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07.09.16 | 7:30 pm

Scientists are using your Instagrams to understand cities

Believe it or not, your group selfies are going to be a gold mine for historians one day. Indeed, the value of detail-rich, location-tagged data from social networks like Foursquare and Twitter is already being mined for insights by scientists today. Their next frontier? Instagram. 

In a recent paper, Dutch researchers John D. Boy and Justus Uitermark outline how scientists can use data from Instagram's API to analyze human behavior within cities and get a clearer picture of how communities and subcultures form and evolve in urban environments and the role that specific public places play in the process

While most of us think of Instagram as a social network or photo-sharing app, social scientists see it as "a participatory sensing system" because of the social and geospatial data generated by its 500 million users everyday.  By ingesting that data and breaking it down by social activity (likes, comments, follows), location and other details, researchers can start to get a new level of insight into the relationship we all share with the places we inhabit. 

"Which places facilitate encounters between members of different groups, and which are exclusive to members of the same group?" the researchers ask. They ranked places from most parochial to most cosmopolitan by employing a diversity measure known as the divergence index. In this chart of places in Amsterdam, the horizontal bar graph on the right shows the value of the divergence measure, with higher values indicating lower diversity.  The heatmap in the middle indicates the relative presence of different clusters of users.

Visualization of place diversity in Amsterdam. Via Boy, et al.

Previously, research into subcultures, communities and human activity within a city required much more onerous and tedious methods of research. And while the process of mining Instagram for urban insights is only just beginning (It's easy to imagine how subfields of artificial intelligence like machine vision could help down the line), the potential future impact of this research is hard to miss. 

As more people flock to cities and the urban experience changes more rapidly, the slow-moving, traditional machinery of science will likely struggle to keep up. So it's a good thing we're creating a trove of useful data (in addition, of course, to all the data collected by advertisers, governments, and hackers) every time we lean in for a group shot or crouch down to frame that new mural in our phone's viewfinder.  So go ahead, snap that selfie. If your friends give you shit, tell them it's for science. 

12.08.16 | 29 minutes ago

There might be an iceberg the size of Delaware off Antarctica 

NASA spotted a 70 mile long rift off Antarctica that could eventually break off and lead to an enormous iceberg, which will cause sea levels to rise. Scientists believe that this is the result of the warmer air and water temperatures spurred by climate change. 

Read more in USA Today

12.08.16 | an hour ago

Hawthorne creates fragrances tailored to men’s biometrics

Hawthorne is a new direct-to-consumer fragrance brand that invites men to take a detailed biometric test about their diet, their body temperature, their workplace, and their routines, then uses that information to create two personalized fragrances designed for work and play. (The set costs $100.) To achieve this, the company built a complex algorithm that statistically correlates how biometric attributes and lifestyle traits influenced fragrance preference. So far, the system is working: 88% of their customers have been matched with fragrances they say they really enjoy. 

Hawthorne's founders are Hood By Air designer Phil Wong and his business partner Brian Jeong, both 27, who met in high school. To create the scents within their collection, they collaborated with perfumers responsible for Clinique Happy, Polo Red, and Thierry Mugler's Angel. 

12.08.16 | 2 hours ago

Morning intel: Ivanka Trump could leave her business, “Chewbacca Mom” tops Facebook charts

• President-elect Donald Trump may turn over the running of his real estate business to his adult sons, but keep his financial stake in the company, the New York Times reports, and Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump may also temporarily step away from leading her apparel company.

Silicon Valley billionaire and libertarian Jim O'Neill is a top choice to lead the Food and Drug Administration under President Trump, Bloomberg reports.

• The U.S. surgeon general says that the rise of e-cigarettes could undo decades of anti-smoking progress and act as a gateway to the use of traditional tobacco products.

• Congressional Democrats are pressuring President Obama to declassify information about Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. election.

• The most-watched Facebook Live video of 2016 was "Chewbacca Mom," which, with 162 million views, had nearly twice as many plays as the second most popular Live video of the year.

12.08.16 | 2 hours ago

Brandless scores $16M to build a new consumer goods marketplace

Brandless, the brainchild of Sherpa Capital investor Tina Sharkey and serial entrepreneur Ido Leffler, will be a marketplace like Jet or Amazon. Unlike these competitors, however, it will only sell products that it creates and will focus on making things that are natural and organic. Yesterday, it announced that it received $16 million in funding led by Redpoint Ventures.

The company aims to offer a smaller, curated selection of products, so that consumers are not overwhelmed with options. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the site is that every item on the site will be the same price— although they have not revealed what it will be. 

Read more in Fortune

12.08.16 | 2 hours ago

New Raptor smart glasses allow cyclists to track real-time data and turn-by-turn navigation

This week, Everysight announced that it is developing the Raptor smart glasses, which are made for cyclists who need crucial data like speed, distance, heart rate, time, and turn-by-turn navigation in their line of sight, reports Mashable. The GPS-enabled glasses feature voice control and an interface that allows cyclists to use swipe gestures to turn on features without having to take their eyes off the road or their hands off the handlebars. The Raptor glasses aren't available yet—the company just launched a pilot program for serious (12 times a week) cyclists. 

