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What micromobility is missing

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AT TC Sessions: Mobility, we heard from Tortoise co-founder and president Dmitry Shevelenko, Elemental Excelerator director of Innovation, Mobility, Danielle Harris and Superpedestrian VP of Strategy and Policy, Avra van der Zee about the next opportunities in micromobility.

“Thinking about how micromobility could expand, and the accessibility of it in terms of getting people on board, getting people to opportunities in terms of education and employment, I think there’s still a need to very much think outside of the box of what does this look like, exactly, as we evolve,” Harris said.

The discussion explored how a vast landscape of companies have emerged around micromobility but how there ultimately needs to be more infrastructure and continued steps taken toward enhancing the right of way for alternative modes of transportation.

“When I think about equity and access, I also like to think about it through the lens of designing a vehicle that isn’t just for an able-bodied 32-year-old white man,”  van der Zee said. “[…] It’s excellent we are part of a transportation system but we want to build something safe enough to entice a range of users. So there’s questions about the inherent design.”

Those questions center around whether there’s a wide enough baseboard, whether it feels robust, how it feels riding on cobblestone and how you actually build an accessible vehicle, she said. But the biggest thing that is missing from micromobility systems is the further development of fully protected bike lanes.

“For me, that is sort of the linchpin for building out a safe system,” she said, noting how she would not let her kids ride a bike or scooter unless there was a protected bike lane.

“That I think is a problem the industry has yet to tackle…transporting not just yourself but you know, a friend or a kid,” Van der Zee said.

Shevelenko noted the industry got a bit ahead of itself thanks to Bird and Lime. Their massive funding rounds led to this increased focus on two-wheeled scooter form factor “that just happened to be what was available at the time,” Shevelenko said.

“What I’m particularly excited about is different vehicle architectures,” he said. “We’re working with OEMs building three-wheeled scooters, four-wheeled scooters. I think the more balance a vehicle has, the more naturally accessible it is, the easier it is to add things like seats. Thinking of the continuum all the way from an electric wheelchair to a two-wheeled scooter, there’s still a lot of room for products there.”

You can watch the full conversation here.

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Vivo makes big expansion into Europe

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Vivo, one of the largest smartphone brands in the world, is expanding its operations in Europe. The company will now sell phones and accessories in six new markets: the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain.

Vivo is kicking things off with the X51 5G flagship phone, essentially a rebranded version of the X50 that launched earlier in the year. Its headline feature is a “gimbal-style” camera system that is claimed to offer much-improved image stabilization.

The X51’s other features include ultrawide, 2x, and 5x telephoto cameras, a Snapdragon 765 processor, a 90Hz 6.56-inch 1080p OLED screen, 256GB of storage, a 4,315mAh battery, and 33W fast charging. It’ll cost £749 ($972) in the UK and go on sale on October 29th.

The company will also be selling the Y70, Y20s and Y11s, cheaper phones that focus on long battery life, as well as wireless earbuds and neckbuds.

Vivo is often ranked as one of the top five smartphone vendors worldwide, with large market share in regions like China, India, and Southeast Asia. IDC’s most recent data saw it overtaken by Oppo, however, with which it shares the same owner: BBK Electronics, the large Chinese conglomorate that also owns OnePlus and Realme.

Vivo is known for experimental hardware features that it often shows off in concept form before shipping in commercial products. In-display fingerprint sensors and pop-up selfie cameras are examples of now-commonplace features that Vivo pioneered.

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Netflix will offer its library for free to Indian non-subscribers for a weekend

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Earlier this month, Netflix said that it’s ending the 30-day long free trial that it used to entice people into getting a subscription. Today, during its earnings call, the company stated that it’s exploring new ways for people to experience its library before they get a subscription.

The first test the streaming giant is performing is a free weekend-long trial. The company will start this experiment in India, where it’ll offer its service for free on the weekend of December 4, as reported by Protocol.

India is the first of many countries where Netflix will test this two-day “Streamfest” to hopefully gain more subscribers. The company would want to compete with Disney+ Hotstar in the market, which has more than 8 million subscribers in the country.

[Read: What audience intelligence data tells us about the 2020 US presidential election]

“We think that giving everyone in a country access to Netflix for free for a weekend could be a great way to expose a bunch of new people to the amazing stories that we have, the service, how the service works, really create an event, and hopefully get a bunch of those folks to sign up. So we’re going to try that in India,” Greg Peters, the chief operating officer for the company, said on the earnings call.

Netflix has tried various ways to promote its service in a content-crazy market. Last year, it launched a mobile-only subscription plan for Indian users at ₹199 (~$3) a month. The company has also tested byte-sized weekly plans in the country starting from under $1 for a mobile-only subscription. The company also said it’s committed than $420 million to produce local content in the last couple of years.

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A long-awaited Willow sequel is official, and it’s coming to Disney Plus

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After years of silence, Disney has confirmed that Lucasfilm’s Willow will receive a sequel, in the form of a TV series coming to its Disney Plus streaming subscription service. The pilot will be directed by Crazy Rich Asians’ John M. Chu.

Willow has largely remained untouched since its original release in 1988, but this long rumored sequel will join existing novels and a comic book that previously built out the world of the film. The original can already be streamed on Disney Plus, and this new series will join The Mandalorian as Lucasfilm’s second television spin-off on the platform.

The 1988 film, directed by Ron Howard, was a cult hit when it first premiered, a fantasy adventure about an aspiring sorcerer named Willow (Warwick Davis) tasked with shepherding infant princess Elora Danan to safety alongside a ragtag group of fairies and warriors played by the likes of Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley and Kevin Pollak.

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Not much is known about the sequel series beyond that it takes place years after the original film, but Ron Howard, now an executive producer, describes it as a “creative lean-forward” rather than a “nostalgic throw-back.” Willow himself will return: Warwick Davis, also a beloved Star Wars veteran, is set to reprise his role.

For Lucasfilm, this Willow series comes after five years of focus on Star Wars exclusively. Now that the Skywalker Saga is wrapped, I’m curious to see what other classics the company might bring back if Willow succeeds. I’m particularly interested in an American Graffiti series; there’s definitely enough teenage angst for a TV show if Riverdale is any indication. And yes, Indiana Jones and Labyrinth are still in the mix too. A fifth Indiana Jones continues to inch its way to production. And while not affiliated with Disney, a sequel to Labyrinth from Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson is also in the making.

Disney has made it clear that Disney Plus is the future of the company, and it needs all the new content it can get even with The Mandalorian returning for a second season and WandaVision on the way. A Willow series on Disney Plus, and perhaps other future Lucasfilm spin-offs, might help.

Though there’s no announced release date for this new series, the original film is available to stream on Disney Plus and remains as charming as ever. All the better for fans new and old to reacquaint themselves before the next adventure starts.

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