April 2020 - UI39

Archive Monthly Archives: April 2020

Venus and Serena Williams take on Mario Tennis for charity

Facebook Gaming today revealed the latest event in its campaign to be a virtual tennis tournament starring various celebrities and real-life tennis stars. If you’ve ever wanted to see Maria Sharapova try her hand at Mario Tennis (yes, really), well your time has finally come.

The biggest names in tennis are grabbing their virtual rackets for the #StayAtHomeSlam, live on Facebook Gaming this Sunday (May 3), in partnership with @IMGTennis.

Watch tennis legends like Venus & Serena Williams compete in Mario Tennis Aces for a $1M charity donation! pic.twitter.com/8tVZD4W3cB

— Facebook Gaming #playaparttogether (@FacebookGaming) April 29, 2020

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The tourney is called the Stay At Home Slam, and it’ll star a motley crew of tennis pros, like the aforementioned Sharapova, Venus and Serena Williams, and Naomi Osaka, alongside some non-pro familiar faces like Gigi Hadid, Steve Aoki, Seal, and Karlie Kloss. Yeah, a bit of a mixed bag, but that’s what makes it so interesting.

Read: Nintendo tries to outsmart the bell barons of Animal Crossing

Considering video games have replaced many other forms of social interaction in this, the age of coronavirus, it’s probably not a surprise to see that they’ll be playing Mario Tennis Aces via Facebook Gaming’s new tournament feature. Whereas other sports pros have played at least somewhat realistic games to give a reasonable simulacrum of a real tourney — such as Premier League footballers playing FIFA 20, also for charity — Mario Tennis is a little bit more… cartoony, as you’d expect.

I’m taking bets now on what character each player is going to play as. There are 16 characters in the game (without DLC) and 16 competitors, which means someone is going to get Waluigi. Anyone want to put money on who it’ll be?

Each competitor gets $25,000 donated to the charity of their choice, with the winner getting an additional $1 million donated. John McEnroe and iJustine will be giving commentary, and wow, I can’t think of two people who have a smaller Venn diagram-style overlap in audience members who know who they are. This ought to be wild.

There’s no way in heck I’m missing this, because if Guitar Hero taught me (and my pretentious, guitar-playing peers) one thing, it’s that real life prowess at an art or skill does not necessarily translate into the gaming equivalent. I’m not going to bet against the Williamses or the other real-life tennis players because I’m sure their natural athleticism will still give them an edge. That said, I think the other celebs might have more of a chance than they would in a real-life version of this tourney.

The tournament airs May 3 at 1pm PT on Facebook Gaming.

Read next: Intel unveils 10th-gen desktop CPUs, including 5.3GHz flagship

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This AI creates entire songs complete with music, lyrics, and vocals


OpenAI today introduced ‘Jukebox,’ an open-source AI system for generating novel music complete with lyrics and vocals. Simply put, it’s the most impressive music-writing AI we’ve seen yet. Jukebox was trained on massive datasets of music across nearly every genre so that it can create completely fresh songs that, in many cases, sound very much like the artist(s) it was trained on. Much like other networks learn to transfer the style of a painting or other artwork from one image to another, Jukebox figures out how to imitate the style and genre of music. It also attempts to recreate the…
This story continues at The Next Web

Facebook just made it easy to copy images to Google Photos — here’s how

Facebook today made it easy for users in the US and Canada to transfer their images and videos to Google Photos. The tool was first introduced last year in certain parts of the world, but this is the first time it’s arriving stateside.

The process is quite simple. On the desktop log into your Facebook account and tap on the arrow on the upper right corner to access your settings. Then tap on the ‘Your Facebook Information’ menu on the left and select ‘Transfer a Copy of Your Photos or Videos.’

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From there you will be asked to select a destination for your photos — Google Photos is the only option at the moment. Then log into your Google account, confirm the transfer, and you’re good to go.

The process on mobile is very similar: tap on the hamburger menu, go to Settings, and then scroll down to the ‘Your Facebook Information’ section. Tap on ‘Transfer a Copy of Your Photos of Videos’ and then follow the rest of the steps above.

