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05.20.16 | 4:17 pm

Google’s Project Ara modular-phone dream lives on

When I wrote about Google's Project Ara in February of 2014, it was obvious that its goal—to build a smartphone with slide-in modules that people in developing economies could upgrade as their budgets permitted—was audacious. The fact that the company set a two-year timetable for itself made the whole idea sound like borderline science fiction.

The two-year deadline came and went, and Paul Eremenko, the executive spearheading the effort, left the company, as did his boss, Regina Dugan. But today at its I/O conference, Google announced that it plans to ship an Ara phone to developers this year and have a consumer version ready in 2017. If it comes to pass, and it works, I'll still be amazed—and I remain curious whether the overarching goal of bringing smartphones to people who can't afford conventional ones will pan out.

09.29.16 | 20 minutes ago

NJ Transit train crash in Hoboken kills three people, injures 100 

Here's what we know so far about the crash of a Pascack Valley Line train in the Hoboken terminal, which took place at around 8:30-8:45 this morning: 

• About 100 people have been injured, with "multiple critical injuries," according to an NJ Transit spokeswoman. Three have been confirmed dead

• The train appears to have gone through a bumper stop at the end of the track, crashing between the platform and the station's waiting area. 

• Passengers claimed the train wasn't slowing down as it pulled into Hoboken station. One person who was in the fifth car told the New York Times the crash felt like "a major skid." 

• The cause of the crash is still not clear, though law enforcement officials say it was likely "accidental or caused by operator error." 

• Rail service in and out of the station has been suspended, for both NJ Transit and PATH trains. 

09.29.16 | 38 minutes ago

QUIZ: Read this redacted book review and try to guess who the subject is

Yesterday's review by the New York Times's longtime book critic Michiko Kakutani of a new biography raised a lot of eyebrows. Though the life story profiles a notorious historical figure, the review was described as a "brilliant subtweet" for its striking parallels to a certain current political personality. 

We've blacked out any names or identifying details mentioned in the review—and included a few choice substitutions. Take a look for yourself and tell us if it's not completely frightening:

Redacted book review

09.29.16 | an hour ago

Investment app Robinhood introduces Gold, its moneymaking membership

Robinhood, the free investment app that allows you to tinker with the stock market using small sums of cash, is rolling out its first paid features. Today the company is announcing Gold, a new $10-per-month membership that will give users more opportunity to invest

● Members can start trading an hour before the market opens and can continue trading two hours after its closes daily. 

Investment loans: Robinhood will lend Gold members money to invest. The amounts vary, but the program effectively allows members to double what they have in their account. If you have $1,000, Robinhood will loan you an additional $1,000.  

Instant cash-outs: Once you sell stock, you can immediately reinvest or send directly to your connected bank account. 

Since launching in 2014, Robinhood has amassed one million users who have made $12 billion in transactions. The company's offerings have largely been free and some have questioned how it will ultimately make money. This rollout is the first real step toward monetization. 

09.29.16 | an hour ago

Simple Bank launches joint accounts for anyone who’s sharing expenses

Remember Simple Bank? The online-only bank emerged five years ago with the goal of giving customers a deeper understanding of their finances with charts and budgeting goals. Now, after being acquired by Madrid bank BBVA, it's launching its first new product in a while: joint accounts. 

Simple is marketing its "shared cards" to couples of all types: roomies, life partners, parents and their kids—any duo (or trio) that has to pay for things together. To get one, all parties first have to have their own individual Simple account. But once open, it allows people to set up a pot from which to draw money for bills and whatever else. What's interesting about Simple's joint account is that it's able to identify who is spending what. If you use the joint account to buy your morning coffee, your account will identify that you spent money from the account at your local coffee spot. The other person on the account will get a push notification saying you did this. The product makes banking together a little more transparent than ordinary joint accounts, but will not stop your partner from draining the account.  

09.29.16 | 2 hours ago

Neil deGrasse Tyson changes his tune on SpaceX’s Mars mission

In the past, Tyson has thrown shade on Elon Musk's plans to go to Mars. Last year, in an interview with The Verge, he described the idea of SpaceX leading the space race as a "delusion." He made the case that private companies are not equipped to handle interplanetary travel, given the risks (including inevitable death), the costs involved, and the struggle to make a profit. 

But in an appearance on CNBC after Musk's keynote at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico earlier this week, Tyson gave Musk credit for "putting his money where his mouth is." He said that Musk is creating a business model out of space exploration and using his corporations to make this happen. "You got to listen to this guy," he quipped. 

