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Hawaii hosts global gaming tournament

Hawaii is hosting one of the fastest growing leagues in all of international esports. Elite teams from the Overwatch League (OWL) are participating in a series of four tournaments at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa beginning this week, and running through August.

OWL is the world’s first city-based esports league with 20 teams based in North America, Europe and Asia, and features the game Overwatch, a team-based action game developed by Blizzard Entertainment. The competition in Hawaii is an effort to bridge the gap to bring safe and online interregional play from its best teams. Last year, due to COVID-19, OWL teams were rarely able to play head-to-head matches between teams in different regions because of the online latency difference.

The upcoming tournaments will each feature two teams from its West region playing from UH Mānoa, while teams from East region in Asia will connect virtually and play head-to-head in real-time. Matches will take place May 6–8, June 10–12, July 15–17 and August 19–21. They can be viewed live and on demand from the Overwatch League YouTube channel. The winning team for each of the four tournaments at UH will take home a $100,000 prize.

“For the university, there’s unprecedented opportunity for students to get as close as they can with a publisher and organizer to see how the tournament runs and how a publisher organizes events because this is basically a new form of worldwide entertainment,” said Nyle Sky Kauweloa, a communication and information sciences PhD student and head of the UH Mānoa Esports Task Force in the College of Social Sciences.

“Working with the University of Hawaii has helped solve one of our biggest challenges as we continue to safely compete in online competition,” said Corey Smith, director of broadcast technology for the Overwatch League. “Playing from Hawaii unlocks online play between our East and West regions, which makes our competition stronger and our matches more exciting for fans globally. We’re thrilled to be teaming up with Hawaii and local students to help make it all happen.”

“I’m most excited about getting to work with professionals in a sense of how to run a large scale tournament where everyone in the world is watching,” said Alexine Niro, a UH Mānoa mechanical engineering senior and Overwatch player on UH Mānoa’s esports team. “My teammates and I get to meet the gaming professionals that you see around the world as well, so it’s a surreal experience for Hawaii to be a part of.”

Overwatch is just one of many games propelling the esports industry. A new global esports and live-streaming market report projects global esports revenue will reach $1.08 billion in 2021, up 14.5% from 2020; and $833.6 million of those revenues will come from media rights and sponsorships. The global live streaming audience will also hit more than 728 million in 2021, growing 10% from 2020.

Esports expanding at UH Mānoa

The UH Mānoa esports program currently fields teams for Overwatch, League of Legends, Rainbow Six, Super Smash Bros. and VALORANT. Many of these teams have garnered national recognition, including a top 25 ranking for the Overwatch team among 271 North American colleges and universities. Kauweloa said one of the main goals of UH Mānoa Esports is to discover ways to connect students with the wider gaming and esports industry. One example is a recent partnership with Cloud9, one of the largest professional esports organizations in North America.

The esports community at UH Mānoa was gaining interest and participation before the COVID-19 pandemic and has grown even more since. That’s because many of the conversations and activities have moved online to UH Mānoa esports’ Discord chat application channel, which has more than 300 members.

“These have become our new arenas because of COVID-19,” Kauweloa said. “This is where we hold events, organize events and talk with students. Since COVID-19 began, we have a whole group of students that haven’t even met each other in person and only met each other through Discord, and only know about UH through the UH esports Discord.”

While becoming a professional esports player is a lofty goal, students involved in the teams gain experience in management, events planning, web development and business management.

“What you would imagine in a traditional setting with sports, you would replicate that with esports,” Kauweloa said. “But I would say there are even more opportunities to get into the esports industry because so much of what is required out of esports is something that requires new media skills, data analytics, media production and web development.”

Interested students are encouraged to follow the team’s TwitterInstagram and Discord pages, or email uh.esports@hawaii.edu.

Esports courses available

UH Mānoa’s School of Communications in the College of Social Sciences is launching a three-course esports series beginning this fall and students from all majors are invited to apply. Twenty selected students will enroll in a fall 2021 course on esports and society; and two spring 2022 courses on streaming and content creation, and marketing. A committee will select the group of 20 students. Interested students need to complete this form by May 14, 2021 at 5 p.m.

