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Elon Musk reveals SpaceX Falcon 9 survived a water landing test

Following the picture-perfect launch of GovSat-1 on Wednesday afternoon, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter with an extremely unusual bit of news. After separating from the second stage, events relating to Falcon 9’s first stage recovery operations were heard live in the background of SpaceX’s live coverage, leading to some additional intrigue around an already odd situation.

B1032, a flight-proven (reused) booster tasked with launching GovSat-1 on its second mission, was seen with landing legs and grid fins on its sooty exterior – a confusing appearance due to SpaceX’s statement that the core would be expended into the ocean after launch. Thankfully, Elon Musk’s tweets provide at least the beginning of an answer for the several oddities.

This rocket was meant to test very high retrothrust landing in water so it didn’t hurt the droneship, but amazingly it has survived. We will try to tow it back to shore.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 31, 2018

As stated above, GovSat-1’s Falcon 9 booster (1032) was apparently being used to test an exceptionally aggressive landing burn in lieu of a drone ship beneath it. The lack of drone ship begins to make more sense with the added knowledge that 1032 was testing experimental landing procedures: in the relatively likely eventuality that something went wrong, the massive booster would have likely impacted Of Course I Still Love You at an extremely high velocity. Similar impacts have occurred before as SpaceX gradually perfected the new technologies and operational knowledge necessary to recover orbital-class rockets, but a basic understanding of rocketry implies that 1032’s OCISLY impact would have been uniquely destructive, likely taking the ship out of action for at least several weeks of repairs.

This would pose an inherent problem for the imminent launch of Falcon Heavy, with the center of three first stages currently scheduled to attempt a landing aboard the very same drone ship in less than a week. Under optimum conditions (sans huge explosions and general destruction), OCISLY and its entourage of support vessels simply could not complete the journey back to Port Canaveral and the subsequent return to sea that would have been necessary to recovery both GovSat-1 and Falcon Heavy’s center core. Add in the potential need for repairs and expending GovSat-1 was a no-brainer for the launch company: Falcon Heavy’s center core could easily see at least one additional launch after it is recovered, whereas the twice-used 1032 effectively reached the end of its useful life after it separated from its GovSat payload earlier today.

Falcon 9 1038 aboard Just Read The Instructions after the launch of Formosat-5. (SpaceX)

As a result, SpaceX appears to have continued a trend of exploiting flight test opportunities to the greatest extent practicable by tasking B1032 with an experimental landing attempt. More specifically, Elon quickly added that the landing burn attempted by 1032 involved the ignition of three of the booster’s nine Merlin 1D engines during landing, whereas all SpaceX landings up to this point have occurred with a single Merlin 1D ignition. While the company already routinely utilizes three engines during some boostback and reentry burns, landing burns have always featured a single engine. However, by using three engines, it is entirely possible that SpaceX hopes to eventually move towards even more aggressive landing burns. While the obvious downsides likely include difficulty maintaining control and increased stresses on the booster, the benefits are also pretty inherent. By using more engines, the length of the landing burn could be drastically shortened, resulting in far more efficient propellant usage by minimizing losses to gravity (every second the rocket is trying to go upwards is a second fighting against Earth’s gravity, which pulls the rocket down at ~9.8 meters/second squared).

Incredibly, the booster somehow managed to pull off that three engine landing burn with some success, made apparent by the fact that it is intact and floating in the Atlantic, with some hope of being towed back to land. This is almost certainly the first time SpaceX has ever successfully landed a booster in the ocean without a subsequent breakup, an incredible achievement for a rocket that likely experienced exceptional stresses during reentry and landing. Time will tell how this impacts SpaceX’s future recovery efforts, but it is certainly promising as a method of extracting just a little extra performance from reusable Falcon 9s. In other words, future Falcon 9 missions might be able to carry heavier payloads into higher orbits while still being able to land at sea or even on land. Exciting times!

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Bungie reveals Destiny 2 development roadmap as fans grow restless

Interest in Destiny 2 isn’t as high as it was after its September launch as fans ask for more content and communication from the developer. Developer Bungie is working to revive that lost excitement, and it posted a blog to show players what they can expect from the sci-fi cooperative shooter through May and the start of its Season 3 content.

In the blog, Destiny 2 director Christopher Barrett talked about this week’s content update. The studio just rolled a number of new features into the live game, and those include improvements to raid rewards and Heroic Strikes. But these tweaks are only the start of Bungie’s process.

“A few weeks ago, we published a dev update with some details about our plans for Destiny 2,” wrote Barrett. “With the first of those downloads out the door, we’re following up on the conversation with a clearer outlook on when more features and content will arrive in the game.”

And here is that clearer look:

These aren’t potential ideas. Every single one of these features is in the works, and Bungie has confirmed that they will hit the game at some point in the future.

“Some of these delivery dates may change,” wrote Barrett. “But everything you see listed here is being worked on the by the team. While there are larger projects in development, these are the game enhancements you’ll find in your immediate future. If any of these deployments change, we’ll let you know.”

Bungie details what many of these features are and how they will change the game in its dev update from late last year — in case you want to understand more about what this roadmap means.

This increased transparency comes at a time when Bungie needs to get players feeling good about Destiny 2 again. After a hot start and huge sales, players are drifting away as they run out of content. And this is a game that people want to come back to every day to enjoy with their friends.

But if we look at Twitch viewership as one metric of excitement or engagement, Destiny 2 has fallen out of favor. You can see in the chart below from Twitch-tracking tool Sully Gnome, Destiny 2 has had a steady decline for months:

Above: Destiny 2 viewership numbers.

Image Credit: Sully Gnome

Over the last week, Destiny was the 46th most-watched game on Twitch with an average of 1,934 viewers across all channels. That puts it behind Gears of War 4 (2,834), Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege (5,985), and Heroes of the Storm (8,299). Even with yesterday’s update, viewership only climbed to 5,046.

Twitch viewership isn’t everything, of course — and Amazon’s livestreaming service welcomes partnership campaigns that artificially inflate some other games. But this is just one indicator that the large gaming community that watches live broadcasts are losing interesting in Destiny 2. And Bungie is going to have to do something to win them back.

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SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket somehow survived a landing in the Atlantic Ocean

This afternoon, SpaceX launched its second Falcon 9 rocket of the year from Florida, but the company chose not to land the booster after takeoff and instead dispensed it in the ocean. In a weird twist, the Falcon 9 still managed to survive its fall into the deep sea waters and is bobbing intact in the Atlantic. Now, the company will try to salvage the floating rocket by towing it back to shore somehow, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

This rocket was meant to test very high retrothrust landing in water so it didn’t hurt the droneship, but amazingly it has survived. We will try to tow it back to shore.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 31, 2018

This afternoon’s launch sent a heavy satellite into a high orbit…

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GDC put itself in a no-win situation with its Bushnell award

When the Game Developers Conference decided to drop its Pioneer Award for Nolan Bushnell, who some call the father of video games and the former CEO of Atari, I had some mixed emotions. The same goes for many in the game industry who offered reactions to the decision. I think that the interesting thing about the reactions isn’t necessarily where you stand, but the thought process and conversations that lead you to your conclusion on whether it was right to take away the honor.

It is the game industry’s reckoning with its own history, just as we come to grips with the removal of statues of Confederates such as General Robert E. Lee and the status of explorer Christopher Columbus and his role in how white peoples dominated Native Americans.

In explaining its reversal, the GDC said in a statement, “The Game Developers Choice Awards Advisory Committee, who vote on the Special Award winners for each show, have made the decision not to give out a Pioneer Awards for this year’s event, following additional feedback from the community. They believe their picks should reflect the values of today’s game industry and will dedicate this year’s award to honor the pioneering and unheard voices of the past.”

In other words, the GDC decided it is OK to choose pioneers based not on the behavior of the time, which in this case was the 1970s, but by today’s standards. One commenter on my Facebook page ridiculed this notion, saying, “If we are judging behavior in the ’70s by 2018 standards, we should probably just go ahead and erase the entire decade. Seriously. Obsolete!”

Above: Game developer Brianna Wu, who’s running for Congress.

Image Credit: Brianna Wu

The GDC reversed itself after prominent industry women such as Brianna Wu, Elizabeth Sampat, and others voiced their opposition in in a Twitter campaign dubbed #NotNolan, as it was a slap in the face in a year with so many #MeToo efforts to expose sexual harassment. While Bushnell hasn’t been accused of abuse or harassment, he has publicly acknowledged the open sexuality of Atari’s culture back in the 1970s.

Bushnell himself gave an interview to Playboy in 2012 that partially explained the wild behavior in Atari’s history, where meetings were held in hot tubs with women in bikinis.

“It was post–flower revolution, women’s liberation, no AIDS yet, and lots of company romances,” Bushnell said. Atari also reportedly gave code names to its projects that were named after attractive female employees. “Darlene” was the codename for the home version of Pong, inspired by a woman Bushnell described as “stacked.”

Another game industry leader, who asked not to be identified, disagreed with the decision to take away the award. But he was critical of the GDC committee for being “tone-deaf” in the first place.

Kate Edwards, the former head of the International Game Developers Association and head of game culture consulting firm Geogrify, said in a message, “In short, the choice makes sense from a purely historical perspective and Nolan is unquestionably a pioneer in video games. But to make that selection right now — in the midst of #MeToo, Time’s Up, and a general awareness explosion around workplace harassment — was incredibly tone-deaf. Despite having to make a reverse decision, GDC has now made the right decision.”

Above: Kate Edwards of the IGDA at the GamesBeat Summit

Image Credit: Michael O’Donnell/VentureBeat

Wu also said in an email, “I’m really pleased to see GDC doing the right thing here — albeit far too late. Nolan Bushnell deserves to be honored, but this is not the right time for it. It’s easy to draw a line between the culture he created at Atari and the structural sexism women in tech face today. I am very concerned that it got to this point. GDC says they were unaware of these stories, yet they are on the first page of his Google results. They are literally in freshman year textbooks about the game industry. Either they knew and didn’t care, or they didn’t do their homework. Neither reflects well on the conference. What I would like to see is for GDC to honor some of the women that have shaped the game industry, but have not been recognized. My personal vote is for Megan Gaiser, who helped oversee the creation of the Nancy Drew series — creating the genre of blockbuster games for girls. That would be very appropriate in the year of #metoo.”

Is Wu right? Did the problems we see in the industry today — the internet harassment of prominent women, or the fact that only 20 percent of the game industry workers are women — start with a sexist culture at Atari? It’s probably fair to say that Bushnell wouldn’t do such things today. But does he deserve fault for discouraging women from entering the game business from the very beginning.

Atari did have female game designers, such as Carol Shaw, whose was honored at this year’s Game Awards and worked on titles such as Polo and Video Checkers. But Atari also did some sexist things, like creating Gotcha!, a game where players chased each other around by holding two joysticks that were covered with silicone domes that looked like breasts.

On Twitter, many of the pro-Gamergate advocates responded with dismay about Bushnell losing the award.

I unironically love Brianna Wu for the amount of power she manages to exert on the game industry despite having no qualifications or worthwhile contributions to games whatsoever.

She just toppled Nolan Bushnell, the father of video games, using no more than a hashtag: #notnolan

— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) January 31, 2018

But Bushnell himself responded without anger in a tweet.

A statement from me

— Nolan K Bushnell (@NolanBushnell) January 31, 2018

That is an unselfish view of where the industry is and how it needs to progress. But it also seems to cover Bushnell for things that have not surfaced yet. Some people called him out for using the word “if” in the apology.

Some game industry people responded positive to Bushnell’s tweet.

Genuine from me: 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻🙏🏻

— Andie Grace (@Actiongrl) January 31, 2018

Well said.

— Tim Lapetino (@lapetino) January 31, 2018

When this all blows over and they come back and want to give you that award, please tell those cowards where to stick it. Respectfully, of course.

— Michael Glaser (@ShinyKeysStudio) January 31, 2018

One women game industry veteran reacted with sadness to the decision to strip Bushnell of the award, saying the #MeToo movement had become a “witch hunt.” But of course, the use of that phrase has become controversial in itself, so that it no longer carries the same meaning or impact that it once did.

Above: Jen MacLean is the interim executive director at the IGDA.

Image Credit: IGDA

Jen MacLean, interim director at the International Game Developers Association, said in an email, “We can’t excuse behavior that repeatedly objectifies women, creates a hostile work environment, or discriminates against people by saying that it was typical of an era. We know better now, and we must do better, as individuals, as companies and organizations, and as an industry. I applaud the GDC team’s decision to rethink the Pioneer award this year, and hope that it furthers a conversation about how we create an inclusive game development community that values the input of every creator.”

As women enter the work force, including my own daughters, it is good to know that the behavior that Bushnell exhibited is no longer tolerated. At the same time, it is a painful moment in gaming because so many people recognize that Bushnell, with his flaws, is responsible for the industry that now employs so many people and generates $116 billion in revenues a year.

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Apple Stops Signing Older Versions of iOS 11

Following the release of iOS 11.2.5 on January 23, Apple stopped signing older versions of iOS 11, including iOS 11.2, iOS 11.2.1, and iOS 11.2.2.

iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch owners who have upgraded to iOS 11.2.5 will no longer be able to downgrade to earlier versions of iOS.

Apple routinely stops signing older versions of software updates after new releases come out in order to encourage customers to keep their operating systems up to date.

iOS 11.2.5 is now the only version of iOS 11 that can be installed on iOS devices by the general public, but developers and public beta testers can download iOS 11.3, an update that is being beta tested ahead of a spring release.
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Slack Nixes its Standalone Apple Watch App

Over the course of the last few months, several companies have decided to end development on apps for the Apple Watch, focusing instead on Apple’s iOS platform. The latest company to nix its Apple Watch app is Slack. If you’re unfamiliar with Slack, it’s a team communication and collaboration platform for businesses.

In an update to its iOS app today, Slack eliminated its standalone Apple Watch app. Slack customers will, however, still be able to respond to incoming messages on their Apple Watch thanks to rich notifications.

Apple Watch users, there’s now one iOS app for all of your needs. We’ve removed the standalone Watch App, but rest assured, receiving and replying to messages from your wrist works the same as before. It’s like two for the price of one, but with apps.

Slack’s Apple Watch app, like many of the Apple Watch apps that have been abandoned, was never particularly useful, so it’s no surprise Slack has decided not to dedicate additional resources to it. The Slack Apple Watch app let users view unread mentions and view and respond to direct messages, but these features were not easy to use on a wrist-worn device. It also let users receive and interact with notifications, features that are still available through an iPhone.

When the Apple Watch was released, most companies developed an Apple Watch app for the device even if the app didn’t do anything useful, because it wasn’t yet clear how and when people would use apps on the wrist. As the Apple Watch has matured, though, it’s become clear that most dedicated apps offering anything beyond a quick interaction aren’t used often enough to be a worthwhile use of company resources.

For example, Twitter in September ended support for the Apple Watch, eliminating the standalone Twitter app on the device. At the time, Twitter said that it felt notifications were the most helpful part of the Apple Watch Twitter experience, which is also what Slack is now relying on.

Other companies that have stopped offering Apple Watch apps include Target, eBay, Whole Foods, Amazon, and Google (for Google Maps). eBay and Google have both said Apple Watch support might return in the future, but have not yet released new apps.

