HBO makes some top shows, movies, and documentaries free to stream on HBO NOW and HBO GO

Giving people even more of a reason to stay home and follow the social distancing measures designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the US, HBO said it would be making 500 hours of programming free to stream over HBO NOW and HBO Go without a subscription starting Friday, April 3.

Shows that audiences can stream include some of the best television shows ever made like The Sopranos and The Wire, and other very good HBO shows like Veep and Six Feet Under.

Movie titles like Pokémon Detective Pikachu, Crazy, Stupid, Love and back catalog gems like (one of my favorite movies of all-time) Empire of the Sun join docu-series including McMillion$ and The Case Against Adnan Syed as free-to-stream offerings as well.

Viewers who want to watch what is inarguably the best show ever made (it’s The Wire) can download the HBO NOW or HBO GO apps or visit HBONOW.com or HBOGO.com.

The network’s distribution partners will also make the shows available to stream for free in the coming days, the company said. This offer marks the first time that HBO has made this amount of programming available for free outside of the paywall on either of its apps, the company said.

The full list of HBO content available to stream without a subscription includes:

  • Ballers (5 Seasons)

  • Barry (2 Seasons)

  • Silicon Valley (6 Seasons)

  • Six Feet Under (5 Seasons)

  • The Sopranos (7 Seasons)

  • Succession (2 Seasons)

  • True Blood (7 Seasons

  • Veep (7 Seasons)

  • The Wire (5 Seasons)

10 Docuseries and Documentaries

  • The Apollo

  • The Case Against Adnan Syed

  • Elvis Presley: The Searcher

  • I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter

  • The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley

  • Jane Fonda in Five Acts

  • McMillion$

  • True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality

  • United Skates

  • We Are the Dream: The Kids of the MLK Oakland Oratorical Fest

20 Warner Bros. Theatricals

  • Arthur

  • Arthur 2: On the Rocks

  • Blinded By the Light

  • The Bridges of Madison County

  • Crazy, Stupid, Love

  • Empire of the Sun

  • Forget Paris

  • Happy Feet Two

  • Isn’t It Romantic?

  • The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

  • Midnight Special

  • My Dog Skip

  • Nancy Drew And The Hidden Staircase

  • Pan

  • Pokémon Detective Pikachu

  • Red Riding Hood

  • Smallfoot

  • Storks

  • Sucker Punch

  • Unknown

Pinterest CEO and a team of leading scientists launch a self-reporting COVID-19 tracking app

There have been a few scattered efforts to leverage crowd-sourced self-reporting of symptoms as a way to potentially predict and chart the progress of COVID-19 across the U.S., and around the world. A new effort looks like the most comprehensive, well-organized and credibly backed yet, however – and it’s been developed in part by Pinterest co-founder and CEO Ben Silbermann.

Silbermann and a team from Pinterest enlisted the help of high school friend, and CRISPR gene-editing pioneer / MIT and Harvard Broad Institute member Dr. Feng Zhang to build what Silbermann termed in a press release a “bridge between citizens and scientists.” The result is the ‘How We Feel’ app that Silbermann developed along with input from Zhang, and a long list of well-regarded public health, computer science, therapeutics, social sincere and medical professors from Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Weill Cornell and more.

How We Feel is a mobile app available for both iOS and Android, which is free to download, and which is designed to make it very easy to self-report whether or not they feel well – and if they’re feeling unwell, what symptoms they’re experiencing. It also asks for information about whether or not you’ve been tested for COVID-19, and whether you’re self-isolation, and for how long. The amount of interaction required is purposely streamlined to make it easy for anyone to contribute daily, and to do so in a minute or less.

The app doesn’t ask for or collect info including name, phone numb or email information. It includes an up-front request that users agree to donate their information, and the data collected will be aggregated and then shared with researchers, public health professionals and doctors, including those who are signed on as collaborators with the project, as well as others (and the project is encouraging collaborators to reach out if interested). Part of the team working on the project are experts in the field of ‘differential privacy,’ and a goal of the endeavor is to ensure that people’s information is used responsibly.

