‘If you can’t be there, you can beam there’ — company offers at-home hologram machines

‘If you can’t be there, you can beam there’ — company offers at-home hologram machines
Inventor David Nussbaum next to a life-size hologram of himself. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 August 2020

‘If you can’t be there, you can beam there’ — company offers at-home hologram machines

‘If you can’t be there, you can beam there’ — company offers at-home hologram machines
  • The devices can be equipped with artificial intelligence technology from Los Angeles-based company StoryFile to produce hologram recordings that can be archived

LOS ANGELES: Looking for a new way to communicate during the pandemic? A Los Angeles company has created phone booth-sized machines to beam live holograms into your living room. The device made by PORTL Inc. lets users talk in real time with a life-sized hologram of another person.
The machines also can be equipped with technology to enable interaction with recorded holograms of historical figures or relatives who have died.
Each PORTL device is seven feet (2.1m) tall, five feet (1.5m) wide and two feet (0.6m) deep, and can be plugged into a standard wall outlet. Anyone with a camera and a white background can send a hologram to the machine in what Chief Executive David Nussbaum calls “holoportation.”
“We say if you can’t be there, you can beam there,” said Nussbaum, who previously worked at a company that developed a hologram of Ronald Reagan for the former president’s library and digitally resurrected rapper Tupac Shakur.
“We are able to connect military families that haven’t seen each other in months, people from opposite coasts,” or anyone who is social distancing to fight the coronavirus, Nussbaum said.  Prices for the machine start at $60,000, a cost that Nussbaum expects will drop over the next three to five years. The company also plans a smaller tabletop device with a lower price tag early next year.
The devices can be equipped with artificial intelligence technology from Los Angeles-based company StoryFile to produce hologram recordings that can be archived.
Adding that to the current device brings the cost to at least $85,000. The companies are promoting to museums, which could let visitors question a hologram of a historical figure, and to families to record information for future generations.
People can feel like they are having a conversation with a recorded hologram, said StoryFile Chief Executive Heather Smith.
“(You) feel their presence, see their body language, see all their non-verbal cues,” she said. “You feel like you’ve actually talked to that individual even though they were not there.”


UAE-based car-servicing platform raises $10m funding, eyes Gulf expansion

UAE-based car-servicing platform raises $10m funding, eyes Gulf expansion
Updated 57 min 32 sec ago

UAE-based car-servicing platform raises $10m funding, eyes Gulf expansion

UAE-based car-servicing platform raises $10m funding, eyes Gulf expansion
  • Oman’s Bahwan is a prominent family-owned group with interests in the automotive sector

DUBAI: Online car service and repair booking company, Service My Car, has raised $10 million during its first round of seed funding, as technology-driven companies continue to attract investors amid the pandemic.

Oman’s Bahwan, a prominent family-owned group with interests in the automotive sector, announced it was investing in the UAE-based company.

“It is an emerging time for the automotive ecosystem as investors are noticing the benefits of technology and digitization in the industry,” Ozair Puda, chief executive of Service My Car, said in a statement.

The region’s automotive industry has seen a wave of digital-focused companies setting up, including pay-by-minute car rentals. Service My Car was launched in 2018, and has since recorded growth.

“With the infusion of this capital, we are looking forward to extending this convenience, affordability and transparency to all GCC car owners,” Puda said.

The company will also use the fund to expand its service offerings, eventually including roadside assistance, car detailing, and car insurance.


Saudi anti-concealment law to protect consumers and small businesses

Saudi anti-concealment law to protect consumers and  small businesses
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi anti-concealment law to protect consumers and small businesses

Saudi anti-concealment law to protect consumers and  small businesses
  • The measures relate in large part to the business relationship of Saudis and foreign investors and aim to ensure that they do not circumvent the Kingdom's commercial law

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's "anti-concealment" laws aim to protect consumers and small businesses from financial crime according to the Ministry of Commerce, Al Arabiya reported.
The measures relate in large part to the business relationship of Saudis and foreign investors and aim to ensure that they do not circumvent the Kingdom's commercial law about how such partnerships are created and what happens when they are dissolved.
The regulations support the reporting of crimes and violations by protecting whistleblowers and motivating them through rewards.
Talat Hafiz, a Saudi economist, financial analyst, and board member of the Saudi Financial Association, said commercial concealment is a major financial crime that “works against fair and unjustifiable commercial trading and causes significant harm to the economy and to its gross domestic product.”
“The government of Saudi Arabia has been alerted to such risks and consequences of commercial concealment, and has introduced a very powerful national program to combat such economic and commercial disease,” he added.
Several government bodies are combating concealment besides the Ministry of Commerce, including, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.

