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By Jay Bonggolto
Walmart to test self-driving delivery services next year using Cruise's electric vehicles
by Jay Bonggolto
Walmart announced today that it has partnered with Cruise to pilot self-driving delivery services using electric vehicles (EVs). The test will kick off in early 2021 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The retailer will use Cruise's autonomous EVs to pick up your orders from a local store. The orders will then be delivered to customers contact-free. Walmart hopes for the upcoming initiative to not only save pickup time for customers but also to help reduce its impact on the planet.
Tom Ward, Senior Vice President of Customer Product at Walmart U.S., said in a blog post:
The alliance with Cruise complements Walmart's earlier self-driving delivery experiments. Late last year, the company teamed up with autonomous vehicle-making firm Nuro to test autonomous grocery deliveries in Houston, Texas. Prior to that, Walmart partnered with Ford to test delivering groceries and pet foods, among other products, using self-driving cars.
That said, Cruise could offer a more appealing delivery service especially for environmental advocates with its fleet of all-electric vehicles. It remains to be seen, however, when commercial autonomous delivery will see wider adoption.
By Usman Khan Lodhi
Walmart to launch drone delivery of COVID-19 test kits
by Usman Khan Lodhi
Walmart announced today that it would start a pilot project to deliver COVID-19 self-collection kits using automated drones at customers' doorsteps. The retail giant recently started similar trials to deliver grocery, household essentials, and certain health and wellness products.
Walmart has partnered with Quest Diagnostics and DroneUp, a drone service provider, and plans to conduct trial deliveries of collection kits in North Las Vegas today and Cheektowaga, New York, in October. To qualify for the drone delivery, the retailer has laid out some requirements:
Drones launched today will drop the self-collection kits for coronavirus on driveways, front sidewalks, or backyards of houses that lie within a one-mile radius of the specified Walmart stores in the aforementioned locations. Customers will themselves perform the nasal swab and send back samples to Quest Diagnostics for testing.
Walmart said it plans to learn what role drone deliveries can play in pandemic response, delivery of healthcare products, and retail.
By Usman Khan Lodhi
Walmart introduces cheaper subscription service to rival Amazon Prime
by Usman Khan Lodhi
In a bid to rival Amazon Prime, Walmart is launching a cheaper subscription service called Walmart+, which costs $12.95 a month or $98 a year, compared to $119 for Amazon Prime. On orders exceeding $35, subscribers will get unlimited free deliveries from Walmart's network of 4,700 stores across the US, many of which offer same-day delivery.
Walmart+, which includes a 15-day free trial period, promises more than 160,000 items for same-day delivery, which include fresh groceries, household essentials, and more. In addition to delivery savings, the membership includes fuel discounts of up to five cents per gallon at roughly 2,000 Walmart, Murphy USA, and Murphy Express fuel stations, and the option to shop in-store using Walmart's Scan & Go mobile app. Using this, customers can scan items as they shop and pay through their phone.
Last year, the retail giant tested a similar service named Delivery Unlimited that also offered free grocery deliveries for $98 a year. Existing customers of the service will be inducted into Walmart+.
At launch, Walmart+ isn't offering a wider range of benefits that Amazon Prime offers, including access to Amazon Prime Video, Twitch Prime, Prime Music, and Prime Now, which offers one and two-hour delivery on specific items. Unlike Walmart+, Prime does not have a minimum purchase amount to qualify for free delivery . The retail giant stated that it will add new perks to the service in the coming months.
TikTok sale faces red tape as China changes export rules
by Paul Hill
China’s press agency, Xinhua, has reported that ByteDance will have to comply with ‘approval procedures’ when it comes time to sell its U.S. TikTok operations. China’s Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Science and Technology jointly published new documents on Friday that added new items to an export restrictions list.
Professor Cui Fan from the University of International Business and Economics said that the specific changes that apply to TikTok include export controls on services that use ‘personalised information push service technology based on data analysis’ and ‘artificial intelligence interactive interface technology’.
Discussing the changes and their relevance to TikTok, Cui said:
Last week, Neowin reported that the TikTok acquisition could wrap up in the next couple of days with Microsoft or Walmart emerging as the buyer. It’s unclear at this point whether the new export rule changes will delay the process further.
Microsoft Weekly: Halo veteran returns, Windows 95 turns 25, and Edge gets new features
by Florin Bodnarescu
This week saw the return of a veteran from the early days of Halo, the anniversary of 25 years since the release of Windows 95, and some rather convenient new Edge features. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of August 22 - 28.
Halo veteran returns
Following the announcement of Halo Infinite’s delay, there was a bit of speculation as to exactly when this game would come out, given that Microsoft only provided a release year, rather than an actual date or even month.
To help presumably keep the game on track for its eventual arrival, 343 Industries has brought in Joseph Staten as project lead for the campaign. Staten was involved in the writing, directing of cutscenes and voicework for all of Bungie’s Halo games, having also written two Halo novels. On the free multiplayer side, the Head of Publishing for the Master Chief Collection, Pierre Hintze, has been brought in to assist with that portion.
343 also made sure to squash any rumors about Infinite potentially dropping the Xbox One as a platform, stating that Microsoft’s as of now current-gen console is still on track to receive is variant in 2021. Exactly when next year is anybody’s guess.