09.29.16 | 2 hours ago

Federal contractors must now offer paid sick leave to employees

About 40% of private-sector employees don't get paid if they take a day off to recover from illness or care for a sick child. Under a new Labor Department rule, employees involved in contracts for the federal government–an estimated 1.1 million people–will receive at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work, for up to seven days of sick leave each year.

09.29.16 | 2 hours ago

West Elm stores are getting Sonos listening rooms (and speakers, of course)

Sonos may have just opened its own flagship store in New York a few months ago, but their retail strategy doesn't stop there: Today, Sonos announced a partnership with West Elm that will see Sonos speakers and components sold in West Elm Stores, many of which will be outfitted with new "Listening Labs" that enable customers to hear the high-fidelity wireless sound systems for themselves. 

The design-centric home retailer–which also offers interior design consultation and in-home installation services–is not just adding sound and music to its repertoire of products, but training its staff to help customers understand the role that sound plays in the design of one's home. 

"This is not a product addition," West Elm president Jim Brett told Fast Company. "This is about the way that we see ourselves being involved in people's lives."

09.29.16 | 2 hours ago

Steve Case endorses Hillary Clinton, saying her policies are better for innovative technology and startups

Case is a cofounder of America Online and the chairman and chief executive of venture capital firm Revolution. Until now, he has avoided endorsing political candidates. "I've wanted to be nonpartisan, able to work with people on both sides of the aisle," he explained in a Washington Post op-ed that announced his support for Clinton.

In addition to believing Clinton is better for the economy, startups in particular, Case says he supports her efforts to expand STEM education, her belief in controlling the deficit, and her stance on immigration."Trump's harsh policies will cost us jobs," he wrote, "and his even harsher rhetoric will chase away immigrant families whose children could grow up to be the next Steve Jobs (whose father was a Syrian refugee) or Sergey Brin (an immigrant himself)."

09.29.16 | 2 hours ago

Uber adds  another option to its marketing vehicle

Through a partnership with location data startup Yext, Uber will offer brands like Cole Haan or Guitar Center to add a "call me an Uber" button to their websites or emails. Click that button, and you can book a ride to the nearest store location. Uber's app will serve you ads relevant to your destination (i.e., a food menu for a restaurant) on the way.

09.29.16 | 3 hours ago

Morning intel: Facebook at Work to launch October 10, hackers circle voter registration sites

• The FBI has detected hackers "poking around" voter registration sites in more than a dozen states, CNN reports. As with previous breaches to DNC servers and cell phones, the hackers are believed to be backed by the Russian government. 

Spotify, which just launched in Japan, is reportedly in talks to acquire SoundCloud, according to the Financial Times. If such a deal were to happen, it could give Spotify a huge boost in users compared to Apple Music. 

• In keeping with earlier reports, TechCrunch says Facebook has sent out invites for an October 10 launch event in London to debut its Slack competitor, Facebook at Work

• For its upcoming coworking spaces in Detroit, WeWork signed leases that include a profit-sharing component, to accommodate fluctuating real estate prices. 

• The Lose It diet app can now identify what you're eating and its calorie count as you're eating it, with a new beta feature called "Snap It" that uses computer vision. Here's how it worked for us

• So you want to edit your friends' taste in music. The updated Pacemaker app lets you tweak and share not just your mixtapes, but also those of your friends

09.29.16 | 4 hours ago

NYC’s famous Union Square Cafe will use Apple Watches to improve customer service

When New York's Union Square Cafe reopens next month, floor managers and sommeliers will be wearing Apple Watches as part of a new customer service initiative. When a VIP walks into the restaurant, owned by Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer, or "someone orders a bottle of wine, a new table is seated, a guest waits too long to order her or his drink, or a menu item runs out, every manager will get an alert via the tiny computer attached to their wrist," reports Eater. It's all part of a partnership with Resy, the reservation systems startup.

09.29.16 | 7:11 am

This diet app now lets you take photos of your meal and tells you what you should be eating

The popular diet app Lose It's new "Snap It" feature (in beta) automatically identifies what's in your lunch and tells you what you should be eating. After taking a picture with your smartphone, the app then analyzes a photo of the meal, and compares it against models from external databases as well as Lose It's internal database, providing "food suggestions based on what it sees," reports Fast Company's Neal Ungerleider