The How We Feel app is, as mentioned, one of a number of similar efforts out there, but this approach has a number of advantages when compared to existing projects. First, it’s a mobile app, whereas some rely on web-based portals that are less convenient for the average consumer, especially when you want continued use over time. Second, they’re motivating use through positive means – Silbermann and his wife Divya will be providing a donated meal to non-profit feeding America for every time a person downloads and uses the app for the first time, up to a maximum of 10 million meals. Finally, it’s already designed in partnership with, and backed by, world-class academic institutions and researchers, and seems best-positioned to be able to get the information it gathers to the greatest number of those in a position to help.

How We Feel is organized as an entirely independent, non-profit organization, and it’s hoping to expand its availability and scientific collaboration globally. It’s an ambitious project, but also one that could be critically important in supplementing testing efforts and other means of tracking the progress and course of the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. While self-reported information on its own is far fro a 100 percent accurate or reliable source, taken in aggregate at scale, it could be a very effective leading indicator of new or emerging viral hotspots, or provide scientific researches with other valuable insights when used in combination with other signals.

Henry Ford Health System to conduct first large U.S. study of hydroxychloroquine’s ability to prevent COVID-19

Despite false assertions by the President to the contrary, any potential treatments to counter or prevent COVID-19 are still only at the stage of early investigations, which include one-off treatment with special individual case authorizations, and small-scale clinical examinations. Nothing so far has approached the level of scrutiny needed to actually say anything definitively about their actual ability to treat COVID-19 or the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes it, but the first large-scale U.S. clinical study for one treatment candidate is seeking volunteers and looking to get underway.

The study will be conducted by the Henry Ford Health System, which is seeking 3,000 volunteers from healthcare and first responder working environments. Depending on response, the researchers behind the study are looking to begin as early as next week. Study lead researcher Dr. William W. O’Neil said in a press release announcing the study that the goal is to seek a more definitive scientific answer to the question of whether or not hydroxychloroquine might work as a preventative medicine to help protect medical frontline workers with greater risk exposure from contracting the coronavirus.

Hydroxychloroquine (as well as chloroquine) has been in the spotlight as a potential COVID-19 treatment due mostly to repeated name-check that President Trump has given the drug during his daily White House coronavirus task force press briefings. Trump has gone too far in suggesting that the drug, which is commonly used both as an anti-malarial, and in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, could be an effective treatment and should be thrust into use. At one point, he claimed that he FDA had granted an emergency approval for its use as a COVID-19 treatment, but Dr. Anthony Fauci clarified that it was not approved for that use, and that clinical studies still need to be performed to evaluate how it works in addressing COVID-19.

Studies thus far around hydroxychloroquine have been small-scale, as mentioned. One, conducted by researchers in France, produced results that indicated the drug was effective in treating those already infected, particularly when paired with a specific antibiotic. Another, more recent study from China showed that there was no difference in terms of viral duration or symptoms when comparing treatment with hydroxychloroquine with treatment using standard anti-viral drugs, already a common practice in addressing cases of the disease.

This Henry Ford study looks like it could provide better answers to some of these questions around the drug, though the specific approach of seeking to validate prophylactic (preventative) use will mean treatment-oriented applications will still have to be studied separately. The design of the study will be a true blind study, with participants split into three groups that receive “unidentified, specific pills” (possibly anti-virals or some equivalent); hydroxychloroquine; or placebo pills, respectively. They won’t know which they’ve received, and they’ll be contacted by researchers running the study weekly, then in-person both at week four and week eight to determine if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, or any side effects from the medication. They’ll get regular blood draws, and the results will be compared to see if there’s any difference between each cohort in terms of how many contracted COVID-19.

These are frontline healthcare workers, so in theory they should unfortunately be at high risk of contracting the disease. That, plus the large sample size, should provide results that provide much clearer answers about hydroxychloroquine’s potential preventative effects. Even after the study is complete, other competing large-scale trials would ideally be run to prove out or cast doubt on these results, but we’ll be a better position than we are now to say anything scientifically valid about the drug and its use.

Forward launches ‘Forward At Home’ primary care service to address COVID-19 healthcare crunch

The global coronavirus pandemic has already caused a tremendous strain on healthcare resources around the world, and it’s leading to a shift in how healthcare is offered. Startup Forward, which debuted in 2016 and has since expanded its tech-focused primary care medical practice to locations in major cities across the U.S., is launching a new initiative called ‘Forward At Home’ that reflects those changes and adapts its care model accordingly.