This program is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF) and Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

Big Island bus, bikeshare app launched

Hawaii Bus Plus, a subscription-based app for the Big Island Hele-On Bus and HIBIKE Bikeshare systems, has been built and launched by a developed by a Waimea student.

The app, which features interactive maps and directions, was built by Big Island native Tiger Oakes, now attending college in Vancouver.

Hawaii Bus Plus makes riding Hele-On Bus a more positive experience for iPhone, Android, and desktop users, allowing locals and tourists to ride the bus without hassle by providing all of Hawaii’s transit data at the touch of a finger.

“The Big Island finally has a fast and easy bus app, built on an award-winning foundation,” Oakes said.

Similar to like public transit apps from around the world, Hawaii Bus Plus users can find the bus routes nearest to their location and see when the bus will arrive. The app shows a live interactive map of Hawaii and Street View previews of every bus stop, and includes built-in directions to help users navigate from point A to B, even across multiple bus routes or to HIBIKE Bikeshare locations.

The app is a Progressive Web App (PWA), enabling users to take advantage of the smooth and seamless experience of a native app while allowing the benefit of not taking up any space on the device.

New features are constantly being added, and Oakes hopes to add real-time tracking in the future.

Oakes first tackled public transit apps with his high school project “Big Island Buses,” winner of a Congressional App Challenge.

“I never stopped thinking about my roots on the island, and I’m happy that I’ve created a new solution for the bus system with years of experience from college.” said Oakes.

Hawaii Bus Plus is available for $1.99 per month at hawaiibusplus.com.

Local callers encouraged to start dialing 808

Hawaii residents are being encouraged to get in the habit of dialing the Hawaii area code, 808, when making local calls. Hawaiian Telecom announced today that it will begin its transition to “ten-digit dialing” on April 24, six months before the change will be mandatory.

The change is the result of a recent decree by the Federal Communications Commission.

In order to elevate the visibility and availability of crisis counseling and related services, the FCC has designated the three-digit phone number “988” as the official phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. “988” joins other quick dial numbers like “911” for emergency services, “411” for information, and “211” for social services.

Hawaii is one of 36 states that had put the phone number prefix “988” into regular use. In order to support the newly reserved number for the suicide hotline, all local calls in Hawaii will require dialing all ten digits, inclusive of the “808” area code.

This change is being required of all affected U.S. telecommunications carriers, including Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers.

Between April 24 and October 23, 2021, Hawaiian Telcom will support a “permissive dialing period” when 10-digit dialing is encouraged but seven-digit calls will still go through. Beginning on October 24, 2021, however, callers in Hawaii must dial 10 digits (area code + telephone number) or local calls will be not be completed.

“988” will officially become a national three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in July of next year.

This change will require consumers to update their contact lists and phone numbers saved in their mobile phones. Organizations that provide safety and security equipment, such as medical alert and monitoring devices, and alarms, security systems and gates must also be programmed to use 10-digit dialing by October 24, 2021 to avoid interruption.

Other devices and services that may need to be re-programmed include:

  • PBXs
  • Fax machines
  • Internet dial-up numbers
  • Speed dialers
  • Call forwarding settings
  • Voicemail services and other similar functions

Hawaiian Telcom encourages Hawaii residents to check their business stationery, advertising materials, websites, personal and business checks, and other publicly provided contact information. In addition, personal or pet ID tags, and other such items should be updated to ensure the area code is included.

What will remain the same?

  • Your telephone number, including current area code, will not change.
  • The price of a call, coverage area, or other rates and services will not change due to the dialing change.
  • What is a local call now will remain a local call regardless of the number of digits dialed.
  • You will continue to dial 1+ the area code + telephone number for all long-distance.
  • You will continue to dial a prefix (such as “9”) when dialing from a multi-line telephone system (e.g., in a hotel, office building, etc.) as required.
  • You can still dial just three digits to reach 711 (relay services) and 911 (emergency services).
  • If 211, 311, 411, 511, 611, 711 or 811 are currently available in your community, dial these codes with just three digits.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can still be reached by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255) even after the 988 code is in effect.