There’s currently no way to select exactly which photos will be transferred — it’s all or nothing. And to be clear, the photos are only copied to your Google Photos account. If you want to remove them from Facebook, you’ll have to do that manually. Still, it’s a welcome addition, even if you just want to have your images all in one place.

The feature is being added as part of a 2018 agreement between Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Twitter to make it easier to transfer data between services. It’s nice to see that coming to fruition.

Via Engadget

Read next: This AI creates entire songs complete with music, lyrics, and vocals

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Microsoft announces xCloud support for Game Pass games coming in 2020

Microsoft Xbox boss Phil Specter today confirmed the rumors that Game Pass would be getting streaming support in the form of xCloud later this year. This comes after the company revealed subscriber numbers for the first time yesterday, surprising everyone with the news the service had surpassed 10 million users.

Xbox Game Pass, often mislabeled as a “Netflix for gaming,” is a subscription service featuring access to a library with more than 100 Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One games. Unlike Netflix, you have to download the games you want to play. This means you have to plan ahead if you want to try a new game. And, if you play as many titles as I do, you’ll end up doing real life inventory management to support your gaming needs.

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Project xCloud support would solve this problem for Game Pass subscribers. The still-not-officially-named service will allow subscribers to stream games directly to PC, Xbox, Android, and iOS devices. The service will reportedly function similar to the current Xbox beta feature that allows users to stream games from their home console directly to their other devices.

According to a blog post from Specter:

We’re also inspired to deliver you our fastest, most powerful console ever that will set a new bar for performance, feel, speed and compatibility when it releases this holiday; as well as a library of games from our 15 Xbox Game Studios and thousands of development partners around the world. Later this year our cloud game streaming technology, Project xCloud, will come to Game Pass—so you and your friends can stream and play the games you love together on your devices.

Sony and Google currently have similar offerings. With Google’s Stadia you can stream games directly to your phone or tablet and Sony’s Playstation Now lets you stream a huge catalog of PS2, PS3, and PS4 games directly to your Playstation 4 or PC. But both of those offerings are a bit shaky.

Stadia hasn’t seen a strong roll out in terms of stability and its paltry library won’t satisfy anyone but early adopters who’ve committed to being a part of the service’s early efforts.

Playstation Now is a bit more appetizing. It has a huge library and offers the option to download a portion of its games to PS4 consoles. Where it’s flawed is in a terrible UI, servers that often range from slow to unusable (even with my 500mb fiber connection), and a lack of top-tier titles.

Microsoft‘s taken a different approach to Game Pass, and one that’s paid off quite well so far. The selection of games for the subscription is simply phenomenal. In the service’s first few months it looked like it would ape Sony’s modus operandi by shoveling out a bunch of bargain-bin titles from yesteryear and interspersing them with a couple of “new” games that were top-sellers 2-3 years ago.

But Game Pass quickly differentiated itself from the competition when Microsoft announced a couple years ago at E3 it was snatching up major 3rd party developer companies like properties in a game of Monopoly, and that it’d be releasing every game published by its “Xbox Game Studios” developers on Game Pass at launch.

This began a non-stop string of AAA titles featuring everything from Forza Horizon 4 to Gears 5 and The Outer Worlds landing in subscribers hands at the same time they launched for retail. If you’re an Xbox One owner who plays console exclusives, Game Pass is far-and-away the best deal in gaming. And that was before streaming support was officially announced.

Early reviews for the current European trial of Microsoft’s xCloud streaming service have been very positive. I’ve tried the in-home console streaming and it was fantastic. You download the app, connect your controller to your console, then connect it to your phone or tablet, and your device becomes a remote-viewing screen for your console. It worked perfectly in my time with the preview.

If Microsoft can make the experience of streaming games from its servers to our devices as simple and pain point-free as it is to stream downloaded games over my WiFi, it’ll have a serious leg up on Sony in the upcoming holiday console war.

Your move Sony.

