Duolingo Earns $100M in Annual Bookings, Raises $30M from Alphabet

Duolingo’s Premium subscription offering, which launched in 2017, has contributed to a meteoric increase in annual bookings. It continues to invest more and more R&D into AI and machine learning to power its tutoring software and growth. Duolingo raised some serious money from Alphabet bringing the total valuation of the charming Pittsburgh startup, to roughly $9 billion:

Popular language learning app Duolingo has raised $30 million in a series F round of funding from Alphabet’s investment arm CapitalG. […]

Duolingo claims 30 million users are actively learning languages on its platform, and it has emerged as one of the most downloaded educational apps globally. Since its last funding round more than two years ago, it has more than doubled its employees from 95 to 200 and has opened additional offices in Seattle, New York, and Beijing. It also now claims annual bookings of $100 million after it launched its premium plan in 2017, a significant increase from the $33 million it drew in last year.

(via VentureBeat)

The ‘No Time To Die’ Trailer is Here and it Looks Smashing

There’s so many awesome names in this production it’s not even funny. I simply cannot wait for this release. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Daniel Craig, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Barbara Broccoli, Lashana Lynch and Christoph Waltz.

If the name Cary Joji Fukunaga sounds familiar, it’s because you know his handy-work. He was Executive Producer on the first season of True Detective for which he took home an Emmy for his work. He directed the powerfully fantastic film, Beasts of No Nation, and directed the Netflix mini-series, Maniac.

This Bond film is going to be a record-setter.

Arcade Game Typography

I have nothing but praise for those who study niche topics like these. Toshi Omagari of MonoType, studied typography at Musashino Art University in Tokyo. He’s worked alongside big brands like H&M, and he’s previously contributed to Google Noto, and more notably introduced Tibetan Script support to Google Noto which is spectacular work. He helped resurrect Metro Nova from the dead.

Omagari has a limited-release book coming out (sufficed to say, it’s already sold-out but you can buy the paperback version here on Amazon). He has meticulously researched the wonderfully niche topic of video game typography and it’s freaking awesome:

The first book of its kind – a definitive and beautifully designed survey of ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s arcade game pixel typography. Exhaustively researched by author Toshi Omagari (a celebrated typeface designer at Monotype UK) Arcade Game Typography gathers together 250 pixel typefaces, all carefully chosen, extracted, redrawn and categorised by style, and each with an accompanying commentary by Omagari. The title also features 4 illustrated essays on videogame typography theory and practice, documenting the unique advantages and challenges presented to designers of these bold, playful and often quirky alphabets.

A beautifully produced celebration of the eclectic typography featured in hit games such as Super Sprint, Pac-Man, After Burner, Marble Madness, Shinobi, as well as countless lesser-known gems. Unlike print typefaces, pixel type often has colour ‘baked in’ to its characters, so Arcade Game Typography looks unlike any other typography book, fizzing with life and colour.

Love this bit about the original 1978 Space Invaders typography (image below):

The original game, and most of the clones, featured the above typeface, copied from Tank 8 with a minor modification to M.

Photos via Read-Only Memory
Left page: RoboCop 2 (Data East/1991), Captain America and the Avengers (Data East/1991)
Right page: Spider-man: the Video Game (Sega/1991), Xexex (Konami/1991), X-men (Konami/1992)

PlayStation Turns 25

The single largest innovator in the video gaming space just turned 25 year old today. Before the PlayStation came around, controllers were bulky, console felt like outcasts in your entertainment center. Joysticks felt clumsy, games were mainly sold in cartridges. Sony brought a whole new edge to the at-home entertainment system market. From The Verge:

There’s plenty of credit to award when it comes to video game controller design. Nintendo pioneered the core button layout with the SNES (D-pad on one side, face buttons on the other), and both Nintendo and Sega beat Sony to shipping an analog thumbstick for their consoles. But ultimately, it’s Sony’s innovations and ideas that would go on to become the elemental base of what we think of as a “video game controller.”

There are two pioneering parts to Sony’s foundation of the modern controller. First is the original PlayStation controller that launched in 1994, which would establish the broad design (elongated palm grips, shoulder buttons, and the D-pad / face button combination). And then there’s the Dual Analog Controller from 1997 (followed by the more well-known DualShock models), which would change 3D games forever by offering a second analog stick: one to control a character and one to look around.

Check out The Verge’s PlayStation 25th Anniversary Issue here.

New Apple Variety, Cosmic Crisp, or WA38, Enters the Market

Who would have thought that a new apple variety would be such a huge ordeal? A cross-breed between the Honeycrisp and the Enterprise apple gave way to the Cosmic Crisp. A sweet, rigid, crisp, pretty and juicy apple variety that can allegedly last up to a year in refrigerators. A holy-grail, whose fruit finally came to bare after 20-year’s of research and cross-breeding.

