that fee?

That’s just literally the logistics of shipping. That’s not a money-making scheme to make profit off of the transaction; it’s to get you your personalized tea assets that you can store in your own location.

On your website, you have the question “what happens when ETH crashes?”, and you say that you update the ETH/USDTea to match ETH/USD from time to time. What does that entail?

It just means that as Ethereum might change in price, we want to match that so the rate ends up being around 99 cents.

How often will you do that? I imagine you don’t have an algorithm.

No, there’s no algorithm yet. That might come in the future — it all depends on how wide we expand this. We’re taking it one step at a time. This has been about 90 minutes worth of launch time, so once we stabilize our own situation, we’ll figure out what we need to do.

Obviously, Terra was the inspiration for this project. Do you have any opinions or takes about what happened, and how Terra’s handling that? 

I think our company speaks through the work itself. We’re here to try to stabilize an unstable world, so I think that backing our assets in a new, innovative and most importantly stable asset … I think that sort of says all that we need to say about that situation.

An anteater is pictured

An anteater. Image Credits: MICHAL CIZEK/AFP via Getty Images

Would you say you’re bullish or bearish on crypto? 

Are we bullish? Are we bearish? I don’t know. I think we’re exploring it. We love it as a medium through which to make interesting art pieces. I don’t think we necessarily have an answer or have an animal to assign to it. You can just say anteater or something like that.

Candle Media, the new media company co-backed by former Disney execs, acquires Gen Z-focused ATTN: for $100M

Candle Media, the new media company headed by former Disney execs, Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs, has made another acquisition — this time with an eye on social storytelling and reaching a Gen Z to millennial audience. The company announced today it will become the new owner of ATTN:, a media company that uses entertainment to discuss topical issues that help explain the world to a younger audience — particularly those who consume content on social media.

Of note, ATTN: also launched its own TikTok studio last year to provide production services for brands that wanted to reach the TikTok user base. Clients on that effort have included big name brands like Google, Madewell, MTV and even TikTok itself, which partnered with ATTN: to manage its own “TikTok for Good” channel. That deal was recently renewed for a second year.

Candle explained its interest in ATTN: had to do with the company’s ability to effectively engage a social audience.

“ATTN: has a deep, digital-native understanding for how to cut through the noise and reach today’s audiences through engaging content on social media. We are excited for them to join Candle and provide the benefits of their talented team’s expertise across our brands and franchises,” read a statement by Candle co-CEOs, Mayer and Staggs.

Launched in 2014, ATTN: has created original series for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Twitch, in addition to networks ABC, NBC, CBS, MTV, Freeform and Discovery as well as for streaming services like Hulu and Apple TV. Its brand studio and agency have relationships with companies like Amazon, Ford, Google, Intel, Mattel, P&G, Target and T-Mobile.

The acquisition offers ATTN: scale, capital and expertise to accelerate its growth, Candle Media said in a press release. ATTN: co-founders Matthew Segal and Jarrett Moreno, along with the existing senior management team, will continue to oversee day-to-day operations, original content, production and studio work, the announcement said.

Variety reports the deal for ATTN: is around $100 million in both cash and stock but could be worth up to $150 million with additional earn-out provisions. Candle confirmed this figure to TechCrunch as well.

Blackstone-backed, L.A.-based Candle Media was founded with an eye on aggregating brands to build an independent media operation — a rarity at a time when most media companies are now running their own streaming services.

In an interview with Deadline, Mayer explained that Candle’s lack of a streamer was an important part of its strategy, as it believes demand for content itself is going to grow “extremely robustly” in the months ahead.

After coming onto the scene last year, the company has been making several high-profile acquisitions, including that of kids content company and “CoComelon” owner Moonbug for $3 billion; “Fauda” maker Faraway Road Productions for somewhere south of $50 million; and Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine for around $900 million.

This year, it also took a more than 10% stake in Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s media company, Westbrook, and was said to be in talks to acquire NFT company Notables.

Candle has also been hiring, having recently added former UTA and Disney execs as its chief development officer and CFO.

The company says it expects the deal for ATTN: to close in about 30 days.

Updated, 5/17/22, 5:06 PM ET with confirmation of deal price. 