Read next: Facebook just made it easy to copy images to Google Photos — here's how

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Please don’t let Assassin’s Creed Valhalla be too much like Odyssey

Ubisoft today finally unveiled the trailer for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the Viking adventure it teased yesterday with a chill art stream. It’s an excellent trailer, playing on conventionally accepted modern myths about Vikings while setting up the historical conflict. That said, I will give my eyeteeth if the game can be a little less like its predecessor, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

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The game is set in the ninth century and stars a Viking hero who’s out to go raiding, pillaging, and settling in England. While fighting battles against the forces of King Alfred the Great (or so the trailer implies), they’re also on a quest to find a new home for their people. So far it’s not clear where the Assassins fit into it, but the bearded hero wields a hidden blade in the trailer, so presumably he is one.

Read: AC Odyssey’s warrior woman could be the series’ first strong female lead

The protagonist, Eivör, can apparently be either male or female, which tells me we’ve completely abandoned the attempt to make the two genders separate characters (see: Syndicate, Odyssey) and we’re going full Fire Emblem with this. I’m cool with this as I would love to play as a Viking shieldmaiden, even if it wrecks what little pretensions the series’ had to the stories being “based on genetic memory.” I’d have loved it if Ubisoft had actually used female Eivör in its trailer instead of Discount Ragnar Lothbrok, but I’ll take what I can get.

What little we’ve seen and heard so far sounds alright, but I’m just hoping and praying to Odin that Ubisoft doesn’t make just a carbon copy of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Because while I did enjoy that game, it felt so unlike a traditional Assassin’s Creed game that I find myself longing for a small return to first games in the series.

Ubisoft is making a big deal out of the fact that Eivör’s goal is to augment and preserve their settlement, and it’s a major function of the game’s mechanics. Lead producer Julian Laferrière told Eurogamer the town will be the center of some major story beats, will involve some internal politics, and be the staging ground of the in-game romances. Hopefully we won’t have a repeat of the Monteriggioni mishegas in Assassin’s Creed 2, a.k.a. “the part of that otherwise excellent game no one cared about or even remembers.”

If you’ve read my AC Odyssey review, you know I wasn’t too fond of the fact that it was substantially less classic Assassin’s Creed and much more Witcher 3. I don’t mind a series evolving, but if I wanted to play Witcher 3, I already own in on PS4. Add to the fact that the game’s sandbox was soul-crushingly huge and the emphasis on combat got very boring after a while. And that’s a shame because the story was a delight.

Hey, are we going to talk about the fact that #AssassinsCreedValhalla is going to let us engage in flyting — a.k.a. Viking rap battles??

— Rachel Kaser (@rachelkaser) April 30, 2020

I love a return to the more stealthy gameplay of Ezio or Altair — something that requires a little more finesse and a little less mindless brutality. Heck the trailers make a point of saying the Vikings aren’t the bloodthirsty berserkers they’re often portrayed as, not to mention a somewhat dubious leak mentioned the possibility of deeper stealth gameplay. It would at least take the series back to its roots.

That said, if I could have just one wish for this game, it’d be this: please make the sailing more Black Flag than Odyssey. When you sailed in Black Flag, it felt like you were actually operating a vehicle — it required some interaction and clever handling of the winds. In Odyssey, it’s literally just “point prow of ship at quest marker and the W key.” Boooooring. The Vikings were a sea-savvy people, so surely if any game has more complex sailing mechanics, it should be this one.

We’ll see for ourselves when the game comes out, which is supposed to be “Holiday 2020.”

Read next: Microsoft announces xCloud support for Game Pass games coming in 2020

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This surreal AR hologram of Israel’s president is a meme in the making

We live in strange times.

To celebrate the country’s Independence Day, each year the President of Israel opens his home to people of all walks of life and personally meets them for a brief selfie sesh, accompanied by an uplifting speech. But due to the coronavirus lockdown, the President has decided to address the nation in a responsible manner… by turning himself into an AR hologram.

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According to a press release, President Reuven Rivlin is set to “visit” each and every home in Israel in his virtual form, as he believes that “now, more than ever, personal contact with Israel’s citizens is of paramount importance.”

Here’s a quick demo of a a personal visit by President Rivlin:

Pretty surreal, right?