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Electric Motor Manufacturer YASA Secures £15m Growth Funding, Opens New Oxford Production Facility


**Investment will increase production capacity to meet customer commitments and support further business expansion**

**Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP to open YASA’s new 100,000-unit capacity production facility in Oxford today**

OXFORD, England–(BUSINESS WIRE)–February 1, 2018–

YASA, the world’s leading manufacturer of axial-flux electric motors and controllers, today announced raising £15 million in growth funding. Universal Partners joins Parkwalk Advisors and other existing investors in the round, bringing the total raised by the company to £35 million.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

An axial-flux electric motor manufactured by YASA (Photo: Business Wire)

An axial-flux electric motor manufactured by YASA (Photo: Business Wire)

This £15 million investment follows YASA’s signing of long-term development and supply agreements with customers in the automotive sector. The company has recently opened a new 100,000-unit capacity production facility in Oxford, UK to meet the growing demand for its products. Eighty per cent of YASA’s production is destined for export to automotive manufacturers across the world, including China.

The new production facility will be officially opened today by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP. A range of YASA-powered vehicles will be on display at the event, including cars from Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover and Williams Advanced Engineering.

The Business Secretary Greg Clark MP said, “YASA is a brilliant example of what can be achieved when government, academia and industry come together to turn the best ideas from the best minds into scale-up companies.”

YASA’s innovative axial-flux electric motor design offers best-in-class power and torque densities and is ideally suited to both hybrid and pure electric vehicle applications. With YASA’s technology, automotive manufacturers have greater design flexibility to improve vehicle performance whilst reducing vehicle weight.

YASA motors and controllers enable automotive manufacturers to meet increasingly stringent emissions targets whilst delivering exciting driving experiences. In addition to automotive, YASA motors are used in marine applications and in aerospace where high power density and torque density are critical.

Dr. Chris Harris, YASA’s CEO said, “Our customers are looking to adopt innovative new technologies such as YASA’s axial-flux electric motors and controllers in order to meet the needs of the rapidly expanding hybrid and pure electric automotive market. This additional £15 million in growth funding will enable YASA to further invest in the volume production capacity necessary to meet our customers’ requirements, and to address markets beyond automotive including aerospace and marine.”

Andrew Birrell of Universal Partners – who joins YASA’s board – said, “YASA has unique and highly differentiated axial-flux motor technology that offers clear advantages in terms of power and torque density compared to their competition in class. We are pleased to have the opportunity to invest and are very excited by the prospects for the Company.”

Alastair Kilgour, Chief Investment Officer at Parkwalk Advisors said, “YASA has made excellent commercial progress over the past two years and we are pleased to continue to support the Company in this latest financing round. With the rapid growth of electrification in automotive and other sectors such as aerospace and marine, we believe YASA has huge business potential.”



YASA is the world’s leading manufacturer of axial-flux electric motors and controllers for automotive, aerospace and marine applications. YASA’s proprietary electric motor and controller products offer the smallest, lightest form factor for a given power and torque requirement. The privately-held company is based in Oxford, the UK’s automotive manufacturing heartland. Investors include Parkwalk Advisors and Universal Partners.

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Blockchain could trigger the game industry’s next evolution


Technology is mostly incremental. We make batteries last 20 percent longer. We make glass strong enough to serve as the front surface of a cellphone. We let headphones sample ambient sounds so they can filter more noise. Products perform better. They cost less. They last longer.

Sometimes a different sort of innovation comes along, a technology that serves as the platform for unanticipated breakthroughs. These innovations disrupt the status quo, toppling established market leaders and creating opportunities for a generation of creators: artists, technicians, leaders, or dreamers.

The full implications of these major innovations are never fully grasped at first. A few visionaries get a glimpse and play a hand in the disruptive transformations that accompany the new technology. But disruptive technologies don’t achieve full fruition until they are harnessed by a community of creative dreamers who use them to instantiate their creative visions.

That’s where we stand today with blockchain.

What is blockchain?

Blockchain is a data structure and associated set of algorithms for distributing, storing, and accessing data. Computer programs use blockchain protocols to ensure that access to information is, due to the unique distributed nature of the blockchain architecture, secure, authenticated, and authorized. The technology supports the authentication and transfer of digital data, including everything from medical records to cryptocurrency without the need for an intermediary broker.

That’s why blockchain is ideal as the technical foundation for an international, friction-free virtual currency like Bitcoin or GAME. Every unit of cryptocurrency is indexed and every transaction is recorded in a secure, authenticated open ledger that maintains anonymity and privacy among those who conduct the transaction while providing a verifiable record.

Blockchain data and currency transfers are implemented as “smart transactions” that take place without the need for a middleman. If you’ve ever secured a mortgage to buy a house, you know about escrow, a place the buyer’s funds are held by a bank until all the contracts have been signed and they are released to the seller. With blockchain, there’s no need to pay a bank to hold funds in escrow. The buyer and seller can conduct their transaction in a secure, verifiable environment. Every step of the transaction is stored as a block in the chain, and each block has encoded pointers to the preceding and following block. Blockchain data is therefore permanent, private, and secure.

Blockchain technology exists in a spectrum of usefulness. At one end, you could visit the player’s home and deliver groceries or bars of gold. Then there’s PayPal, cash, credit cards, bank transfers … there are many mechanisms for transferring funds from one person to another. The blockchain solution is no more useful, but it is more convenient because you can do it from within the game environment. The end result is the same no matter which technology you employ. Blockchain is distinguished from other solutions by its convenience and the way it does not disrupt gameplay.

This mirrors the way automobiles have impacted the world. The fact is, the automobile originally didn’t do anything you couldn’t do on foot, on a horse, or on a train. Cars were more convenient, but some questioned whether the incremental benefits justified the establishment of a network of fueling stations and the construction of roads, bridges, parking lots, and so on. If all a car does is give you a little more speed than a horse, then where’s the revolution?

The revolution wasn’t obvious at first. But over time, the automobile fundamentally changed the way we create cities and neighborhoods, the way we separate the places we work from the places we live, the way we distribute food and other goods … not to mention its huge impact on the global economy. Although it offers only an incremental benefit over the horse and buggy, the automobile really has changed everything.

Blockchain technology is rapidly finding important applications beyond cryptocurrency. For example, it seems to be ideal for giving doctors, clinics, and hospitals appropriate access to digital medical records. Blockchain lets you share all your medical records with specialists and clinics from a single distributed datastore secured with a digital key. This eliminates the privacy, access, and data-format barriers that have historically prevented medical records from being digitized and shared despite the obvious benefits.

This new way of looking at data, privacy, transactions, and ownership promises to serve as the foundation of a new wave of imaginative products and services. Software companies, financial-services firms, research consortiums, national governments, and other groups are investing heavily into research and tools for developing products and services based on blockchain technology.

Transforming the gaming world

The most obvious way to integrate blockchain technology into gaming is to use the same blockchain-based cryptocurrency to reward in-game achievements, to purchase upgrades and game options, and to purchase other games from the online store. It turns out the blurring the line between game-commerce and real-commerce creates freedom and opportunities for players. We at GameCredits were the first to announce technology that integrates cryptocurrency into gaming in these ways, but we won’t be the last. A host of start-up companies have announced their intentions to implement similar features.

But blockchain can do much more. For instance, a blockchain could also be used as a data structure to store gameplay, with each of a player’s moves within the game stored as a transaction in a verifiable ledger. It’s a simple way to document the record-breaking high scores you earn when no one is around — even for tournament play. In a blockchain-structured game, this storage would happen automatically and the historic data would be accessible to anyone who receives a key.

Developers could even use blockchain nodes to store executable elements of the game program, linking to them at run-time to create a more varied, unpredictable gaming experience.

Let’s talk specifics.

Blockchain technology enables four key freedoms for players.

  • Freedom to collaborate

Role-playing adventure games enable you to form teams or cohorts to accomplish quests. With blockchain, you might transform your time investment and game-playing skills into a career as a game master, requiring prospective members to buy a place on the team to compensate you for your leadership, management, and story-crafting skills. This is already happening, on a limited basis, in tabletop role-playing games, but blockchain could help the profession grow by supporting game masters in existing and new MMORPGs. Integration with a blockchain-based cryptocurrency makes it simple to collect the payments, to distribute them to players for excellent performance or prizes, and to share the spoils your cohort earns upon slaying a dragon or rescuing a village.

Blockchain lets you send gifts or loans to team members without leaving the game environment. In fact, clever programmers could associate blockchain-based cryptocurrency with particular prize objects within the game’s miniverse. When you give a cohort member a purse full of gold or a fist-sized ruby, the value is not merely symbolic: It’s actual, based on the underlying cryptocurrency’s value within the miniverse and — crucially — outside the game in the game store or the virtual currency exchange. Blockchain helps make interactions with other gamers more social and more lucrative.

Blockchain is a way for you to interact and negotiate with other players directly — inside the game — without using the game’s developer, the online host, your bank or credit card provider, or even the game software as an intermediary. It’s a flexible, friction-free alternative to a game-disrupting pop-up window to enable an e-commerce transaction.

  • Freedom to profit

Serious gamers accumulate lots of in-game rewards. In traditional gaming, those rewards disappear the moment you log out. They are useful only within a single game, and even then, once you’ve achieved the top level they really aren’t good for much.

With blockchain, the rewards you earn stay with you, and you can use them however you want. You can spend them in the game, use them in the game store, hold them as an investment, or transform them into cryptocurrency or fiat at an online exchange.

A very good player could conceivably accumulate enough in-game achievements to play games for a living. Gaming has become a profession in the esports world already. The next few years will see the continued transformation of gaming from a hobby to a career, at least for some people, much like music or athletics. Among the new gaming-based careers will be a kind of achievement-mining, in which good players accumulate cryptocurrency through in-game achievements, ad hoc competitions with other players, and wagering on amateur competitions.

Blockchain means more game developers and managers will announce tournaments with prizes with rewards in cryptocurrency that winners can use within the game, in the e-store, and in the offline world.

Without blockchain, players must count on game publishers or store operators to convert achievements into cash. Some publishers would participate and others wouldn’t. Policies and restrictions would vary by publisher or by game. Credits accumulated in one game would disappear if the game were to be discontinued. Blockchain supports the conversion of achievements into cryptocurrency that is accepted throughout the gaming world.

  • Freedom to grow

You can use your blockchain wallet to invest in your own success as a player. You can double-down on the game you’re playing, purchasing options and upgrades. You can enlist the help of expert players or enter expert-only playing levels. You can use rewards earned playing one game to skip past tedious opening levels in another, although this would require developers to build this possibility function into their games. You can study the moves of expert players – stored automatically and efficiently in the blockchain database – to benefit from their expertise.

Without blockchain and a widely accepted cryptocurrency, such investments are limited to a single game, publisher, or ecosystem. The verification, openness, and freedom from intermediaries offered by blockchain technology make it ideal for breaking through the barriers that separate businesses and players today.

  • Freedom to create

With blockchain, the game designer’s goal doesn’t have to be your goal. Blockchain technology empowers you to pursue your own goals and tailor your gaming experience to your own preferences.

In-game wagering is an example. If you’re playing a neighborhood simulation, you might bet another player that you could have a better garden or make more virtual friends during a session. You each contribute a bit of cryptocurrency and the winner takes it all. Without a blockchain-based cryptocurrency, you would need to approve each potential transaction with your bank or credit-card provider. And you would need a trusted intermediary to hold funds in escrow until the wager is resolved. With blockchain, such intermediaries — and escrow fees — are unnecessary.

Alternately, you might pay a neighbor to collaborate with you and help you plant virtual crops or build a barn. Blockchain lets you create your own solutions to challenges you encounter in the game. You could do this today in a particular publisher’s in-game technology of rewards and achievements. With blockchain’s verified open transaction model, you’re free to create and dissolve such partnerships on an ad hoc basis — including partnerships that the game publisher never anticipated.

Even the most open of today’s gaming platforms restrict your options. The game’s goals and environment are dictated by developers. You play the developer’s game or you don’t – those are your only options. With blockchain, every player can create new games in the developer’s world by incentivizing certain achievements. You can collaborate with who you like, set game goals and rewards that make sense to you, and play your own game within the developer’s gaming universe.

It’s not just monetizing, though that feature is garnering lots of attention. What the approach really implies, long-term, is the creation of a rich world like World of Warcraft in which the game developer’s quests are just the beginning. Players can establish their own quests and assign negotiable achievement points to tasks along the way. Advanced players can accept fees as game masters or as designers of quests. A cohort that’s facing a big challenge might hire mercenaries within the game — temporary cohort members. Blockchain isn’t necessary for any of these changes, strictly speaking, but once you’ve re-engineered a game for blockchain and digital assets, it’s a small step from developing games to developing game-worlds-as-platforms for customers to create their own adventures – either on their own or with the assistance of experienced guides.

Game developers will be free to implement this feature or not, of course. But some surely will. Historically, the trend is for gaming miniverses to allow more flexibility and freedom for players over time. Games get more and more like real life. Armed with blockchain, future developers could shift their focus to world-building, selling a game as a Quest Kit – a customizable world-building kit plus the infrastructure to create and incentivize behaviors. People could create different quests or communities as they wish using the kit as a starting point, making every player a de facto game developer.

Blockchain for game developers

That’s the player’s side. For developers, blockchain represents exciting opportunities to innovate.

You can create games that are more compelling. Players will be drawn to games that allow them to earn meaningful rewards instead of mere in-game trophies. They will work harder and longer to achieve milestones. They’ll create strategies and explore your world in ways previous generations of players couldn’t. Your games won’t just have fans – they’ll have  enthusiastic collaborators, gamers who help create new adventures for other gamers. That’s one reason so many cryptocurrency startups are following GameCredits into the gaming world these days.

Blockchain also supports you in your desire to be more creative. With an in-game economy that interacts with real-world currency, you can open up all sorts of options that never made economic or practical sense before. Custom adventures. Special versions for elite players. Worlds with lots of resources but few rules. Blockchain lets your users collaborate to create their own games within the worlds you envision for them. For example, a game master might create a quest to colonize a certain region of the virtual world or to collaborate in gathering certain kinds of objects — creating games that never existed before. There’s no need to type in a credit card number or type in your PayPal ID. These features can be implemented without breaking the spell that gamers crave and developers work hard to sustain.

It’s up to you to make those worlds sufficiently enticing to capture their attention. Look for a software development kit that lets you add blockchain technology — including cryptocurrency support — with a couple of mouse-clicks.

Higher profits are on the way too. When games are more compelling, players purchase more upgrades and add-ons. They explore optional equipment and additional lands or histories or scenarios. With online wallets full of cryptocurrency they’ve earned playing your game, they’ll be eager to purchase more, especially since a fully integrated cryptocurrency makes the purchase friction-free.

Plus, the ease of blockchain-based e-commerce means that the e-stores that sell your games can afford to charge a smaller commission, pay you faster, and perhaps create incentives to publish more games for the blockchain platform.

The sky’s the limit

Of course there’s more. Thomas Edison never imagined Spotify or the Apple Store. We have note seen more than a glimpse of the blockchain-transformed world of gaming that is barreling toward us at 60 seconds per minute.