Beginning July 16, 2022, dialing “988” will route your call to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Prior to this, callers must dial 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

For more information, please visit the North American Numbering Plan Administrator’s (NANPA) website, email questions about the dialing procedure change to NANPA at 988@somos.com, or visit the FCC’s website at fcc.gov/suicide-prevention-hotline. Hawaiian Telcom customers may also visit hawaiiantel.com/dial808 for more information.

New Hawaii rideshare service recruiting drivers

A new, Hawaii-based, locally-owned rideshare company today launched its driver recruiting program, with a soft-launch for riders set to begin later this month.

holoholo (the company prefers its name be in lowercase), founded by longtime SpeediShuttle CEO Cecil Morton, is looking to recruit drivers on Oahu, Hawaii Island, Maui, Lanai, and Kauai.

holoholo supports a marketplace of community drivers where riders can request a vehicle in minutes from their smartphone, see the cost, and have it charged to their credit card, which helps riders have access to reliable and safe transportation.

“It is incredibly important to me that with our industry knowledge and resources that we do everything in our power to help create a more sustainable Hawaii while giving earning opportunities to our local residents and providing safe, reliable transportation,” Morton said.

In 1999, Morton acquired two Maui-based transportation competitors operating on Maui and Hawaii Island, and brought an advanced operating platform in the shuttle industry to Hawaii. In his 27 years in the ground transportation industry, he has implemented innovative changes to expand the airport shuttle business by building relationships with major travel companies, hotel brands and travel providers, as well as expanding into corporate transportation and black car services.

holoholo’s mission is to simplify the ridesharing experience and connect our communities to local businesses in Hawaii.

“Building a brand and business has always been about the people to me, when I decided to move forward with this idea it was non-negotiable to bring our drivers into the ʻohana through above and beyond service, transparent pay and an ongoing commitment to constantly improve,” Morton said.

holoholo says it offers:

  • Transparency for rider and driver pricing (no surge and no surprises)
  • Sustainable product offering (green vehicle option)
  • Locally owned and operated (connect face-to-face with local employees and offices)
  • A focus on safety for rider and drivers (ongoing background/wellness checks and COVID practices)

Interested drivers can get started today by downloading the drivers’ app from the Google Play Store or the Apple Store and completing the application. After holoholo reviews the application, the company will invite qualified drivers to an in-person car inspection and training session. On approval, the company will then activate the account.

Driver requirements:

  • 21 years or older
  • A minimum of three years of driving experience
  • Pass an initial and ongoing comprehensive background and driver history check
  • A vehicle–4 doors, minimum of three seats, and eight years old or newer (no limousines or trucks)
  • Smartphone with holoholo Driver App
  • Read and accept best-driver practices
  • Pass a pre-trip inspection
  • Pass ongoing wellness checks

And provide the following information:

  • Valid Hawaii driver’s license
  • Proof of residency
  • Vehicle registration
  • Personal vehicle insurance
  • Hawaiʻi Vehicle Inspection Sticker

Other Driver Benefits:

  • Fuel discount program for fuel access on Maui in Kahului, and on Hawaiʻi Island in Hilo, Kona, and Kawaihae
  • PPE kit with hand sanitizers, wipes and masks

About holoholo

holoholo is a locally owned transportation network company offering a marketplace of community drivers on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii Island, Kauai and Lanai. The company’s mission is to simplify the ridesharing experience and connect its communities to local businesses in Hawaii. For more information about how to drive with holoholo, please visit driveholoholo.com.

Hawaii Thrive launches to promote Hawaii small businesses

Founded last May, The Hawaii Thrive Initiative aims to help people find local small businesses offering services and products in their area. The result is HawaiiThrive.com, a community resource website featuring thousands of Hawaii businesses.