I wouldn’t call a new apple variety “game-changing.” However, a variety that can last longer than a few months in refrigeration is no small feat. I’ve never understood the Washingtonian penchant for Red Delicious. Maybe the Cosmic Crisp will become the new Pacifc Northwest favorite. Production of the classic red apple has been in decline for a while now. Personally, I favor the Gala, Fiji or Honeycrisp variety. Then again, there are quite a lot of cultivars out there to chose from.

The New York City Subway Map as You’ve Never Seen It Before

I love interactive stories like these. This story, was written by Antonio de Luca and Sasha Portis at the New York Times. It begins here:

In 1979, responding to complaints from riders that the subway map was difficult to use, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority hired the Manhattan design firm Michael Hertz and Associates to create a new map.

That map. The problematic Massimo Vignelli (RIP) subway map designed in 1972, and it was cool-looking but wow, was it unusable:

No wonder Vignelli’s map only lived 7 years. It’s pretty difficult to find these lying around anymore, but you can find them for sale on eBay. You used to be able to even find them at old subway stations, still plastered up on waypoints or platform corkboards.

Portis and de Luca did an outstanding job on this interactive Times story. If you enjoy trains or even New York history, you’ll love this story. Read it here.

Lil Bub, the Internet’s Favorite Cat Has Died

From Mashable:

On Monday, Lil Bub’s human, Mike Bridavsky, shared the sad news on social media, along with a side-by-side photo composite featuring the first and last photo the two took together.

Per the post, Lil Bub was born in June 2011 and passed away on Sunday, Dec. 1. She was born with several genetic anomalies, including a rare bone condition called osteopetrosis, disproportionately small limbs, a lack of teeth, and an extra toe on all four paws. According to Bridavsky, before she died she was battling an “aggressive bone infection.”

Rest easy Lil Bub, you showed us love and you will be missed 💔. Lil Bub passed away at the young tender age of 8, but may she will live on forever in our hearts.

The Library That Almost Wasn’t, Hunters Point Community Library

Libraries, all-too-frequently, are sadly neglected. They serve so many wonderful purposes. They are civil centers, repositories of information, waypoints of knowledge and are doorways to other worlds. What should be celebrated is often left to decay. Libraries for many, are their own personal Room of Requirement. In short, libraries are awesome.

The Hunter’s Point Branch of the Queens Public Library almost didn’t happen. Classic New York City problems, time and money:

Over the years, it became a poster child for the perils of public architecture in New York, as if the ambition of its design and not the city’s broken bureaucracy was to blame for the library’s extended timetable and escalating budget.

From the start, pea counters in the city’s Office of Management and Budget didn’t see why Hunters Point needed a big fancy library, notwithstanding all the new apartment towers going up, bringing in droves of young families. The pea counters held the project up. Delays raised costs.Over the years, it became a poster child for the perils of public architecture in New York, as if the ambition of its design and not the city’s broken bureaucracy was to blame for the library’s extended timetable and escalating budget.

Behold this stunning, marvelous, and albeit slightly self-indulgent piece of New York architecture.

Looking upon the library from Manhattan
The exterior
The interior is awash in warm sunlight throughout the day and has plenty of cozy corners to curl up into

The New York Times has some incredible stunning photography of the library. You can view all the photos here.

The Motorola RAZR is Back

Chaim Gartenberg for The Verge reports:

The hinge is also a bit stiff so you won’t be able to just whip it open with a flick of a wrist — closing it with one hand also involves some more finger contortions to start the closing action. It’s just more practical to close it with your other hand.

Even with these caveats, the whole opening and closing mechanism is supremely satisfying to do, with crisp snaps in both directions. Snapping the phone shut to hang up on a call is a particular delight; there really is no better way to end a call than the classic flip phone snap, and it’s excellent to see that Motorola has kept it alive here. The hardware feels great, too, with solid-feeling stainless steel and glass on the outside and a wonderfully textured back that’s nice and grippy, which is essential for not dropping it while flipping it open and shut. (It is a fingerprint magnet, though.)

A freaking… hinge! Did you hear that?!

Photo: The Verge

Pretty wild right? What year is this? Check out The Verge’s review video below. At the 1:20 mark, Chaim makes a fantastic point. All the other foldables seem to have run into the same problem. They all have terrible hinge designs, among other unmemorable product design issues. For other unknown reasons, most of the other devices fold hamburger style instead of hotdog. Perplexing really. Remember the Samsung Galaxy Fold? It was atrocious, and If you recall, it failed spectacularly.

Sure, the new RAZR isn’t exactly the most beautiful smart device either. It does after all run on Android and will likely employ Google RCS. Nonetheless, it does raise some eyebrows. It brings Motorola back into the fray, and it brings the flip back to smart phones in such a memorable way. One major upside for this design? No more glass screens, which means no more cracked screens for those that fumble (myself included). I think that’s a bright future we can all hope for.

Overall, I’m not sure if I would love it owning a RAZR (I never owned the original RAZR in the first place, but I did own a Sidekick 3 once upon a time), but it has certainly piqued my interest. I think it’s entirely possible that this foldable mobile-device paradigm just might make a comeback. What do ya’ll think?