• Don’t want to fold the laundry? This robot will do it…
  • Uber’s CEO is fighting to keep his job
  • COVID-19 has been like rocket fuel to this industry

Dear Reader,

It has been a few months since I last wrote about the use of masks.

Given our deep dive into COVID-19, I thought it might be a good idea to revisit the subject. I suspect this issue of The Bleeding Edge will ruffle some feathers. But it is the kind of information that I would like to have if our roles were reversed.

There are typically three types of masks: cloth masks, medical masks (like surgical masks), and N95 respirators. Cloth masks have become very popular among the general public. But they’re not as effective as we might think.

We’re going to turn to some research on the use of masks in environments where patients have clinical respiratory illness, influenza-like illness, and respiratory virus infections.

In a 2015 study of health care workers, the rates of infection were the highest among those who wore cloth masks. Cloth mask wearers had significantly higher rates of influenza-like illnesses compared to those who wore medical masks. Cloth masks actually increased the chance of viral illness by 13 times compared to medical masks. And in lab tests, the penetration of particles for cloth masks was almost 97%, compared to 44% for medical masks.

Cloth masks are not a good source of protection. They do not stop viral particles from entering our nose and mouth, and when not properly cleaned between uses, they can even act as a hotbed to capture the virus, increasing our exposure to it.

Even N95 masks aren’t perfect, though they are much better than other mask options. They are designed to keep out 95% of airborne particles, but that still leaves 5%.

And here’s a picture of the “warning” displayed on the side of a box of ear loop surgical masks. It reads, “This product is not a respirator and will not provide any protection against COVID-19.” The purpose of these masks is to protect others, not to keep the wearer safe.

A Warning on Ear Loop Masks

Source: Facebook

Knowing all of this, what is the reality?

Not only do cloth masks not work like we think, they can potentially increase our chance of infection. Ear loop surgical masks also don’t work as well for wearer’s protection.

N95 respirators, if properly fitted and used with protective eyewear that creates a seal around the face, will provide the best protection for those at high risk.

The real value in masks is for sick people to wear them. And the reality is that those who have any symptoms of COVID-19 should be self-quarantining and not out and about.

And as for those who are asymptomatic, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the head of the World Health Organization’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, suggested, “From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual.” (She later clarified that her comments were regarding a small subset of studies due to the Harvard Global Health Institute being up in arms about her original statements.)

We have to wonder. Should we even bother with masks?

If we’re sick, absolutely. They’re not perfect. But masks will provide some degree of effectiveness in slowing the spread.

If we’ve already had COVID-19, there may not be a point. We’ve likely already developed immunity and will not catch the virus.

And if we’re at high risk, we need to go all the way. A fitted N95 and sealed eyewear would be the best option.

For those of us who haven’t had the virus, we should really consider something other than a cloth mask. If we’re concerned, an ear loop medical mask would be better. It won’t protect us as much as we probably think. But perhaps we will feel safer.

Like I said, this is likely a controversial topic.

Now on to our insights…

The first robot butler is here…

On Monday, we talked about the University of Liverpool’s robot lab assistant. That was an exciting development for both robotics and the biotechnology industry.

But most of us will likely never need a robotic lab assistant. So today, let’s look at a robot that will hit a little closer to home for readers. This is a very agile and functional robot design for the home. Here it is:

The Stretch RE1

Source: Hello Robot

This is Stretch RE1.

It can play with the dog, vacuum the rug and couch, wipe the kitchen countertop, take the laundry out of the dryer, open cabinets, and even pick up and move objects to wherever they need to go in the home. It’s a functional home assistant.

It may not yet look like Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons, but it has all the makings…

Rosie the Robot Maid

Source: Fandom.com

And what I like about this is that Stretch RE1 wasn’t over-engineered. It can perform basic functions around the house, but it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. That keeps costs down.

Right now, Stretch RE1 costs less than $18,000. That’s not cheap. But it’s not outrageous either. The robotic arms we have talked about before have price tags in the six figures.

And the robot’s price will come down over time. Stretch RE1 will ultimately be available for less than $10,000, making it accessible to a larger part of the population.

The robot’s developer is a company called Hello Robot. This company was founded by Aaron Edsinger, who was Google’s former robotics director.

Prior to his stint at Google, Edsinger cofounded two other robotics companies – Meka Robotics in 2007 and Redwood Robotics in 2011. Both companies were working on advanced robotic arms when Google acquired each of them in 2013. That’s how Edsinger became Google’s robotics director.

Edsinger left Google in 2017 to start Hello Robot. What’s interesting here is that Edsinger and his business partner bootstrapped the company with their own money. They haven’t yet taken a dime in venture capital (VC).

