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07.09.16 | 9:40 pm

Pokémon Go players are wandering into a world of pain

Pokémon Go mania is in full force. Perhaps eager to close out a week of horrifying current events, users are downloading the addictive augmented reality smartphone game in droves. (The demand has crashed servers, causing Niantic, the Google-funded startup behind the app, to pause the game's international rollout.) But in their roving, face-in-screen, real-world quest to catch 'em all, some players are walking and even driving into harm's way. 

Almost as quickly as the game has spread, so too have reports of health hazards, bizarre encounters and warnings about the potential risks. The app, which asks users to navigate the real world in search of virtual characters who appear on their phone screens, is causing some to complain about fatigue and sore legs (which, as likely signs of exercise, may be its most positive real-world impact).

Meanwhile, reports on social media say that some players have sustained injuries while trying to catch monsters, including a Reddit user who said they fell in a ditch. "Fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in my foot, 6-8 weeks for recovery," wrote the user, Amalthea. "I told all the doctors I was walking my dog lol."

Authorities in Washington state advised people against playing Pokémon Go while driving, which is apparently a very common activity that is bound to have disastrous consequences at some point. Meanwhile, a teenager in Wyoming reportedly found a (real, not virtual) dead body in the course of playing. In Australia, police had to warn users against using their headquarters as a "Pokéstop" in the game. And a week of heightened violence and racial tension has at least one writer thinking about the unique risks that people of color may face by navigating the real world differently because of the immersive app. "The premise of Pokémon Go asks me to put my life in danger if I choose to play it as it is intended and with enthusiasm," wrote Omari Akil. 

So far, meanwhile, plenty of monster hunters of all backgrounds have come close to walking into traffic. In its Terms of Service, Niantic urges users to "be aware of your surroundings and play safely. You agree that your use of the App and play of the game is at your own risk, and it is your responsibility to maintain such health, liability, hazard, personal injury, medical, life, and other insurance policies as you deem reasonably necessary for any injuries that you may incur while using the Services."

The dangers of the Pokémon Go craze aren't just physical: players are also being urged to be on the lookout for another monster, a fake, backdoor-installing Android version of the game.

Careful out there in real life, folks. 

[Photo: via the Official Pokemon Channel / YouTube]


02.27.17 | 5:28 pm

Uber’s SVP of engineering departs after former sexual harassment accusations emerge

Uber's engineering head, Amit Singhal, is leaving the company after it was discovered that he left Google last year following sexual harassment accusations, according to Recode. Singhal started at Uber in January. 

The departure comes as stories of a toxic workplace culture at Uber are spilling out of the company's walls. Earlier this month, a former Uber employee published a detailed account of her own experience with sexual harassment at Uber and its failure to take appropriate action. Since then, several reports have been published on Uber's systemic issues with sexual harassment and grueling work conditions. Read more here.  

02.27.17 | 2:15 pm

Trump-appointed FCC chair suddenly diverges from Trump agenda by shrugging off AT&T-Time-Warner

Remember that time Donald Trump said his administration would never approve the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner? On the campaign trail in October, Trump said the deal would put "too much concentration of power in the hands of too few." That was then. In an interview at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this morning, the FCC's new commissioner, Ajit Pai, said he doesn't think the agency should even have a role in reviewing the $85 billion deal, the Wall Street Journal reports. The reason, Pai says, is that no airwave licenses are being transferred. 

"That is the regulatory hook for FCC review . . . My understanding is that the deal won't be presented to the commission." 

That would mean one less regulatory hurdle for the merger, which would still need to pass muster with the DOJ. In criticizing the merger, candidate Trump was likely using it as a talking point—a way to instill fear in CNN, which is owned by Time Warner. 

[Photo: Luismt94 via Wikimedia Commons]

02.27.17 | 2:00 pm

Mozilla buys Pocket for more informed web browsing

Firefox maker Mozilla is hoping to bring some context to the web by acquiring the popular read-it-later app Pocket for an undisclosed sum. Pocket lets users save web links into a clutter-free reading app, and last year started serving up recommendations based on what other people are reading. Roughly 10 million people use Pocket every month, and so far the startup has saved more than 3 billion links.

It sounds like those services will remain intact under Mozilla, which already integrates Pocket into its Firefox web browser. The long-term plan is to use Pocket's recommendations as fuel for a "context graph" that provides relevant information as you browse. As I wrote last October, the real value of Pocket is its ability to separate useful stories from clickbait. That knowledge is what Mozilla hopes to tap into.

02.27.17 | 1:50 pm

Data industry could help government track Muslims, report warns

If the Trump administration wanted to compile a list of undocumented immigrants or even Muslims in the United States, it might not have to create any new registry, warns a new report from Amnesty International.

Private data brokers have already compiled lists of millions of names of Muslims, along with lists with names like "Americans with Bosnian Muslim Surnames" and "Unassimilated Hispanic American," the group found. And one company claimed to be able to offer a reasonably accurate list of undocumented immigrants in California. The brokers with data on religion range from big vendors like Experian to smaller companies with names like E-Tech, and websites like ExactData.com that offer data for download.