Apple Music’s new concert series will livestream select performances, starting with Harry Styles

Apple is launching a new concert live-streaming series called “Apple Music Live” that will showcase performances from “the biggest stars in music,” the company announced today. The series will kick off on May 20th with a live stream of Harry Styles’ “One Night Only in New York” performance. The concert will be available to stream exclusively to Apple Music subscribers in 167 countries at no extra cost.

“No matter how much time and effort an artist may spend crafting music in the studio, it’s on the stage where they really get to show their work,” the company notes. “Apple Music Live is a new recurring series designed to do just that: give the biggest stars in music the biggest possible platform to flaunt how they connect with audiences and how their songs translate to live performance.”

The concert will be available to live stream on Apple Music this Friday at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT. There will also be encores on May 22nd at 12 PM ET/9 AM ET and May 26th at 4 PM BST, which indicates that the performance won’t be available to watch on-demand. When reached for clarification, Apple told TechCrunch that it currently doesn’t have anything to share about on-demand availability for Apple Music Live.

The concert is taking place at UBS Arena in Long Island, New York. The performance will celebrate Styles’ new album “Harry’s House,” which will be available on the same day. Styles will also be performing his new album for the first time ever during the concert.

It’s unknown how often Apple plans to feature artists in the new concert series. The company also hasn’t revealed which other artists will be showcased in the future.

Apple’s new live concert series could be a way for it to garner more subscribers to its music streaming service by featuring popular artists. Securing a big name like Harry Styles will also certainly give Apple some buzz around the new concert series. As for the artists that are featured in the series, it could be a way for them to further promote new albums and give fans an idea of what their performances are like.

Apple joins several other digital giants that have hosted live concert performances. For example, YouTube has been live streaming Coachella performances for years and Hulu will stream Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo music festivals this year and in 2023. It’s worth noting that Apple itself has had experience with live music events, including the discontinued iTunes Festival and Apple Music Festival.

PSA: Owl City remixed Smash Mouth’s ‘All Star’

My Chemical Romance yesterday released their first single since 2014. Kendrick Lamar just dropped a new album. But did you know that this morning, Owl City remixed Smash Mouth’s seminal hit “All Star”?

You might be wondering why we are covering this on TechCrunch, which is not a music website. My editor is probably wondering the same thing. But here are the tech angle(s):

  1. “All Star” is to internet culture as “Jane Eyre” is to gothic literature. It’s a classic. Especially with the rise of TikTok, songs are memes now — be honest with yourself, did you know who Capone was before the “oh no no no” song went viral? How many Gen Z-ers listened to Fleetwood Mac for the first time because of the Ocean Spray longboarding guy? Smash Mouth would have faded from relevance much earlier if “All Star” didn’t appear in the opening sequence of “Shrek,” a film that has become inextricable from its second life on the internet.
  2. Let’s not forget Owl City, the solo project of electronic (tech angle!) musician Adam Young. The dude knows he’s a one-hit wonder, and he’s in on the joke. He wrote the lyric, “You would not believe your eyes/if ten million fireflies/lit up the world as I fell asleep,” then goes on to claim that he got “a thousand hugs from ten thousand lightning bugs.” Listen. I might be a writer who is shitposting about Smash Mouth on a Friday to distract herself from other things (uhh, Elon Musk), but I am a writer, and I’ll tell you, that lyric makes no fucking sense. But Owl City did what any butt of a joke on the internet had to do: he committed to the bit, cementing himself as an all star. When a fan asked him what he meant by that lyric — “does each firefly hug you 1,000 times, or do only 1/10th of the bugs give you a hug?” — Young wrote a long Facebook post (yes, Facebook, a tech company — tech angle!) confirming that he “was embraced 1,000 times by 10,000 luminescent insects.” Great stuff here.
  3. John and Hank Green helped shape the creator economy as we know it — their business DFTBA Records fulfills merchandise purchases for a number of independent internet personalities, and they co-founded VidCon, an annual convention about online video. Not to mention that they helm one of the longest-running, large internet communities via their YouTube channel, vlogbrothers. Online video? Big deal. How many letters from Congress have been written to TikTok recently? Tech angle. But to bring things back to “All Star,” the two forty-something-year-old men spent several months over the course of 2020 only uploading YouTube videos titled with lyrics from “All Star.” It was kind of a beautiful project.
  4. Owl City’s remix of “All Star” is only being distributed digitally. Is that a tech angle?