To make all this possible, the President’s office used a technology better known as volumetric telepresence which relies on special cameras to bring a true-to-life hologram in every setting. To “transport” the President into your humble abode, you can simply scan a QR code.

Is it perfect? Well, I’m not a physicist but unless there are two suns, the shadows in the demo above are somewhat off. I, too, invited the President to my home, and was amused to find out he seems pretty short.

“I remember the first Yom Ha’atzmaut, our first Independence Day, when the Israeli flag first flew at the top of the flagpoles,” Rivlin says in the AR speech. “We felt we were witnessing a miracle. And here we are today, 72 years on, and I am together with you.”

“You know what? Let’s do a selfie,” he continues. “But I didn’t bring my camera… Come on, let’s take a picture together and don’t forget to smile!”

If you want to invite the President to your home, use your phone to scan the QR code here, and open the link.

The President’s office expects the experience to generate millions of views and hundreds of thousands of selfies with the hologram, according to a press release. I, for one, am more excited for the swathe of memes this project will inevitably produce.

Read next: Please don't let Assassin's Creed Valhalla be too much like Odyssey

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Scientists enhance robotic surgery by giving human controllers electric shocks


A new haptic glove can give even clumsy surgeons steady hands — just by sending them a friendly electric shock. The system is designed for robotic arms, which act as physical extensions of a human surgeon. These tools add precision and reach to operations, but they can’t prevent accidents when the human controller slips up. In traditional operations, a surgeon looks at their hands as they operate. But when they’re controlling a robot, they have to follow the procedure on a monitor, which shows footage from cameras attached to the machine. This indirect view diminishes their sense of distance, making it tricky…
This story continues at The Next Web

15 simple tips to get better search results on Google

Welcome to TNW Basics, a collection of tips, guides, and advice on how to easily get the most out of your gadgets, apps, and other stuff.

The average internet user conducts three to four Google searches per day. Most of those queries simply consist of one or more terms — but many people don’t know there’s a smarter way to search. Specifically, one that makes use of advanced search operators. Now that might sound a bit technical, but it’s a breeze.

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We’re going to show you some of the most common search operators, and examples of how to use them. After this, you’re allowed to call yourself a professional Googler. Not too shabby, right?

Alright, let’s tame this beast.

” “

If you want to search for an exact combination of terms, simply put them between double quotations.

Example: “elon musk”

OR

If you want Google to retrieve results for either one of several subjects.

Example: “elon musk” OR tesla

AND

If you want Google to retrieve results containing multiple subjects.

Now Google already does this automatically, but it can come in handy especially when used with other operators.

Example: “elon musk” AND weed

The minus sign can be used to exclude certain terms from search results. The example query will show results about Elon Musk which are not related to Tesla or SpaceX.

Example: “elon musk” -tesla -spacex

*

Use this when you want to find web pages that contain two terms or phrases in a particular order, but with any amount of other words in-between.

Example: “elon musk” * twitter

( )

Use rounded brackets to control how combinations of search terms/phrases and operators are handled by Google.

In the example, search results must contain elon musk, but also either spacex or tesla.

Example: (spacex OR tesla) AND “elon musk”

AROUND(X)

If you want to search for multiple terms or phrases, and they must be in a certain proximity from each other.

In the example below, search results must contain elon musk and spacex, and the two can’t have more than three terms in between them.

Example: “elon musk” AROUND(3) spacex

$

If you want to search for specific numbers but they have to be prices. This also works with the Euro sign (€).

Example: $1000

site:

When you want to limit your results to a certain domain.

The example will look for all pages on thenextweb.com containing elon musk.

Example: site:thenextweb.com “elon musk”

intitle:

You can also force Google to look for a certain term or phrase within just the title of web pages.

Example: intitle:”elon musk”

allintitle:

If you want to do the same thing as intitle: — but with the condition of multiple terms or phrases. A web page’s title must contain all these terms/phrases.

Note that you can also start a term or phrase with the minus sign (-) to exclude them from a result.

Example: allintitle:”elon musk” apple

inurl:

To find urls with a certain bit of text in them.