Forward’s primary differentiator is its focus on what it terms a patient’s ‘baseline,’ which is established by an in-person visit they make when they join that employs a body scanner at a doctor’s office to take a number of readings and produce an interactive chart displayed on-screen in the doctor’s exam room. Forward founder and CEO Adrian Aoun, who previously led special projects at Google before building the health tech company, said that as the company has ramped its efforts to support patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, including through in-clinic and drive-through testing, it also wanted to address the ongoing need for care for non-COVID patients.

“If people aren’t leaving their homes, and frankly, you don’t really want them to leave their homes unless you need them to, you have to figure out how to do all that remotely,” Aoun said in an interview, referring to Forward’s comprehensive biometric data gathering process. “So we’ve we’ve implemented a bunch of different things as rapidly as possible. The first is, how do we collect some biometrics – so we put together a kit that has a bunch of sensors in it that we actually mail to you. This includes an EKG, a connected thermometer, connected blood pressure cuff and a pulse oximeter.”

This approach provides a whole new level of remote care, over and above what’s typically defined as “telemedicine,” which generally amounts to little more than video calls with doctors, Aoun points out. Forward’s approach includes automated vitals monitoring for alerting a doctor if a patient needs intervention, and a patient has access to all their own data in the app as well. The Forward At Home product also take their exam room smart display and brings it to their mobile devices, presenting it for shared consultation between doctor and patient during viral visits, which are available 24/7 to Forward members.

At launch, the service also includes home visits to collect urine and blood samples, as an added measure designed specifically to help patients adhere to CDC and health agency guidelines around self-isolation while also getting a detailed and thorough level of care. Aoun says that this part of the offering doesn’t make sense at scale, and will likely revert to in-clinic visits once the COVID-19 crisis passes.

The rest of the model, though spurred into deployment because of the coronavirus conditions, and the need to limit the number of people going in to medical facilities and hospital all across the country unless they absolutely need to, is here to stay, however. Aoun says that Forward’s goal has always been to address the need for tech-friendly, advanced and comprehensive primary care for everyone, but that it took an approach similar to Tesla’s by addressing the top end of the market first in order to be able to fund development of more broadly available services later on.

Meanwhile, the need to shift as much care as possible to in-home is pressing, and evidence from countries around the world is increasingly pointing to how important that is to stopping the spread.

“The big thing to flatten the curve, the whole point of it, is that the hospitals are going to be overrun,” Aoun said. “So you want to take as many cases as you can, where they don’t actually have to be in the ICU, and treat them outside of the ICU – that’s your first principle. Then your second principle is, and China kind of discovered this early […] they started moving to getting people out of the hospitals, as much as possible for a second reason, which is not that the hospitals are overloaded, but that the hospitals are one of the fastest ways to spread COVID-19.”

That’s a perspective also supported by lessons shared from Italian medical professionals in their effort to deal with the COVID-19 situation there, which has essentially decimated large parts of their medical facility infrastructure.

Forward is also still continuing the other work it’s doing to address COVID-19 needs, including providing its risk assessment screening tool to all, as well as offering testing via clinics and drive-throughs to members, as well as mental health support. It’s also looking to expand its drive-through testing to new sites across the U.S. The Forward At Home initiative, meanwhile, will help ensure that clients who have other pressing health needs aren’t left behind while the effort to combat COVID-19 continues.

Amazon begins running temperature checks and will provide surgical masks at warehouses

Amazon has detailed someone  measures its taking to prevent any further spread of COVID-19 at its warehouse facilities in the U.S. and Europe, according to Reuters, including taking temperature checks and distributing facemasks to employees at Amazon warehouses and Whole Foods stores. The commerce giant has seen a dramatic increase in demand as countries and regions globally have ordered lock-down and varying degrees of self-isolation and quarantine measures, and has also seen confirmed cases of COVID-19 among warehouse workers across the U.S.