Hawaii is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the United States. However, with the hardships that 2020 brought, including stalled tourism and restrictions, local businesses need to explore alternative marketing strategies to ensure continued growth.

Hawaii Thrive also fosters business-to-business connections for entrepreneurs across the state, and sends out a weekly newsletter containing featured deals, important business information, and the “best of” local business spotlights, which reaching the inboxes of over 2000 residents.

Hawaii Thrive offers a broad range of offers for every business on their platform. Depending on the choice of industry, county, or services, potential customers can search for what they need and support local companies all year long.

Hawaii Thrive founder Nick Ponte says that HawaiiThrive.com will become Hawaii’s one-stop search engine for finding the best small businesses. The easy-to-use user interface of the website makes the searching process easier, he adds, while island-specific categories easily outline what local businesses are near you.

In addition to Ponte, who was born and raised on Maui, the Hawaii Thrive team includes business growth specialist Elle Shurm and marketing manager Devin Atkins.

The Hawaii Thrive platform also allows small businesses to grow their online presence through linking to their digital assets, allowing promotions of special offers and opportunities to be a main “Feature” on the website’s homepage.

Hawaii Thrive hopes to continue to promote local businesses to help them scale-up and increase their overall revenue. For more information, visit HawaiiThrive.com, email Nick Ponte at hello@hawaiithrive.com, call (808) 359-3287, or contact Hawaii Thrive by mail at 95 East Lipoa Suite #205, Kihei Hawaii 96753.

Zippy’s kicks off COVID-19 app download campaign

Download the AlohaSafe Alert app — the State of Hawaii’s free COVID-19 exposure notification app — and your next stop could be Zippy’s.

In a new promotional campaign to encourage downloads and use of the app, “All in for AlohaSafe,” local restaurants and other businesses are joining forces to offer special discounts on food, goods and services as incentives if Hawaii residents download the app.

Zippy’s is among the first businesses to join the program. If the app attains 450,000 activations by Friday, March 26, Zippy’s will offer 25 percent off all of its breakfast bentos for the week of March 29 through April 2.

The number of downloads currently stands at 400,000. Zippy’s will feature a meter on its website at zippys.com/alohasafe to show a running total of the downloads of the app.

“Encouraging more people to download AlohaSafe Alert is an important way to help our community fight COVID-19,” said Paul Yokota, president of FCH Enterprises, the parent company of Zippy’s. “The more people who download the app, the more we keep our community safe, especially as we begin to loosen restrictions.”

Based on a study by Oxford University, research shows that in the U.K. alone about 284,000 to 594,000 infections have been averted with the technology. Further research also shows that for every 1 percent increase in users of exposure notification apps, the number of COVID-19 cases drops by 1-2 percent.

In Hawaii, hundreds of people have been notified by AlohaSafe Alert, but due to privacy protections built into the technology, specifics are not available.

The app continues to be updated and upgraded, and is also now available in Tagalog, Ilocano, Samoan, Marshallese, Chuukese, and Korean.

AlohaSafe Alert is seeking more businesses to join the “All in for AlohaSafe” campaign to offer discounts once the next milestone of 500,000 downloads is achieved. Businesses interested in offering incentives should contact Lynelle Marble at (808) 295-6162.

The app was developed through a public-private partnership with Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH), aio Digital, and the Hawaii Executive Collaborative. It is funded by DOH and donations from the private sector.

To download the free app, go to the Google Play or Apple App Store on your phone. For more information visit www.alohasafealert.org.

Hawaii Convention Center adapts to post-pandemic meeting market

As Honolulu moves into Tier 3 of its reopening strategy, the Hawaii Convention Center is prepared to welcome guests and events back to the state’s largest meeting facility.

The center is touting industry-leading protocols for meetings and events, including the implementation of health and safety technologies, new food and beverage options, revised layouts for socially distanced gatherings, and extensive staff training.