Anyway, if you want to distract yourself from the doom and gloom of tech, have you considered listening to Owl City’s remix of “All Star”? Have you read the very serious press release, in which Smash Mouth’s Paul De Lisle calls the song “a wonderfully creative and unique reimagining,” noting that it is an “honor” that Owl City remixed it? Did you know that Adam Young says “All Star” is one of his favorite songs of all time, and is he serious, or is that part of the joke? Did he really get 1,000 hugs from 10,000 lightning bugs each?

Okay, here’s the song:

Airbnb is reinventing itself — Brian Chesky tells us why

Airbnb just redesigned its website to change the way users search for listings on the platform. Category search allows users to explore travel without having a specific destination in mind. Rather, they can look for A-frames or countryside homes or places near great golfing experiences.

The company also introduced split stays (where users can book two different listings for a long-term stay in a single user flow) and launched AirCover for guests, which guarantees they’ll be covered if a host cancels, the place isn’t up to snuff, or they can’t check in to their Airbnb.

All of this is meant to inspire people to get out of their houses and get traveling again. We sat down with founder and CEO Brian Chesky to discuss the release, where Airbnb is headed, and how he’s planning for the future.

TechCrunch’s interview with Chesky follows. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

TechCrunch: How would you describe the ultimate goal of this release? What are you ultimately trying to do with these features?

Brian Chesky: The goal of this release is to inspire possibilities for people when they travel and live around the world. The basic idea is that last year, the world became more flexible. People weren’t tethered to an office, but they weren’t comfortable getting on planes. So we really tried to focus on people traveling nearby a little longer. Now, we’re basically saying, “Hey, you don’t need to go to the same 100 cities and you don’t need to be limited to the same search box.”

The goal is to show you a world of possibilities you never thought to type into a search box. That’s basically the idea. Because we think people are ready to dream again. A lot of people have been sequestered at home for two years. Many people haven’t taken that big trip for the first time since the pandemic. We want to encourage people to get out of their house and go venture this big world.

Travel is one of the most aspirational things in the world. You travel when you graduate, you travel when you get married, you travel when you retire. It’s kind of sold like the online casino on a lot of websites. We want to bring the magic back to this category and show people a whole world of possibilities they’d never thought to search for.

We think this is going to be the travel rebound of the century. Tons of people are gonna be traveling, and we’re stepping on the gas. We’re not pulling back. Brian Chesky

So that’s really what Categories is. With Split Stays, the goal is to give you more options if you’re looking for a stay longer than the week. And AirCover is really about understanding that a lot of people haven’t done a big trip in two years. So it’s kind of like if you used to ski, but haven’t skied in five years, you may be a little tepid the first time you got on the mountain again. It’s kind of the same thing with travel. Maybe you’re going across the border or going to another country for the first time in a long time. AirCover will make you feel a little more comfortable. But it all comes back to this idea that there’s this new world of travel, and so we’re creating a new Airbnb to give you more possibilities.

The last time that we talked, the focus of the company was on individual hosts. For the end user, this latest update can certainly inspire and get people imagining their next trip, but there also seems to be a big benefit for individual hosts. They should have a lot more visibility with the new search. But professional hosting has become this very glitzy, Pinterest-esque career path. There are even HGTV shows about fixing up a space to turn it into a rental. How do you think about the tension between professional and individual hosts moving forward?

If a regular person wants to upgrade their home or they have one or two homes, I would still kind of put them in an individual host bucket. I think that if somebody has like 50 or 100 homes, they have people wearing company T-shirts with a logo and they’ve got 25-year-olds checking you in, which often happens, then that’s a little more professional. This product definitely benefits individuals a lot. I think it also benefits people that aren’t in the top 100 cities.

At the same time, it’s not meant to only benefit individuals or only benefit people outside of cities. We have very urban categories. What we’re trying to do is move beyond just being a commodity. Think about how travel is usually shown.

Airbnb’s huge summer update preps for a new era of travel

Last year, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said that the single-biggest challenge for the company was thinking like a startup, despite Airbnb’s tremendous growth over the last decade. The pandemic, he said, spurred the need to simplify and focus to survive. Since, Airbnb has put out hundreds of new features.

