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CRAFTED

How Bird plans to spread its electric scooters all over the world

Bird is making its first major move outside the US. The scooter-sharing startup announced today that its rideables would be hitting the streets of Paris and Tel Aviv for a pair of pilots that the Santa Monica, California-based company says will be its first foray into foreign markets. Bird is also eyeing other cities as it seeks to capitalize on the buzz surrounding the new business of electric-powered, two-wheeled mobility.

The pilots in both cities will be limited at first, Bird says, starting with 50-100 scooters and then scaling up from there.

On Wednesday, Bird’s e-scooters will be available in Paris in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd arrondissements of the City of Lights. In the coming weeks, a pilot program will begin in Tel Aviv in partnership with Tel Aviv University.

Bird has named Patrick Studener its head of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, tasking him with the mission of finding new foreign markets for its scooters. Studener worked for three years at Uber, along with Bird founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden, before leaving in 2016 to become chief operating officer at Wolt, the Finnish, on-demand food delivery service.

He joined Bird in February 2018.

“There are plenty of cities that are dealing with congestion and pollution and want to figure out how to reduce car ownership,” Studener tells The Verge. “We’re exploring where we want to go next.”

Studener says Paris and Tel Aviv were chosen because both are “tech- and innovation-forward [cities]” and were interested in reducing car congestion through a broader range of mobility options. But when asked what specific permissions Bird has received from the governments of both cities, Studener is circumspect.

“I think, in general, we are super collaborative and want to work with the cities,” he tells The Verge. “This is a going to be a long project to reduce car ownership in the cities and bring the car trips down.” Bird is talking with officials in Paris and Tel Aviv “at both the municipal and at the national level,” he adds.

Since its valuation hit £2 billion, making it the first scooter company to achieve unicorn status, Bird has been looking to capitalize on the buzz by scaling up rapidly. And what better way for a company founded by an ex-Uber executive to do that than by barnstorming the rest of the globe.

Bird is currently operating in 30 cities in the US, though not always in compliance with local regulation.

Much like Uber’s habit of begging for forgiveness rather than seeking permission before launching, Bird has crafted a reputation of simply dropping hundreds of scooters on city streets, building up demand, and then stepping back and watching as local officials scramble to respond.

Those responses haven’t always been positive. Officials in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have asked the company to remove its scooters from sidewalks until it obtains the appropriate permits. Milwaukee’s city council is weighing new rules effectively banning electric scooters and giving the city permission to seize them.

And Baltimore is scrambling to figure out how to accommodate the unannounced appearance of hundreds of Bird scooters in recent weeks.

San Francisco, the city where it all started, is currently reviewing applications from Bird and 11 other companies that are bidding for a newly created scooter operation permit. But Studener says rules vary from city to city, and Bird makes sure to operate within the boundaries of the law.

“That starts with going and having a conversation with [cities] and ensuring that if we fall within any regulations that already exist or working together to figure out, ‘Okay, if this is something new, innovation is in a place where its outpaced regulation, and there’s a need for regulation, let’s figure out what that should look like,'” he says.

Europe may be more amenable to scooters than US cities, given the proliferation of bike-sharing services and the availability of gas-powered two-wheeled vehicles. But Paris, in particular, has been known to react strongly to so-called tech disruptors.

In 2015, taxi drivers clashed violently with police in Paris as part of a nationwide protest against Uber.

Studener says things have changed since then.

“This is not a short-term project.

There are hundreds of thousands of cars coming into Paris every day,” he says. “Paris already has great infrastructure, but there are gaps in that infrastructure, and I think there are a lot of innovative companies like Bird helping fill those gaps.”

Chasm Review: The Battle Below

Although Chasm offers a rare procedurally generated spin on the classic Metroid formula, its demanding combat is what makes it stand out from the sea of imitators. Monsters roam among the twisted confines of an underground lair, demanding deft swordwork and stubborn determination to survive. And it’s in that deadly dance against lurching zombies, scurrying rats, and all manner of creepy-crawlies that Chasm truly shines.

The tense fights leave you with sweaty palms and an elevated heart rate, keeping you glued to the action as you venture ever deeper below ground.

As a recruit stationed in a castle far away from civilization, Chasm hints at a greater world just waiting to be explored. But after you’re chosen to investigate the disturbances at a small village, it soon becomes clear the world’s mysteries have to take a backseat to more pressing dangers. Journals uncovered as you explore the mines, temples, and jungles explain why evil beings are being summoned, but the story doesn’t offer an interesting spin on a ho-hum premise.

The little narrative appeal comes from the citizens you release from cages. Each person has their own tale to tell and errand for you to run, giving you someone to fight for as you eradicate the enemies.

Thankfully, combat is the main draw of Chasm. Melee is the predominant manner of attack, and there are a wide variety of swords, hammers, knives, and other short-range weapons to find throughout the adventure.

