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03.29.16 | 1:27 pm

“Oculus face” is now a thing

06.27.17 | 2 hours ago

Amazing, but true: More than 25% of all humans use Facebook

As a tech journalist who writes frequently about Facebook, I've referred to the size of the service's user base in many ways over the years. Recently, I've been using "nearly 2 billion users." Well, as of today, neither I nor anyone else needs to use the word "nearly" anymore.

That's because, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted today, the service has crossed the 2 billion mark. Think about that. There's roughly 7 billion people on Earth. That means 28% of all the people in the world are active Facebook users. So how did the company reach that impressive number? My colleague Harry McCracken has the scoop on how the company used science and empathy to cross the 2 billion line

06.27.17 | 3 hours ago

Spotify is launching a world tour—no headphones required

Soon you'll be able to listen to your favorite Spotify playlist without a subscription or even earbuds. This summer, Spotify is launching "RapCaviar Live," a six-city tour in partnership with Live Nation, based on the popular playlist, the company announced on Tuesday.

The festivities will kick off August 12 in Atlanta with the self-anointed Trap God, Gucci Mane, along with uber-producer Mike WiLL Made It and a bunch of still-unannounced special guests. Tickets go on sale on Friday, June 30, at 10 a.m. ET. The tour will then move through Chicago, Houston, L.A., NYC, and Toronto, but artists for those shows have not been announced yet. (Hopefully they nail down hip-hop stars before Amazon moves into concert promotion, too.) 

"RapCaviar Live" is the latest way that Spotify is cashing in on its impressive cache of fan data to help book shows and connect artists with their fans; it's also flexing its muscles to help sell tickets. Read more about that here, while trying to guess how long it will take for Tidal to start booking tours, too. Just kidding! They already did.

06.27.17 | 10:58 am

Oscar Mayer now has a “Wienerdrone” because obviously that’s how you deliver hot dogs in the future 

Our weird future can be summed up in one word: Wienerdrone. Oscar Mayer's Wienermobile (aka the original wiener on wheels) has been a fixture hogging up parking places on the city streets for years, but as we move toward a future filled with flying cars and driving-flying drones, the Wienermobile is evolving, just like Darwin predicted. 

Oscar Mayer has just unveiled the Wienerdrone, the flying hot-dog shaped advertisement that is the perfect prediction/indictment of where we are heading as a society—with hot dogs!   

06.27.17 | 10:15 am

A pharma exec was sentenced to nine years in prison for profiting from a meningitis outbreak

A Massachusetts pharmacy executive at the center of a deadly meningitis outbreak was sentenced to nine years in prison on Monday for putting profits above safety.

A federal jury convicted Barry Cadden, the owner and head pharmacist of New England Compounding Center, of racketeering and fraud charges in connection with the outbreak, Reuters reports. Cadden was cleared of second-degree murder charges for the outbreak that killed 76 people in what the DOJ has called the largest public health crisis ever caused by a pharmaceutical product. The outbreak occurred when Cadden started to produce drugs in dangerously unsanitary conditions (moldy gloves! unlicensed pharmacist!) sending more than 17,000 vials of the steroid tainted across the country. The contaminated steroid, which was commonly prescribed for back pain, caused injury or death in some 778 people nationwide. According to the Washington Post, back in 2014, federal prosecutors filed a 131-count indictment against Cadden and 13 others, claiming they "operated more like a criminal enterprise than a pharmacy." 

06.27.17 | 9:22 am

CNN helpfully fact-checks Donald Trump’s tweet about its “way down” ratings

If textbook writers are looking for examples of irony, they would do well to include the latest tweet from Donald Trump—and a sharp rebuttal from CNN. Trump tweeted that "Fake News CNN" had its "Ratings way down!" which he said was due to the network being "caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories."

"Fake News CNN" quickly rebutted the president's claim, tweeting that in its reality (the fact that whose reality even needs to be specified is stupefying), the network had just posted its most-watched second quarter in history. Fake news indeed.

Yesterday, CNN said three journalists have left the network in the aftermath of a now-retracted Russia-related story. More on that bit of real news here.

06.27.17 | 9:13 am

Google responds to the EU fine with a “What about Amazon?” defense

Google was just fined a record $2.7 billion by the European Union over its promoted shopping search results. The commission alleges that Google, by cherry-picking the top results for online purchase queries, distorts the market. Google, however, would like to point out that it's not the only big player in town.

In a blog post published this morning, Google SVP and general counsel Kent Walker writes that the company is actually helping keep the market fair from other competitors. The digital ad juggernaut, you see, is just protecting us plebes from the other digital juggernauts also trying to distort the market. "Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay," he writes. 

He goes on to say that Amazon's influence and growth has also had a big impact on smaller sites and sales. He explains, "As Amazon has grown, it's natural that some comparison services have proven less popular than others." What's next for Google? After shifting the blame to Amazon, it says it's considering appealing the EU's decision. 