Today, that continues on with Airbnb latest feature update. The biggest changes include a new search based on category, the ability to book two listings in one flow for stays over a week, and AirCover for guests, which is basically Airbnb-provided travel insurance.

They work towards two big goals for the company.

The first is to inspire the world to get back to travel. Chesky believes that a new era of travel is about to begin and Airbnb is leaning into that. Hard. By reinventing search, automatically stringing together listings for longer-term travel (which is growing increasingly popular), and by protecting users under AirCover, Airbnb is opening the door for guests looking to get back out there in a safe way.

“We think people are ready to dream again,” said Chesky. “A lot of people have been sequestered at home for two years. Many people haven’t taken that big trip for the first time. And so we want we want to encourage people to get out of their house and venture this big world.”

The second goal is more around the health of the business. Airbnb lives and dies by its individual hosts. Small operations with one, or maybe a few, properties. Category search and split stays gives hosts from all corners of the platform better visibility, whether or not they meet the exact specifications of a user’s search.

Airbnb Categories

Continuing in the vein of flexible search, Airbnb is today releasing a new way to search by categories. In fact, the home page now just launches into a search for one week, with flexible dates, and shows a scrolling bar at the top of Airbnb’s new categories, rather than the OG search bar that asks “Where are you going?”

The new search includes type of home (such as A-frames, cabins, castles, and tiny homes), as well as in-home features (amazing pools, chef’s kitchens, and creative spaces), location type (arctic, beach, farm), and even activity (surfing, golfing, ski-in/ski-out).

Since the start of the pandemic, Airbnb has been focused on flexibility for guests. But the business benefits are crystal clear. If users are searching for the same general tourism destinations, and they have to search by some random hard-and-fast dates, their inventory options will be severely limited.

Airbnb has hosts in hundreds of thousands of cities across the globe, and flexible search allows for these locations to be discovered.

The company first fiddled with flexible search back in the February of 2021, offering users the chance to search by length of stay (weekend getaway, week-long vacation, month-long vacation and so on) without setting specific dates.

In May that year, Airbnb announced it would add flexible matching and flexible destinations. Flexible Matching doesn’t lock users in to every single search criteria that they select, but shows Airbnbs that have most of the criteria covered, while Flexible Destinations marked the origin of today’s categories announcement, allowing users to search for beach-side properties or treehouses.

This ramping up of flexible search crescendos into today’s release, which puts categories front and center.

What’s more, Airbnb is using a combination of machine learning and manual review to organize listings using structured data. For example, listings in the ‘Design’ category either show the architect or the publication in which the property was featured as a ‘title.’ Listings in the ‘Shared Home’ category show the hosts name as the title, as that’s likely the more important piece of information a user would need based on the category.

The same strategy is used for the featured image on listings — for example, the first picture you’ll see after searching in the pool category is, of course the pool.

This means that listing titles and descriptions have become far less significant, giving individual hosts a better chance at competing on the merit of their property, rather than their marketing prowess.

Category search also works alongside destination search and flexes based on the location. For example, if you’re searching for places in France, categories like ‘Historic Homes’ or ‘Vineyards’ will pop up.

Airbnb Split Stays

Airbnb is also introducing split stays. The company’s research shows that long-term stays are at an all-time high, more than doubling from two years ago. To help accommodate this demand, Airbnb split stays allow users to book, let’s say, a two-week trip and stay in two different listings, just in case neither of those listings are available for the full two weeks.

Split stays are available across 14 of Airbnb’s new categories, as well as for specific destination searches. When selected, the UI shows the distance between the two listings and sets up an easy flow for guests to book both different listings without loads of tabs open.

Split stays are shown on all searches that are a week or longer.

Airbnb Split Stays

Image Credits: Airbnb

Right now, says Chesky, the split stay functionality is controlled exclusively by Airbnb, automatically pairing two properties that match the criteria for the user. But it also lays the foundation for what Airbnb could do in the future with itineraries.

Currently, it’s difficult to book multiple Airbnbs for a long-term trip across a variety of locations. Let’s say a user wanted to spend the summer traveling across Europe or spend a couple of weeks on a road trip across the U.S. Airbnb has no feature set to help the user plan lodging for that trip.

With today’s release, Airbnb could easily build off of split stays and offer itinerary creation and organization around lodging.