The Hawaii Convention Center has also developed new virtual meetings packages to offer guests the convenience of attending meetings remotely. This full array of turnkey video-production services includes professionally coordinated pre-recording management, webinar and live-stream production, and hybrid meeting design and execution across a variety of popular virtual platforms.

Opened in 1998, Hawaii Convention Center is Hawaii’s largest meetings facility, located eight miles from the Honolulu International Airport, and near 28,000 guest rooms as well as shopping, dining and entertainment venues. The building offers 1.1 million square feet of ballroom and exhibition floor space.

The City & County of Honolulu eased COVID-19 restrictions for the Island of Oahu on March 11 to allow for select gatherings, meetings and events under “Tier 3” guidelines, which allows venues such as convention centers, third-party conference room providers, and banquet halls to host low-risk structured events.

The center had recently worked with state agencies to provide space for important services such as unemployment claims processing, COVID-19 contact tracing for the Hawaii Department of Health, and vote counting Office of Elections. And the Hawaii State Judiciary selected the Center for the Hawaii Bar Exam, due to the availability of large spaces that accommodate social-distancing requirements of at least six feet between guests.

“The Center was exceptionally well prepared to handle our group while adhering to all recommended COVID-19
protocols,” said Rochelle Kaui of the Office of the Chief Clerk with the Hawaii State Judiciary. “The facility was very
clean, and we felt safe, comfortable and well cared for throughout the planning process and the event itself.

“It was such a relief that the HCC had ample space to allow for the social distancing we needed to conduct our business while
implementing the stringent health and safety requirements for all of us to follow,” Kaui added. “From security to custodial to food
service, the Center’s staff were so professional and respectful.”

The Center also conducted key improvements, repairs and upgrades throughout the building, allowing for the expedited completion of maintenance projects and the implementation of new safety protocols. Now, it is opening its doors more widely to accommodate conventions from out of state.

“The Hawaii Convention Center offers numerous advantages when holding meetings and events, and we are excited to welcome guests back to Hawaii with the legendary Aloha spirit and service that sets us apart as a productive, relaxed and enjoyable place to conduct business,” said Teri Orton, general manager of the Hawaii Convention Center. “As Hawaii opens up meetings and travel options, we are here to provide large gathering spaces and event options in a safe, open-air environment, while closely following the recommendations of public health officials.

“As always, the health and safety of our guests and employees are the Center’s top priority,” Orton said.

Travel to Hawaii from other U.S. states is allowed with a confirmed negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure, which offers guests the opportunity to opt out of a 10-day quarantine upon arrival. More information on travel to Hawaii from within the U.S. is available at hawaiicovid19.com/travel. International travel information is available through the CDC.

The center has developed and implemented health and safety measures including:

  • Enhanced cleaning and sanitation and the use of electrostatic sprayers;
  • The installation of thermal cameras and touchless temperature checks;
  • The use of personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Modified food and beverage operations, including fresh, individually packaged meals and snacks;
  • Increased availability of hand-sanitizer dispensers;
  • Contactless transactions, special signage and social-distancing guidelines.

Opened in 1998, Hawaii Convention Center is Hawaii’s largest meetings facility, located eight miles from the Honolulu International Airport, and near 28,000 guest rooms as well as shopping, dining and entertainment venues. The building offers 1.1 million square feet of ballroom and exhibition floor space.

Cloudwell Health expands WePrescribe telehealth offerings

Local telehealth service WePrescribe, which launched last year and went on to add coronavirus screening and pediatric services, has rebranded and relaunched as CloudWell Health.

With the new name, the company is also adding a number of new services: connectivity to employee wellness programs, mental health counseling, and personalized health coaching for chronic disease management such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, smoking cessation, and weight loss.

Physician founders Dr. Neel Chauhan and Dr. Cedric Strong describe CloudWell Health as “Hawaii’s first integrated telemedicine and wellness platform.”