Data brokers like ExactData, pictured above, compile and sell specific data on individuals

ExactData offers a list of about 1.8 million purported Muslims, including their names and addresses, for $138,380, according to the report. Another unnamed data analytics company said they had data for 3.7 million individuals of "Muslim ethnicity" in the U.S., slightly above the Pew Research Center´s 2015 estimate of the total number of Muslims in the country, according to Amnesty.

While a number of data companies have explicitly stated they would not help build a "Muslim registry," data brokers are essentially unregulated, and many believe that government agencies already buy records on Americans from the companies, according to the report.

02.27.17 | 12:18 pm

U.K. cab drivers are miffed over a new English exam requirement

Drivers in London are frustrated over a new required test that has them answering questions about the Northern Lights, reading difficult phrases, and mocking up written essays. The two-hour, $250 test was first announced in October of last year. Transportation for London general manager for taxi and private hire, Helen Chapman, has been quoted as saying: "It is essential for public safety that all licensed drivers can communicate in English at an appropriate level." But the new test could mean that people who have been driving cabs for over a decade will lose their taxi license.     

Read more here

02.27.17 | 12:09 pm

Co.Create’s response to last night’s Academy Awards

Hear what the editors of Co.Create had to say about a particularly memorable Oscars

02.27.17 | 11:56 am

See that? Even Google and Comcast can play nice

There may be hope for humanity yet. Tech giant Google and cable giant Comcast have not always been the best of friends, but it looks like they're willing to put their differences aside once in a while for the greater good. The companies said today that they will launch a YouTube app on Comcast's Xfinity X1 platform later this year, giving X1 users more seamless access to YouTube videos. 

Comcast and Google have been at odds on a number of issues, including the FCC's ill-fated plan to force cable companies to open up their set-top boxes. Google had wanted to make its own boxes for cable TV content. Still, the X1 has proven a popular platform, and even Comcast's biggest nemeses don't want to miss out. Netflix, another Comcast foe, was added to the platform in November of last year.

[Photo: Flickr user Andrew Perry]

02.27.17 | 11:11 am

The Minecraft craze is not slowing down at all

Minecraft's popularity is still soaring nearly seven years after its initial alpha release, with 122 million copies sold across phones, tablets, computers, and game consoles. That's up from 106 million copies in June 2016, the last time Microsoft shared sales statistics. The number of people who play Minecraft every month has grown even faster, from 40 million last June to 55 million now.

Microsoft acquired Minecraft developer Mojang for $2.5 billion in 2014, and since then the companies have been working to bring the mobile and console versions in line with the PC version, which sells fewer copies but has more features. Much of that work was completed over the last year, perhaps explaining why the build-and-survive sandbox game has more active players than ever.

02.27.17 | 10:52 am

What really caused Uber’s toxic work culture?

It's been over a week since a former female engineer at Uber came forward with her story about the company's toxic and misogynistic work culture. Since then, others have come forward telling their own horror stories. The company has responded by pledging to investigate the allegations and figure out what went wrong. But the problem doesn't lie simply in figuring out why one person was treated poorly, but in what systemic elements created the overall environment. 

Read my latest piece, which looks at what really created Uber's hostile work environment and why it (and other companies) need to be better and more open about creating a better work culture.

02.27.17 | 10:11 am

Roborace debuts self-driving race car at MWC 2017

You've heard about self-driving trucks and cars, but what about self-driving race cars? Electronic motorsports company Roborace debuted its aerodynamic electric driverless race car at Mobile World Congress today. The car was designed with the help of Daniel Simon, who's drawn up concept cars for both automakers and big-screen productions like Tron. The company plans to bring the car to Formula E (that's right, electric street racing) circuits in 2017. 

Read more here.

02.27.17 | 10:07 am

Here’s the biggest smartphone news from MWC 2017

Every year in late February, tech companies head to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to announce their latest phones, tablets, and other mobile gear. Here's what phone makers are cooking up for 2017:

Lenovo's Moto Z phones are getting Amazon Alexa integration, plus a docking station that glows when you talk to the virtual assistant.

• Google's own hands-free voice assistant–simply dubbed the Google Assistant–is coming to a lot more Android phones starting this week.

• The LG G6 phone will stream eye-popping Dolby Vision HDR from Netflix and Amazon.

-The camera on Sony's Xperia XZ phone can capture 960 frames per second.

Huawei's P10 phone will learn to launch users' favorite apps faster.

TCL is making a BlackBerry-branded Android phone, and yes, it has a keyboard.

02.27.17 | 9:50 am

Ready for Skynet? SoftBank CEO says computers will be smarter than people in 30 years

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this morning, SoftBank Group CEO Masayoshi Son told the crowd he expects computer intelligence to exceed human intelligence within 30 years, according to Fortune. "I really believe this," Son said. 

But don't worry about a Matrix-style takeover of humanity just yet. Asked if the rise of artificial intelligence will pose a danger to humans, Son said he thinks humans and machines will be partners, not enemies. "If we misuse it, it will be a risk," he added. "If we use it right, it can be our partner."

Read the full story here.

[Photo: Flickr user fallsundermiscellaneous]