[Photo: Kai Oberhauser]

06.27.17 | 8:59 am

This bed startup used a century of research to create a suite of products optimized for the perfect night’s sleep

Tucked away in a corner of Atlanta, Serta Simmons has a high-tech facility devoted to understanding what goes into a good night's sleep. The company has spent over a century conducting research about the optimal temperature and light conditions for sleep, as well as the kinds of materials that go into crafting the most supportive bed. It has channeled all of these insights into a new independent subsidiary called Tomorrow.

Today, the brand launches a full suite of products designed to give a person the most restful night of sleep possible. The first step is, of course, the bed, which is designed to give the right amount of support and help regulate your body temperature. But the full system also involves two different types of pillows, a temperature regulating mattress protector, 500-thread-count sheets, a comforter, blackout drapes, and a tracker that is able to continually record data for one or two sleepers. "Until now, the only way we've been able to measure sleep has been by calculating how much time you've been asleep," says Brian Murphy, founder and president of Tomorrow. 

While other brands have tried to tackle one piece of the sleep puzzle–the pillow, for instance, or the most comfortable sheets–Tomorrow's goal was to use all available information to create a comprehensive system. By taking a direct-to-consumer approach, Tomorrow is able to sell mattresses starting at $550 (which arrive in a box, Casper-style), and the full system of products starts at $1,300. 

06.27.17 | 7:21 am

Florida now allows unmanned delivery robots on sidewalks

The Sunshine State is the fourth state to allow automated delivery robots on sidewalks and crosswalks, reports Recode. There are a few caveats: The robots cannot weigh more than 80 lbs. or go faster than 10 miles per hour. Florida joins Virginia, Idaho, and Wisconsin in allowing robots on sidewalks. 

06.27.17 | 5:56 am

Google just got fined a record-breaking $2.7 billion by the EU for manipulating search results

The fine is well above the expected $1.2 billion dollars many were expecting and comes after a seven-year inquiry by the European Commission into whether Google broke anticompetitive regulations by favoring search results leading shoppers to Google's Shopping service instead of rival shopping comparison sites, reports Bloomberg. Google is expected to appeal, but, if it would lose, the company could be forced to tweak its algorithms to how it ranks sites in search results, potentially affecting the company's core business globally.

06.27.17 | 5:37 am

Oracle, Yelp, and others have signed a letter of support for the EU’s imminent $1.2 billion anticompetitive fine against Google

Other signatories of the letter include News Corp, Disconnect, Getty Images, and News Media Alliance, reports Recode. The seven companies issued the letter ahead of the EU's actions, which is expected to fine Google this week for its alleged anticompetitive practices relating to its Google Shopping service, which aggregates prices and deals for products from around the web. The EU has been investigating whether or not Google favored its own shopping service in search results over others. If the fine is levied against Google, it will be the largest competition fine in EU history. The letter in full:

Dear Commissioner Vestager,

We represent U.S. companies that employ hundreds of thousands of workers across 50 states. We are writing to express our support for the Commission's enforcement action against Google.

As you near final decisions in the Shopping and Android cases, Google and its allies will no doubt continue to press through its lobbying and public relations machine the fiction that any adverse decision amounts to European "protectionism." As U.S.-based companies, we wish to go on record that enforcement action against Google is necessary and appropriate, not provincial. We have watched Google undermine competition in the United States and abroad. Google operates on a global scale and across the entire online ecosystem, destroying jobs and stifling innovation.

Google and its allies may also claim that there is no factual basis for a decision against Google. That too is untrue. The case against Google, both in Europe and the United States, rests on sound legal and factual foundations. Indeed, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission legal staff found that Google has monopoly power and that it engages in anticompetitive practices.

We believe that decisive action is necessary to restore competition and once again open the internet to innovation and growth. We hope that your counterparts in the United States will use this as an opportunity to address similar anticompetitive conduct by Google.

Disconnect Inc.
Getty Images Inc.
News Corporation
News Media Alliance
Oracle Corporation
Yelp Inc.

06.27.17 | 5:19 am

MIT team shows off a new approach to flying cars—drones that drive

When it comes to drones, they are usually built for one mode of transportation: flying or driving. This mono-modality means drones aren't as efficient as can be at navigating areas like cities where certain areas may be no-fly zones and other areas may have natural or artificial land barriers preventing a drone from driving through it, reports MIT News

Now a team of researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory aim to get around this single mode of navigation issue by creating hybrid drones that use artificial intelligence to identify why one mode of transport is better than the other and automatically switch between flying and driving depending on the physical and regulatory properties of the area the drone is in. You can check out how the system works in the video below.

06.26.17 | 7:37 pm

Report: Apple buys German company that holds key technology for augmented reality glasses

MacRumors sniffed out record of an Apple affiliate company in Germany buying a computer vision company called SensoMotoric Instruments. SensoMotoric is said to hold a trove of patents related to real-time eye tracking, which could be used as an input method in a future pair of Apple AR glasses. Here's the SensoMotoric technology in action: