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03.16.17 | 7:47 am

The Dutch say “nee” to populist anti-Islam party in election

The Freedom Party, headed by "the Netherland's Trump" Geert Wilders, ran on the platform of taking the country out of the EU, ditching the euro, closing Dutch borders, and banning all immigration by Muslims, reports Bloomberg. Their defeat by the pro-European Liberal Party will be seen as a major blow to the populist forces sweeping the West and give a major morale boost to pro-EU groups. In a further blow to the Freedom Party's platform, they lost by a bigger margin than the polls had predicted, suggesting public support is waning for extreme right ideals on the continent. 

05.23.17 | 3 hours ago

Now you can control your Tesla via a chatbot named Elon 

Sahas Katta, the CEO of a startup called Smartcar, has been thinking about inventive ways to control Tesla's cars for a while. A few years ago, he created a Tesla app for Google's ill-fated Google Glass. And now he's back with Teslabot, which lets people lucky enough to own a Tesla S or X talk to their car via Facebook Messenger.

Teslabot lets you do anything from unlock the doors to vent the sunroof to monitor charging. And Katta gave his bot a human name that—though uncommon among actual humans—is ideal for this particular product: "Elon."  

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05.23.17 | 7:38 pm

Embrace.io’s new platform helps mobile devs spot issues before losing customers

Currently developers get crash reports when an app fails while you're using it, but they don't always know when something else happens—say the app freezes, there's a tiny glitch or just a bad design that's making you ditch the app for something else. A new platform launching today, Embrace.io, helps diagnose those issues before they result in lost customers.

Now, most developers use a combination of crash reports, analytics, and logging to figure out where things have gone wrong. A complicated process with mixed results. Embrace.io is instead a unified platform that turns data into solutions that developers can use to create better-performing apps, freeing up time typically spent troubleshooting for writing actual code.

The first platform to provide performance feedback for mobile, along with its launch it also announced $2.5 million in seed funding led by Eniac Ventures, with investments from The Chernin Group, Techstars Ventures, and BoxGroup. Developers can sign up for the limited release on the company's website.

05.23.17 | 6:48 pm

Bug in Twitter’s ads code allowed hackers to tweet from anyone’s account

Much as some of us might wish, it doesn't explain Donald Trump's tweets, but there's a chance it could explain irregularities in tweets from any number of other Twitter accounts.

It, in this case, is a bug that would have allowed hackers to post from anyone's account–even Trump's, and even before Trump added two-factor authentication. According to Motherboard, code from Twitter's ads team had introduced the vulnerability. Discovered in February by someone who goes by the nickname kedrisch, the flaw "in the handling of Twitter Ads Studio requests…allowed an attacker to tweet as any user. By sharing media with a victim user and then modifying the post request with the victim's account ID the media in question would be posted from the victim's account. This bug was patched immediately after being triaged and no evidence was found of the flaw being exploited by anyone other than the reporter." Twitter seems to have paid kedrisch a bounty of $7,500 for discovering the bug.

[Photo: Unsplash user Benjamin Balázs]

05.23.17 | 5:42 pm

Watch Mark Zuckerberg tell stories Live in his Harvard dorm room

Mark Zuckerberg visited Harvard today and broadcasted briefly from his old college dorm room on Facebook Live. During the broadcast, he shared a number of fun and interesting stories from his college days. You can check out the full broadcast below:

Facebook launched a few new features for Facebook Live today, including the ability to create private comment threads about Live videos for just your friends, and invite a friend to broadcast Live with you.

05.23.17 | 4:35 pm

The new Surface Pro is a bigger upgrade than Microsoft let on

A couple of weeks after downplaying expectations for a new Surface Pro tablet, Microsoft announced an upgrade that's surprisingly substantial. The fifth-generation device–simply called the new Surface Pro–has a more flexible kickstand that bends back 165 degrees, longer battery life of up to 13.5 hours, and a slightly curvier design. The mid-tier Intel Core i5 model has also become lighter and quieter by dropping the cooling fan, and there's an option for built-in 4G LTE connectivity. Just one catch: Microsoft is no longer throwing in a Surface Pen, though the new $100 add-on version is more accurate and less laggy.

The new Surface Pro will ship in mid-June, starting at $800, plus $160 for a "Signature" keyboard cover.

05.23.17 | 4:31 pm

Mobile augmented reality predicted to be a $60 billion, billion-plus user industry by 2021

It's coming. Everybody knows it. Whether it's on the next iPhone (or the one after that) or via the camera in Facebook's apps, it's coming. Augmented reality for the masses, that is. And it's going to be big time.

That's according to the analysts at Digi-Capital, who today put out a report predicting that the mobile AR industry will be worth $60 billion a year by 2021, and will have, at a minimum, a billion users. It could be way more, if mobile AR is included in a future iPhone, or if the masses adopt it via Facebook's apps. And that's not to mention tools from the likes of Google, Snap, Baidu, Tencent, Alibaba, Huawei, Samsung, and others. Essentially, the message of the report is that this is a technology that's coming fast, that it's going to take users far beyond Pokémon Go. In fact, Digi-Capital argues that while games may have brought AR to many people's attention, "the bulk of mobile AR revenue could be in sectors other than games. Over 80% of mobile AR revenue could come from mobile network data, e-commerce sales, advertising, consumer (non-games) apps and enterprise/B2B sales."

05.23.17 | 4:26 pm

You wanna win $1 million? Just come up with the best way to fix the NYC subway. (Gotcha!)