Amazon has already described some precautions it’s been taking, including mandatory paid 14-day quarantines for employees who test positive, as well as increased cleaning and sanitization efforts of families and infrastructure. The new measures to be introduced next week include taking temperatures of employees at the entrances to warehouses, with any individuals wth a fever of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit to be sent home, where they’ll have to have three consecutive days without fever to return to work. Employees will also be provided with surgical masks starting next week, the company says, once it receives shipments of orders of “millions” placed a few weeks ago.

In addition to these measures, Amazon will also be using machine-learning powered software to monitor footage from cameras in and around buildings to ensure that employees are maintaining the safe, recommended distances from one another during shifts.

There have been a number of employee actions in response to Amazon’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, including a walkout at the company’s Staten Island warehouse, which led to the firing of the worker who led the action. Employees at a Detroit Amazon warehouse are also planning a walkout to protest what they cite as dangerous working conditions.

Meanwhile, Amazon is also staffing up to deal with the increased need for warehouse and fulfilment employees. The company previously announced a plan to hire as many as 100,000 new workers to handle the uptick, and told Reuters on Wednesday that it has already hired 80,000 since making that goal.

Olive, a startup developing an automation tool for healthcare administration, raises $51 million

Time is money as the old adage goes, and this is doubly true in healthcare systems operating with thin margins now made even thinner thanks to the loss of revenue caused by a freeze on elective procedures.

Stepping in with a technology that automates much of the time-consuming backend processes hospitals and healthcare providers need to keep up with is Olive, a startup out of Columbus, Ohio.

The company, which counts over 500 hospitals representing some of the largest healthcare providers in the U.S. among its customers, has raised a new round of $51 million as it sees significant growth for its business.

The round, raised from investors including Drive Capital, Oak HC/FT, Ascension Ventures, was led by General Catalyst, which recently closed on $2.3 billion in new capital to invest in early stage companies.

As a result of the investment, Ron Paulus, the former president and chief executive of Mission Health, will join the board of directors, the company said in a statement.

Olive’s software toolkit automates administrative tasks like revenue cycle, supply chain management, clinical administration and human resources, the company said in a statement. And demand for the company’s technology is surging. 

According to data provided by the company, roughly half of hospital administrators intend to invest in robotic process automation by 2021,

“There’s a growing, multi-billion dollar problem: healthcare doesn’t have the internet. Instead, healthcare uses humans as routers, forcing workers to toggle between disparate systems — they copy, they paste, they manipulate data – they become robots. They click and type and extract and import, all day long — and it’s one of the leading reasons that one out of every three dollars spent in the industry today is spent on administrative costs,” said Olive chief executive Sean Lane in a September statement.

Olive doesn’t just automate processes, but makes those processes better for hospitals by identifying problem areas that could lead to lost revenues for hospitals. The software has access to pre-existing health claim status data, which allows it to identify where mistakes in previous claims were made. By using accurate coding, hospitals can add additional revenue.

“As a recent health system CEO, I appreciate the duress our hospitals are under as they focus on delivering the best patient care possible under challenging circumstances all while needing to keep the lights on,” said Dr. Ronald A. Paulus. “Olive’s reliable automation of essential back-office processes saves time, reduces errors and allows staff to focus on higher-order work. I am excited to be working closely with Olive’s management team to maximize the outsized positive impact we can have in healthcare on both the administrative and clinical fronts.”

Bay Area effort to feed hospital workers partners with Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen

An effort I’ve been following in the Bay Area to deliver meals to front-line hospital clinicians dealing with the results of COVID-19 is announcing a big new partnership today that should give it a national stage. Frontline Foods is partnering up with World Central Kitchen to scale up its ad-hoc efforts across the US.

World Central Kitchen is a not-for-profit organization founded by chef José Andrés in 2010 that has made headlines over and over again as it has provided food and disaster relief in countries around the world after disasters like Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, the Camp Fires in California and most recently COVID-19-affected cruise passengers in Japan and Oakland.

Frontline Foods is an open-sourced effort to deliver meals to hospital staff from local restaurants impacted by loss of clientele due to coronavirus prevention measures. The equation is a brilliantly simple one. Restaurants have far less customers, hospital staff are moving at incredible speed and unable to score a great meal on the fly.

