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02.07.17 | 6:18 pm

You can now get a Daydream VR-ready phone for under $400

When Google launched Daydream, its mobile virtual reality platform, in November, the only phone that supported it was Google's own Pixel, a pricey handset that costs $650 at retail. But the company wants as many people as possible to use Daydream, and it said that its hope was that as more phones incorporated Android N, the mobile OS that's required to run Daydream, the price would come down.

That seems to be exactly what's happened. There are now multiple Daydream-ready phones, and now there's one that costs under $400, the $384 ZTE Axon 7. As Upload VR notes, the ZTE phone was already on the market but has been upgraded to include Daydream support. There are more phones coming soon that support the VR system, including the Huawei Mate 9 Pro and Asus ZenFone AR. And that's on top of the $449 Moto Z, which is already available and Daydream-ready. It's good to see the ecosystem growing, as Daydream, while not on the level, quality- and experience-wise, of an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive–both of which tether to PCs–is a pretty nice VR system. 

06.22.17 | an hour ago

Now Trump wants a “solar wall” along Mexico’s border

Because Mexico is sunny, or hot, or something, so the wall will pay for itself. Take it away, Trump (via Bloomberg):

"We're thinking of something that's unique, we're talking about the southern border. Lots of sun, lots of heat. We're thinking about building the wall as a solar wall, so it creates energy, and pays for itself. And this way Mexico will have to pay much less money, and that's good. Is that good?"

"Think about it, the higher it goes, the more valuable it is. Pretty good imagination, right, good? My idea."

06.22.17 | an hour ago

Twitter’s Periscope will now let you tip broadcasters using virtual currency

The company has added a feature to its Periscope app that allows users to purchase "Super Hearts" during live streams and then give them to that broadcaster, reports MacRumors. Viewers purchase the Super Hearts with Periscope's "Periscope Coins" virtual currency. The Super Hearts can then be redeemed by broadcasters at the end of each month for cash. Read our story on Super Hearts here

06.22.17 | 2 hours ago

Jeff Bezos has a lot of advice for the newspaper industry

The Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner dropped some knowledge at the Future of Newspapers conference in Turin, Italy, on Wednesday, reports CNBC. Here is some of Bezos's key advice to newspapers:

• "We run Amazon and the Washington Post in a very similar way in terms of the basic approach. We attempt to be customer-centric, which in the case of the Post means reader-centric. I think you can get confused, you can be advertiser-centric—and what advertisers want, of course, is readers—and so you should be simpleminded about that and you should be focused on readers. If you can focus on readers, advertisers will come."

• "This industry spent 20 years teaching everyone in the world that news should be free. The truth is, readers are smarter than that. They know high-quality journalism is expensive to produce, and they are willing to pay for it, but you have to ask them. We've tightened our paywall, and every time we've tightened our paywall, subscriptions go up."

"When you're writing, be riveting, be right, and ask people to pay. They will pay."

• Bezos believes publications should use data to test headlines and understand how people engage with certain stories: "I would never let anybody or ask anybody to be slavish to data, but I'd also be super-skeptical of people who aren't curious about the data."

• "This is not a philanthropic endeavor. For me, I really believe, a healthy newspaper that has an independent newsroom should be self-sustaining. And I think it's achievable. And we've achieved it. [The reason is because] constraints drive creativity. The worst thing I could've done for the Post, I believe, is to have said don't worry about revenue, whatever you need, just do the job. Because I don't think that would lead to as much quality when there are in fact constraints."

• "One of the first rules of business is complaining is not a strategy. You have to work with the world as you find it, not as you would have it be."

• When Bezos took over the Post, the newsroom was laying off people. Now they've added 140 reporters. "What they needed was a little bit of runway and the encouragement to experiment, and to stop shrinking. You can't shrink your way into relevance. . . . We've grown our way into profitability instead of shrinking our way into profitability."

06.22.17 | 2 hours ago

A Chinese bike-sharing startup has closed because riders stole almost all their bikes

Wukong Bike has had to shut down after just six months because its riders stole 90% of its 1,200 bicycles, reports Mashable. Wukong operated under the Uber model where anyone could grab a bike off the street, unlock it with the app, and then leave it on the street at their destination. The problem was Wukong didn't invest in GPS for their bikes, so the company had no way of knowing where the bikes were once people hired them. Eventually, users caught on to that and decided to take the bikes home with them.

06.21.17 | 9:14 pm

Can the Drybar model be replicated with makeup? 

Until Drybar came along, nobody imagined they would spend $50 at a salon to have their hair styled. No cut, no color, just blow-dried. But these days, Drybar is growing rapidly around the country. 

New York-based salon Joli Beauty Bar is testing out a model in which women stop in and pay between $35 and $60 to have their makeup done. They've discovered that many women feel more confident knowing that a professional artist has worked on their face. "We have women who come in here before an interview or a date," says Zsuzsi Evans, founder and CEO. "Some women come as a group, just for fun, with nowhere in particular to go."

So far, it hasn't taken much to convince women that this service is worth the money. The company's founders are now planning to expand in New York, and the rest of the country. 