Blockchain is more than a cryptocurrency, more than a way of allowing interaction without intermediaries. It is also an auditable, verifiable datastore that records players’ moves within a game, serving as a sort of finite-state-machine record of how players progress through the game. Developers have always been able to create such datastores. What’s unique about blockchain is that the data is protected yet verifiable in an open ledger. Having every move of every player automatically recorded opens up a world of possibilities.

  • Developers or sponsors could hold a virtual tournament for a single-player game. Just ask players to send a pointer to the best game they played during the contest period. All their moves are in the datastore, so it’s easy to verify the quality of the entrant’s performance. The sponsor could even publish the move-by-move record of the winning game.
  • New players could challenge record-holders – like playing a legendary master of chess or Go. The datastore lets them step through a one-on-one battle against a great player, analyzing the player’s every move before proceeding to the next move.
  • Play-by-play records could support the development of game coaching and clinics, in which experts analyze players’ performance, pointing out errors and missed opportunities. Similarly, teachers could create seminars in which they analyze and explain the work of expert players.

These features have unlikely precedents in the world of tabletop games, where masters’ moves were recorded on paper. By creating and maintaining records of game-play, blockchain will more efficiently bring those benefits to the world of video games.

Watch for the emergence of big data tools that scan through the game-play records of tens of millions of anonymous players, identifying winning techniques and strategies. That information can help developers make games more challenging and compelling. It can help game coaches and educators create substantive, worthwhile seminars. Gamers can study the information to improve their own play. Gaming is a $100 billion worldwide industry.

And that’s just data. Blocks of distributable code can also be stored in blockchain nodes. Every industry group associated with the blockchain movement is starting to assess the potential of incorporating a distributed, verifiable data structure as the basis of a distributed computing system. Blockchain could address and nullify the security concerns of malicious executable code, not just in games, but everywhere in the internet-connected world.

One thing’s for sure. We stand at the threshold of a disruptive transformation in the ways games are built and played. The next generation of games will be more flexible, more rewarding, and more profitable for players and developers alike.

J.D. Hildebrand is director of content at GNation.

The PC Gaming channel is presented by Intel®‘s Game Dev program.

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Spotify Testing Free Pandora-Style ‘Stations’ App on Android Devices

Spotify is doubling down on free music and has begun testing a standalone app that offers a station-based streaming music experience similar to Pandora’s original music service, reports Variety.

“Stations,” available on Android devices in Australia, is designed to let users stream free music from curated radio-like stations. The app’s description says that Stations “is an experiment by Spotify that makes it easy for anyone to listen to great music.”

Stations is the easiest way to listen to the music you love. Totally free.

When you have access to all the music in the world, finding the right thing to play can feel like a challenge. With Stations, you can listen immediately, and switching stations is simple and seamless–no searching or typing needed. As you listen, it learns what you like and creates personalised stations that you’ll love.

Based on the app’s description, Stations is designed to make it quick and easy to find new music, with the app offering up personalized stations after it “learns what you like.” Spotify says there’s no searching or typing required to use the app.

It’s not clear what Spotify plans to do with Stations in the future, and it’s not known if the company plans to eventually release an iOS app, but Stations does fill a much-needed function – it provides more free listening options for customers on mobile devices.

Spotify’s main app also has a free ad-supported listening tier, but the on-demand service is limited to customers who use Spotify on the desktop. On mobile devices, listening options are far more limited.

Spotify’s main app boasts 140 million total active subscribers and 70 million paying subscribers, so the unpaid market is still huge for Spotify and one consumer group that Apple does not reach. Apple Music has no free listening tier, and Apple has no plans to implement one.

For now, Spotify’s new Stations app is limited to a select number of Android devices in Australia and it is supported via ads.

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Gucci made its own horrifying custom ‘Year of the Dog’ Animoji

Gucci became the first fashion house to release custom Animoji today, made specially for Lunar New Year. Unlike standard Apple-made Animoji, Gucci’s can be accessed within its mobile app, which also houses all the Gucci content, from fashion show footage and wallpapers to a photo booth that lets you stick chic stickers onto your photos.

The pair of Animoji dogs are based on Gucci Creative Director Alessandro Michele’s own Boston terriers, Bosco and Orso. The app explains that the Animoji are inspired by artworks by Unskilled Worker, a Gucci collaborator.

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This Is the Police 2 delves into the morals and politics of law enforcement

This Is the Police 2 is Weappy Studios’s sequel to its 2016 adventure strategy game. Like the first This Is the Police, it seeks to tackle the tricky interplay between power, politics, and personal conflicts within and outside of the police force. It will launch later this year on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and the Nintendo Switch.

Playing as Sheriff Lilly Reed, the player has to run their police force in the remote town of Sharpwood. This Is the Police 2 incorporates management simulation mechanics, and Reed has to delegate tasks to officers who have access to limited equipment. Each character also has specific skill sets, strengths, and weaknesses that can make them good for one mission or another. They also have prejudices that could lead to messy situations.

Weappy’s cofounder and game director Ilya Yanovich says that the team began working on the first title shortly before Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. At that time, people asked the studio how these events affected the development of the game.

“Back then we said we were trying to talk about universal problems that aren’t tied to any specific recent events,” said Yanovich in an email to GamesBeat. “It was true then, and it remains true now. A few years have passed, but terrible cases of abuse of power, by the police and by others, still regularly appear in the news headlines – and I’m afraid they’ll never disappear. We can struggle against this to the best of our ability, but we must also try to understand it.”

Like in the first game, This Is the Police 2 explores corruption and violence. Yanovich says that the new lead character adds another element as well. As a woman in charge of the local police department, she faces significant resistance.

“Women’s leadership in the face of mocking male sabotage is one of the new themes of TITP2,” says Yanovich. “Other themes will be familiar to those who played the first game: the thirst for power and the abyss into which it leads. Our game is about compromises with law and one’s conscience, and how quickly those compromises corrode order and decency. And most importantly, our game is about the fear that can turn every one of us into a criminal.”

It’s a complex situation where everyone seems to be tainted in some way. Yanovich describes the police in the game as “full of prejudice and prone to violence” — and on the other hand, Sharpwood’s citizens are “ignorant and cruel.” However, these two groups need each other, and they’re stuck together in a gloomy, snowy town that’s reminiscent of the Coen brothers’ Fargo or David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

“This Is the Police 2 is a game about compromises, sometimes tough and unpleasant, and sometimes running against your beliefs – but maybe after experiencing these situations inside the game, the player might better understand the people that are forced to make similar compromises in real life,” said Yanovich. “If you ask players what makes video games special compared with other forms of art, most of them will focus on interactivity – meaning you can influence (via game mechanics) what is happening in the game. But perhaps it’s just the opposite: the interactivity of video games is how they use their mechanics to influence you.”

The PC Gaming channel is presented by Intel®‘s Game Dev program.

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LG settles bootloop lawsuit with $425 in cash or a $700 rebate toward a new LG phone

Last summer, LG faced a class action lawsuit over bootloop issues with its G4, V10, V20, Nexus 5X, and G5 smartphones. The lawsuit reached a settlement today, with LG offering afflicted device owners in the suit either $425 in cash or a $700 rebate toward a future LG device, according to Android Police. The issue, related to manufacturing defects on LG’s end, meant some owners of those devices were left with inoperable phones or phones that were stuck in a never-ending reboot cycle, hence the bootloop name.

If you’re a class member, you’ve either been contacted by the firm representing the class action suit or will be in the next couple of days to file a claim before February 12th. If you didn’t join the class already, unfortunately…

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A single YouTube channel is flooding Bing’s video search with fake news

Over the course of the last several years, every major social platform has been plagued by fake news. Now Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, has a fake news problem of its own.

Because of how the search engine’s autofill feature works, people who visit Bing looking for news videos may be redirected to a flood of fake news videos, all generated by a single source. You can see how it works for yourself: click on the “News” tab from Bing’s homepage. The page autofills the search bar with “Top stories.” Now travel to any other search tab, including “Maps” or “Images” and you’ll see that the search bar retains the “Top stories” query. Autofilling “Top stories” into the search bar appears to be an innocuous design decision — until you hit the…

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Logitech’s HomeKit-Enabled Circle 2 Cameras Gain Notification Snapshots and Subscription Discounts

Logitech today announced the launch of new features for its HomeKit-compatible Circle 2 security cameras via an update to the Logi Circle app.

Notification Snapshots, a new in-app feature, are designed to provide a visual “snapshot” notification of an event whenever motion is detected by the Circle 2 camera.

With this option, you’ll get a visual representation of exactly what triggered the motion detection feature rather than a simple text-based notification that lets you know motion was detected. Snapshots will be sent via push notification and should let you react more quickly to incoming motion detection alerts.

For customers who also subscribe to Logitech’s Circle Safe premium service, Notification Snapshots offer up a zoomed-in view of the object or person that triggered the motion detection based on the Circle’s Person Detection feature.

Enabling Notification Snapshots on existing Circle 2 cameras will require you to download the updated Logi Circle app from the App Store and install a new firmware update from within the app.

Along with new notification features, Logitech is also introducing new Circle Safe Home subscription plans designed for customers with multiple cameras.

Circle Safe pricing starts at $3.99 per month for the basic subscription for a single camera and goes up to $9.99 per month (or $99.99 per year) for the premium subscription, but customers with multiple cameras can now get discounted prices.

For up to five cameras, Circle Safe Basic starts at $6.99 per month or $69 per year, while Circle Safe Premium starts at $17.99 per month or $179 per year.

Circle Safe Basic and Circle Safe Premium allow you to store video in the cloud for a longer period of time and access premium features. Logitech’s cameras, available from Logitech and Amazon for $180, can be used sans subscription, but only 24 hours of video footage is stored in the cloud.

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Half the Picture proves that #MeToo alone won’t solve sexism in entertainment

Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our brief breakdown-style reviews of festival films, VR previews, and other special event releases. This review comes from the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

In spite of all the focus on gender inequity in the film and TV industry over the past few years, the discrepancies are still dire. The visibility of the #MeToo movement and the sexual-abuse scandals that have rocked Hollywood may give the impression that women are making gains in the industry, but statistics still show them sliding backward in terms of representation: recent numbers show that half the students at the major film schools are women, but 91 percent of studio movies are still directed by men. And every study on the subject suggests widespread…

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SpaceX nails reused booster launch, Falcon Heavy’s maiden flight days away

Despite a brief 24-hour delay due to weather and minor mechanical issues, SpaceX recycled the launch opportunity and completed the mission on Wednesday afternoon, January 31. Tasked with carrying GovSat-1 to orbit, the reused Falcon 9 rocket (Booster 1032) performed flawlessly and as expected, although the stage was expended. Launch directors confirmed just before the end of the live webcast that the communications satellite, a public-private partnership between SES and Luxembourg, was placed into a good orbit a few minutes before it separated from Falcon 9’s second stage. The mission marks SpaceX’s second successful launch of 2018, its first reused flight of the year, and the last launch before Falcon Heavy’s inaugural flight – currently scheduled for Tuesday, February 6.

Perhaps most intriguingly (or at least uniquely), the to-be-expended booster was still seen outfitted with both grid fins and landing legs at the launch pad, the new legs a stark white against the dark and sooty backdrop of the Falcon 9’s recycled booster. While SpaceX’s webcast host very explicitly stated at least three times that the first stage was not going to be recovered, careful listeners may have still caught snippets of the launch and recovery directors announcing different milestones as Falcon 9 S1 landed softly in the Atlantic Ocean. Similar to the recovery operations after the launch of Iridium-4 in December 2018, S1 flew as if it were landing aboard a drone ship, although in the case of this launch that theatricality extended even to landing legs.

While it may seem quite odd that SpaceX would choose to expend an entire, recoverable rocket, it is presumed that SpaceX is simply choosing to rid itself of a stock of older boosters incapable of flying more than once or twice – preparing for the introduction of the highly reusable Block 5 of Falcon 9, in other words. As stated by the webcast host, a SpaceX engineer, the company’s goal is for boosters to last “tens of launches in the short term, and hundreds or thousands of launches in the long term.” It is worth remembering that expending rocket boosters in the ocean (or even over land for Russia and China) is the status quo of all non-SpaceX rockets, and SpaceX has only just begun to perfect booster recovery and reuse – the first successful ocean recovery was completed less than two years ago. The very fact that it already feels odd or even wrong to “throw away” hardware into the ocean after launch is a testament to just how rapidly SpaceX have changed both the figurative and literal paradigms of orbital rocketry, and it is only a matter of time before the eminently persistent company ends the practice of expendable launches internally, if not globally.

Up next, Falcon Heavy

After yet another successful mission for SpaceX, the company’s Florida efforts will now briefly focus on the imminent inaugural launch of Falcon Heavy, the company’s newest and largest rocket. Loosely penciled in for liftoff on Tuesday, February 6, the massive vehicle will become the most powerful and capable operational rocket in the world, comparable only to the likes of NASA’s Saturn V and Space Shuttle, as well as the Soviet Union’s short-lived Energia. Regardless of its place against a historical backdrop of massive state-funded rockets, Falcon Heavy will by default become the most powerful commercial launch vehicle ever developed, and that title will almost certainly remain uncontested until 2020 at the absolute earliest. If or when the first and smallest version of NASA’s SLS rocket launches, likely also no earlier than 2020, the space agency may well take the crown back for a brief year or so. Regardless, SpaceX will likely be regularly launching Falcon Heavies and nearing the tail end of the development and testing of its much larger BFR rocket and spaceship.

Falcon Heavy will be the clearest progress yet towards such a massive rocket, and will provide SpaceX with invaluable experience and expertise as the only private company to ever operate a super heavy-lift launch vehicle (SHLLV). After a solid four weeks of near-constant testing, bug-fixing, and retesting, Falcon Heavy just days ago completed its first static fire, marking the first point in its history that all 27 of its first stage engines were simultaneously ignited. The data produced by that crucial test was apparently satisfactory, and Elon Musk just yesterday reiterated that the vehicle’s first launch was still targeting February 6.

Follow along live as launch photographer Tom Cross and your intrepid author cover these groundbreaking events live.

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In Extreme Heat, Trees Stop Sucking Carbon From the Air

Carbon Capture

Researchers in Australia have made a strange new observation about how trees respond to extreme temperatures. After observing trees in the country for a full year, scientists from the University of Western Sydney’s Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment found that, in extreme heat, leaves “sweat” to survive.

Until now, it was believed that photosynthesis and transpiration (the process of water release) couldn’t occur without each other. The new study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, showed that during extreme heatwaves trees temporarily stop capturing carbon — even as they continue to release water through their leaves. The “sweating” action helps to keep trees cool, but the observations regarding carbon capture have raised concerns about what will happen as global warming progresses.

Trees were found to “sweat” in response to extreme heat. Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay

If current predictions hold true, these extreme heat events will only become more frequent and more severe. Prof Mark Tjoelker, an author on the study from the University of Western Sydney’s Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, told the Guardian that “If heatwaves occur over a large surface area. . .clearly, the trees and native forests in that area would take up less carbon. And if there is an increased frequency of heatwaves that obviously impacts their ability to serve as carbon sinks.”

The question is, do these findings mean it’s conceivable that trees might stop capturing carbon altogether?