The #SFhospitalmeals experiment evolved into a full clinician meal program, as launched here by Frank Barbieri and Sydney Gessel, along with Ryan Sarver, who I spoke to via email about the program — one of several similar efforts that collectively became Frontline Foods.

“Frank was texting with a mutual friend of ours, Sydney Gessel, who is a registered nurse in the Emergency Department at UCSF Mission Bay. He asked her, ‘How can I help’ and she essentially replied ‘pizza.’ Nurses are pulling 16-hour shifts, are stressed, tired, no time to cook at home, restaurants are closed and the simple act of feeding themselves was going by the wayside,” Sarver said. “At the same time, restaurants were starting to face the reality of shelter-in-place and the dire results of what it meant for them and their teams. We called up a local pizza spot that night and had a bunch of pizzas delivered to her unit. The restaurant and the clinicians were both ecstatic and we realized there was an opportunity to try to do more of this.”

After a couple of dry runs and a tweet for donors, the project ended up expanding to 7 hospitals and raising an eventual $350k over the past few weeks.

Ryan and Frank and other volunteers like Chris Consentino outlined a spec for the project and reached out to a number of restaurants and started plugging them into spreadsheets that matched restaurants to units in need across a few Bay Area hospitals.

Frontline Foods, as a federation that now has multiple chapters across the US, has 150 volunteers in 12 cities and has raised a combined $700,000. In SF it has delivered 4,375 meals to 6 local hospitals. It currently has the ability to deliver another 12,000 meals in SF. Current hospitals served in the bay include UCSF Mission Bay, UCSF Parnassus, SFGH, Kaiser Geary, CPMC Van Ness and CPMC Davies.

Once they saw that there were more groups in the bay and across the US that had started similar ‘connect restaurants to COVID-19 clinicians’ efforts, they began to see the need to build out a standard.

“We decided ‘open sourcing’ the process and tools we were using would help other people start their own programs and allow us to learn from others groups,” Sarver said. “We eventually launched a Slack to help the other cities coordinate. In less than a week we now have 180 volunteers in the Slack, over a dozen cities launched, have raised $700k, and delivered 7,000+ meals.”

Frontline is looking to leverage WCK’s experience in raising money and preparing food for disasters over the last 10 years. WCK’s help as a fiscal sponsor will also give Frontline Foods the ability to utilize its 501c3 status to accept donations. The side of this that is bolstering local restaurants and creating a pipeline between them and groups of people in need of food — fueled by donations — is what Frontline is hoping to bring to the table.

The group boasts a diverse set of skills from technology and design to community management, food & beverage and non-profits. They’re distributed across the US, Canada and Australia as well. It’s nearly all being run on Slack and Zoom calls as well, and most of the group has never met one another.

“We open sourced the process and tools, which at the time was some Google Docs and Google Sheets,” said Sarver. “In the week since, we have spun up a product and engineering team of volunteers who are designing and building more automated systems. Some of it is custom built and but much of it is going to be built on Coda for the backend tools, documentation and automation.”

Many of the cities that are now a part of the Frontline Foods project were home to efforts that started in parallel. After reaching out and realizing that they were aligned, there was a drive to create a new umbrella that used a shared mission and shared systems to make them more effective.

Frontline is reaching out to local, independent restaurants in the areas where it operates or having them apply via a form, and word has spread through the restaurant community. Many of them, even without previous take-out or delivery experience, are figuring out how to package and deliver meals through Frontline’s pipeline. In return, they get a pipeline of predictable business at a time when they are not seeing much predictability at all.

The restaurant industry has been hit incredibly hard by COVID-19, and there is a real danger that an entire generation of independent food providers will just be wiped out. Many are adapting at speed to a life of takeout, or marketplaces, or safe delivery — but any additional help is welcome. And the double-ended benefit that results from the Frontline Foods (and WCK) project is a fantastic way to deliver that help.

“World Central Kitchen is a team of food first responders, mobilizing with the urgency of now to get meals to those who need them most. We are proud that this alliance with Frontline Foods will help activate even more restaurants and kitchens to feed our brave medical professionals on the front lines, in order to make a meaningful impact in the fight to keep everyone fed, and to support the distressed restaurant industry,” World Central Kitchen CEO Nate Mook said in a release today.