[Images via Joli Beauty Bar]

06.21.17 | 9:05 pm

What’s with all the scratchy, rumpled linen sheets?

For a long time, the epitome of luxury bedding was extra-long staple cotton, which rendered sheets soft and silky. Brands like Brooklinen and Parachute made a business of selling high-end cotton sheets at reasonable prices. But over the last few years, customers have been asking for a decidedly different type of sheet: linen. This fabric is rougher and stiffer than cotton and tends to look rumpled on the bed, which is the opposite of the smooth look you get with cotton. 

Vicki Fulop, the cofounder of Brooklinen, which just launched a line of linen sheets today, says that part of the trend has to do with customers wanting to change their sheets depending on the season. Linen works better in the summer because it stands up to humidity. "It cools and insulates better because its moisture-wicking," she explains. 

Fulop says the brand spent two years iterating the linen fabric they used to ensure it had both the cooling properties that the customer wanted but also a soft hand-feel. 

[Image via Brooklinen]

06.21.17 | 5:25 pm

Video: Where does Uber go from here?

Fast Company's Marcus Baram discusses some of the key questions about Uber's future following Travis Kalanick's departure from the top post. Check it out below.

06.21.17 | 5:14 pm

Richard Branson: If Trump won’t take climate change seriously, business leaders need to pick up the slack

After a Virgin Mobile event today, we caught up with Virgin founder Richard Branson. When we asked about our current U.S. administration's decisions regarding climate change, Branson said it's the job of the world's business leaders to pick up the slack. 

"I think business leaders need to step into the breach and make sure that America and the rest of the world is run on clean fuels," he said. "I think by 2040, to by 2050. If you have a president that is not going to support that, then we've just got to work all the harder to make sure it comes about. Because every year, this blanket that is around the earth is getting thicker and thicker, and the world is heating up and heating up, and the damage it's going to do to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, it will be, as I've said before, too sad to imagine."

"I think tons of money should go into the whole battery sector," he added. "I think tons of money is going into the whole battery sector. We need those breakthroughs that mean that everything is powered at nighttime by batteries when the sun is turned off."

06.21.17 | 5:01 pm

Richard Branson says Virgin will continue to do things with Virgin America 

Today Virgin Mobile announced a new iPhone-only strategy for its prepaid service. People who sign up get six months of unlimited service for $1, or 12 months if they sign up before July 31. And they get discounts and perks with a number of Virgin brands, including Virgin America, which is technically no longer part of the Virgin empire.

"Virgin America is still Virgin-branded, and I think, while it is, we'll be doing lots of things together and helping each other,"  Virgin founder Richard Branson told Fast Company. Branson was notoriously unhappy about the airline's merger with Alaska. "We'll decide in a few years' time, if they change the brand, whether that continues, but right now, it's great to work together."

06.21.17 | 3:44 pm

Miss Travis yet? Watch him explain how Uber works in this video throwback from 2012

Okay, we know it's been less than a day since Travis Kalanick stepped down as the CEO of Uber, but we're feeling nostalgic—not necessarily for Kalanick himself, but for the days when the concept of hailing a car with your smartphone seemed, well, downright magical. Five years ago, Kalanick took Fast Company on a ride through the streets of San Francisco to show us how the magic worked. At the time, his "mobile car-service app" was only available in nine cities and still considered a luxury item. (It cost about 50% more than a traditional car service.) The video is a warm reminder of Uber's carefree days, before the lawsuits, regulatory battles, labor fights, privacy violations, sexism scandals, and bawdy Vegas parties made it all feel a little less carefree. Check out the video below.

06.21.17 | 3:00 pm

Lufthansa wants to make manual flight check-ins a thing of the past is a newly launched website that does away with that whole remembering-to-check-in-for-your-flight thing, reducing the chances of getting stuck in a the dreaded middle seat on the back of the plane (although that may actually be the safest seat). 

Here's how it works: Users register with the website, uploading personal details, including passport information, frequent-flyer programs, and even travel companions (sorry, George Clooney is not available). That earns you a personal email address to use when booking airplane tickets. The site will automatically then check in for the flight as soon as the check-in window opens, even taking window versus aisle seat preferences into consideration. Your boarding pass will then show up in your texts or emails.

The site, which has been in beta since 2016, just officially launched. It comes out of Lufthansa's Innovation Hub, but works for any airline that offers online check-in. Neat, huh?

[Photo: via Wikimedia Commons

06.21.17 | 12:26 pm

Snap Map lets you stalk your friends on Snapchat

Snapchat has a new feature meant to encourage people to meet up IRL. Snap Map is a way the app's users can share their physical location with each other. The interface is a big map that shows users' avatars wherever they are. If you tap on someone, their story comes up so you can see what exactly they are doing in that location. Users can choose with whom they want to share their location—be it all friends, some friends, or no one.

Snap says the feature can also be used for discovery. For instance, the map will show heated areas when certain locations are seeing an influx of story uploads. Just be sure you know whether or not your location sharing is on! You can read more about it from Snap's blog post.