Example: inurl:tesla

allinurl:

The same as inurl: — but with multiple text conditions.

Example: allinurl:tesla modelx

intext:

You can use this operator to limit your search to the content area (body) of web pages.

Example: intext:tesla

allintext:

Finally, the same as intext: — but with multiple text conditions.

Example: allintext:tesla polestar

Well, there you have it! A collection of tips to make you the Google Search wizard you’ve always dreamed of. Happy browsing!

Read next: Scientists enhance robotic surgery by giving human controllers electric shocks

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Zoom played itself when it lied about having 300M daily active users

Many businesses are struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, but not Zoom. Just last week, the video conferencing service boasted it had over 300 million daily active users — an achievement so astounding, many refused to believe it. Well, it turns out they had a good reason not to.

Zoom has quietly admitted it lied about the number, The Verge reported. The company has scrubbed all references to “daily active users” from the blog post, where it initially made the claim. Instead, the post now suggests the company has “300 million daily Zoom meeting participants.”

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There’s a big difference between daily active users and daily meeting participants.

Unlike daily active users, daily meeting participants can be counted multiple times. This means the same daily active user can participate in multiple meetings during the same day, and be counted as a separate daily meeting participant in each of those.

So in reality, the number of actual daily active users is likely much lower.

Pressed about the misleading language, Zoom told The Verge the company is “humbled and proud to help over 300 million daily meeting participants stay connected during this pandemic.”

“In a blog post on April 22, we unintentionally referred to these participants as ‘users’ and ‘people,'” a spokesperson added. “When we realized this error, we adjusted the wording to ‘participants.’ This was a genuine oversight on our part.”

A part of me wants to believe it’s an honest mistake — a case of a growth hacker messing up terms and a content marketer rolling with it, or something innocuous like that — but the company’s record of making misleading claims is too extensive to give it the benefit of the doubt.

The timing for these stupid games couldn’t be any worse either. Since its sudden boom, Zoom hasn’t gone a week without finding itself in the center of controversy.

In the matter of less than a month, the video call service was caught secretly sending user data to Facebook, leaking emails and personal photos to strangers, and lying about its encryption, which resulted in a stakeholder lawsuit due to overstating its privacy standards. Researchers also found glaring security holes, which could’ve exposed users’ Windows credentials.

I’m not even getting into the Zoombombing saga.

In the meantime, giants like Facebook and Google have been scheming to snatch a piece of Zoom’s pie. The Zuckerberg Empire launched its own video service, Messenger Rooms, which supports up to 50 participants. Yesterday, the Big G announced it’s making Meet free for all, taking not-so-subtle digs at Zoom by bragging how secure its software is.

The shame is it’s not Facebook and Google, but Zoom itself that has become its biggest enemy.

The puzzling bit is that 300 million daily meeting participants is still an incredible success. Why Zoom would jeopardize staining such a milestone by engaging in silly mental gymnastics is beyond me.

Just like that, a success story (yes, I know Zoom has dealt with a litany of security issues, but that doesn’t negate the fact people are flocking to its service) has turned into yet another anecdote about grandiose self-importance — a quality too familiar to tech startups.

Congratulations, Zoom, you played yourself.

Read next: 15 simple tips to get better search results on Google

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Tesla’s self-driving tech will pivot to subscription service — good shit, or just shit?

Tesla is often mentioned alongside “disruptive” products and initiatives, but the company‘s latest proposal could be one of the most contentious to date.

During Tesla‘s Q1 2020 earnings call yesterday, Elon Musk mentioned that advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as Autopilot and Full Self-Driving will become subscription services, Engadget reports.

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[Read: Autonomous driving still isn’t a reality in 2020 — and it’s getting people killed]

Over the past year, Tesla‘s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving systems have been at the center of a somewhat niche — but important — debate, which has challenged the way drivers think about how they own the features of their vehicle.

Random unwarranted removals

A few years back, a handful of Teslamotorsclub forum users (examples here, here, and here) said they were accidentally given, or somehow came to acquire, Autopilot without paying a penny.

Credit: Wikimedia CC
Tesla is a Level 2 system. Drivers MUST watch the road and traffic at all times!

