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08.02.16 | 2:40 pm

Samsung’s third-gen Gear VR will have wider field of view, same $99 price

Until now, the Korean tech giant's virtual reality headset offered a 96-degree field of view, and was compatible with Samsung's Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S7 and S7 Edge, and Note5 phones. 

With the announcement today of its new high-end Note 7, Samsung also said it is releasing a third-generation Gear VR headset that is compatible with the new phone, and that offers a 101-degree field of view. The price remains at $99, and the device will be released on August 19, with pre-orders starting tomorrow. 

The new Gear VR will also be compatible with Samsung's $349 Gear 360 camera (also available August 19), meaning it should be fairly easy for users to shoot 360-degree video and then watch it on their VR headset. That's far more satisfying than watching 360 video on mobile phones or desktop web browsers. 

Moor Insights and Strategy analyst Patrick Moorhead told Fast Company that the new Gear VR's improved field of view is important. "While [the increase] may seem small, the experience improvement will be noticeable," he said.

10.24.16 | 37 minutes ago

Designers and city planners converge in NYC to discuss the worst train station in the world

Nothing unifies Northeasterners more than their shared hatred of Penn Station. The unsightly transit hub that connects New Jersey with midtown Manhattan is an aesthetic and logistical mess, from its cavernous underground design to its mysterious stench. 

Now a group of artists, urban planners, and architects are meeting for a two-part "public summit" to discuss the station and what can be done about it. The first part, on Oct. 25, will look at the station's legacy. (The destruction of the original station in 1963 kicked off the modern preservation movement.) The second part, on Nov. 2, will focus on the future of the station. (New York's governor has proposed moving it to a grander building across the street.) 

Either way, something has to happen. Read more about the summit here.

[Photo: Flickr user Peter Dutton]

10.24.16 | an hour ago

Afternoon intel: What to expect from Apple’s Q4 earnings 

Apple's Q4 earnings report will be out tomorrow. We're expecting sales numbers for the iPhone 7 and Apple Watch, but chances are they won't be meaningful until next quarter due to supply shortages. Also on our radar: iPad sales, which climbed up last quarter.

• Speaking of the Apple Watch: Smartwatch sales last quarter amounted to 2.7 million, down 51.6% from Q3 2015. As an IDC analyst said, "It has also become evident that at present smartwatches are not for everyone." Indeed. 

Samsung is really worried about losing customers. A new upgrade program will allow owners of the recalled Galaxy Note 7 phone to trade it for a Galaxy S7 and then upgrade to either a Galaxy S8 or Galaxy Note 8 next year

• The New York Times just bought The Wirecutter—the product recommendation site founded by technology journalist and former Gizmodo editor Brian Lam—for $30 million. 

• We don't know yet how AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner is going to pan out—but man, have there been some bad corporate mergers. 

10.24.16 | 2 hours ago

Vive opens store in China where you can VR your heart out

There are Apple Stores, Microsoft Stores, and now … an official Vive store. 

Taiwan's HTC opened the doors in Shenzhen, China, to its first Vive store—there will be many, many more to come—where the VR-curious can play with all kinds of virtual reality experiences, UploadVR reported. China is perhaps the biggest market for VR, experts say, and stores like this could be a big help in bringing the technology to many new people.

10.24.16 | 2 hours ago

IDC: Smartwatch sales dove 51.6% in the third quarter

The research firm calls it "growing pains." Total smartwatch shipments were 2.7 million last quarter, a decrease of 51.6% from the 5.6 million units shipped in the same quarter a year ago. 

Apple is still the overall leader of the worldwide smartwatch market, yet Apple Watch sales declined more than any other brand over the past year. "Apple revealed a new look and feel to watchOS that did not arrive until the launch of the second generation watch at the end of September," said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas.

Llamas also points to Google's decision to hold back Android Wear 2.0, which has made it hard for smartwatch makers to launch new products running that operating system in advance of the holidays.

"It has also become evident that at present smartwatches are not for everyone," adds IDC analyst Jitesh Ubrani.

10.24.16 | 3 hours ago

This week in the Bay Area: A conference dedicated to death 

In the Bay Area, anti-aging technologies are all the rage. But this week, entrepreneurs are gearing up to confront the inevitable: Death. 

Design firm Ideo and its sponsors Sutter Health, the Helix Centre, and the Ungerleider Palliative Care Education Fund, are putting on a series of events this week to raise awareness around end-of-life care. Highlights include a candlelight labyrinth walk through Grace Cathedral, free workshops to better understand issues like medical aid, and a dinner party to discuss life after loss. Check out the full schedule of events here. 

