The CES circus is arriving now

The Consumer Electronics Show is held every year in Los Vegas, and as you'd expect from the world's largest technology event, it's one of the worst events of the year: it's a torrent of news, largely granted to popular websites ahead of time, but in general it's just overwhelming as a reader.

For those not familiar with the event, these days it's not hugely news-worthy unless you take an interest in a few key areas:

  • TV technology:¬†most of the TV makers still compete to show off their latest panels at CES, and this year is already no exception as they all start moving to focus on 8K content. Samsung, for example, already has a new version of The Frame TV (which is, by the way, very beautiful) and, no joke, a new TV called "The Wall." LG is shipping all of its 2019¬†TVs with Google Assistant. Expect many more hyperbolic TV press releases to come.¬†
  • Smart stuff:¬†if there's a smart home device, it's at CES. As the event's relevance waned for the phone and PC industry, it's become a mecca for smart home devices. Google last year took over CES with advertisements for Google Home, and it's doing it again this year. I'll bet almost every device you can find at the show will be 'smart' somehow.
  • PC hardware:¬†The PC industry loves to show off whatever reference design it has for 2019, which may or may not ship, and there will be plenty of those, usually with the latest GPUs in tow and super-tiny screen bezels.¬†
  • Other stuff:¬†outside of the notable categories, there's plenty of other announcements that'll range from headphones to phones, but I wouldn't consider these particularly notable so much as minor refreshes.

Generally, CES is a noisy time of year for technology sites, and even I find it hard to wade through. I'll be sharing anything interesting that comes across my feed, but I don't expect to cover in-depth beyond the biggest announcements. For that, you can always drink from the firehose. 

Pokémon GO's creator just snagged a ton of new cash

Niantic, the creator of Pokémon GO (that game you saw kids running around and playing in the park two years ago) has raised a bunch of fresh capital to the tune of $190 million, making it now worth $3.9 billion.

If you were thinking 'wow, that game is totally dead' like most have assumed, you're totally wrong! I was surprised to learn that not only is it more popular than ever, it's still growing two years on from its launch. I actually know a number of people who have confessed in secret that they play the game frequently, despite being in their late 20's and early 30's, worried that it's perceived to be just for kids.

Now, what's strange about this raise is that Niantic is printing money already: it made $800 million in revenue last year. Why does a company that's clearly succeeding need more capital? Ask Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, which also raised $1.25 billion in cash despite pulling in $3 billion in 2018.

It all comes down to execution: Niantic (like Epic) has grander ambitions, but needs the free capital to actually pursue them while still successfully building its game simultaneously. 

Niantic has hinted in the past that it wants to build the AR technology seen in its Pokémon Go unveil video, and it's invested in AR companies in the past, so it wouldn't be a surprise if it wasn't already making them itself.

Enormous trend-setting games like Pokémon GO and Fortnite are considered to be 'third places' in which people meet each other, which makes them so appealing to investors. They also, as a result, appear set to be the next big startup category, with the industry largely having neglected the space for a long time. 

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Out of nowhere, New York's L train won't shut down due to "high-tech" solution
After two years of scaring Brooklynites with the impending shutdown of the L train, a vital New York artery, it's no longer happening. The government has magicked a solution out of thin air, just months ahead of the start date.

Los Angeles (the city) is suing an app for stealing user data
The company behind the app 'The Weather Company' tricked users into turning on location, according to the lawsuit, and then sold that tracking data to advertisers without their knowledge. I was surprised that the city is the one suing here, but they regularly take action on consumer-protection cases that affect its citizens.

I wrote a little more yesterday for Motherboard/Vice about Apple and peak smartphones

USB-C is getting a new specification to 'authenticate' legitimate cables and chargers