Climate-Affected Trees

For the study, researchers planted a dozen “whole-tree capsules” with seedlings at two locations: the Hawkesbury forest and a site in Yarramundi, near Sydney. The pods were climate and temperature-controlled which gave the researchers the ability to control all the variables.

For half the capsules, the researchers simulated an environment for them to grow in where the average temperature had risen 3 degrees centigrade. This would model what far-future temperatures could be like if climate change is not curbed. Looking at all the trees in the study, they simulated several “heat waves” to see how they would cope. The trees grown in warmer temps didn’t necessarily fare any better than the ones that hadn’t. “It didn’t matter whether the trees were grown under current climate conditions or the 3C increase of the future,” Tjoelker told the Guardian,” they responded equally well.”

Trees are known to respond to stress in a number of ways, and it seems that “sweating” may be just one example. Often times, that stress comes from human activity: nearby traffic to accidental injuries from lawn mowers, this stress can change a tree’s appearance and slow its growth.

Further studies will need to be conducted using other tree species to see if this coping mechanism holds true for more than just the species in Australia. If so, it could spell trouble for humans. Trees are an important part of our ability to survive on planet Earth. Aside from carbon emissions, when we exhale carbon dioxide, trees capture it and convert it into oxygen.

Without major steps to slow climate change, extreme heatwaves and heat events will only become more frequent and intense. If trees begin to capture less carbon or stop capturing carbon altogether, the impact it could have on the human species, as well as the other organisms on Earth which depend on oxygen, could be profound.

For now, more studies are needed to help researchers better understand the process of “tree sweating” and whether or not it’s possible that trees could one day stop capturing carbon. If that’s the case, though, perhaps the research will also reveal it’s possible (and necessary) to genetically engineer trees to ensure their — and our — continued survival.

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The UK Will Soon Be Home to the World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm

Capturing More Wind Energy

The United Kingdom will soon be the home of the world’s largest offshore wind farm. Construction has begun on the 407 sq. kilometer (157 sq. miles) project, with power company Ørsted leading development. The company explains the 1.2 gigawatt (GW) wind farm is being constructed 120km (74.5 miles) off the Yorkshire coast and is expected to be completed by 2020. Upon completion, it will be capable of supplying clean energy to over 1 million homes.

Officially called Hornsea Project One, the first of the farm’s 174 monopiles has already been installed. Monopiles are cylindrical support structures made of steel that are installed deep within the seabed. They’re the most commonly used foundations in offshore wind farm projects, and each monopile used for Hornsea Project One is 65m (213 ft) long, weighs around 800 tons, and has a diameter of 8.1m (26.5 ft).

Construction is being carried out by two ships. The first, the Jack-Up Vessel Innovation, is handling the aforementioned monopiles — of which it can carry up to four at a time. The second ship — A2Sea’s vessel Sea Installer — will join the project in March, installing the 7 megawatt (MW), 190m (623 ft) tall wind turbines and turbine blades. It can carry four turbines at a time. According to Electrek, these turbines could potentially generate 25 hours of electricity with one blade rotation.

More Wind Farms to Come

Once Hornsea Project One is completed, Ørsted has plans for additional wind farms. The appropriately named Hornsea Project Two will follow soon after the first and is expected to power up to 1.6 million homes. Hornsea Project Three, while still in early development, will be constructed near the preceding two wind farms.

“These wind farms will not only greatly contribute to the UK’s goal of decarbonizing our energy system, they are also bringing jobs and investment to Grimsby and the North East,” said Duncan Clark, program director for the project, in a press release.

A conceptual map showing the location of Hornsea Projects One, Two, and Three. Image Credit: Ørsted

Currently, the title of world’s largest wind farm belongs to the London Array. The 630 MW wind farm is 100 sq. kilometers (38 sq. miles) in size, and powers roughly 500,000 homes in the UK. Germany is home to the world’s largest wind turbine, however, which towers over the German town of Gaildorf at an impressive 808 ft tall.

It’ll be interesting to see if wind farms continue to grow in size as wind energy becomes more viable. Last year, scientists at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California suggested that a single giant wind farm built in the North Atlantic could capture enough energy to power the entire planet. While it’s an interesting idea, it would bring its own set of problems — such as dealing with extreme mid-ocean weather, reducing the performance of onshore wind farms in the UK, and reducing temperatures in the Arctic.

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Five iOS Apps Worth Checking Out – January 2018

Over on our YouTube channel, we’ve started a new monthly video series highlighting new, interesting, and useful iOS apps that we think are well worth checking out.

With so many apps available in the iOS App Store, it can sometimes be hard to find new content, and it’s easy to overlook some older apps that are also great. Our app lists will include both older and newer apps that we personally recommend and have used over the course of the month.

Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos.

This month’s video includes apps that run the gamut from productivity to exercise, and we’ve also included our favorite game of the month. All of the apps we mention are listed below with download links:

Bear (Free) – Bear is a writing, coding, and note taking app that has a clean, simple interface and a rich feature set. It’s available on iOS and Mac devices, and it offers Apple Pencil support, todos, multiple export options, an Advanced Markup Editor with support for more than 20 programming languages, SmartData Recognition, in-line images and photos, hashtags for organization, and more.

Bear is free to download, but if you want to sync your notes between your devices, unlock themes, and use advanced exporting options, you’ll need to pay $1.49 per month or $14.99 per year for a subscription.

Workout (Free) – There are an endless number of workout apps available from the App Store, but we’re highlighting Workout for its easy-to-create workout plans, tutorial videos, progress tracking, and exercise database. Workout is free to download, but to unlock all of the features, you’ll need a subscription. It’s $15 for one month, $30 for a year, or $40 for lifetime access.

Adobe Spark Video (Free) – Adobe’s Spark Video app is designed to allow anyone – even someone who is new to video editing – to create high-quality videos from video clips and photos in a matter of minutes. It’s a great way to spruce up your Instagram and Facebook videos.

A Color Story (Free) – A Color Story is a photo editing app that has tons of preset filters and effects you can apply to your photos, similar to popular app VSCO. You can choose a filter and then add effects like bokeh, confetti, color overlays, or light flares. The best feature is batch edit, which lets you get the same effect on multiple photos at once.

A Color Story is free with some filters unlocked, but adding additional filters will require in-app purchases.

The Room: Old Sins ($4.99) – The Room: Old Sins is the fourth game in the popular The Room series, and this one has the same escape room-style puzzles you’ve come to know and love from past games. Old Sins takes place in a super creepy dollhouse and it’s well worth checking out if you loved the other games in the series. Check out our sister site TouchArcade‘s review for more details.

If you’re looking for great Mac apps that are worth downloading, make sure to check out our list of five essential apps for the Mac. And if you have favorite iOS apps, share them with us – we’ll be highlighting interesting, useful iOS apps on a monthly basis.
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Samsung is making processors solely for cryptocurrency mining

Thanks to the cryptocurrency craze, the cost of graphics cards has inflated up to three-times their retail price whiles reducing inventories to all time lows month over month. But relief for PC gamers could be coming soon as Samsung aims to build new chips specifically for mining.

Samsung confirmed that its foundry business is ‘engaged the manufacturing of cryptocurrency mining chips’ with TechCrunch. Aside from the scant confirmation, a separate Korean news report from The Bell suggest that the company will produce application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC) designed for single computational tasks.

Among the many unknowns of Samsung’s new confirmed mining chips is how this form of ASIC will be able to readily chip at Ethereum, which has classically been ASIC-resistant. Ethereum isn’t necessarily invulnerable to ASIC, but it’s a problem that Samsung will need to solve.

The Korean electronics firm’s move into the cryptocurrency world might seem like a curious one, but the company is already deeply involved in mining. A majority of the graphics cards used in mining feature Samsung’s high-capacity memory chips. 

And, while Samsung is largely known for its smartphones and QLED 4K TVs, the company recently toppled Intel as the world’s largest chipmaker. So, this latest initiative could help solidify its position in the silicon arena.

Hopefully, Samsung’s move into ASIC chips can help take some of stress of the world’s stockpile of GPUs. But we can also easily see the company’s burgeoning focus in the mining world cut into the memory supply meant for graphics cards as well.

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Best gaming mouse 2018: the best gaming mice we’ve tested

If you’ve just built (or bought) one of the best gaming PCs, it might just be time to pair it with one of the best gaming mice on the market. It is perhaps understandable that you might want to scale back your spending after dropping a thousand bucks on a killer rig, but why would you settle for a mediocre pointing device? You should instead pick up a best gaming mouse so that everything attached to that marvelous PC is of comparable quality. And luckily, you’ve come to the right place, as we have put together a list of the best gaming mice that we’ve been lucky enough to get our hands on over the last year or so.

As with any PC component, especially any gaming peripherals, you’ll see a lot of people claiming that the most expensive equipment is always the best equipment. It’s just not true. When you are looking for the best gaming mice, you need be on the lookout for any mice that strike a balance between price and performance – not just the highest price tag on Newegg. And that’s the exact philosophy we approached this list of the best gaming mice with. The SteelSeries Sensei 310, for example, costs about as much as a new game, and it matches this price with great specs. You can improve your game in style – even on a budget.

Every single mouse on this list hits this golden value balance. We’ve reviewed or tested and ranked every mouse on this list, and each has earned our coveted seal of approval – you should be confident that no matter which of these mice you choose, you’ll be satisfied with it. No matter what kind of games you want to play, after going through this list, we believe you’ll get your hands on one of the best gaming mice.

SteelSeries is experiencing a sort of renaissance in 2018, and there is no greater evidence of that than the SteelSeries Rival 600. Featuring customizable weight, the perfect amount of side buttons, and true RGB spectrum lighting the Rival 600 will be the centerpiece of your desk. But, even beyond the aesthetics, the Rival 600 performs far better than a mouse in its price range has any right to. Not only does it feature a 12,000 DPI sensor and satisfying mechanical switches, but the Rival 600 goes above and beyond and features a depth sensor that will all but eliminate cursor sway when you lift your mouse off of the mouse pad. This is truly the best gaming mouse you can buy today.

Read the full review: SteelSeries Rival 600 

The SteelSeries Sensei 310 is a gaming mouse unlike any other, in terms of both price and performance. The low entry fee keeps it on the same level as what you’d pay for a new game, while its amazing TrueMove 3 optical sensor, produced through an exclusive partnership with mouse sensor titans Pixart, makes it almost infeasible to compete with. This mouse, with no preference when it comes to dexterity, features frankly unparalleled real-world sensitivity. 

Read the full review: SteelSeries Sensei 310 

Undeterred by years of ridicule for their comparatively higher latency, the Logitech G900 of yesteryear proved once and for all that wireless gaming mice don’t have to suck. Though it’s merely a subtle iteration on that model, the Logitech G903 only reassures us of that conviction. Gracing a slightly altered G900 design with Logitech’s own PowerPlay mouse pad that doubles as a wireless charger, the Logitech G903 is an expensive, yet rewarding investment. On one hand, the cost might deter someone who wasn’t likely to buy it anyway, but on the other, you’re getting a high-DPI wireless gaming mouse that contends with even Razer’s best.

Read the full review: Logitech G903

Flashy and desirable, there’s no confusion as to why the Asus ROG Gladius II is a bit pricier than other gaming mice in its class. Boasting swappable buttons, a clickable scroll wheel and a sensitivity toggle, this mouse has all the bits gamers crave. There’s even top-to-bottom RGB lighting for an extension of its already-handy customization. Although it doesn’t feature the swappable weights that many others in its price range do, everything else feels comfortable and up to snuff. Better suited for first-person shooters than MMOs, the high DPI rating and 50g acceleration make the Asus ROG Gladius a feat to behold despite lacking features in areas where cheaper mice have conquered.

Read the full review: Asus ROG Gladius II

It’s obvious from the moment you look at the price tag that the Corsair Glaive RGB mouse was designed to go head to head with the Razer DeathAdder Elite. And while Corsair has had a ton of luck with its PC cases, keyboards, RAM, power supplies and cooling systems, a Corsair mouse is automatically a tough sell due to a lack of history alone. Luckily, the company’s latest gaming mouse effort is built for comfort, featuring a coating of soft touch paint and interchangeable thumb grips that augment ergonomics even further. At that point, the nearly perfect three-zone backlighting system and high-DPI Pixart sensor (not to mention the niftily included DPI status lights) are a mere bonus.

Read the full review: Corsair Glaive RGB

It’s not everyday that we see a company known for its sound cards try to take on companies as renowned as Razer and Logitech with a competent gaming mouse of its own. Creative’s Sound BlasterX M04 is exactly that, however, and it’s actually fairly impressive. The 12,000 DPI rating means you won’t need to use pointer acceleration to use the mouse successfully. The RGB lighting scheme, which is controlled using Creative’s own Sound Blaster Connect software, is displayed across a subtle accent at the base of the mouse. Clearly, the Sound BlasterX Siege M04 is a winner in both function and style.

Read the full review: Creative Sound BlasterX Siege M04

You can ask any serious gamer if they prefer wired or wireless mice, and more than likely they’re going to side with the former – the low latency is just too good to pass up. However, there are probably plenty of people out there who want the freedom of movement that a wireless mouse affords. Luckily, the Thermaltake Tt Sports Level 10M combines the best of both worlds, allowing users to switch between wired and wireless modes at will, so nobody has to settle for one or the other. Plus, it’s a great performer, and it feels really good in the hand, even if the metal prong at the front of the mouse (for switching between the two modes) can get in the way from time to time.

Read the full review: Thermaltake Tt Sports Level M 

You know what you’re getting with a Razer DeathAdder mouse, and this year’s Elite model adds a new eSports-grade sensor and features the same right-handed ergonomic design as its predecessor that moulds into your hand, all while adding two new buttons beneath the mouse’s scroll wheel to change DPI (or dots-per-inch) on-the-fly. While the DeathAdder Elite misses out on more advanced features such as the free-spinning scroll wheel that you’ll find on Logitech’s Proteus Core, the Razer’s pretty RGB lighting (customizable lighting with 16.8 million color options through Razer’s synapse software), big and accessible left-mounted buttons and grippable scroll wheel make it the best mice available in the price tier below.

Rival 700

SteelSeries has ventured where few gaming mice have dared by adding a black-and-white OLED display to its Rival 700. Of course, you can’t just add a screen to something without implementing some sort of functionality. That’s why, in Dota 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive and Minecraft, this rampant rodent can be used as a customizable tool to enhance your play sessions. In its less utilitarian form, it can also be used to display animated GIFs. Better yet, the Rival 700 hardware is modular, too, giving users the autonomy to snap covers on and off and even swap between a three- and six-foot USB cable. There are even tactile alerts in place, set to trigger vibrations when in-game resources are replenished. Overall, a distinct piece of tech.

Best gaming mice

In recent years, wireless gaming mice have cultivated a rather adverse reputation, mainly in response to their perceptible lag. With the G900 Chaos Spectrum, however, Logitech seeks to change your mind. Using some form of wizardry, the company somehow managed to get its polling rate down to 1 millisecond on a 2.4GHz connection. Accompanied by accelerated coverage of the entire DPI range, zero smoothing and filtering, this gaming mouse is prepared for everything from your next game of Hearthstone to tournament level Heroes of the Storm. That goes without mentioning an ambidextrous design ideal for left-handed players in addition to a modular button layout.