Frontline Foods and WCK are taking no fees from these transactions. Along with the WCK partnership, Frontline is also launching a national donation-matching program with a $200,000 matching grant from top donors.

“This is an unprecedented crisis (I’ve used that a lot, but it is) — the hospitals and clinicians have never seen anything like this,” said Sarver via email. “And for the 11 million people employed by restaurants in the US, they face a very uncertain future. Every dollar of a donation goes directly into the pockets of these restaurants to make the food that goes to our clinicians. If you can, please consider a donation.”

You can donate on Frontline Foods website here.

Damon Motorcycles makes acquisition, raises $3M and extends pre-orders

EV startup Damon Motorcycles has acquired the IP of Mission Motors, raised $3 million in funding and announced a special production run of its debut model.

The Vancouver-based venture unveiled the 200 mph Hypersport in January and began taking pre-orders for the e-moto, with a base price of $24,995. Damon has positioned its EV entry as an ultra-fast, smart and safe motorcycle.

In addition to its go-straight-to-jail top-speed, the Hypersport boasts 200 miles of highway range, 147 ft-lbs of torque, charges to 80% in 20 minutes and weighs less than 500 pounds, Damon CEO Jay Giraud told TechCrunch earlier this year.

These features, along with digitally controlled riding-modes, are just part of Damon’s signature. The seed-stage startup has also engineered the cloud-connected Hypersport with proprietary safety and ergonomics technology that provide adjustable riding positions and blind-spot detection.

Damon Motorcycles

Image Credits: Damon Motorcycles

Damon packed a lot into its latest announcement and shared some insight on appealing to the elusive millennial market and weathering the economic tremors of the COVID-19 crisis.

On the acquisition, the startup purchased the IP of Mission Motors, a now defunct San Francisco e-motorcycle venture that powered down in 2015. Though Mission’s EV development outran its capital, the company’s motorcycles achieved a number of performance benchmarks and captured the attention of Jay Leno.

Mission Motors was also one of first e-moto companies to roll into the competition arena, fielding an entry in the famed Isle of Man TT race in 2009.

Damon will draw on Mission’s product and racing tech, including the company’s full stack development for EV drive-trains and battery power.

“There are certain bits of that we’re going to roll into the commercialized Hypersport,” Damon COO Derek Derek Dorresteyn told Techcrunch on a call with CEO Jay Giraud.

“Specifically, we’re using the motor development that they had as a platform to advance our motor design…We’re looking at achieving 12 newton-meters per kilogram of torque output from an electric motor,” Dorresteyn said.

Giraud explained that could translate to Damon producing an electric motorcycle with roughly 160 kilowatts of power, 200 horsepower and 200 ft-lbs of torque. That would outdo one of the fastest production e-motorcycles, Energica’s EGO, with 145 horsepower and 159 ft-lbs of torque.

Energica’s Ego, Image Credits: TechCrunch

On funding, Damon Motors now has $3 million in additional capital, raised at the pre-seed level from undisclosed angel investors.

The startup will use the backing on product development and accelerating time to market, Giraud said.

Damon’s founder also noted that the company was on track to fill its initial target of 1000 pre-orders for both its Hypersport standard and Premiere models. As such, the startup will extend orders on a limited run, $34,995 Hypersport Premiere founder edition in two different color-schemes: Arctic Sun and Midnight Sun.

Damon is highlighting the demographics of those placing deposits on its Hypersport e-motorcycles.

“Half the people ordering are under the age of 40,” said Giraud. “It really speaks to product market fit.”

The ability to draw millennials to motorcycle purchases is significant, given they’ve been the hardest market segment to crack. Young buyers used to be a mainstay of the industry, but the last 10 years have seen sharp declines in motorcycle ownership by everyone under 40, according to Motorcycle Industry Council stats.

Damon believes its proprietary tech and plans for a direct-to-consumer sales and service model can attract affluent younger buyers and the Tesla crowd to its fast and safe motorcycles.