The terrible horrible no-good very bad state of the subway in New York City is a cliché, but in recent months it's hit a new low. I've been riding the train for over 25 years and I've never seen it this bad—from perennial "signal problems" to filthy stations to terrible access for the disabled. As a result, commuters (well, at least one of them) have been screaming at conductors and local editorial writers have skewered the state's leadership. Well, today Governor Andrew Cuomo finally responded by asking the long-suffering public to come to the rescue with a $1 million award for the best ideas for fixing the subway. For most young tech geniuses in the city, that's chump change but just think: You'll be rewarded with the eternal gratitude of straphangers from 241st Street in the Bronx to Far Rockaway.

05.23.17 | 2:10 pm

How the White House is spinning its betrayal of Trump’s promise not to cut Social Security and Medicaid

March 10, 2016: "It's my absolute intention to leave Social Security the way it is," said Donald Trump at the GOP debate, a promise he repeated multiple times during the campaign.

May 23, 2017: President Trump's proposed budget would cut Social Security Disability Insurance by $72 billion over 10 years, or close to 4 percent of its projected cost. The program benefits over 10 million Americans.

But the administration's budget director Mick Mulvaney insisted that it wasn't a broken promise, claiming that the vast majority of people don't think of disability insurance as part of Social Security:

"If you ask 999 people out of 1,000, [they] would tell you that Social Security disability is not part of Social Security. It's old-age retirement that they think of when they think of Social Security."

As for Medicaid, the budget proposes $800 billion in cuts to the program, which Trump also vigorously promised to leave intact on the campaign trail. 

But Mulvaney said yesterday: "The Medicaid cut isn't a cut, it's an improvement, because we'll give states more leeway to spend the money how they want…What we are doing is growing Medicaid more slowly" over 10 years.

05.23.17 | 1:44 pm

Uber underpaid drivers tens of millions of dollars

Uber has admitted to underpaying New York City drivers and says it will make it up to them with interest. In 2014, Uber agreed to charge drivers 25% of fares after fees and taxes were taken out. Instead it took its cut out of the full fare. The company says the problem affected tens of thousands of drivers and it plans to pay out an average of $900 per driver. This isn't the first time Uber has been accused of misleading drivers on wages. In January, the company agreed to pay drivers $20 million to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint that Uber was overpromising on potential earnings to lure drivers onto its platform. 

"We are committed to paying every driver every penny they are owed—plus interest—as quickly as possible," said Rachel Holt, regional general manager, U.S. & Canada, in a statement. "We are working hard to regain driver trust, and that means being transparent, sticking to our word, and making the Uber experience better from end to end."

05.23.17 | 1:42 pm

Investors are betting on KidPass, believing it will succeed where ClassPass failed

As we've noted in the past, ClassPass—the service that allowed you to pay a low price for hundreds of expensive boutique fitness classes in your city—wasn't a sustainable model. Customers didn't end up becoming members at the studios and many weren't willing to keep subscribing when ClassPass raised its fee from $99 to $190. But there's reason to believe that a similar platform would work in the kids' market. KidPass, which allows parents to discover children's activities in their area while paying a monthly subscription, just raised $5.1M to continue growing.

According to Solomon Liou, cofounder and CEO, the KidPass model works because it serves an unmet need. Parents struggle to find good kids activities in their neighborhood, especially at the last minute. And many will decide to sign on to a program–say, a swim class– if their kid likes it, but keep searching for new activities. "Parents are constantly looking for new ways to keep their kids entertained and stimulated," Liou tells Fast Company. "In some ways, they're using this like OpenTable to find things to do at the last minute."

05.23.17 | 1:41 pm

Summersalt makes a splash in the $28B swimwear market

Here's a paradox. There's no shortage of swimwear on the market from brands like Gap and J.Crew, to department stores like Macy's and Bloomingdale's, to high-end designers. Yet many women aren't loyal to a particular brand and still struggle to find a suit that fits well at a reasonable price.

Summersalt has bold plans to become that brand. They're a direct-to-consumer brand founded by longtime swimwear designer Lori Coulter and branding expert Reshma Chamberlin. They've spent months working with women of all sizes to create a collection designed to be flattering on a wide range of body types. The pieces are made entirely from recycled polyamide fabric that has been tested on Olympians to ensure it doesn't fade or stretch out after extensive wear.

Each suit costs $95, which is significantly less than designer brands. Customers can order a box of six pieces to mix and match, plus one surprise recommendation, which they can try on at home. Other startups, like Andie and Triangl, have also launched direct-to-consumer plays, but with only a few styles. "We've built a very large collection of over 150 pieces from day one so that people have enough options," Chamberlin explains. "We believe that we can be a category killer."

05.23.17 | 1:40 pm

Twitter’s sponsored tweets can now start private conversations with chatbots

Twitter has created a new way to help brands get their bots in front of potential customers. Now brands can create sponsored interactive tweets—when a customer engages with them, they pull those potential shoppers into a direct message conversation with the brand's bot. Unlike some bots that are designed to handle customer service issues, these are meant to engage customers, ultimately leading them to make a purchase.

For instance, one of the first brands participating is Patron Tequila. Patron has a sponsored tweet advertising "Bot-Tenders" that can help you create the perfect cocktail. From the tweet, you pick the type of event you're mixing up drinks for, and then Patron will DM you a few questions about your flavor preferences and present a few appropriate recipes.