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Hyperloop One Wants to Be "Amazon Prime on Steroids," but Where?

Just think of it as "broadband for transportation."

When you hear executives from Hyperloop One — gathered around a speaker phone from Las Vegas during this week’s CES — explain their vision for the futuristic transportation system, it’s easy to get excited. Imagine: coast-to-coast journeys made inside a few hours, or having delivered to your door a pair of custom sneakers that you designed and ordered that day.

“Just think of hyperloop as broadband for transportation,” Rob Lloyd, CEO for Hyperloop One, tells Inverse. “If you think of it as broadband for transportation you suddenly unlock a massive amount of change, and new applications; new thinking.”

Before that 700 mph broadband vision is realized, the first regional hyperloop — the tube-based transportation system originated by Elon Musk in 2013 — needs to be built. And that takes everyone involved, from government to business leaders, to get on board.

Another step toward actualizing the hyperloop was made on Friday, when 35 teams from regions all over the world were announced by the Los Angeles-based company as finalists in the “Hyperloop One Global Challenge.”

The open competition, announced by the company in May 2016, attracted 2,600 teams of engineers and urban planners who pitched their region as the ideal spot for a hyperloop. The 35 teams will present at three showcases across the globe — February 28 in New Delhi, India; April 6 in Washington, D.C.; and April 27 in London — to judges that will narrow the 35 to maybe a half-dozen or so.

“There doesn’t have to be one winner at each [showcase]; we actually want to be able to go forward with more than one,” Nick Earle, who oversees global field operations for Hyperloop One, tells Inverse. “There could well be multiple winners going forward. Right now, we’re keeping our options open.”

Also invited to those showcases will be government leaders, as a way to show them what hyperloop could do for their region. Earle says feedback from government (along with quality of the entry) will determine if Hyperloop One selects a region.

The finalists released by Hyperloop One, by region.

Some of the regions are as specific as a Boston to Somerset, Massachusetts, just a 50-mile trip. Others, like “US Midwest,” could include any number of routes. (The actual teams will be announced at the showcases this spring.)

The winning regions will get feasibility studies, which as any transportation nerd knows, are a crucial early step for any project. But Lloyd makes it clear that something had better come from those studies: “We’re not in the business of doing studies, we’re in the business of looking for hyperloops that can be built,” he says.

“We want to have three routes in production in the next five years,” he says later.

A rendering of what Hyperloop One wants its train-style pod to look like as it travels through a low-pressure tube at speeds of around 700 mph.

The end result is that one day, Hyperloop One systems will connect cities in a single region. Eventually, systems will connect — much like subway lines in cities — by linking together regions. While travel will be easier, shipping will be the thing that sees the most dramatic change.

“It’s Amazon Prime on steroids,” Earle says. “You don’t have to use a fleet of airplanes, you don’t have to use warehouses outside of cities to store goods, because you have to truck them in to meet that one hour deadline that’s in the contract for Amazon Prime.” He continues, “Autonomous cars will actually be able to go inside the Hyperloop. You actually can do door-to-door like never before.” The autonomous car idea was introduced when Hyperloop One announced its partnership with Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority to see if a hyperloop could be built in the Middle Eastern region.

The Company’s “Kitty Hawk” Moment

Around April, Hyperloop One will conduct a full-scale test of its system at its North Las Vegas testing facility.

“It’s one thing for us to talk about building it, it’s something different for you to actually go build it,” Josh Giegel, President of Engineering for Hyperloop One, tells Inverse.

Hyperloop One's open-air propulsion test in May 2016.

The full-scale test will occur about a year after it first tested its propulsion system (see above.) That test was publicized and the media was invited out to see what looked like a sled create a cloud of dust in the desert (Hyperloop One helpfully released this animated video to help us connect the dots).

The full-scale test of the hyperloop inside the 11-foot tube will also be very public.

Josh Giegel at the Hyperloop One metalworks.