Though TechCrunch hasn’t yet ridden a Hypersport, the two-wheeler’s specs offer unique features compared to any current production gas or electric motorcycle. On safety, Damon’s CoPilot system uses sensors, radar and cameras to track moving objects around the motorcycle and alert riders to danger.

Damon Motorcycles Hypersport Sensors

Image Credits: Damon Motorcycles

The startup’s debut EV also brings smart ergonomics in Damon’s patented Shift system that allows riders to electronically adjust the motorcycle’s windscreen, seat, foot-pegs and handlebars to different riding positions and conditions.

Even with the demand Damon has seen for the Hypersport, it still faces a stagnant motorcycle market that has become crowded with EV competitors.

Harley Davidson introduced its all electric LiveWire in 2019, becoming the first of the big gas manufacturers to offer a street-legal e-moto for sale in the U.S.

Harley’s entry followed several failed electric motorcycle startups — including Mission Motors — and put it in the market with existing EV ventures, such as Italy’s Energica and U.S. startup Zero  — which launched its $19,000, 120 mph SR/F in 2019.

On top of strong competition in the e-moto space, there’s a growing uncertainty on the buying appetite for motorcycles of any kind that could exist for the remainder of 2020, and potentially beyond, given the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the world.

As of this week, Harley Davidson had halted all motorcycle production due the coronavirus and Energica confirmed to TechCrunch it had shutdown all operations per a decree of the Italian government.

Zero Motorcycles — located in Scott’s Valley, California — is still producing motorcycles “following the standard health orders of the CDC”, according to a company spokesperson.

Damon’s leadership believes the company can power through whatever lies ahead. The company has a global supply-chain across Europe, Asia and North America, but builds its battery packs and assembles its motorcycles in Canada .

“There are real challenges to get anyone to do anything today. We don’t expect that to be true forever,” COO Derek Dorresteyn said of supply-chain and meeting production demand. 

CEO Jay Giraud believes the current situation with COVID-19 will likely create an economic slump that could drag on longer than the 2008 Great Recession.

On how Damon Motorcycles will manage, “Like every core startup in the world, we’re gonna have to raise a lot of money no matter what. But we’re in a good place right now,” he said.

D-Wave gives anyone working on responses to the COVID-19 free cloud access to its quantum computers

D-Wave, the Canadian quantum computing company, today announced that it is giving anyone who is working on responses to the COVID-19 free access to its Leap 2 quantum computing cloud service. The offer isn’t only valid to those focusing on new drugs but open to any research or team working on any aspect of how to solve the current crisis, be that logistics, modeling the spread of the virus or working on novel diagnostics.

One thing that makes the D-Wave program unique is that the company also managed to pull in a number of partners that are already working with it on other projects. These include Volkswagen, DENSO, Jülich Supercomputing Centre, MDR, Menten AI, Sigma-i Tohoku University, Ludwig Maximilian University and OTI Lumionics. These partners will provide engineering expertise to teams that are using Leap 2 for developing solutions to the Covid-19 crisis.

As D-Wave CEO Alan Baratz told me, this project started taking shape about a week and a half ago. In our conversation, he stressed that teams working with Leap 2 will get a commercial license, so there is no need to open source their solutions and won’t have a one-minute per month limit, which are typically the standard restrictions for using D-Wave’s cloud service.

“When we launched leap 2 on February 26th with our hybrid solver service, we launched a quantum computing capability that is now able to solve fairly large problems — large scale problems — problems at the scale of solving real-world production problems,” Baratz told me. “And so we said: look, if nothing else, this could be another tool that could be useful to those working on trying to come up with solutions to the pandemic. And so we should make it available.”

He acknowledged that there is no guarantee that the teams that will get access to its systems will come up with any workable solutions. “But what we do know is that we would be remiss if we didn’t make this tool available,” he said.

Leap is currently available in the U.S., Canada, Japan and 32 countries in Europe. That’s also where D-Wave’s partners are active and where researchers will be able to make free use of its systems.

We must consider secure online voting

The list of states delaying primaries and elections is quickly increasing, with New Jersey adding local elections to the list. Even Congress — in a break from tradition — is rethinking what it means to vote safely in this new paradigm, stirring calls for remote voting for its upcoming legislation around the pandemic.