 


Makkah landmark hotel developer swings to loss after pilgrim numbers plummet

Makkah landmark hotel developer swings to loss after pilgrim numbers plummet
Updated 09 March 2021

Makkah landmark hotel developer swings to loss after pilgrim numbers plummet

Makkah landmark hotel developer swings to loss after pilgrim numbers plummet
  • Makkah hotels hit hard as pilgrim numbers shrink
  • More than 1.8m foreign pilgrims in 2019

DUBAI: The developer of the landmark Makkah Hotel and Towers reported a SR59 million ($15.7 million) loss for 2020 as the number of pilgrims visiting the holy city fell in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Makkah Construction and Development said in a separate filing to the Tadawul stock exchange that it would not be recommending the distribution of a dividend following the losses. Overall revenues at the company fell by about 74 percent to SR123 million, it said.
“The reason for achieving a net loss is due to the decrease in the revenues and occupancy rates of the residential rooms in the Makkah Hotel and Towers, due to the decrease in the number of visitors and pilgrims, as well as the closing of the shops in the mall as a result of the precautionary measures taken by the government to confront the coronavirus pandemic,” it said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia attracted more than 1.8 million foreign pilgrims in 2019 in addition to the more than 600,000 people who visited Makkah from within the Kingdom itself. The annual influx of visitors sustains high occupancy levels in several huge hotels. However the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in the Kingdom led the government to announce last June that numbers could be limited to just 1,000.
 


GRAPHIC: Saudi Turkish imports slow as Egypt exports more to Kingdom

GRAPHIC: Saudi Turkish imports slow as Egypt exports more to Kingdom
Updated 09 March 2021

GRAPHIC: Saudi Turkish imports slow as Egypt exports more to Kingdom

GRAPHIC: Saudi Turkish imports slow as Egypt exports more to Kingdom
Saudi Arabia’s imports from Turkey have slowed to a trickle according to data from the Saudi statistics authority.
Imports from Turkey totaled SR50.6 million ($13.5 million) in December down 95 percent from SR1.02 billion a year earlier. It represents the lowest figure since the Kingdom started to publish monthly data five years ago.
Meanwhile trade between Saudi Arabia and Egypt is on the upswing according to the Saudi Arabian General Authority for Statistics.

Oil prices rise on expected economic recovery, likely drawdown in oil stocks

Oil prices rise on expected economic recovery, likely drawdown in oil stocks
Updated 09 March 2021

Oil prices rise on expected economic recovery, likely drawdown in oil stocks

Oil prices rise on expected economic recovery, likely drawdown in oil stocks
  • OPEC+, agreed last week agree on broadly sticking with output cuts despite rising crude prices

SINGAPORE: Oil prices rose on Tuesday on expectations of a recovery in the global economy after US Senate approval of a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill and on a likely drawdown in crude oil inventory in the United States.
But a stronger dollar and receding fears of oil supply disruption from Saudi Arabia after an attack on its oil facilities capped price gains.
Brent crude futures for May rose by 32 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $68.56 a barrel by 0125 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for April rose 19 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $65.24.
“Fundamentals remain incredibly supportive, especially with Saudi Arabia in full control pursuing a tight oil policy,” Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at Axi said in a note.
“Brent is currently holding up above $68, suggesting speculators are likely dipping their toes back in after yesterday’s chaos.”
On Monday, Brent crude oil price rose above $70 a barrel after Yemen’s Houthi forces fired drones and missiles at the heart of the Saudi oil industry, including a Saudi Aramco facility at Ras Tanura vital to petroleum exports.
Riyadh said there were no casualties or loss of property and prices ended the day lower.
Still, the United States expressed alarm at “genuine security threats” to Saudi Arabia from Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis and elsewhere in the region, and said it would look at improving support for Saudi defenses.
The attacks came after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and their oil producing allies, known as OPEC+, agreed last week agree on broadly sticking with output cuts despite rising crude prices.
Investor focus, meanwhile, remains on the prospects for a global economic recovery.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Monday that President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package will provide enough resources to fuel a “very strong” US economic recovery.
US crude oil and refined product stockpiles likely fell last week, with distillate inventories seen drawing down for fifth straight week, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Monday.