“The moment we can intelligently pair two homes, we can eventually pair three homes or two homes and an experience or a home and an experience plus something else,” said Chesky. “Then, we can give a user control. You can then start to integrate it with wishlist down the road. It really starts to become a true itinerary building app, which we’re not getting right now. But the technology exists.”

Airbnb AirCover for Guests

Last year, Airbnb introduced its insurance product, AirCover, for hosts. It was meant to inspire even more individuals to join the platform as hosts and list their property, guaranteeing coverage of any damage or issues. For example, many Airbnb hosts were reluctant to allow pets to stay at their listings despite the tremendous increase in pet ownership since the pandemic. AirCover solved for that.

Today, Airbnb is announcing AirCover for guests, too. Guests will be protected against host cancellations, check-in issues, and have access to a 24-7 Safety Line. Moreover, Airbnb is offering a ‘Get-What-You-Booked’ guarantee. If a listing isn’t as it was advertised, Airbnb will give guests a refund or find them a listing of the same or better quality for their trip.

Again, this is meant to give travelers confidence to get back out there and go on vacation. Chesky says that it rivals the kind of coverage offered by many hotel chains and certainly beats out other booking sites like Booking.com and VRBO.

The Bottom Line

All of these updates are meant to bring enterprise-grade infrastructure to a vast community of individual hosts. Category search and split stays increase visibility to hosts who are potentially off the beaten path or can’t serve the exact specifications of a user’s search.

The last time we talked to Chesky, he said that the company’s focus was on individuals. But a platform full of individuals, both on the host and guest side, means a massive amount of variability from one search, one listing, and one booking to another.

The unique, one-of-a-kind nature of traveling with Airbnb is a huge part of its charm. There are no cookie cutter hotel rooms on the platform. But that also means there is more variability, and variables can lead to issues. Airbnb listings are all over the world, from the smallest towns to the biggest cities, from the desserts to the arctic. Literally. Without the processes and protocols of large hotels and chains, and without their resources around service, the end experience of the guest can vary wildly.

AirCover for guests is meant to give as much protection as possible to guests who are arguably spending a big chunk of money on their vacation, just like they’d get from a large hotel.

“We want to embrace the ‘one of a kindness’ of our community,” said Chesky. The great thing about one of a kind is that people are different, they’re unique. The problem is that people are different, and unique. The more one of a kind it is the more variability. And so we were trying to think about how can we provide some protection for you and we’re the only ones that offer this. Is this as consistent as a Hilton? Probably not. But, with these protections, you get pretty close to where a hotel can get, and you’re far beyond what Booking.com or VRBO or Expedia can do there. You’re on your own when you book on those sites.”

Meanwhile, category search and split stays ultimately aim to increase visibility to all kinds of hosts, across all different kinds of homes and locations, to generate revenue and introduce guests (and their wallets) into their communities.

All the tech that got our attention at F1 Miami Grand Prix

All eyes are on Miami this weekend as the international glitterati arrives for the city’s inaugural Formula One Grand Prix. The European racing event has attracted American fans in droves, thanks to the “Netflix effect” of “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” ­— the successful franchise that’s spurred some of the most captivating rivalries in modern streaming and just been renewed for seasons 5 and 6.

That in turn has attracted a new class of tech sponsors, including Google, Amazon, Dell and Oracle, that can use their computing power to analyze the 100,000 data points these $20 million machines generate per second. That means the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship calendar is not only a celebration of speed, but the triumph of math, science and data each weekend from February through November.

Plus, the technology tested on the track — continually evolving due to the governing body’s ever-changing regulations — tends to trickle down into passenger cars, so what’s showcased today could be in showrooms tomorrow.

Here is the best tech we spotted at the Miami International Autodrome around Hard Rock Stadium this weekend.

McLaren

McLaren Racing’s Formula 1 team benefits from partnerships with Google and Dell this year. Google put its mark on the MCL36 driven by Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo with logos for Android and Chrome, whose primary colors spin around its wheel covers, which have returned to F1 cars for the first time since 2009 due to new regulations this season.

But the multiyear partnership goes deeper.

“This collaboration has the potential to solve big and complex engineering challenges — from improving the team’s telemetry and design capabilities through AI, to speeding up decision-making and safeguarding team communications using Android 5G,” Nicholas Drake, Google’s VP of marketing, wrote in a blog post.