10.24.16 | 1:00 pm

IBM Watson writes an emo song with musician Alex Da Kid

IBM's Watson artificial intelligence has played Jeopardy, written recipes, and created a scary movie trailer. Now it has helped Grammy-winning music producer Alex Da Kid write a sad, sad song about heartbreak called "It's Not Easy." With a looping harmony, the four-minute piece mostly repeats three lines and the sound "ooh."

As with the trailer for the widely panned AI horror film Morgan, Watson didn't create "It's Not Easy" by itself, but rather provided material and tools to assist Alex Da Kid and his human collaborators Wiz Khalifa, Elle King, and X Ambassadors. (It's the first of four Watson-inspired songs on Da Kid's new EP.) The Watson Alchemy Language API and Tone Analyzer API went through five years of writings—from speeches to song lyrics—to discern the "emotional fingerprint" of each year and help create the simple lyrics. A tool called Watson BEAT deconstructed popular music to identify key items including pitch, time, and key signatures. It also noted sequence to help create original scores tuned to moods (like "devastated") and feelings (like "spooky").

The result is a pleasant, generic pop song and accompanying black-and-white video of a woman pulling a rolling suitcase down an empty road. Aside from an energetic ditty by Khalifa toward the end, the song mostly consists of three lines:

It's not easy.
No, it's not easy.
It's not easy breaking your heart.

Repeated 10 times.

10.24.16 | 12:21 pm

In honor of AT&T and Time Warner, here are some of the worst corporate mergers in history

We're not saying the combination of AT&T and Time Warner is a bad idea per se, but we did think news of the pending $85.4 billion merger was a good opportunity to look at those that have failed. The below mergers—or attempted mergers—are generally cited as some of the worst ever. It turns out, they happen in every industry. 

10.24.16 | 12:08 pm

Feds dump millions into better predicting our severe-weather future

There's been some serious hurricanes and floods in recent months, and Americans need to have a better sense of what's coming.

That's why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is investing $6 million into a better severe weather forecasting system. The Earth is getting warmer and we need to be better informed if we're going to protect ourselves from floods, hurricanes, thunderstorms, and other hazards, the agency said.

10.24.16 | 11:40 am

HTC’s Vive is selling about 20,000 units a month

Until now, HTC has kept mum about sales for its $799 high-end virtual reality system. But according to Forbes, the company's cofounder and chairperson, Cher Wang, told the Chinese site that the Vive has sold about 140,000 units since launch in April.

It's hard to put the number in perspective, given that this is first-generation high-end hardware in an all-new product category. Facebook-owned Oculus hasn't said how many of its $599 Rifts have been sold. Facebook has said that there have been a million monthly active users of Samsung's $99 Gear VR, which uses Oculus software.

10.24.16 | 10:59 am

The former CEO of a red light camera company is going to prison for bribery

Karen Finley, who served as CEO of the red light camera company Redflex from 20015 to 2013, has been sentenced to 14 months in prison, reports Ars Technica. In 2015, Finley pled guilty to corruption charges over backroom deals with the cities of Columbus and Cincinnati that offered political contributions in exchange for municipal contracts. 

Finley faces sentencing next month for similar charges in Chicago where she also pled guilty. In a statement to the court, reports Ars Technica, she wrote she is "ashamed and angry at myself for behaving in a manner that was inconsistent with the way I have lived my entire life."

10.24.16 | 10:57 am

Siri’s evil twin? Cybercriminals look to exploit voice-activated AI.

The weakest link in any security chain is usually a human, not a software program. Which makes the rise of voice-activated artificial intelligence, or AI, a major concern for cybersecurity experts, who foresee new opportunities for scammers to take advantage of the intimacy that characterizes Siri, Cortana, and Alexa. 

"It is only a matter of time before such software is put to criminal use," the New York Times reports

The lesson for consumers: If Siri asks you for personal information, you should think twice before providing it. 

10.24.16 | 10:32 am

Michael Bloomberg wants cities to start planning for driverless cars

Ready or not, here they come: Robotic cars. And truth be told, most cities are likely not prepared for the coming influx of autonomous vehicles that will occupy roads in the not-too-distant future. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to fix that by making a series of policy recommendations for cities to follow

Bloomberg Philanthropies is hoping that by sparking conversations between local governments and academics now, they can help cities understand the logistical, economic, and social impact of driverless cars before they overtake our cities. The initiative will start with Austin, Nashville, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, and Paris as test cities.