“For us, taking this concept and actually building it, and testing it, and showing people — allowing them to see it, to touch it, to smell it if they want — is really, really important,” Giegel explains. “We’ve felt that way for a long time, that it’s one thing for us to talk about building it; it’s something different for you to actually go build it.”

Incoming U.S. President Donald Trump has made infrastructure projects a big part of his economic plan, which could translate to a friendlier government for Hyperloop One. In the weeks after the election, Lloyd said he was hopeful for a Trump administration, but said Hyperloop One had not reached out to the transition team about its projects.

“Our instincts are that the work that we’re doing is going to be extremely well received when the people get into place,” Lloyd said Friday, before predicting this: “I think we’re going to be a very, very important part of the next three or four years in terms of the potential infrastructure that U.S. looks at.”

As for Musk, who will always be remembered as the father of the hyperloop, he made another visit to Trump Tower on Friday and has already been appointed to a Trump policy forum.

But with the full-scale test, Hyperloop One just might move out of Musk’s considerable shadow completely, but as Giegel puts it: “I think he’ll always have a big part of it.”

“We’ll forever be indebted to him for giving us kind of the idea, but we definitely changed the technology quite a bit from the original white paper,” Giegel says. “It’s more than just a train, or a pod in a tube. We’re taking it to a level of connectivity and really being the high-speed backbone of the future transportation network.”

Media via Hyperloop One, Getty Images / David Becker

Galaxy Fold: Samsung's Folding Smartphone Could Mount a Surprising Comeback

You may be able to pick up a working Fold this year after all.

Samsung’s first foldable phone’s initial launch was a face-plant. The $1,980 Galaxy Fold, originally supposed to hit shelves in the United States on April 26, flopped instantly as many of the review units sent to reporters and YouTubers broke after a few days of use.

A now-deleted iFixIt teardown of the device revealed the central problem: The Fold’s screen protector simply did not prevent dust and debris from getting underneath. That left many with the impression that the age of the foldable smartphone was yet to come, though it now looks like Samsung may have been able to resolve the Fold’s issues much faster than expected.

Neuralink: 6 Things We Learned From Elon Musk's Brain-Powered Reveal

The machine linkup could pave the way for safer A.I.

Neuralink, Elon Musk’s ambitious project to wire up the brain to computers, stepped out of the shadows Tuesday evening.

In a detail-laden presentation at the California Academy of Sciences’ Morrison Planetarium, the tech entrepreneur explained how his foray into brain-machine interfaces could pave the way for a symbiotic relationship with artificial intelligence.

PS5: Patent Filings Detail Sony's Plan to Make a Breakthrough VR Headset

Sony has groundbreaking VR plans in its future.

Virtual reality has been a fixture of the PlayStation 4 since Sony launched PlayStation VR in 2016, whose hardware attachments let gamers transform their console into full-fledged VR rigs. Rumor has it that, VR-wise, the PS 5 will follow in its predecessor’s footsteps.

Sony has already confirmed that its next-generation console will be compatible with current PSVR hardware, but it’s also clear that the entertainment giant has much bigger plans for VR further down the line.

Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite: Release Date, Pros and Cons, Which to Get

Two consoles for two distinct types of gamers. 

Two years after the first Nintendo Switch, the Japanese gaming giant unveiled the next chapter for its widely popular hybrid console. The Switch Lite, announced Wednesday, will fall somewhere between the original gaming system and its 2013 Nintendo 2DS, giving shoppers not one, but two Switches to choose from during the holiday spending season.

PS5: Price, Release Date, Specs, and Features for Sony's VR-Ready War Horse

Console gaming will reach heights never though possible.

The current generation of consoles is about to pass the torch. Sony has already revealed a great deal about the war horse it will ride into battle against the Xbox Scarlett consoles. The PlayStation 5 will tout PC-caliber graphics capabilities, and possibly come with a wireless virtual reality headset to take console gaming to new heights. But many crucial details about the PS5 remain unclear.