 How to choose the best gaming mice 2017 


Although you’re bound to determine the best gaming mouse for you based on our rankings, doing so is no effortless task. There are a lot of complicated technical specifications that go into gaming mice, including fancy jargon such as polling rates and DPI ratings. You’ll want a higher number of both, but there’s a stark difference between these two nonsensical, yet crucial terms.

For newcomers to the world of PC gaming, that DPI is shorthand for ‘dots per inch.’ The higher the number, the wider the range wherein you can specify your how sensitive your mouse is. If you don’t have a lot of desk space available and you want accuracy and precision, then opt for a gaming mouse featuring a higher DPI rating. Of course, you can always toggle a lower DPI too.

Meanwhile, a high polling rate gives you faster response times. The polling rate is measured in hertz, so it usually ranges from around 125 to 1,000Hz. The latter means that your mouse’s position is reported to your computer 1,000 times per second. Other key gaming mouse factors you’ll want to consider are ergonomics – particularly if you’re left-handed – and RGB lighting.

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article

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Tesla keeps autonomous driving test program opaque, says no testing on California public roads

In its report to the Californian DMV today, Tesla confirmed that it didn’t test fully autonomous vehicles on state roads in 2017.

The automaker keeps its autonomous driving test program more opaque as Tesla owners are frustrated by the delayed release of new Autopilot features. more…

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The Tech Industry’s Gender Problem Isn’t Just Hurting Women

Outnumbered and Outranked

While Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple’s Tim Cook, and other CEOs can confirm that it’s lonely at the top, for women in business — particularly in the tech industry — the climate anywhere along the corporate ladder can be downright hostile.

Not only are women often outnumbered by men in the workplace, they are also treated differently than their male colleagues on both a professional and personal level, and it’s causing problems throughout all segments of society.

“We have made no progress! We have made absolutely no progress.”

In “The Secret Life of CEOs,” Freakonomics Radio’s new six-week podcast series exploring CEOs and leadership, host Stephen J. Dubner interviewed a number of high-profile CEOs, including Carol Bartz (Yahoo!) and Ellen Pao (Reddit), and their responses reveal a lot about what life is like for women at all levels of the notoriously male-centric tech industry.

During her interview with Dubner, Bartz voiced her disappointment at the current state of affairs for women at the U.S.’s biggest corporations.

“Have you noticed that there’s less females in the Fortune 500 now than there were?” she asked. “I mean, we have made no progress! We have made absolutely no progress.”

While Bartz didn’t clarify whether she meant females simply working at Fortune 500 companies or at the helm of them, women have made some progress in the latter category. However, they still lag far behind their male counterparts in terms of representation.

In 2017, 32 of the companies on the annual Fortune 500 list had female CEOs. In 2016, that figure was 21 (down from 24 the year prior), so last year was a step forward. However, 32 still accounts for just 6.4 percent of companies, so women continue to be significantly outnumbered by men at the CEO position.

This lack of balance extends to board seats as well. According to a study by Deloitte and The Alliance for Board Diversity, the number of women holding board seats on Fortune 500 companies increased from 856 in 2010 to 1,100 in 2016. However, that new figure still only represents 20.2 percent of the total number of seats.

In the tech industry, the numbers aren’t any better as you descend the corporate ladder.

In 2016, an Anita Borg Institute survey of 60 of the largest companies in the U.S. found that women held roughly 21 percent of technical jobs, such as those in hardware, software, and information services. The representation dropped steadily as you ascended the corporate ladder: 26.8 percent for entry level jobs, 22.6 percent for mid level, 18.4 percent for senior level, and 14.1 percent for executive level.

Unfair and Offensive

The struggle for women doesn’t end once they break into the male-dominated worlds of business and tech, either.

Shortly after Bartz graduated with her bachelors degree in computer science in 1971, she went to work at 3M as the only woman professional in her division. According to her biography on The Balance, she told More Magazine in 2006 that she faced discrimination at that company and quit in 1976 after being told women don’t do the jobs she wanted to pursue.

In her interview with Freakonomics Radio, Bartz noted how she was disappointed that the climate for women hadn’t gotten better by the time her daughter was in the same position.

“I was so hopeful that my daughter would go to college and be with open-minded young men. They’d all work together in school, and when they got out, they’d all realize that they were equally smart, and, you know, off we’d go and things would change,” said Bartz.

“It’s exactly the opposite. They got out, the guys got these jobs, they got a little money, and they turned into old frat boys in business.”

While the issue of business being a “boys club” extends across industries, Silicon Valley appears particularly entrenched in this frat boy culture. Ellen Pao has firsthand knowledge of the damage this environment — and speaking out against it — can do to a female professional’s career and reputation.

Years prior to her eight-month-long stint as CEO of Reddit, Pao worked at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. While there, she saw female junior partners continually hit the glass ceiling, getting passed over for promotions in favor of their less-experienced male counterparts. She also found herself the target of harassment by a male colleague she briefly dated.

In 2012, after it had become clear to Pao the company wasn’t going to address her complaints of gender discrimination and harassment, she filed a $16 million lawsuit against the firm. Five months after the initial filing, Pao was fired, and in 2015, she lost the lawsuit, during which she was accused of everything from having “sharp elbows” to not being “a team player.”

A third of women in tech have feared for their personal safety because of work-related circumstances.

Unfortunately, Pao’s experience of gender discrimination and harassment in the tech industry isn’t an anomaly.

In 2015, 210 senior-level women working in the tech industry participated in The Elephant in the Valley, a survey exploring the topic of gender in Silicon Valley. Each woman had at least 10 years of work experience, some at start-ups and others at large companies, such as Apple and Google, and their responses revealed the pervasiveness of Silicon Valley’s gender problem.

Of the women surveyed, 87 percent reported demeaning comments from male colleagues, 47 percent said they’d been asked to do lower-level tasks that male colleagues weren’t asked to do, and 66 percent said they had been excluded from important social or networking events.

A staggering 90 percent of surveyed women said they’d witnessed sexist behavior at company offsites or industry conferences. Sixty percent claimed to have been on the receiving end of unwanted sexual advances, and of those women, 65 percent said the advances came from a work superior. One in three said she’d feared for her personal safety because of work-related circumstances.

Hurting Us All

A number of well-meaning initiatives designed to encourage young girls to pursue careers in technology may seem like a step in the right direction. However, all the Girls Who Code and hEr VOLUTION programs in the world can’t help if women don’t stick with tech long-term.

Given all the issues they currently face in the tech industry — the glass ceiling, the exclusionary culture, the sexual harassment — it’s not surprising that 41 percent of the women who do enter the tech field decide to leave it (for comparison, only 17 percent of men make the same decision).

This exacerbates the gender imbalance in the tech industry, which is hurting everyone: women, the companies not hiring women, and even society at large.

Tech jobs tend to pay well, and while a number of industries are dying off, the tech sector is expected to add jobs in the coming years. Encouraging more women to pursue jobs in tech could help close the wage gap and address the higher rates of poverty amongst women than men. It could also ensure those important jobs aren’t left unfilled, which would stifle technological innovation.

Research has shown that companies with high gender diversity are more profitable and less volatile those with low gender diversity, and companies with at least one woman on their board of directors have also been documented outperforming those without any women by 26 percent.

“We are effectively leaving out half of our population by excluding women from the innovation economy.”

Gender diversity also leads to more innovation, which is an essential part of the technology industry. A 2014 study of research and development teams from 4,277 companies in Spain found a positive relationship between gender diversity and radical innovation.

“Gender diversity can provide different perspectives and insights. The combination of these offers a wider range of ideas and, thus, greater creativity, facilitating decision-making processes,” said lead researcher, Cristina Díaz García, in a press release.

Vivek Wadhwa, a Distinguished Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering and author of Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology, confirmed the importance of gender diversity for innovation.

“We are effectively leaving out half of our population by excluding women from the innovation economy,” he told Futurism. “Given where technology is headed, with technologies advancing exponentially and converging, the skills needed to solve the larger problems require a broad understanding of different fields and disciplines. Most of all, we need the empathy to design good solutions. Women excel in both of these.”

The exclusion of women during the development stages can affect the product that eventually makes its way to the public. Tech companies may not intend to design smartphones that are too large for women’s hands, health apps that ignore menstruation, and virtual assistants that can’t answer questions asked more often by women than men, but those are the products the currently male-centric tech industry is developing.

The implications of these oversights are terrifying when you consider the likelihood that we’ll soon be using technology to enhance our biology, a point addressed by Judith Spitz, a former Verizon CIO of 10 years and Founding Program Director of the WiTNY Initiative.

“We are hurtling towards a time when our biology will be equal parts technology and physiology. Think about the implications for the human race if the technology that is destined to be the essence of who we are as a species is developed largely under the leadership and guidance of a single gender,” said Spitz during talk at the 2016 Propelify Innovation Festival.

Change Comes From the Top

At first glance, the problems of women in the tech industry may seem worse now than when Pao lost her lawsuit. However, the post-Pao years have actually been an empowering time for women in tech.

Soon after the trial, Silicon Valley attorneys told Fortune they noticed an increase in the number of women coming forward with complaints of gender discrimination. Women’s willingness to speak out about behavior that they may have previously ignored or just “dealt with” has become known as the “Pao effect,” and it seems to be getting stronger as time goes on.

In 2017 alone, Google, Uber, Twitter, and a number of other major tech companies were all involved in highly publicized scandals involving discrimination or sexual harassment. Add in 2017’s #MeToo movement, and the spotlight on Silicon Valley’s frat boy culture has never been brighter than it is right now.

“The problems with sexual harassment are too real. So far, the tech industry has been a boys club modeled after Wall Street. Now, with all of the negative press, we have seen what lies beneath, and we cannot continue to tolerate this,” said Vivek Wadhwa.

“It’s up to the CEO to say, ‘No, we need to get rid of this person.’”

Women are starting to speak out about harassment and gender discrimination, and the media is reporting on it, but that’s not enough. Sixty percent of the Elephant in the Valley survey respondents who spoke out about sexual harassment in their workplaces said they were not satisfied by the resolution to their reports. When Ellen Pao approached her superiors with her claims of harassment, they suggested she transfer to the China office.

The tech industry’s gender problem is hurting us all, but the industry itself needs to be the one to fix it. As Pao told Dubner during her Freakonomics Radio interview, it’s up to the people at the top of the corporate ladder — be they men or women — to protect all levels of employees from harassment from coworkers, even if doing so causes a setback for the company.

“It’s up to the CEO to say, ‘No, we need to get rid of this person. We’re going to move the ship date out. We’re going to disappoint some customers. But it is important enough to the company, and to me, that I need to make this call’,” she told Dubner.

Of course, having more women in those position of power will also help, according to Shivaram Rajgopal, the vice dean of research at Columbia Business School.

“Women in leadership positions serve as a significant deterrent against a permissive culture towards sexual harassment,” he told The Christian Science Monitor. “You rarely hear of such issues at Yahoo! where Marissa Mayer was the CEO… [Facebook’s Mark] Zuckerberg has [chief operating officer] Sheryl Sandberg to temper the frat-boy culture.”

There’s a reason “The Secret Life of CEOs” is a six-episode series — the role these men and women fill in the business ecosystem in both complex and extremely important. With the tech industry in the midst of a cultural crisis, it’s up to its leaders to make it clear they will no longer stand for the status quo when it comes to the treatment of women.

By setting an example for those climbing the corporate ladder behind them, they can ensure that the tech industry of tomorrow is one that treats everyone with the same level of respect.

The post The Tech Industry’s Gender Problem Isn’t Just Hurting Women appeared first on Futurism.

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Tesla (TSLA) is raising over $500 million through debt backed by its car leases, report says

In order to finance its expensive expansion and Model 3 production ramp-up, Tesla is reportedly raising over $500 million through debt backed by Model S and Model X leases.

And investors are tripping over themselves to subscribe to the deal, according to the report. more…

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Scientists Can Now Predict Deadly Hailstorms Weeks in Advance

Storm Warning

Hail is one the most costly types of adverse weather. Every year, it causes billions of dollars of damage destroying roofing, homes, and crops in the U.S. alone. Now, a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters has identified a way to predict major hailstorms up to three weeks before they occur.

The research was carried out by Northern Illinois University meteorologist Victor Gensini alongside John Allen of Central Michigan University. The pair established a strong relationship between jet stream patterns over the Pacific Ocean and the frequency of hailstorms in the U.S., building from their previous work forecasting tornadoes.

Data on hail quantities taken from national storm data recorded between 1979 and 2016 was compared to changes to the Global Wind Oscillation (GWO) index. The GWO is a body of climate and weather data that scientists use to capture the presence of tropical moisture and energy in the atmosphere. These factors combined increase the probability that storms may ultimately evolve into tornadoes.

The researchers found that four out of the eight phases that comprise the index were good indicators of potentially increased hail during peak storm seasons.

“There is a strong connection between the GWO and U.S. hail frequency,” noted Allen in a press release. “This relationship helps to understand what is driving hail variability, and explains to a large degree when we are likely to experience active and inactive periods during the spring and fall.”

Forecasting hail is difficult because there’s typically no clear distinction between storms that do and do not produce hailstones, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory. There are ongoing efforts to develop a method of using dual-polarized radar data to improve early warning systems.

Gensini and Allen’s technique shows promise, although it remains to be seen how well it will perform in the summer, when the GWO is less reliable due to small-scale meteorological processes. More tests are scheduled for the spring to determine how accurate the projects are as the severe weather season begins to ramp up.

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Tesla attends Nebraska hearing in support of new bill for direct sales rights

Tesla faced Nebraska’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee on Tuesday to support a proposed bill that would enable the California electric car maker to sell its vehicles directly in the state. Legislative Bill 830, introduced by Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas, gives Tesla the right to sell its vehicles directly to interested customers in the state, and bypass an existing law that prohibits car manufacturers from competing against franchise dealerships.

The hearing on Tuesday saw the attendance of Tesla representatives and several Tesla owners living in the state. Tesla senior manager of business development and policy Daniel Witt assured the committee that the electric car maker is not trying to abolish traditional dealerships at all. The Tesla executive further noted that allowing Tesla to sell its vehicles directly in the state would ultimately help other startups, such as Waymo and Lucid Motors.

“Tesla is not here today to overturn the franchise system. Where we have advocated for these types of changes, we have similarly not been in the business of trying to shut down local businesses. We like to think of ourselves as a small fish in a very big pond,” Witt said, according to a Lincoln Journal Star report.

While the support for Tesla was evident in the LB 830 hearing, however, many supporters of traditional auto dealerships also voiced out their reasons why they are opposing the Elon Musk-led firm’s business model. Mickey Anderson, co-owner of Omaha-based Baxter Auto Group, for one, asserted that allowing Tesla to engage in direct selling will not benefit the community or the consumer at all.

“Every manufacturer like Tesla recognizes that maintaining local franchises requires a bit of a profit share, so not only do they get corporate profits, but they also reinvest in the communities that they’re selling vehicles in. If you could claw that back, you would improve every manufacturer’s bottom line. I can tell you from working in the car business my entire life, that’s not what serves Nebraska or any community or consumer the best,” the Baxter Auto Group co-owner said.