The McLaren team also uses Android connected phones, tablets and earbuds to monitor performance from the pit, as well as Dell’s prototyping and simulation software.

“We’re in a constant state of rapid prototyping of our cars to make them go faster with data-driven engineering changes, on average about every 20 minutes,” Edward Green, principal digital architect at McLaren Racing, said in a statement.

Among the top five cars on the circuit, the margin between the fastest and slowest cars can be a razor-thin 0.15%, making the simulation power Dell provides integral to the team’s performance.

Red Bull

Red Bull Racing’s car may have the cure that will allow the team and driver Max Verstappen to defend the world title: Oracle Cloud software from its title sponsor that uses machine learning to analyze race-day variables, from when to make a pit stop to which kind of tires to use.

The software will analyze data points from Friday and Saturday’s practice laps at Hard Rock Stadium to simulate runs and decide the best course for Sunday. That’s especially important at new race tracks such as Hard Rock Stadium’s temporary, 19-turn F1 circuit where historical data doesn’t exist.

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez said that surface conditions in Miami Gardens were challenging. “There isn’t much grip off the racing line on this track,” Perez said after trailing in Friday’s practice sessions, “and it feels very gravely out there, too.”

The computing expertise also may help Red Bull solve a challenge facing most teams so far this season: a phenomenon called “porpoising” for the bouncing effect it produces as the cars travel at top speed on long straightaways. It’s an effect of the FIA rule changes for the 2022 season that give teams greater reign over underfloor dynamics to generate downforce.

Red Bull’s solution is a metal strip that adds stiffness and rigidity to the floor of the team’s RB18 race car. This “ice skate” design also acts as a skid that reduces flexion once the underfloor has touched the track.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas

After a disappointing start to the 2022 season, the long-dominant Mercedes team is debuting updates to its front and rear wings for the race in Miami.

FIA regulations that changed the design of the front and rear wings for 2022 and reintroduced a beam wing after a nine-year hiatus forced teams to reengineer their aerodynamic systems, especially for the front wing, which serves as the crucial first point of contact that directs air flow across the body. Mercedes’ upgrades intend to improve efficiency and reduce drag on the W13 race car driven by George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.

Russell led Friday afternoon’s second practice round, giving the team and its fans hope that Mercedes has worked out the kinks. Meanwhile, seven-time world champion Hamilton received a temporary exemption for the weekend to wear jewelry that he can’t remove easily, including a platinum nose ring, so the team can proceed full speed ahead.

All the tech that got our attention at F1 Miami Grand Prix

All eyes are on Miami this weekend as the international glitterati arrives for the city’s inaugural Formula One Grand Prix. The European racing event has attracted American fans in droves, thanks to the “Netflix effect” of “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” ­— the successful franchise that’s spurred some of the most captivating rivalries in modern streaming and just been renewed for seasons 5 and 6.

That in turn has attracted a new class of tech sponsors, including Google, Amazon, Dell and Oracle, that can use their computing power to analyze the 100,000 data points these $20 million machines generate per second. That means the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship calendar is not only a celebration of speed, but the triumph of math, science and data each weekend from February through November.

Plus, the technology tested on the track — continually evolving due to the governing body’s ever-changing regulations — tends to trickle down into passenger cars, so what’s showcased today could be in showrooms tomorrow.

Here is the best tech we spotted at the Miami International Autodrome around Hard Rock Stadium this weekend.

McLaren

McLaren Racing’s Formula 1 team benefits from partnerships with Google and Dell this year. Google put its mark on the MCL36 driven by Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo with logos for Android and Chrome, whose primary colors spin around its wheel covers, which have returned to F1 cars for the first time since 2009 due to new regulations this season.

But the multiyear partnership goes deeper.

“This collaboration has the potential to solve big and complex engineering challenges — from improving the team’s telemetry and design capabilities through AI, to speeding up decision-making and safeguarding team communications using Android 5G,” Nicholas Drake, Google’s VP of marketing, wrote in a blog post.

The McLaren team also uses Android connected phones, tablets and earbuds to monitor performance from the pit, as well as Dell’s prototyping and simulation software.

“We’re in a constant state of rapid prototyping of our cars to make them go faster with data-driven engineering changes, on average about every 20 minutes,” Edward Green, principal digital architect at McLaren Racing, said in a statement.