In news concerning the immediate future, Halo 3: ODST’s Insider session has been extended by another week, and is now set to end on August 31 at 10AM PT. This is a pretty interesting decision, especially given that the flight has gotten a 100,000-player injection on August 21.
Switching over to console news, an Xbox Series X prototype was shown off at Xperion Germany, the Xbox One X has gotten three limited-edition Wonder Woman 1984-themed variants, and the August 2020 Xbox Update has been announced with plenty of UI changes.
If you’re quick, you can still catch some of the Deals with Gold, while subscribers to Xbox Live Gold, can soon freely claim The Division (Xbox One, September 1 – 30), The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 (Xbox One, September 16 – October 15), deBlob 2 (Xbox 360, September 1 – 15), as well as Armed and Dangerous (Original Xbox, September 16 – 30).
Last but not least, rounding off the section are some first-party games, like the recently released Flight Simulator and its new patch notes, Age of Empires III Definitive Edition and its launch day of October 15, the possibility of dogs coming to Sea of Thieves as the newest pet type, as well the news that Obsidian gave the bird to Grounded players, while also outlining a feature roadmap for the small survival game.
It's additionally worth mentioning that Xbox console exclusive time loop title Twelve Minutes now has James McAvoy, Willem Dafoe, and Daisy Ridley as part of its voice cast, and that Xbox Games Studios’ The Initiative has picked up devs from Crystal Dynamics, Respawn Entertainment, BioWare, Insomniac Games, Treyarch, Ubisoft, and more to join its ranks.
Until we find out just what exactly The Initiative is up to, here are some of the Xbox One games launching next week, in case you’re wondering.
Windows 95 turns 25
As the title of this section already gives away, Microsoft’s venerable Windows 95 is now a quarter of a century old. The OS was released to manufacturing on August 15, 1995, with a retail release following a mere nine days later, on August 24. It began the series of 9x operating systems from the Redmond giant, and it was the first version of Windows to feature the now iconic (and still present), Start Menu (and button), Taskbar, and Recycle Bin.
Flipping over to more recent variants, Microsoft announced that support for the April 2018 Update (version 1803) of Windows 10 is set to be extended by six months, and version 1909 (the November 2019 Update) has become the most popular version of Windows 10, as per AdDuplex’s stats.
As far as insider builds are concerned, Microsoft put out ISO images for Windows 10 20H2 – namely build 19042 -, then rather quickly serviced the specific 20H2 build, adding a laundry list of fixes.
Fixes were also present in build 20201 from the Dev channel, which largely mitigated a long-standing known issue: the refusal to launch of Store games that were protected by Easy Anti-Cheat.
Folks in the Server Insider Program were treated to another build, the number of which mirrored that of the Dev channel release. Perhaps more surprisingly, this one actually has a changelog attached, for the first time since January. According to Microsoft, it belongs to the Server vNext Long-Term Servicing Channel release.
Last but not least, by messing around with some Insider Previews, folks were able to discover that Microsoft is working on the ability to archive apps you don’t use. The feature does exactly what it sounds it would, though it’s unclear when it will see the light of day for non-Insiders, or whether it will only allow you to offload Store apps.
Edge gets new features
Since version 85 of Edge was offered to folks in the stable channel this week, the firm took this opportunity to highlight some of the features coming to the browser this month.
To start things off, you’ll now be able to export Collections to OneNote directly from Edge via 'Send to OneNote', Collections themselves are available for mobile, and encrypted sync is being extended to more education customers, just in time for the back to school period.
Yet another feature coming this month, and one that’s similarly geared towards the education market, is Picture Dictionary in the Immersive Reader. Even further still, the built-in PDF reader now has a new highlighter tool with five color options. For everything else that’s included in Edge 85, be sure to head over to this link.
Microsoft 365 gets its August updates focusing on Teams and Edge. The Microsoft 365 Admin Portal was down earlier this week, though the issue is now fixed. Teams now has native OS notifications for preview users on macOS and Windows. Windows Terminal 1.2 is GA, with the 1.3 Preview bringing a command palette. Live Transcription in Teams will start rolling out in September. Microsoft has a new patent which hints at a topic-based meeting summarizer. Transcribe for Word is now generally available. You can now set custom notification actions in Outlook for Android. Display improvements for the HoloLens 2 are coming via software updates, says Microsoft. Immersive Reader for Azure Cognitive Services is now GA. The Redmond giant has introduced 15 new languages to its Neural Text-to-Speech service. Microsoft sides with Epic in the latter’s court battle against Apple. Logging off
Last week, we found out that TikTok was for sale, and that Microsoft was among the companies interested in purchasing it. This week, the plot thickens.
Due to a bit of a conflict with the U.S. Government, short-form video platform TikTok found itself in the interesting position of having to sell its North American operations to an American firm, or else risk being banned in the country.
Oracle and Microsoft were among the firms rumored to be interested in an acquisition, but this week, it appears that Walmart has joined in with the Redmond giant in a bid to acquire the platform. The retailer says that TikTok could help grow its ad business, as well as provide a way to reach more customers.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.