Sen. Vargas, however, stated that instead of forcing Tesla to conform to conventional practices in the auto industry, the state should be supporting the company. According to Vargas, a direct selling business model ultimately benefits customers, as seen in the success of companies like Apple and Amazon.

“Consumers want the choice. We have new markets emerging all the time. Amazon and Apple sell directly to consumers. The rules change. Why is Nebraska trying to make new auto manufacturers like Tesla fit an old framework, instead of figuring out a mechanism to help them be able to operate and be effective and grow their business?” Vargas said.

Despite Nebraska’s law prohibiting the carmaker to open its showrooms in the state, however, Tesla still invests invaluable infrastructure to support its ever-growing user base in the area. Back in 2016, Tesla established the first Supercharger station in the state, catering to Model S and Model X owners.

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We Could See an Indian Universal Basic Income by 2020

Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India, has issued a prediction that at least one or two of the country’s states will implement an Indian universal basic income within the next two years. Previously, the economist backed the idea in India’s Economic Survey for 2016-17.

The concept of UBI has been gaining traction in India over the last few years. In July 2017, talks were held to determine whether such an initiative could be brought to fruition, but opinion is still divided.

There are hopes that UBI could offer a way to support people who are put out of work by automation and other new technologies. Various pilot schemes have established that there are tangible benefits to giving people a reliable source of income, but we’re yet to see how it would be implemented on a large scale. Given that India has a population of 1.3 billion, it would be unfeasible to roll out UBI nationally, but a state-by-state strategy might be more viable.

It’s thought that UBI would offer less capacity for corruption than most anti-poverty schemes because all individuals are entitled to the same amount of money. This would make it more difficult for malicious parties to siphon off funds for themselves.

Critics of UBI suggest that it will simply cause greater reliance on government subsidies, providing a short-term solution while ignoring the underlying problems of mass unemployment and unfair wealth distribution. It’s often said that recipients might misuse the money they receive, but recent trials indicate that the majority spend their UBI on essentials, as intended.

Most would agree that UBI shouldn’t replace current welfare systems entirely. However, the question of how to fund both programs alongside one another looms large, particularly given that roughly 22% of Indians live below the poverty line, and experience poor living conditions.

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Green Deals: 4-pack EcoSmart 60W A19 LED Light Bulbs $6, more

Home Depot offers a four-pack of EcoSmart 60W A19 LED Light Bulbs for $5.97 shipped. Regularly $10, today’s offer is a match of our previous mention and the best available. These bulbs have an average annual cost of $1.08 and are rated for nine-years of use. Rated 4.4/5 stars.


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VW plans to produce 1,500 electric cars per day at its Zwickau factory

Volkswagen is investing heavily in electric vehicles after slowing down its diesel program following the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal.

The German automaker now says that its Zwickau factory in Saxony, Germany is going to be a major hub for the production of its next-generation electric cars. more…

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Tesla Semi will power US-based mobile television provider MTVG

American mobile unit provider Mobile TV Group has placed orders for two Tesla Semis, joining the growing list of local and foreign firms that have committed to CEO Elon Musk’s vision of an emissions-free trucking industry. A pair of Tesla Semis will join MTVG’s fleet of long-haulers, which are equipped with ultra-high definition broadcasting technology and deployed across the country to provide live event coverage.

Mobile TV Group director of business development Nick Garvin noted that the company’s decision to place orders for the Tesla Semi was an easy decision for the firm. The MTVG executive noted that the electric trucks would serve as yet another step for the company in its ongoing initiatives to embrace a greener system, which Garvin believes is pivotal in strengthening the firm’s relationship with its clients.

“It was a pretty easy decision. We think that it makes sense as part of our own green initiative, and our clients are always interested in being greener. We feel like this is a very important step in the right direction for our future and the future of our clients,” Garvin said.

Similar to other global firms that have recently committed to the purchase of Tesla’s Semi, such as Middle Eastern environmental and waste management firm Bee’ah, Mobile TV Group has been involved in green initiatives long before it placed its orders for the quad electric motor truck. So far, MTVG has rolled out several environment-friendly initiatives, such as the use of ultra-compressed recycled paper for walls and framing — materials which it uses in its operations.

Apart from being in line with the company’s efforts to go green, the MTVG executive also noted that the Tesla Semi was simply a practical choice for the company’s needs. According to Garmin, Tesla Semi’s range of 500 miles per charge is a non-issue, since a lot of MTVG’s business is focused on providing coverage solutions for Regional Sports Networks. With this in mind, the Semi’s range per charge would be more than adequate.

Perhaps the most practical reason behind Mobile TV Group’s decision to reserve two units of the Tesla Semi, however, is the electric vehicles’ reliability and low maintenance cost. The Semi, after all, has far fewer components compared to a traditional diesel truck. According to the MTVG executive, the Tesla Semi’s reliability is actually one of its most significant selling points, as businesses like Mobile TV Group consider incidents like engine breakdowns as down as one of its biggest headaches.

“A fundamental advantage of the Tesla is, there are significantly less parts compared to a combustion engine, which just means less things can go wrong. It just means less points of failure, so it’s less likely for something to break down, which is obviously one of our biggest nightmares,” Garvin said.

The Tesla Semi is a Class 8 long-hauler, capable of towing up to 80,000 pounds of cargo. Built with four electric motors derived from the Model 3, the truck is capable of hitting highways speeds in 20 seconds, far quicker than any diesel semi-trailer deployed on the road today.

First deliveries for the Tesla Semi are expected to take place in 2019.

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Tesla expands its footprint in Fremont with two big offices for 1,500 workers

Tesla will be expanding its operations in Fremont come Spring when the electric car maker prepares to open two new offices for roughly 1,500 employees at Dumbarton Circle in Fremont’s Ardenwood District. 

The move to the leased Dumbarton Circle offices, located 10 miles from the Tesla factory off Interstate 880 in Fremont and about 20 miles from Tesla’s Palo Alto headquarters, is officially set to begin this coming April. Employees not directly involved in the manufacturing process, such as workers in Tesla’s energy, sales, service, marketing and administrative departments, would be transferred to the Ardenwood District sites. Former SolarCity employees from San Mateo would also be working in Tesla’s new offices.

Tesla’s new Fremont offices are located at 6800 and 6900 Dumbarton Circle, in an area that’s recently become the home to Facebook’s East Bay offices. Tesla’s new offices would total 230,000 square feet, with each site covering roughly 115,000 square feet.


In a statement to The Mercury News, Fremont Mayor Lily Mei expressed her optimism about Tesla’s expansion into Ardenwood District. According to the mayor, Tesla’s lease of the new offices comes at an opportune time, considering that government policies have recently been rolled out to help develop commercial spaces in the area.

“We are pleased to see Tesla expand its footprint in Fremont to include such a significant office operation, taking advantage of policies the City proactively enacted to support office development in Ardenwood,” the Fremont Mayor said, according to TNM.

California State Senator Bob Wieckowski also expressed his enthusiasm at the expansion of the electric car maker, stating that officials such as Mayor Mei have done all they can to make the Ardenwood District as ideal as possible for progressive firms such as Tesla.

I’m tickled and excited that Tesla is expanding its presence in Fremont. Several Fremont mayors, including Mayor Mei, have worked to make Ardenwood an area where you could have more tech and manufacturing companies locate and expand,” said the senator.

Tesla’s expansion is indicative of the firm’s commitment and investment in the East Bay, providing relief to some 10,000 workers being employed at the company’s massive manufacturing facility in Fremont. But as Tesla continued to scale its operations to meet consumer demand, the electric car maker quickly realized the need to nearly double the size of its footprint at the factory facility.

Tesla’s newest Ardenwood offices are perfectly positioned between the Peninsula and the greater East Bay. Beyond having access to open space amenities nearby such as the Bay Trail and Coyote Hills Regional Park, the location represents a reverse commute for East Bay residents and a midway point between Tesla’s Palo Alto headquarters and its Fremont factory.

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#NotNolan: Why game creators are speaking out against the founder of Atari

The annual Game Developers Conference is one of the most prestigious events in gaming. Unlike expos like E3, where publishers arrive to make announcements and showcase their new products, GDC has a more educational aim, with panels from top developers teaching the finer points of their craft. GDC is also home to an awards show that honors the most esteemed, creative, and important games of the year, as well as the people behind them.

Today, organizers announced that at the 18th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, three men would be given the event’s top honors: Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail will receive the Ambassador Award; Double Fine founder Tim Schafer gets the Lifetime Achievement Award; and Atari founder Nolan Bushnell will…

Continue reading…

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Soraa’s violet LEDs can help you sleep better with healthy lights

If you’re not getting enough sleep, you can blame it on those blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that are replacing incandescent light bulbs everywhere. But Soraa is out to protect your eyes and your sleep cycle with violet LEDs that also give you the full spectrum of colors. The company is announcing its better light bulbs today.

Fremont, California-based Soraa has been making high-end LED bulbs for five years, but today the company is launching two consumer bulbs dubbed Soraa Radiant and Soraa Healthy. They’re the byproduct of years of research by Shuji Nakamura, the father of the modern LED light and founder of Soraa.

Above: Soraa Healthy lights could help you sleep better.

Image Credit: Soraa

In the past couple of decades, blue LEDs have been slowly taking over, as their costs have fallen below those of incandescent bulbs, and they save on energy costs. But they also have a downside. Blue LEDs cannot reproduce the entire color spectrum, and so they aren’t as good at illuminating vibrant colors. On top of that, blue LEDs can inhibit the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that enables you to fall asleep more easily. In doing that, blue LEDs can cause you to lose sleep.

Nakamura was the inventor of blue LEDs used for lighting in the 1990s, and in 2014 he won the Nobel Prize for physics. In 2008, he started Soraa to finish the work he had started. In 2012, the company started shipping its first violet LEDs, which were expensive back then and so were used in high-end applications such as lighting for museums, hotels, galleries, historical buildings, and luxury retailers.

Now Soraa has been able to bring down the costs. The Soraa Radiant bulb will sell for $13.95 each, while the Soraa Healthy will sell for $18.95. That’s more than a blue LED, which costs $10 for a half-dozen. But it’s also healthier, said T.J. Grewal, chief product officer at Soraa, in an interview with VentureBeat.

Above: Soraa Radiant lights can produce reds better.

Image Credit: Soraa

“Blue LEDs have replaced incandescents and saved energy,” Grewal said. “But the downside is the light isn’t giving you the full color spectrum. And it inhibits your sleep. Our lights reinforce your sleep cycle.”

Soraa Radiant is a full-spectrum bulb that will give you “museum quality light in your home,” Grewal said. It reproduces the light of the sun as closely as possible, which means red colors will look more vibrant and skin tones look more attractive. The white light from a violet LED is more pure, and shades of white light become more visible.

Colors produced with standard blue LEDs, by contrast, have gaps because phosphorus filters put on the blue LEDs can’t really simulate sunlight’s effects. Standard LEDs have an R9 value below 10 percent and an RW of zero (those are lighting quality terms). Soraa Radiant LED bulbs create light with an R9 value of 95 percent and RW value of 100 percent.

Carli Lloyd, captain of the US women’s national soccer team, said in an interview that she has always been diligent about her sleep and she needs about nine hours of sleep.

“I need that to be sharp on the field and quicker than my opponents,” Lloyd said. “The thought is to put the Soraa light in your bedroom. I’m in the process of getting a new home with my husband. We are researching bulbs and this is the best company to be affiliated with.”

Above: Soraa has done research into lighting technology.

Image Credit: Soraa

Meanwhile, Soraa Healthy LED bulbs have zero blue light. The invisible blue light in sunlight is like a wake-up call in the morning. It triggers your body to wake up. At night, when there is no light, your body produces melatonin, preparing you for sleep. The natural hormone regulates your sleep and wake cycles. When blue light disappears and melatonin levels rise, we become sleepy.

But standard LED bulbs pump invisible blue light into you at night, inhibiting the melatonin and making you stay up longer. Falling asleep is more difficult because your body still thinks it’s daytime. Soraa Healthy LED bulbs produce a soft white light, and they don’t inhibit melatonin production.

Above: Soraa’s bulbs range in price from $13.95 to $18.95.

Image Credit: Soraa

Soraa manufactures its own bulbs with proprietary LEDs. They are fully dimmable and they don’t making a buzzing noise. Also, Soraa light does not produce the stroboscopic effect that has been shown to cause headaches, eye-strain and fatigue, Grewal said. The bulbs are available on Soraa‘s site and on Amazon.

“Your lights shouldn’t do you harm,” Grewal said. “It’s hard to have a good sleep regimen without the right lighting.”

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Amazon HQ2 finalists should refuse tax breaks, say nearly 100 economists, professors

In the weeks since Amazon announced the 20 cities still in contention to land its second headquarters, many of the finalists are scrambling to find an edge over their competitors. But, some prominent economists, academics, and former government officials are asking cities to think twice before they offer the ecommerce giant too good of a deal.

On Tuesday afternoon, a petition began circulating on asking “elected officials and community leaders of Amazon HQ2 finalist cities” to collectively agree that they will not offer Amazon any tax incentives to land HQ2.The petition’s 93 original signees include Robert Reich, the former U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, urban studies expert Richard Florida who coined the term “creative class“, and Jason Furman and Alan Krueger, both former chairs of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors. As of this evening, the petition had over 300 signatures. A number of professors from Harvard University, MIT, and other top schools also signed on.

VentureBeat’s Heartland Tech channel invites you to join us and other senior business leaders at BLUEPRINT in Reno on March 5-7. Learn how to expand jobs to Middle America, lower costs, and boost profits. Click here to request an invite and be a part of the conversation. 

The petition states that while the signees support Amazon’s decision to build a second headquarters, “incentives do not alter business location decisions as much as is often claimed, and are less important than more fundamental location factors. Worse, they divert funds that could be put to better use underwriting public services such as schools, housing programs, job training, and transportation, which are more effective ways to spur economic development.”

While the petition didn’t criticize any cities by name, it did call out “at least four jurisdictions [that] have proposed multi-billion-dollar incentive packages.” That list includes Newark, which offered along with the state of New Jersey offered Amazon at least $7 billion in tax incentives. If the Newark package is any indication, the incentive package offered to Amazon will likely be one of the largest, if not the largest, ever offered to a U.S. company.

In its original RFP for HQ2, Amazon said that “incentives offered by the state/province and local communities to offset initial capital outlay and ongoing operational costs will be significant factors in the decision-making process” — so it’s unlikely that cities will collectively agree to take incentives off the table. But the petition will likely put more pressure on finalist cities to reveal what they offered Amazon.

“Unilateral disarmament has never worked … we want to see incentives that benefit the greater community,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in reaction to the petition.

VentureBeat reached out to Amazon for comment, and will update this story if we hear back.

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Your Royal Gayness gives kingdom management a modern happily-ever-after twist

Lizard Hazard Games‘s Your Royal Gayness is a cheeky parody of fairy tales. You help Prince Amir manage his kingdom, avoid marriage, and seek the man of his dreams. It’s the Finnish indie studio’s debut, and after a successful Kickstarter campaign in early 2017, Your Royal Gayness is now out on PC.

Romance is one aspect of this indie, but much of Your Royal Gayness is about listening to citizens’ concerns and managing resources. In the audience phase, Amir fields requests and hears about problems that have sprouted up around the land. Then he must command his advisers on how he wants to solve these problems and decide on what laws he’d like to pass.