[Image: Everysight.com]

12.08.16 | 4 hours ago

Public transport is free in Paris as the city tries to tackle its air pollution

For the third consecutive day, Paris city officials have made its public transport free in an attempt to tackle the massive smog the city is experiencing, reports Mashable. The free public transportation includes Paris's Velib bike share and Autolib electric cars as well as the Paris metro and bus services. The city's air pollution index reached 91 micrograms per cubic meter on Wednesday and 89 on Thursday, making the actual air quality much worse than the base warning level of 80.

12.08.16 | 4 hours ago

Here’s what could get you banned from Uber forever

The company has posted updated community guidelines that for the first time specifically point out what actions could get riders banned from the service, reports the Verge. They are:

• Damaging drivers' or other passengers' property.

• Physical contact with the driver or fellow riders. Yes, Uber specifically points out this means no sex with anyone in the vehicle.

• Use of inappropriate and abusive language or gestures.

• Unwanted contact with drivers or fellow passengers after the trip is over. Even if you think your Uber driver is the hottest person on the planet, you cannot start calling or texting them.

• Breaking the local law while using Uber. That means no illegal drugs and remembering to buckle your seatbelt.

12.08.16 | 4 hours ago

U.S. Surgeon General says use of e-cigarettes among youth is “a major public health concern”

Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy urged policy makers to do more to keep e-cigarettes our of the hands of young people while their effects are studied because researchers still don't know what the long-term effects of vaping are, reports the Washington Post. During the last year's e-cigarette use by middle school and high school students has tripled.

"We know enough right now to say that youth and young adults should not be using e-cigarettes or any other tobacco product, for that matter. The key bottom line here is that the science tells us the use of nicotine-containing products by youth, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe," Murthy said.

12.08.16 | 4 hours ago

The Samsung Galaxy S8 may have an edge-to-edge display

The company's flagship smartphone to be released next year will have an all-screen front with no physical home button, reports Bloomberg. The bezel-less displays will instead feature a virtual home button beneath the glass. Sources told Bloomberg that the new smartphone could ship in March or April—months before Apple is rumored to ship the next-generation iPhone with an edge-to-edge display and also a virtual home button.

12.07.16 | 10:00 pm

Windows 10 is coming to Qualcomm mobile devices

The biggest operating system on PCs will soon work with silicon from the biggest chipmaker for mobile devices. Microsoft and Qualcomm just announced that Windows 10 will run on Qualcomm's newest chips, starting with the upcoming Snapdragon 835. Details are a bit scarce, though: Qualcomm says only that Windows will run on "cellular PC devices" running on its ARM-based chips instead of Intel's and AMD's x86-style processor architecture. Qualcomm expects the first gadgets to arrive in the second half of 2017.

New phones wouldn't be exciting: Windows Phone edition devices have flopped going against Android and Apple—with less than 2% market share. But cheap, power-sipping desktops or laptops, or entirely new types of gadgets—all with Snapdragon's gigabit cellular radio and artificial intelligence capabilities—could be in the works. (Microsoft already has a version of Windows for "internet of things" devices, such as home-automation systems, that runs on ARM-based chips including Qualcomm's current versions.)

This isn't the first time Microsoft has ported Windows to ARM devices. In 2012, it introduced Windows RT, which looked like regular Windows, but couldn't run standard Windows software—leading to confused and peeved customers. Microsoft's Surface tablets using Intel processors and a full version of Windows have done okay in sales, though nothing like the rival iPad. Building Surface-style devices on ARM chips could get Intel and Qualcomm to compete for Microsoft's business. It's a potential win for Qualcomm, too. While the PC market isn't booming, it's still an extra source of revenue for a company trying hard to not get pigeonholed into the mobile phone and tablet markets, which are no longer proceeding at a gallop, either.

12.07.16 | 6:34 pm

One Drop now offers subscription-based supplies, monitoring, and coaching for people with diabetes

One Drop, one of a growing number of diabetes-technology startups, is now offering unlimited test strips, mobile behavioral coaching, and continuous glucose monitoring hardware by subscription. 

One Drop's hardware sells for $79.95 ($20 less than normal) if the user buys additional services for $39.95 per month, which includes supplies and virtual coaching with certified diabetes educators. The challenge for One Drop, and competing startups like Livongo Health, is that many patients remain hooked on the brand their insurer has covered for some time (and often get supplies or the device for free), says Amy Tenderich, founder of DiabetesMine. But Tenderich sees the coaching services as an exciting development that might tempt some to make the switch. 

12.07.16 | 6:23 pm

Consumer VR software could be worth $14B by 2020 despite slow start

Consumer virtual reality isn't going quite as well as expected so far, which means there's still a whole lot of upside. One recent study, by Greenlight Insights and Road To VR, concluded that the entire VR ecosystem could be worth $38 billion by 2026—and now, despite slower than predicted sales of some major VR hardware, notably Sony's PlayStation VR, SuperData Research is saying content alone will be worth as much as $14 billion a year by 2020, reports VentureBeat.

That seems soon for such a big number given that SuperData says consumer VR software sales will come in at $417 million this year. But analyst Stephanie Lamas announced the expectation at the VRX conference in San Francisco today. She also said that Google's Daydream View would sell 261,000 units this year, VentureBeat wrote, while HTC's Vive would move 420,000 units, Oculus's Rift 355,000, and Samsung's Gear VR will come in at 2.3 million total. All told, she said at the conference, there will be 16 million users of virtual reality by year's end.