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09.27.16 | 3:22 pm

Too late for Shaq, but VR may help NBA stars shoot better free throws

If you're a basketball fan, you know all too well the sickening feeling when your favorite hoops stars simply can't hit a free throw.

Clank. Clank. Clank. The ineptitude, a sad feature of numerous players, from DeAndre Jordan to Andrew Bogut to Andre Drummond, leads opposing teams to foul them because they know the likely outcome is missed shots at the charity stripe.

Well, Drummond, of the Detroit Pistons, wants to do better, and according to NBA.com, he's using virtual reality to improve.

"Drummond puts on a headset and watches himself making free throws," NBA.com wrote. "He can choose a first-person view, where he hears the basketball hitting the court as he dribbles, then sees the ball go over his head, up and into the hoop. Or he can choose third-person perspectives and watch his technique from various angles."

Detroit isn't the only team that's used VR. The Golden State Warriors turned to the technology in their bid to land free-agent superstar Kevin Durant last summer.

05.23.17 | 40 minutes ago

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 | an hour ago

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 | an hour ago

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 Somomon 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 | an hour ago

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 | an hour ago

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.

05.23.17 | 2 hours ago

About 1/5 of Googlers subscribe to a private newsletter to air complaints about harassment and bias at work

A group of Google employees have begun a message board for employees to submit worker complaints that's then emailed weekly as a digest, reports Bloomberg. The email list—called "Yes, at Google"—has been around since October and allows employees to talk openly about work situations in which they felt uncomfortable; most submissions are anonymized. 

Examples of complaints include allegations of harassment, sexism, and accounts of misconduct and abuse (some severe posts include notes from the company asking for more information). According to Bloomberg, 15,000 Google workers subscribe to the list. 

Google is aware of the message board and seems to be keeping it around as a human resources tool, even recommending it in an email to employees amid the Uber sexual harassment scandal. While it isn't run and vetted by management, the email list is one way to signal to employees that the technology giant wants to foster a more communicative and inclusive culture. 

05.23.17 | 3 hours ago

Comcast is trying to shut down a pro-net neutrality site

Fight For The Future, which has long supported net neutrality and advocated for digital privacy rights, recently received a cease and desist order over its new site "Comcastroturf.com." The site lets people search to see if their names have been fraudulently used in fake pro-net neutrality comments sent to the FCC. 

According to the group's press release, Comcast's letter claims that Comcastroturf "violates Comcast's 'valuable intellectual property.'" The organization notes, were it not for current net neutrality rules, Comcast would be able to outright censor the site.

05.23.17 | 3 hours ago

Apple reveals a huge spike in the number of iPhones and iPads from which the government is demanding data

That detail was revealed in the company's latest bi-annual transparency report covering the last half of 2016. Though there were fewer overall requests from U.S. law enforcement authorities, they sought data on twice as many devices during that time period compared to the first half of 2016.

The report also noted that the government sent Apple at least one national security letter demanding a customer's personal info. 

Read the full report here.

05.23.17 | 10:49 am

Lin-Manuel Miranda dedicated a Spotify playlist to Twitter

Lin-Manuel Miranda has a lot of feelings about Twitter, apparently. The Hamilton creator just released a 32-song Spotify playlist where he tries to encapsulate his deep emotions about Twitter and all the time he wastes on it. The intentionally diverse mix ranges from a David Ignatow poem to They Might Be Giants to Solange and Sampha to The Strokes to A Tribe Called Quest and, naturally, the Twitter-appropriate "Too Many Puppies" by Primus. Miranda curated the mix to feel as disjointed as your Twitter timeline and suggests you listen in order.

To further elucidate his emotions, he shared some of his playlist liner notes ("terrified verified app apprehension") but because Miranda is basically everyone's dad, he took a photo of his computer screen instead of taking a screenshot. 

Listen here.

05.23.17 | 10:15 am

A neural network generated pickup lines that are better than half the stuff on Tinder

Janelle Shane has been teaching her neural network a thing or two about modern love. Specifically, pickup lines and the results are sublime. A personal favorite is this gem: "You look like a thing and I love you," which may have been taken directly from Tinder.

The neural network, which has also been taught how to write recipes like "Tued Bick Car," was fed a bunch of material and then learned the art of the pickup line or something like it. The network then starting hitting on everyone in the room with lines like "Are you a camera? Because I want to see the most beautiful than you." The lines ranged from the adorable ("I want to get my heart with you") to the nonchalant ("You are so beautiful that you know what I mean") to the delightfully odd ("You must be a tringle? Cause you're the only thing here.") 

Read more of them here and you'll agree that surely one of these lines will work and the neural network will soon be whipping up a batch of Tued Bick Car for someone special. 

[Source photo: Flickr user Ji Hoon Lee

05.23.17 | 10:00 am

Instagram is making Stories more findable with locations and #hashtags

When Instagram introduced its Snapchat-esque Stories last year, its presentation suggested that it thought there were two reasons you might want to view a Story—either because it was created by someone you were following, or because it was created by someone who was popular on Instagram.

Now the company's apps are adding two new ways to find Stories you may care about, regardless of who created them. The Explore section will now show you Stories that use location stickers pertaining to your current whereabouts as well as let you search for ones that relate to any other location in the world. And if you use Explore to search for a hashtag, the results may include Stories that use that hashtag as a sticker. (People who want to use location and hashtag stickers without their Stories showing up in Explore will be able to opt out on a Story-by-Story basis.)

05.23.17 | 9:36 am

A Waymo spin-off could compete with Tesla, say analysts

Waymo may be primed to become a stand-alone company, say analysts at Morgan Stanley, noting that it could be worth more than $70 billion if it can grow to approximately 1% of global miles driven. That's assuming the Google unit can put 3 million cars on the road, each driving 65,000 miles a year and earning roughly $1.25 on each mile. 

The Lyft partnership could help it get there, they add. Waymo could reach operating profitability by 2022 with its operating margin hitting 8% by 2030, say analysts. Currently, Morgan Stanley's Brian Nowak doesn't believe this opportunity is reflected in Google's share price. But that's not necessarily a bad thing: It gives Google room to test its technology before possibly spinning out Waymo.