“We definitely took inspiration for the laws in the game from real world,” said Lizard Hazard CEO and lead developer Salli Loikkanen in an email to GamesBeat. “For example, in Finland homosexuality was a criminal offense until 1971; it was removed from the list of illnesses in 1981, and in 2017 gay marriage was legalized. The laws in Your Royal Gayness are inspired by that same progression. There are other things as well — for example, the player has the option to raise taxes, and if they do, the happiness of the people goes down. However, if the player sets social laws, it’ll cost money but the happiness gain is greater than the money lost.”

Loikkanen says she’s wanted to develop a game about fairy tales for a while. Most fairy tales are filled with traditional gender roles, which are ripe for parody. However, though Your Royal Gayness takes a humorous approach, the topics it addresses are serious. For instance, Amir can push to legalize gay marriage — something that’s meaningful to many people who may live in places where it still hasn’t been legalized. To make sure Lizard Hazard was balancing the parody aspects along with striking the right tone, it hired a sensitivity reader to make sure the jokes and stories were as inclusive as possible.

A potential pitfall is the women in Your Royal Gayness. Amir is constantly battling off suitors, women who are trying to marry him against his will and are essentially his “enemies.” Loikkanen says the team tried to avoid villainizing the women by trying to include diverse characters in the game.

“We stood up to the challenges by including lots of minor female characters — Amir’s mom, the Queen is calm, distinguished and intelligent, the High Priestess is confident and sassy, Olivia the noblewoman is very shy and delicate and Drakemaster Magda is a hardened warrior and a mother of two,” said Loikkanen. “We also gave the various princesses different body types, skin colours and outfits. Their appearances and personality traits are randomized, so the selection of possible princesses is pretty big.”

More games have popped up recently that address LGBTQIA issues or feature queer characters, such as Fullbright’s Gone Home, Game Grumps’s Dream Daddy, and Brianna Lei’s Butterfly Soup. Many of these titles tend to be heavily narrative-driven or visual novels, which Your Royal Gayness diverges from with its management simulation approach. Loikkanen says representation in games is important, particularly for folks who may not have local support.

“We don’t have a lot of games that explore those issues,” said Loikkanen. “I think the more stories we create with LGBT+ characters, the more normalized it becomes. And it should be normal to be gay. Personally, I live in a very accepting environment, but not every LGBT+ person is so lucky.”

The PC Gaming channel is presented by Intel®‘s Game Dev program.

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CNN Blames Apple for Apple News Bug That Caused Repeat Notifications

Earlier this afternoon, a bug with the Apple News app caused notifications for a single CNN news story to be sent out to iPhone and iPad users over and over again.

The issue, which lasted for approximately 15 minutes, appears to have impacted all Apple News subscribers who had alerts turned on for CNN based on a slew of complaints that popped up on reddit, Twitter, and the MacRumors forums.

It wasn’t clear if the problem was with CNN or the Apple News app, but on Twitter, CNN claims it was the latter. According to the news organization, CNN only sent a single notification, and the company is working with Apple to identify the problem.

We are aware that some Apple News users recently received multiples of the same alert. Our server log shows CNN sent only one. We are working with Apple to identify their issue, as users on CNN-owned platforms did not experience a problem. Apologies to those who did.

— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) January 30, 2018

Customers who were affected by the repeated notifications received somewhere around a hundred notifications, and the notifications in question were interrupting normal device operation. It appears that the issue centered around a single CNN news story, but we’ve also seen reports that some notifications from Fox News also repeated.

@MacRumors is anyone getting nonstop @CNN alerts about the Hawaii false alert? I have the alert turned off and still getting them.

— Tom Cheung (@tommyknockrs) January 30, 2018

The only fix for the issue at the time was to turn off Apple News notifications, but the problem was resolved by Apple quickly and customers who did turn off their notifications due to the CNN alert bug can now safely re-enable them.

Discuss this article in our forums

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Webpass is leaving Boston in latest sign of Google Fiber’s shrinking ambitions

Webpass, the wireless home broadband company that Google Fiber acquired in 2016, is exiting the Boston market. The Verge received a reader tip on the situation and a quick look around revealed that Boston is no longer listed as a current Webpass market on the company’s website. (It still appeared as recently as December.) Reached by phone Tuesday evening, a Webpass customer service representative confirmed that the company has stopped accepting new customers in Boston. And in a statement, Access — the Alphabet subsidiary that runs Google Fiber — also confirmed the news.

“As with any acquisition, we’ve spent some time evaluating the Webpass business. As a result of our analysis, we’ve made the decision to wind down Webpass operations in…

Continue reading…

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Netflix keeps the cyberpunk action coming with first trailer for Mute

Back in 2009, director Duncan Jones announced Mute as the follow-up to his debut film, Moon. Now, close to a decade later, Mute has finally been made by Netflix and we have a brand new trailer to prove it.

Said to be set in the same universe as Jones’ first film, itself a beloved science-fiction gem, Mute was modelled closely on Blade Runner in terms of look and feel, as is evident from the neon-drenched art direction on display.

Starring Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood) as the titular non-speaking character, Leo Beiler, the film is a cyberpunk mystery that takes place in a futuristic Berlin. Leo is searching for his missing girlfriend Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh) with the help of two wise-cracking surgeons (played by Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux).

Little else is known about the plot to this Netflix Original film, its first trailer landing only weeks before its premiere on the streaming service (the director revealed he has a “love-hate relationship with trailers” on Twitter, stating he “would rather people go in to a movie knowing nothing about it”). Still, our first look at the film has us mighty intrigued.

Mute will be available to stream on Netflix from February 23, 2018, which should give you plenty of time to binge Netflix’s other cyberpunk property, Altered Carbon, which lands this weekend. 

Check the official trailer for Mute below. 

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Australia’s best cheap headphones, discounts and deals in January 2018

With headphones of all types, colours and styles flooding the market, it’s hard knowing which ones to pick – do you go for the premium model you’ve always wanted, or are you better off just grabbing a cheap set from the discount bin?

Well, it’s worth remembering that cheap headphones are cheap for a reason, so even if saving money is priority we can’t recommend those $2 discount-bin variety that you find all over the world. And, as you’ll find out below, you don’t always have spend a lot of dosh to snag a great set of headphones either.

To save you the time and effort, we’ve put together this dedicated guide to the best bargains on great-sounding headphone. We constantly monitor major Aussie retailers and go a-huntin’ to bring you the most worthwhile deals on a variety of sets – from in-ear buds to noise-cancelling cans – so check out our continually updated list below to discover the best current headphones deals in Australia.

Best over-ear headphone deals this week

Best in-ear headphone deals this week

The best deals on our favourite headphones

To help you decide which headphones work best for you, we’ve decided to put together a little buying guide with a list of our favourite recommendations. 

The headphones you’ll find here have tons of features to help you to get the most out of your music, or any other form of audio-visual entertainment you prefer, however you like to listen to it.

Bose QuietComfort 35

Bose has brought its fantastic noise-cancelling technology to a pair of wireless headphones and it’s done so without any of the traditional drawbacks of wireless headphones. They sound great, and their battery life is long enough for all but the longest of flights. They’re super comfortable, and despite the fact that they don’t use the AptX Bluetooth standard, the wireless doesn’t harm their sound quality one bit.

Priced at AU$499 a pop, the QC35s sit firmly at the premium end of the spectrum, but if you want the best noise-cancelling headphones available right now, then you can’t get any better. And they can be bought at a great price, too.

Read our review of the Bose QC 35.

Bose QuietControl 30

For a pair of in-ear headphones, the QC 30 has a level of noise cancellation that matches any of Bose’s over-ear cans, and that’s very impressive given its size. In fact, the level of noise cancellation can be adjusted to suit your environment via the in-line remote.

But the effective noise-cancelling comes at the cost of sound quality. The QC 30 isn’t the best-sounding headphones in the world, but if you’re not an audio connoisseur, these are still a pretty good set of headphones to get, especially for those who don’t particularly enjoy the feel of cans on their ears.

Read our review of the Bose QC 30.

Bose QuietComfort 25

The QC 25 are just as good as Bose’s premium cans, but without the premium price tag. They’re still expensive at $399 a piece, but they achieve top performance per dollar and definitely worth your hard-earned dosh.

With exemplary sound quality and equally excellent ambient noise cancellation, the QC 25 will suit the serious or the casual listener, providing a wonderfully immersive experience when watching movies or TV shows, playing games or just listening to your favourite beats.

Read our review of the Bose QC 25.

Bose QuietComfort 20

For a pair of tethered in-ear headphones that cost you $369, you’d expect only the best from Bose, and the QC 20 does not disappoint. If you have the spare change and want incredible noise-cancelling combined with comfort and amazing sound quality, you really ought to get the QuietComfort 20.

The silicone ear tips are designed for a perfect fit while sealing the ear canal and the power for noise-cancellation comes from a lithium-ion battery. This makes the battery pack a tad unwieldy, but you’ll figure out how best to stow it as you go along. But all in all, these are one of the best headphones we’ve put through the paces.

Read our review of the Bose QC 20.

Sennheiser Momentum Wireless on-ear headphones

These no-holds-barred wireless headphones are oozing with positive qualities, but the cans don’t come cheap. However, if you’re an audio lover that can spare the expense, do not hesitate on this comfortable, hard-working set of headphones that will likely last for years.

Stainless-steel arms and leather finishes gives the headphones a rugged look, while the ball-jointed swivelling earcups provide ample movement and comfort. Battery-savers will find the wired option to be convenient, but you can also turn the headphones on to activate active noise cancellation.

Read our review of the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless over-ear headphones.

Oppo PM-3

The Oppo PM-3 is a truly stunning pair of headphones. Make no mistake, we’ve reviewed a lot of headphones over the years but none have we become more fond of than the PM-3.

They’re equally comfortable being plugged into a headphone amp at home as they are commuting through the hustle and bustle of the big smoke, and they stand head and shoulders above rival products from bigger brands. We really can’t recommend them highly enough, they’re just amazing.

Read our review of the Oppo PM-3.

Sennheiser Momentum In-ear headphones

With the appealing candy apple detailing, Sennheiser gets you in the door. But once you’re in, you’ll stay for the killer sound quality that comes from the Momentum In-Ear earphones. And you won’t have a problem that it’s tethered.

Capable of providing booming, tight bass straight to your ear canal, the Momentum In-ear buds will have you foot-tapping to practically every tune you listen to.  And for a low-cost set of in-ears, they’re as fine as they come.

Read our review of the Sennheiser Momentum In-ear headphones.

If you’re after more information on headphones in different form factors, take a look at some of our other dedicated audio articles:

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Apple’s Phil Schiller on HomePod: We Want to Create a New Kind of Music Experience in the Home That Sounds Incredible

Over the weekend, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller did a quick fifteen minute interview with Sound & Vision, where he once again explained some of the technology behind the HomePod, shed some light on why Apple ultimately decided to create an in-home speaker, and explained how the HomePod will stand out among other smart speakers on the market.

Schiller believes that Apple is in a position to create a “new kind of music experience” that not only “sounds incredible,” but is also “fun to interact with.” He says that’s the driving force behind Apple’s work on the smart speaker. Apple’s focus, though, isn’t on a single product — the company wants to design a unified experience that’s the same throughout the day.

We don’t think it’s just about HomePod though, or any one product, it’s about creating an experience that moves with you throughout the day — so the experience you have at home, is replicated in the car with CarPlay, at work with iPad and Mac, and when you’re out for a run with Watch and iPhone. You can listen to the same music, control your home accessories or ask Siri to do something for you, wherever you are.

Schiller says that Apple Music, Siri advancements in personal music discovery, and Apple’s innovative audio work “come together” in the HomePod to deliver an “amazing music experience” to customers.

He went on to explain many of the technological advancements that improve sound quality in the HomePod, including machine learning to allow the HomePod to sense and adapt to its environment, the A8 chip for real-time acoustic modeling, audio beam-forming, and echo cancellation, and a more advanced thinking of speaker arrays to “create a wide soundstage.”

Schiller also explained in detail how the HomePod’s spatial awareness features work. From the moment it’s plugged in, the HomePod senses its location. The built-in microphone array listens to how sound reflects from neighboring surfaces to determine where it’s located in a room and what’s nearby, adjusting audio accordingly. The A8 chip beams center vocals and direct energy away from walls that are detected, while also reflecting ambient reverb and back-up vocals against the wall for better dispersion into the room.

The end result is a wide soundstage with a feeling of spaciousness and depth. This entire process takes just seconds and it doesn’t stop with the initial setup. Every time you move HomePod, it uses the built-in accelerometer to detect a change in its location and continues to make sure the music sounds great and is consistent, wherever it’s placed. We’ve also done some great things to help minimize the audible side effects of compression artifacts by developing studio level dynamic processing to optimize for rich, clean bass even at loud volumes.

Thus far, it appears Apple’s efforts to focus on sound quality have been successful. While full HomePod reviews have not yet been shared, initial first impressions from reviewers who were able to spend a short amount of time with the HomePod have been positive. Many reviewers were highly impressed with the sound quality of the device, which has been described as “warm,” “astonishing,” “precise,” and an “aural triumph.”

Apple will, however, need to convince its customers that sound improvements are worth the premium price the company is charging for the device. HomePod is more expensive than competing products from Google and Amazon, but some reviewers have questioned whether the average consumer will value sound quality more than affordability.

Phil Schiller’s full interview, which goes into more detail about Apple’s aim with the HomePod, how voice recognition works, HomeKit integration, and more can be read over at Sound & Vision.

The HomePod, which is priced at $349 in the United States, can be pre-ordered from the online Apple Store. The first HomePod orders will be delivered to customers starting on Friday, February 9, the official launch date of the device.

Related Roundup: HomePod

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Google’s web AR announcement is a boon for advertisers


Google recently announced that it’s bringing AR technology to desktop and mobile browsers to push “augmented reality on the web, for everyone.” Users will be able to interact with 3D objects that are embedded into sites and place said objects into their own environment (via tablet or phone cameras) straight from the browser without launching an AR-specific application.

Above: Users can interact with 3D models on the browser and launch into their own environment

What’s behind Google’s announcement

Google hopes to Increase adoption and usage by removing the need to download and install an AR app. This announcement comes on top of Google’s ARCore launch, which enables AR application development for Android. However, ARCore requires users to download and install applications on their phones to use AR. With the new Web AR initiative, users won’t need to install an application anymore. Instead, they can view AR content on their favorite publishers’ websites directly via the web browser.

They also wan to ensure continued ad revenue from web. Web has been a core of Google’s DNA since its inception until now. More than 70 percent of Google’s ad revenue comes from the web, and most queries worldwide are for web searches.

Finally, Google wants to further cement web as a key strategy. It’s crucial for Google to make sure that future content creation and consumption stays on the web versus standalone apps, while continuing to innovate for its top partners: brands and publishers. If publishers stop producing good content on the web, Google won’t have up-to-date content to present to users. If brands stop spending dollars on the web, Google loses out financially. Even as rivals Facebook and Apple push AR initiatives exclusively for their mobile app platforms, it makes sense for Google to push high-tech innovation for the web instead, since it’s the key strategic platform for Google’s ecosystem.