Fighting relies heavily on timing as you must learn the behaviors of each enemy to have a chance at survival. Wights, for example, lunge at you with a sweeping sword strike that can be avoided if you know what to expect but could spell your doom if you’re too slow. The clear signs from every enemy ensure that it’s your skill that determines fights and not cheap tactics.

Once you learn an enemy’s attack patterns, patience is often your toughest foe.

Monsters can take a half dozen strikes or more to die, but just one mistake can drop your life bar down to nothing. Trying to get one more hit on a bouncing Grilla or boomerang-throwing skeleton can be a suicidal strategy. The enemies take advantage of even the tiniest mistake, and there’s no worse feeling than dying because of your own hubris.

The first half of Chasm offers a tough-but-fair challenge that is every bit as intense as you’d expect when there are demons and ghosts milling about.

Save points are few and far between. Trekking across unknown places with little health makes every encounter agonizing in all the right ways. Even a mere bat–among the weakest of all video game enemies–can strike terror in your heart.

I died more times than I’d like to admit from a swarm of flies when I got cocky that no insect would be the end of me. Whenever I came across a branching path, I would poke my nose in every new area, hoping that a save point would relieve me from the pressure. More often than not, there was an undead knight or green slime waiting, and I’d have to calm my nerves as I prepared for another life-or-death battle.

Bosses pose a formidable threat during those early hours when you’re still weak and inexperienced.

Like normal enemies, bosses telegraph every attack, so it’s on you if you take too many hits. The first boss in the game–a Wendigo who can become invisible and cling to the ceiling–killed me over and over again before I mastered its attack pattern. Finally tasting victory was incredibly fulfilling because I knew I earned the win, and I was eager to see what new challenges awaited.

Chasm emphasizes the “vania” in Metroidvania, giving you experience points for every enemy you kill.

There are dozens of weapons to collect and pieces of equipment to wear, so you can tailor your character to your playstyle. Like slow but powerful weapons? Grab an ax!

Prefer quicker ones with less range? Go for a handy knife instead. In addition to melee weapons, there are also ranged items that use your magic meter.

Hurl shuriken at faraway enemies or throw a Molotov cocktail to set the ground aflame. None of these are as satisfying to use as a sword, but they can be mighty handy when things become overwhelming and you need a little help to progress. There are also food and potions to stock up on if you’re feeling acutely vexed by a particular enemy.

All of these extra items, though, lead to an unbalanced difficulty as you get deeper into the adventure.

Although I never set out to grind, I did backtrack frequently and killed every enemy I encountered as I retread the underground world. By the end of the game, I was so powerful and the enemies were so easy, I never felt threatened. I defeated the last two bosses on my first attempts, which would have seemed impossible after I struggled for hours to kill those early bosses.

The last boss was so easy it was almost comical. I just stood underneath it, never bothering to avoid its many attacks, as I hacked and slashed at its glowing weak point. I had more than half my health left when it died and felt the dull ache that only an anticlimactic final fight can produce as I watched the credits roll.

I did start again from the beginning, this time on Hard difficulty, but couldn’t find that sweet spot I had been hoping for.

Hard is, as you’d expect, hard. Not needlessly so, or even unfairly so, but harder than I could have endured as a novice. It’s a real shame that the difficulty balance is so out of whack.

I enjoyed playing every second of this game, even when I was killing enemies without breaking a sweat, mostly because the combat mechanics are so satisfying. But I missed that creeping danger from the early goings when I could die at any moment.

The randomly generated levels also sound more impressive in theory than they are in practice. Yes, the layouts of the stages were different the second and third times I started over, but not so different that it felt like an entirely new adventure–the rooms were mostly the same, just located in slightly different positions.

This isn’t to say the random element is bad–my first time through was so fun that any extra incentive to start over again is appreciated–it’s just not as noticeable a change as I was hoping.

I’m a sucker for beautiful pixel art, and Chasm is bursting with rich backgrounds and well-realized enemies. It’s the little details that make all the difference. The rats eagerly wag their tails as their sprint toward you, making them seem almost cute as you thud them hard on the back with a hammer.

The human-sized Meatman is every bit as gross as his name implies, and it almost felt like a mercy kill when I struck it through its muscled heart with my sword. Every new creature brought with it its own delights, so I was happy that there are almost 90 different enemies to meet and kill.

Even when its flaws are obvious, Chasm is a well-crafted adventure, and during the more than 12 hours I spent playing through my first time, I got lost only once. That’s a huge bonus in a genre where getting lost is often the most frustrating aspect.

Even after I finished, I was eager to venture forth on a new adventure, to test my combat mettle against harder foes and find the one secret that eluded me the first time through.

It’s a shame the randomization of the world isn’t that big of a deal and the challenge could be better balanced, but the superb combat and visual design ensure your time with Chasm will be well spent.