In more recent months, Tesla has been attempting to correct its indiscretion by surreptitiously removing the feature from vehicles that it believes shouldn’t have it. Only, things haven’t exactly gone that smoothly.

It seems that a number of legitimate Autopilot owners were caught up in the cross-fire as Tesla removed their car’s ADAS features without warning.

There was one high-profile case where a Tesla owner bought their car secondhand — at the time it was equipped with Autopilot and FSD. But after taking delivery it became apparent Tesla had removed the features and wasn’t intending to return them.

After this case made the news, the driver eventually got the features reinstated. This misunderstanding kind of made sense as the car was bought secondhand, and the new owner didn’t have documentation to prove they’d purchased the features as they came part of the resale package.

However, after we looked into that story, another individual contacted us saying the same thing had happened to them. But, unlike the previous case, they had bought a brand-new car and had supporting documents for their Autopilot purchase. Tesla didn’t respond to comment about the situation at the time. The individual, after a hard fought two-week long battle, had their features reinstated in early March.

It’s all been a bit of an unnecessary farce. But it’s seemingly easy to put right, once Tesla believes you paid for Autopilot or it gets media attention.

A significant part of the problem appears to stem from the fact that all Teslas are equipped, from the factory, with Autopilot and Full Self-Driving hardware. If an owner wants to add the feature, Tesla performs an over-the-air (OTA) update to enable the hardware and software features. So despite kind of owning the hardware, you’re not actually allowed to use it until you give Tesla $7,000 for the whole package.

Credit: Wikimedia CC
Tesla factory robots at work. Since its inception, Tesla has disrupted and caused quite a stir in the auto industry.

The same OTA update also allows the company to disable features on a car when it wants to as well.

When we investigated those random Autopilot removals, a number of Tesla service centers in the UK and US told us that, once bought, the feature is attached to that vehicle for life. But in practice, that hasn’t always been the case.

A self-driving subscription model

Switching to a subscription model then could be a boon for drivers. That is, in the sense they’ll presumably keep the feature if they buy a new Tesla and keep the subscription payments. This is assuming that the subscription is registered to the driver and not the car.

It could also allow drivers to activate and deactivate the feature as they please. There’s no official word on how the subscription model will work yet, but presumably Tesla will be keen to limit things like this.

On the other hand, it could also end up making Tesla driver’s more subject to the company‘s whim than before. The switch to subscription, Musk said, will happen later this year. The company has a lot of questions to answer before then.

More questions than answers

Perhaps, the subscription model will be tiered like Netflix’s. Where a base level subscription gives you access to some low-level features, only for use on one car, by one driver. Higher tier subscriptions could see Tesla drivers access all the features, across multiple vehicles.

Imagine a family that might have three or four drivers and two Teslas on the drive, which they all use. Will each driver need their own subscription? Or will each vehicle require its own subscription? Or will the family be able to get a multi-user family subscription that lets them all drive on Autopilot at the same time?

Credit: Netflix
Can Tesla learn from other well establish subscription services before designing its own?

Depending on how Tesla decides to implement the model, it could be like having to pay for a separate Netflix subscription for every device you want to watch on — which would suck! Or it could be like having the top-tier account that your whole family uses, which lets you watch on multiple screens at the same time, and actually seem like good value.

Musk says that buying into Autopilot is making an “investment for your future.” Which sounds like the Tesla CEO is keen on getting people hooked to keep the subscription funds coming in. That said, a company rep did go on to add that payinbg for the tech on a monthly basis, will be the least expensive option.

In that sense, it sounds like Tesla is using the word subscription when it really means “lease.”

In some ways, it sounds like moving to a subscription model could be a real money spinner for Tesla, but only if it wants it to be.

There’s also plenty of opportunity here for Tesla to right the wrongs of its OTA updates past and offer a good value add-on. Otherwise, the move to a subscription model might open a whole new can of worms.

Read next: Zoom played itself when it lied about having 300M daily active users

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For tips and tricks on working remotely, check out our Growth Quarters articles here or follow us on Twitter.

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