How web AR benefits advertising

Even before Google’s announcement, advertisers have benefited from AR ad experiences. This includes us at OmniVirt — here’s how we’re making it work for us. Earlier this holiday season, Universal Pictures partnered with OmniVirt to launch an AR experiences for the blockbuster Pitch Perfect 3. Using facial recognition technology to place AR objects on top of users’ faces, OmniVirt launched the ad experience across its ad network (without requiring any new application download).

But with Google’s announcement, advertisers stand to benefit even more in these three ways:

  1. More technically robust AR ad formats. Augmented Reality is a very advanced technology that requires machine learning and a large volume of data to make it very accurate. Having access to Google’s framework will make VR/AR ad formats more complete. Now we can scale our ad capabilities from AR facial recognition campaigns into placing branded objects into the users’ environment. Having Google’s Web AR technology makes our platform and the work we do with our customers more robust.
  2. Increased promotion using Google’s ad products. The technology also paves the way for AR advertising to be a stronger offering on Google’s major web advertising products, like AdWords and DoubleClick. Using the same method of buying web ads, advertisers can now build AR experiences on the web and, more importantly, promote those links using Google’s ad products
  3. Use of AR objects that encourage user engagement even without a camera. Outside of the novelty of placing items in user environments, the use cases of AR objects are vast. For example, a 3D object can become a virtual showroom experience even without enabling the camera. In fact, at OmniVirt, we’ve received requests to have camera-less 3D experiences, so we built a web format for advertisers to showcase their product in 3D on publishers’ websites. With a simple click, now users can turn on the camera to view AR experiences in their environment.

Overall, I’m excited about Google’s Web AR announcement since this is a huge win for advertisers excited about developments in the VR/AR space who have been challenged by the friction in distribution to date.

Brad Phaisan is CEO of OmniVirt, a 360°/VR/AR advertising platform for brands and publishers 

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A look at Elon Musk’s various business ventures and investments [Infographic]

If there’s one entrepreneur today that embodies the future, it’s Elon Musk. The self-made billionaire has launched a number of successful companies, including Tesla, SpaceX, PayPal and the Boring Company and is now worth over an astonishing $20 billion.

Where does Musk invest his own money? The future. After selling PayPal and walking away with hundreds of millions of dollars, Musk took some big chances. Envisioning a future with electric cars, “Musk had invested heavily in Tesla Motors… [and] joined the board in 2004 after leading the company’s series A funding, and [he later] became CEO in 2008. By the age of 32, he had invested $70,000,000 into the company in a bid to develop, manufacture and sell high-performance, fully electric vehicles.” notes the Valuewalk.

Above: A look back at Musk’s first companies that inspired his bold investments into the future (Youtube: Futurism); Note: Tesla Model S has gotten even quicker, recently clocking 0-60 MPH at 2.28 seconds

But Musk’s investment in clean energy didn’t end there: “Another notable investment is in SolarCity. Founded in 2006 by Elon’s cousins, SolarCity [became] one of the largest producers of solar panels in the world. While Musk only personally got involved when his company SpaceX bought $90 million worth of stock in the venture, his involvement took the company miles ahead to a point where he decided to acquire it all together, at an estimated $2.5-$3 billion through Tesla.”

The most out-of-this-world investment is SpaceX, “where Elon Musk has invested the most. The California-based rocket and spacecraft manufacturer was founded by Musk himself in 2002. The company, which was started with $100 million from the sale of PayPal, is now worth over $21 billion… The company has been a remarkable success, both financially and technologically, and has made space travel exciting again. At the end of last year, SpaceX had successfully landed 19 rockets and next steps are to take humans to Mars by 2024.”

Between electric cars, space travel, solar energy, and underground tunnels, Musk has accumulated billions with his bold plans to transform the future. Where will he invest next? Check out this infographic from RS Components for more…



Note: Article originally published on, by Matt Pressman

*Source: Valuewalk / Infographic: RS Components

The post A look at Elon Musk’s various business ventures and investments [Infographic] appeared first on

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EA CEO — Star Wars: Battlefront II is a ‘learning opportunity

Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson described the company’s missteps in monetization for Star Wars: Battlefront II as a “learning opportunity” in a conference call today with analysts. From the perspective of gamers who were angry about EA’s approach to in-game purchases of loot crates, that’s an understatement.

“Having made adjustments based on sentiment and community data coming out of the beta and early trials, we ultimately made the decision to pull in-game purchases out of the game prior to launch,” Wilson said, in the closest thing EA has come to a mea culpa yet.

He added, “We never intended to build an experience that could be seen as unfair or lacking clear progression, so we removed the feature that was taking away from what fans were telling us was an otherwise great game. We are fortunate to have such passionate players that will tell us when we get it right, and when we don’t. We’re now working hard on more updates that will meet the needs of our players, and we hope to bring these to the Battlefront II community in the months ahead.”

EA acknowledged that sales of Battlefront II — 9 million during the holiday quarter that ended December 31 — were below expectations because of the loot crate controversy. Fans were upset that you could buy powerful characters like Darth Vader using loot crate purchases, rather than earning the characters purely through gameplay in multiplayer combat. EA backed off on the aggressive monetization plan, but it said it would reinstitute the loot crates when the timing was right.

“We remain committed to the franchise, the team is working diligently on new content and live updates,” Wilson said in an analyst conference call. “Response has been strong to the content we released so far. We will look after that community and fulfill the commitment we made to them for a long time to come.”

As to whether the loot crate problem hurt EA’s relations with Disney, Wilson said, “You shouldn’t believe everything you read in the press. We are very proactive in relationships in service of our players. We have good relations with Disney. When we have the right model for players, I have no doubt we will get support for Disney for that. The big picture is there is no one size fits all for event-driven live services. But at the very core we should start with a foundation of player choice.”

Above: Four human players play as heroes and take on four villains in Star Wars: Battlefront II’s Heroes vs. Villains multiplayer mode.

Image Credit: Electronic Arts/GamesBeat

Blake Jorgensen, chief financial officer at EA, said in the call that the next big Star Wars game to drop will likely come from Respawn Entertainment, which EA bought last quarter for $455 million, in fiscal 2020. That means it will ship in the year ending March 31, 2020.

Here’s the full Wilson’s full remarks during the beginning of EA’s analyst conference call:

Q3 was a quarter defined by strong performances and important learnings for us at Electronic Arts. We love making games. It is a privilege to bring fun and entertainment to people all around the world. As we look across our games and services this quarter, we have a lot to be proud of.

We brought hundreds of millions of hours of play to fans during the holiday quarter across console, mobile and PC. We also appreciate that our players have high expectations of us and the games we make – and that passion drives us.  As we push the boundaries with every new experience, we are continually listening, learning and taking action to serve our players.

Now, let me touch on Star Wars Battlefront II. This was definitely a learning opportunity.  You’ll remember that we brought three of our top studios together on this project, and the result was a massive game with a new Star Wars story; space battles; and huge multiplayer variety.  We wanted a game that would meet the needs of the vast and passionate Star Wars fan base, so we designed it with the intent of keeping the community together, and a commitment to continually add content long after launch.

Given the newness of this design, we knew that player feedback during the pre-launch testing period would be key. Having made adjustments based on sentiment and community data coming out of the beta and early trials, we ultimately made the decision to pull in-game purchases out of the game prior to launch.

We never intended to build an experience that could be seen as unfair or lacking clear progression, so we removed the feature that was taking away from what fans were telling us was an otherwise great game. We are fortunate to have such passionate players that will tell us when we get it right, and when we don’t.  We’re now working hard on more updates that will meet the needs of our players, and we hope to bring these to the Battlefront II community in the months ahead.

Having made these changes before launch, Star Wars: Battlefront II has been delivering fun to millions of players around the world, through the holiday season and beyond.  With the breadth and depth of the game, fans spent twice as much time playing Battlefront II over the previous game during the launch quarter.

The unique story of Iden Versio at the center of the game has drawn nearly 70 percent of players into the single-player campaign. Engagement has been strong in the first season of free post-launch content from The Last Jedi, and we’re excited to bring new seasons to fans in FY19. As we grow this game with more content, we believe that Star Wars fans will continue to have fantastic experiences over the long life of Battlefront II.

Going forward, we believe that live services that include optional digital monetization, when done right, provide a very important element of choice that can extend and enhance the experience in our games.  We’re committed to continually working with our players to deliver the right experience in each of our games and live services.

The PC Gaming channel is presented by Intel®‘s Game Dev program.

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EA confirms that Anthem is delayed until 2019

EA has confirmed that Anthem, the company’s upcoming open-world, multiplayer action-RPG from developer BioWare, has officially been delayed to 2019, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal (via Polygon.)

Anthem was originally announced at E3 2017 as a wholly new property, with a planned fall 2018 release date that it seems it will no longer be making. At the time, EA showcased a flashy gameplay demo, showing off giant exosuit wearing “freelancers” in an online world that looks not unlike Bungie’s Destiny games, complete with an emphasis on collecting weapons and items through randomized drops.

According to EA’s chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen, despite moving the release date to 2019, “it’s not a delay.” Instead, EA…

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Waymo’s fleet of self-driving minivans just grew by ‘thousands’

The self-driving car movement continues to accelerate, both in the speed of innovation taking place and the number of autonomous vehicles on the road. Take, for instance, Waymo, the self-driving car arm of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. 

Today, Waymo announced that it’s purchased ‘thousands’ of Pacifica Hybrid minivans from long-standing partner Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) to add to its self-driving car fleet.

FCA said the large minivan order will “support the launch of the world’s first driverless ride-hailing service”, which is expected to come to cities across the US. As of right now, Waymo’s service is slated to begin picking up passengers in Phoenix, Arizona sometime this year.

FCA previously supplied Waymo with 600 Pacifica Hybrid minivans, all rigged out for self-driving. While the exact number of new minivans wasn’t disclosed in today’s announcement, ‘thousands’ is certainly no small figure. 

Going and going

Waymo is establishing itself at the forefront of the self-driving car movement, particularly when it comes to autonomous vehicles that offers rides to passengers.

The company began testing its self-driving minivans on public roads – with no one at the wheel – late last year. According to FCA, Waymo has tested its self-driving technology in 25 cities in the US. 

The countdown for Waymo’s autonomous ride-hailing service may be on, but other companies are stepping up their self-driving game, too. It was recently discovered that Apple has grown its fleet of self-driving Lexus vehicles from 3 to 27. Meanwhile, Uber wants its self-driving cars picking up passengers in the next 18 months.

And earlier today we reported on Nuro, a company founded by two former Waymo engineers that has developed a self-driving delivery van. Rather than ferry around people, the vehicle will deliver goods ranging from online food orders to dry cleaning. 

That’s not to mention the countless automobile companies with plans to have their own self-driving cars on the road in the coming years. 

Still, despite progress in self-driving across the industry, today’s news only seems to lengthen Waymo’s lead. We’ll just have to see if its ride-hailing service meets its timeline. So far, there’s no indication it won’t.

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You can use Alexa to send SMS messages now, if you’ve also got an Android phone

Amazon is expanding Alexa’s ability to send messages by allowing it to send SMS text messages to any phone, instead of just messaging other people through the Alexa app, via TechCrunch.

The new feature only works for Alexa users with an Android device that also have the Alexa app installed. To set things up, navigate over to Conversations tab, then “Contacts,” then “My Profile,” then switch the “Send SMS” feature to on. There’s no word as to when or even if similar functionality will be available on iOS devices.

By default, asking Alexa to send “a message” will cause the device to first try to send messages to the Alexa app, assuming your recipient has it installed and configured, and will only send through SMS if that option isn’t…

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Our favorite feature films from Sundance 2018

Every January, cinema fans don their boots and heavy coats, gear up for extensive line-standing and bus-waiting, and flock to Park City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival. Founded in 1978, Sundance has become America’s biggest independent film festival, and it’s often the launch point for films from around the world that were made outside the studio system, and are looking for recognition and distribution deals. Some years, Sundance has a bigger impact than other years. 2017’s lineup saw the premieres (and sales) of breakout hits like Call Me By Your Name and The Big Sick, in addition to gems like A Ghost Story, Brigsby Bear, and Ingrid Goes West. 2018 was a lower-key year, but it had its share of well-received hits and instant sales,…

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China Wants to Create the Chips to Power the Future of AI

AI Boom

China’s increasingly vested interest in developing artificial intelligence (AI) is breathing new life into the country’s semiconductor industry. A new report from MIT Technology Review explains how China’s dedication to becoming a global leader in AI development is giving Chinese chipmakers a new opportunity to reclaim territory in the burgeoning field of hardware development.

Image Credit: Horizon Robotics

China is currently involved in a what might be called an AI “arms race,” with the United States and Russia. Google has recognized China’s major contributions to the enhancement of AI, and as the company’s chief scientist for AI and machine learning explained in a blog post “Chinese authors contributed 43 percent of all content in the top 100 AI journals in 2015.”

Since 2015, Chinese innovators have been encouraged to rely more on homegrown technology through the central government’s Made in China 2025 initiative, which listed chip design and fabrication as one of the most desired areas for expansion.

Even more, the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology recently published a three-year action plan to develop AI. The government has a significant interest in mass-producing neural-network processing chips by 2020.

Against the Tide

The semiconductor community will certainly be pushing against more than just international competition;  many companies developing AI are opting to build their own hardware as well. In the MIT report, Fengxiang Ma, Director of ASIC design at Horizon Robotics (which develops AI for cameras and vehicles), said: “In the future, companies that only make chips may be fewer and fewer.”

These developers recognize that producing their own custom-made chips not only makes the process more cost-effective but can lead to better performance. One example being Tesla; the company has been working on developing its own chip, which is intended to improve the horizontal integration from its products to customers.

The AI development boom will continue to foster healthy competition between companies around the world who are hoping to build the chips that will power the AI devices of the future.

The post China Wants to Create the Chips to Power the Future of AI appeared first on Futurism.

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Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iOS Gaining Real-Time Co-Authoring, Drag and Drop Support

Microsoft today announced a major update for its Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps, which will see the introduction of real-time co-authoring, drag and drop support on the iPad, universal link support for shared files, and more.

With support for real-time co-authoring, multiple people can contribute to and edit documents in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on iOS devices. Changes made by each user will sync within seconds, plus you’ll be able to see everyone that’s working on a document and what they’re working on.

Real-time co-authoring support on iOS devices follows the introduction of the feature in Microsoft’s Mac apps earlier this month.

Microsoft is also adding drag and drop support for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on the iPad, which means you’ll be able to drag files between Microsoft apps and quickly add links, text, photos, graphs, and more.

The three apps will also support universal links, which means anytime you’re sent a shared Word, PowerPoint, or Excel file, it’ll open right in the app rather than requiring you to authenticate in a browser, and there are new Accessibility features like improved VoiceOver support for better navigation.

Microsoft today also announced major changes for the OneDrive app, which includes an overhauled interface, support for the Files app, drag and drop support, and several other new features.

Microsoft says the new functionality in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint will be available “in the coming days” through updates available in the iOS App Store.

Microsoft Word [Direct Link], Microsoft Excel [Direct Link], and Microsoft PowerPoint [Direct Link] can all be downloaded from the App Store for free.

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