Hydrology 9: Liquid Filtration Vaporizer-Product Review

Cloudious 9 by Hydrology 9Warren Bobrow: iPhone X

This uniquely chunky, light saber looking device is going to revolutionize the art of smoking medical cannabis[1]. Within the smoothly formed, hefty build of borosilicate glass, aircraft grade aluminum, and finely polished stainless steel lays inner workings that include a ceramic heating chamber and the above mentioned high heat glass. There are parts that securely snap on by powerful magnets and everything has a utilitarian feel of the finest workmanship.

Each finely manufactured section is built with extreme care by talented and inquisitive engineers who have tested and retested the Hydrology 9 for perfection. This is no ordinary smoking device! It is a nerd’s way of bringing a very specific, Star Wars Light Saber looking technology to the friendly simplicity of smoking your favorite strain of cannabis. (Or even finely minced tobacco, should you desire) A puff of healing vapor becomes cooled by fluid dynamics.

How does this work? It’s pretty basic although the technical engineering of the device precludes a flow-chart, so don’t ask! The Cloudious 9 will change the way you imbibe cannabis, forever!

You can really taste the fine Terpenes of the cannabis flowers. Lush. Gorgeous.

Pure. Friendly. Elegant?

Absolutely! Recently I enjoyed a bong hit (thank you!) and the direct healing that the bong hit provided opened my eyes, (and filled my lungs) immediately. The gentle process of protecting my lungs from the smoke by inhaling it through a liquid, in this case usually water, ice or a combination of the two, is always most intriguing.

And, at the end of the day smoking through a liquid is probably safer for my lungs. Using a vaporizer means inhaling a gentle vapor, not smoke! A win/win for the anti-smoking crowd and most importantly, there is very little smell.

No antagonistic clouds of cannabis smoke attracting all the wrong attention. Don’t get me wrong though, carrying a Cloudious 9 is going to get attention. A lot of it, let me tell you!

This device can be dialed in to provide a veritable light show in your hand. And, if it wasn’t already the coolest looking hand-held device you’ve ever seen, now add to the equation the party mode in flashing lights. It reminds me in many ways of the light show on the MB2E Magical Butter Machine.

If you are fortunate to have one of these Cannabis Kitchen Distruptors[2], you’d know what I was driving towards. Drilling deeper into the operation of the device, the art of light is as important as the art of taking your medicine. It’s just fun and it’s engaging to look at.

The Hydrology 9 is especially effective in the social accessibility of cannabis in the broader context of good health and wellness. By cooling the vapor and making it dissipate quickly into the air there is no antagonistic cloud of cannabis smoke sticking to the curtains of your home. And then of course there is the handsome good looks of the Cloudious 9; AKA: Hydrology 9.

It is certainly not lightweight either, it’s got some heft to it! This is a well-crafted piece of high-technology that you can slip smoothly into their handy leather pouch- an essential accessory that looks as elegant as expensive European luggage. Cleanup is a a snap as long as basic maintenance is performed every five or so sessions with no more than a quick swab of iso to keep the stickies and burned herbs down to a minimum.

I don’t own a bong, haven’t in decades so the Cloudious 9 represents utopian quality and the upmost potency available in a self-contained, hand-held, water-cooled (sounds like a Porsche), fine herb smoking device. And in many ways this smoking implement may be construed as one of the finest smoking devices that money can buy. I am putting it out there that this is one of the most intriguing devices I’ve ever held[3]. Sure there are some extremely minor down-sides- mostly pertaining to determining the height of the water level and some tiny droplets of water that sometimes pulls into the mouthpiece but all of these are easily remedied with the cleaning application of a fine cloth handkerchief from New Orleans. (Unless you lose it…) It’s up to you, elegant or utilitarian with a paper towel.

Again, this aluminum device is definitely going to get some visual attention. You cannot avoid it. There is going to be a crowd around you when you take a hit from the smooth, glass mouthpiece, especially when you have the pulsing light-show turned on.

They will want to know where you got it. Questions, and more questions will abound. And that is good, because devices like the Hydrology 9 are not inexpensive and people need to save their coin to afford one.

Then of course you will need to put the Hydrology 9 into the hands of an appreciative nerd, like myself who looks forward to success and entrepreneurship, instead of back into the stone ages. And when they tuck into a bowl of the finest herbs from their dispensary, they will know implicitly and with clarity that the concept of technology is driven by the the desire to heal themselves. Brilliant!

Hydrology 9.

Quite simply, vaporizing perfection made amusing and…FUN! Who carries this exceptional device?[4]

References

  1. ^ This uniquely chunky, light saber looking device is going to revolutionize the art of smoking medical cannabis (www.cloudious9.com)
  2. ^ MB2E Magical Butter Machine.

    If you are fortunate to have one of these Cannabis Kitchen Distruptors (magicalbutter.com)

  3. ^ I am putting it out there that this is one of the most intriguing devices I’ve ever held (soundcloud.com)
  4. ^ Who carries this exceptional device? (www.cloudious9.com)

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