Delivery From Inconvenience

High-Tech Butler Service Launches in NYC, Raises $2 Million

This could be your Alfred picking out your crappy all-natural, raw, vegan granola. (Alfred)

It’s hard to feel fancy when you’re living in a cramped, occasionally-roach-infested apartment in Brooklyn. But guess what? Now you can pay $99/month for an app-controlled butler.

Alfred, the TechCrunch Disrupt-winning app that calls itself “the first human-powered operating system for your busy life,” launched today in New York City and Boston. The company also announced the completion of a $2 million funding round, led by Spark Capital, additional investors SV Angel and CrunchFund. Read More

health alert

We Texted a Therapist From an Inflatable Igloo in Madison Square Park Today

Ms. Frank, far right, chatted with attendees outside the TalkSpace bubbles. (Photo by Jordyn Taylor)

Pedestrians in the Flatiron District might have noticed something different about Madison Square Park today: namely, two large, inflatable igloos stationed at 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue, each containing the setting of a therapist’s office.

Those who waited their turn to venture inside the cozy-looking bubbles would discover that they wouldn’t be meeting face-to-face with a therapist — rather, they’d be texting with one. Read More

Amazon

Amazon Is Opening a Brick-and-Mortar Store in NYC [UPDATE]

7 W. 34th Street, where Amazon is rumored to be opening a retail store. (Sage Lazzaro/ New York Observer)

UPDATE, 10/10: Betabeat spoke to members of New York City’s publishing community, who feel “insulted” by Amazon’s decision to open a brick-and-mortar store.

UPDATE, 10/09: According to the Wall Street Journal‘s sources, Amazon’s brick-and-mortar store will be located at 7 W. 34th Street, across from the Empire State Building.

Betabeat reached out to Amazon requesting further details about the store. “We have made no announcements about a location in Manhattan,” a spokesperson responded.

So we made the voyage down to 7 W. 34th Street, where we spoke with a doorman inside the lobby. “I don’t know anything,” he said, when we asked if Amazon was opening a retail store in the building. The building currently contains offices, as well as Mango and Express retail stores on street level.

We popped into Mango, where a security guard said he’d noticed construction in the 7 W. 34th Street building. “Nobody knows what that’s about,” he said.

Betabeat also called the building manager of 7 W. 34th Street, but the person who answered the phone said the manager wasn’t available. When we asked if he knew anything about the Amazon store, he hung up on us mid-sentence.

——- Read More

This Means War

Uber Who? Gett Slashes All Manhattan Cab Prices to $10 Flat

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When two companies like Uber and Lyft battle it out in loud debates about allegations of sabotage, it can be easy to be distracted from the other contenders. That is, until one of them fires a warning shot in the air to remind everyone that they’re not happy playing third wheel.

Black car app Gett told Betabeat that as of this morning, all rides within Manhattan will cost $10 for the rest of 2014, no matter how far they are or how long they take. Read More

Q&A

Brooklyn Coder Lauren McCarthy Wants To Cure Your Crippling Social Awkwardness

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In a world where your friends can now set you up on virtual blind dates, it’s hard to believe tech could be the solution to any uncomfortable situation.

Lauren McCarthy is a coder and an artist whose strange art experiments put subjects face to face with their deepest social anxieties. She might not be able to cure your crippling awkwardness — or her own, for that matter — but she has designed over two dozen tech-based performances to help you breathe a little easier, even if it just means making a quick getaway. Read More

Real Estate Envy

Listings Site ‘Swapt’ Reveals How Former Tenants Really Feel About Your New Building

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You know the dilemma: you suddenly realize your lease is running out, you have two precious weeks to find a new place, so you trust-fall into Craigslist. While Craigslist can be a great way to find a quick fix with roommates already included, it’s also unreliable, virtually anonymous, and sometimes downright creepy.

A new service is launching this Read More

Art-Tech

Online Art Experiment ‘Sonic Chatroulette’ Evokes Dystopian Paranoia, NSA Voyeurism

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Artwork inspired by digital communication often feels intrinsically cold and inhuman, but it’s not often that a digital art installation manages to impart both void-like isolation, and a creeping sense of being watched. Recording artist Holly Herndon’s latest collaboration with artists Adam Harvey and Simone Niquille, on display digitally with the New Museum, does just that.

Ms. Herndon’s work is available online this month as part of New Museum’s “First Look: New Art Online,” a series of digital art pieces curated by Lauren Cornell. The piece is inspired partly by NSA surveillance, and partly by people’s online surveillance of each other. Read More