Among the top five cars on the circuit, the margin between the fastest and slowest cars can be a razor-thin 0.15%, making the simulation power Dell provides integral to the team’s performance.

Red Bull

Red Bull Racing’s car may have the cure that will allow the team and driver Max Verstappen to defend the world title: Oracle Cloud software from its title sponsor that uses machine learning to analyze race-day variables, from when to make a pit stop to which kind of tires to use.

The software will analyze data points from Friday and Saturday’s practice laps at Hard Rock Stadium to simulate runs and decide the best course for Sunday. That’s especially important at new race tracks such as Hard Rock Stadium’s temporary, 19-turn F1 circuit where historical data doesn’t exist.

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez said that surface conditions in Miami Gardens were challenging. “There isn’t much grip off the racing line on this track,” Perez said after trailing in Friday’s practice sessions, “and it feels very gravely out there, too.”

The computing expertise also may help Red Bull solve a challenge facing most teams so far this season: a phenomenon called “porpoising” for the bouncing effect it produces as the cars travel at top speed on long straightaways. It’s an effect of the FIA rule changes for the 2022 season that give teams greater reign over underfloor dynamics to generate downforce.

Red Bull’s solution is a metal strip that adds stiffness and rigidity to the floor of the team’s RB18 race car. This “ice skate” design also acts as a skid that reduces flexion once the underfloor has touched the track.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas

After a disappointing start to the 2022 season, the long-dominant Mercedes team is debuting updates to its front and rear wings for the race in Miami.

FIA regulations that changed the design of the front and rear wings for 2022 and reintroduced a beam wing after a nine-year hiatus forced teams to reengineer their aerodynamic systems, especially for the front wing, which serves as the crucial first point of contact that directs air flow across the body. Mercedes’ upgrades intend to improve efficiency and reduce drag on the W13 race car driven by George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.

Russell led Friday afternoon’s second practice round, giving the team and its fans hope that Mercedes has worked out the kinks. Meanwhile, seven-time world champion Hamilton received a temporary exemption for the weekend to wear jewelry that he can’t remove easily, including a platinum nose ring, so the team can proceed full speed ahead.

Meta is integrating its Horizon Venues live events app into Horizon Worlds

Meta announced today that it’s integrating its Horizon Venues event experience into its social virtual reality Horizon Worlds platform. Horizon Venues is currently a separate app dedicated to attending live events in VR that uses the same avatars as Horizon Worlds. On June 6, users will be able to attend these live events directly within Horizon Worlds and the standalone Venues app will be discontinued.

“You’ll be able to catch your favorite marquee shows, from live sporting events to concerts from today’s hit artists and beyond, then hit up a comedy club or meditation session or even host your own meet-up, all from within Horizon Worlds,” the company said in a blog post about the announcement.

Meta says it has experimented with portals between Horizon Venues and Horizon Worlds over the past few months and found that users will be able to experience a seamless jump between the two via the integration.

Users above the age of 18 in the United States and Canada who have access to Horizon Worlds on Quest 2 will be able to access Venues programming in the Horizon Worlds app on June 6. Users who aren’t in the United States or Canada, are under the age of 18, and/or are on Quest 1 will lose access to Venues programming when the standalone Venues app goes away on June 6. Meta notes that these users will still be able to catch highlights and replays of Venues events in Oculus TV.

meta venues

Image Credits: Meta

Horizon Worlds opened up to all users over 18 years old in the U.S. and Canada in December 2021 after the platform was first announced in 2019. Meta said today that it plans to expand access to Horizon Worlds in more countries this summer.

Today’s news comes as the company’s CTO Andrew “Boz” Bosworth revealed in a tweet that Meta is working on a web version of Horizon Worlds. The expansion would allow users to try out Horizon Worlds without having to use Quest VR headsets, which is currently the only way to access the virtual world. Meta’s plans to launch web and mobile versions of its virtual world could be seen as a way for the company to get more people to join Horizon Worlds by avoiding the need for a Quest VR headset.

Meta also recently revealed that it’s testing a feature that will let creators sell virtual items and effects within their worlds. The new feature is rolling out to a small group of creators to start and marks a significant next step in the company’s mission of building the foundation of virtual reality social networking.