With their first commercial product ready for the market, I’m sure Hello Robot has venture capitalists banging on the door wanting a piece of the action. If they choose to, Edsinger and his team will get a lot of VC funding for their next project. And that’s very promising for home robotics.

I have to ask readers what they think of this. Would we ever consider getting one of these robots to help out around the house? Let me know your thoughts here.

Uber is scrambling to stop the bleeding…

Earlier this month, we talked about how Uber’s acquisition of Postmates was meant to distract us from the fact that the company is struggling. Yet another move by the current CEO caught my eye… It’s clear that while he is spending big on acquisitions, he is also trying to stop the bleeding.

Uber just announced that it wants to raise $500 million for its long-haul trucking marketplace. This is a segment of Uber’s business that many aren’t aware of.

Uber’s trucking business is similar to its ride-hailing business. It simply matches up companies with freight that needs to be shipped with truckers who can haul it for them.

What Uber is trying to do here is sell a 13% stake of this business to private investors. Which begs the question – why would a public company be raising money from private investors?

And the answer is that Uber’s trucking business is hemorrhaging money. It lost more than $200 million last year on the freight business alone. The company wants to move some of this loss off its books. It’s another move of desperation from CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who is scrambling to keep his job.

It’s like a Band-Aid, though. It is nowhere near enough.

Obviously, COVID-19 had a massive impact on Uber. But Uber was a financial mess even before the pandemic. The company had almost as much debt as cash on its balance sheet after the initial public offering (IPO). And it was a long way from being profitable.

So Uber is doing whatever it can to buy time right now. This company must shore up its core business or it will continue to suffer major losses for investors.

Today, Uber’s stock trades about 34% below its IPO high. We might think that makes it a “bargain.” But nothing could be further from the truth.

My advice remains the same: Steer clear of UBER for now. There’s more pain to come.

The gaming market is on fire in 2020…

We have talked before about how 2020 is a big year for the gaming industry. Both Microsoft and Sony are going to launch their next-generation consoles, the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 (PS5), during the holiday season. This will be their first new console launches in seven years.

And here’s my prediction: Both launches will be a smashing success. And there’s one big reason why.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created the perfect environment for Microsoft and Sony’s upcoming launches.

Take a look at the below chart. It shows how COVID-19 has impacted sales for the video game industry.

During the height of the lockdowns in March, sales for digital games increased 53% in the span of one week. Physical games were up 82% during that same time. And sales of video game consoles were up an incredible 155%.

One of the best-selling consumer electronics devices this year has been the Nintendo Switch gaming console. Those things have been flying off the shelf. There was a period of about six weeks in March and April where you couldn’t find one anywhere. Every single unit produced had been sold.

Looking at this demand, Sony has already boosted its PS5 production by about 50%. Microsoft will likely do the same.

Gaming revenue is going through the roof right now because people are spending more time at home. And this trend will continue… especially given that some schools around the country are not going to open in the fall.

Simply put, Microsoft and Sony could not have picked a better year to launch their new consoles. These are going to be the most successful gaming launches in history.

And it’s not just the consoles that are on fire this year.

Facebook’s Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headsets have seen record sales. The high-end Oculus Rift S headset has sold out on several occasions already this year due to a major increase in demand.

As a result, Facebook is also ramping up its production of VR headsets by 50% this year. It is set to produce two million headsets in the second half of the year alone. That’s after producing fewer than 1.5 million headsets in all of 2019.

The industry is getting really exciting, especially with regard to VR, and will likely have investment implications.

We’ll be watching this space closely in the back half of the year.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

P.S. Gaming isn’t the only industry on fire in 2020. As we talked about yesterday, VC funding is pouring into biotechnology right now. It’s a massive shift in how the VC community sees biotech.

VC firms have historically been leery of biotech companies. That’s because the industry was a lot more “bio” than it was “tech,” and it moved a slow pace because of this.

That’s changed.

Today’s biotech companies employ bleeding-edge technology. They can move as fast as other tech startups when they are properly funded and incentivized. VC firms are starting to realize this, and they are allocating more capital to the industry accordingly.

As a result, we will see wave after wave of biotech IPOs in the coming years, providing us with more great biotech investment candidates than ever before. It is absolutely critical that we prepare ourselves to capitalize on this massive trend.

That’s why I’m hosting my first-ever biotech master class on August 5 at 8 p.m. ET.

During the event, I’ll take you to the biotech capital of the world and show you what’s in store for this sector. I’ll also reveal my No. 1 biotech stock to own today. This is an investment that I believe could soar as much a 1,000% in the coming weeks.

Simply put, this company needs to be in every tech investors portfolio. I’ll give you all the details in my master class on August 5 at 8 p.m. ET. Just go right here to reserve your spot.

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