This debate, however, lacks important context: Many U.S. citizens are already voting online at home and abroad. In fact, 23 U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow some voters to return absentee ballots via email, while five others permit some voters to do so using a web portal.

We are election officials in two states that require us to offer an online method to some of our voters. For these voters, the argument is not an academic one, but an issue of necessity — traditional voting methods simply don’t work for those living abroad, deployed in the military or those with disabilities. As election officials, it’s our duty to stand up for the constitutional rights of our citizens, whatever their circumstances, and the reality is that online voting dramatically improves the opportunities for these two groups to engage with our democracy.

We should not be debating whether online voting should exist, but rather asking: What is the most secure way to facilitate electronic voting? Because it’s already being done. And because it’s needed by some voting groups — whose volume might expand in the near future.

As a country, we currently have three million eligible voters living abroad, and only 7% cast ballots in the 2016 elections, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s biennial Overseas Citizen Population Analysis. This same analysis found that removing logistical barriers to voting would raise participation by 30%. A different analysis separately found that while nearly one million active-duty military are eligible to vote, only around 23% of them actually did in 2018.

The traditional system of mailed-in absentee ballots and centralized polling places is failing these voters, and they aren’t alone among the disenfranchised. The turnout story is also grim for the 35 million U.S. voters with disabilities. An October 2017 Government Accountability Office report also found widespread barriers to disabled voting, such as machines that could have made it impossible to cast votes privately. It’s no wonder that, as a 2017 Rutgers University study found, disabled voting participation has declined in each of the last two presidential elections, dropping from 57.3% in 2008 to 55.9% in 2016.

New technologies offer promise to expanding and securing access for overseas citizens and voters with disabilities. Consider MacCene Grimmett, who is, at 106, Utah’s oldest voter. When she was born in 1913, women did not have the right to vote. Homebound since she broke her ankle two years ago and unable to hold a pen steadily, she was able to cast her ballot last year thanks to an app on a mobile device. The technology empowered her, helping her execute — independently, anonymously, securely and with dignity — her most basic duty as a citizen.

Pilots and tests are happening at different scales in localities around the country, and early results are demonstrating positive outcomes. In 2019,Utah County’s offering mobile-phone voting to overseas citizens resulted in a marked increase in participation rates. In fact, turnout rates for voters using the app overseas were higher than for those who went to the polls in-person on Election Day. Oregon also successfully permitted its citizens to use app-voting in 2019.

Importantly, all pilots include the ability to rigorously audit the results so we can ensure 100% accuracy along the way.

The challenge, ultimately, is how to continue leveraging technology in a secure and innovative way to maximize access. Safety is paramount: We are deeply aware that we live in an interconnected world where foreign adversaries and other malicious entities are using information technology to try to undermine our political system. It’s our responsibility to understand the environment in which we operate as we forge ahead.

But while these concerns can be valid, they should not outweigh both the necessity and potential benefits of internet-based voting. Just as we cannot place blind faith in the infallibility of our technologies, we also cannot fall into a senseless, all-encompassing mistrust that would both disenfranchise millions of voters and shake trust in our elections.

Rather than making sweeping judgments, we need to weigh each case individually. Why, for example, should Iowa’s failure, which involved poor training, lack of testing and trouble reporting caucus results on one specific technology platform by a political party adversely affect whether a disabled Utahn or an Oregonian soldier can cast their vote — and verify it — by app?

Expanding voter participation by ensuring ballot access for all citizens is paramount to protecting our democracy. In the 21st century, that will necessarily include electronic methods, particularly as we face challenges with voters abroad and contemplate emerging challenges at home like COVID-19, where large public gatherings — and long lines — spark new threats to consider.

We must continue trials and experiments to broaden access for voters, while hardening the system and making it more resilient, and that means beginning with small-scale pilots, seeing what works, stringently auditing the results and then employing that knowledge in new rounds of testing. App-based voting, for example, is already more secure than returning a ballot by email, and it also preserves voter anonymity in a way that email makes impossible (because whoever opens the email to hand-copy the vote onto a paper ballot for tabulation knows who sent it).

These are the everyday successes that internet-based voting is producing right now. And they ought to be driving the discussion as we move forward slowly, responsibly and confidently.