“We realize one of the barriers to treatment and wellness for many of our patients is time and access to healthcare providers,” says Chauhan. “As an online healthcare practice, CloudWell Health is able to make it easy for users to utilize its services by scheduling appointments when and where it’s most convenient for the patient.”

With the dramatic change in lifestyle experienced by millions of Americans, stress levels and domestic disputes are up, making mental health counseling an especially timely and important offering, the company says.

CloudWell Health provides patients the safety and convenience of live video visits and coaching, leveraging technology to increase the accessibility of healthcare and wellness services via teleconference consultations. CloudWell’s standard of care is to ensure patients are speaking with a staff member within 60 minutes of registering.

The company accepts all major insurance providers, so users with health insurance have a zero co-pay.  For those without insurance, sessions with health care professionals are available for a flat-rate fee of $119.99. 

Central Oahu public schools adopt ‘active play’ tech

Students use the Splats app on an iPad or Chrome browser to code the rules that tell Splats when to light up, make sounds and collect points.

Teachers at Leilehua High School, Wheeler Elementary School, and Solomon Elementary School will begin incorporating programmable floor buttons called “Unruly Splats” into their classes this spring.

The buttons, made by Unruly Studios, can be programmed by students to to light up, make sounds, and collect points to play games like whack-a-mole, four corners, or any game of their own making. The system is designed to incorporate STEM education across classrooms.

“This is the first STEM learning tool I’ve seen that combines computer science with social and emotional learning,” said Grant Toyooka, a resource manager for the Leilehua Complex. “The ease of use and playful exterior of Splats help to demystify computer science for students as well as teachers, making them easy to integrate into any classroom.”

“Unruly Splats break all the rules of traditional computer science education by getting students out from behind the computer screen and engaging with each other,” he adds.

Unruly Splats will be part of the Leilehua Complex library system’s growing resource center of hands-on technology, including computers, microscopes, and 3D printers.

“Unruly Splats are an exciting addition to our library, which serves as a center of learning and exploration for our entire community,” said Jenny Yamamoto, a Library Media Specialist at Leilehua High School. “As more classes transition back to in-person, teachers are coming to the library looking for tools just like this to engage their students both mentally and physically.”

The Leilehua Complex will receive 24 Splats through its annual Unruly Splats membership. In addition, teachers will have access to continuous technical support, coaching, and resources developed by education and curriculum experts at Unruly Studios.

Unruly Splats are designed to help schools fulfill a wide range of high priority learning objectives including:

  • Cross-curricular STEM learning: A Gallup study found that 9 in 10 parents want their kids to learn computer science in school. Unruly Splats allow teachers to incorporate STEM into any subject, including general education, PE, and even music!
  • Breaking down barriers in STEM by combining coding with play: The games kids play with Unruly Splats encourage physical movement, helping to combat a decades long drop in active-play for children exacerbated by the pandemic.
  • Collaborative games that connect students virtually and in-person: A cloud-based app allows kids and teachers to code and play games with Unruly Splats, no matter the setting: in-school, virtual, or hybrid.
  • Inclusive activities rooted in the CASEL framework for SEL: Activities focus on the core CASEL competencies of social and emotional learning including self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

“Our goal is always to make working with Unruly Splats just as much fun for the teachers as it is for the students,” said Bryanne Leeming, CEO and founder of Unruly Studios. “We are looking forward to supporting the Leilehua Complex’s ambitious vision to integrate coding into classrooms at all grade levels and to break down stereotypes around what it means to learn to code.”

About Unruly Studios

Unruly Studios is the creator of Unruly Splats, the first STEM learning tool that combines coding with active-play. Students build their own games with programmable floor buttons that they can code to light up, make sounds, and collect points when stomped on. Unruly Studios’ vision is to create an electronic playground that makes learning more playful, collaborative, and inclusive. The team is made up of experts in cognitive science, toy manufacturing, education, and technology who bring broad industry experience from Scratch, Hasbro, Mattel, Nickelodeon, iRobot, Disney, and MIT Media Lab.

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