Monthly Archives: April 2016

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 How smart cities (will) work These days, the word “smart” is being applied to anything with a processor or a sensor and a connection to a network of some sort. You can argue that having some processing power for information and the ability to communicate with something makes a device “smart” – or at least a lot smarter than it was before. The word smart is also being applied to cities now – so what does it mean to be a smart city, or at least a smarter one? Broadly speaking, it means an information and communication infrastructure (sometimes acronymed as ICT) that allows smart devices (like smartphones, automobiles, thermostats, water meters) to connect to smart infrastructure (problem reporting, traffic signals and information, parking systems, the electric grid, billing systems) to improve quality of life and productivity in cities. Lest we think smart cities are only for first world countries, smart approaches […]

You’re Asking Too Much of Chat Bots. Just Let Them Grow Up My editor doesn’t like email. And that’s probably the reason he’s into the Google service that automatically generates replies to incoming messages.Smart Reply, as my editor will tell you, is pretty smart (It is!—Ed.). Having analyzed millions of messages from across Google’s Gmail service, it can guess how you might respond to a particular missive. That may sound impersonal, but it’s useful. It lets you instantly reply to someone when you don’t have time to open a laptop or even tap out a message on your smartphone. Some of these auto-replies, my editor swears, even sound like him. But one reason this works so well is that Google limits the scope of its tool. For each message, the service offers not just one reply but three, letting you choose the reply that best suits what you want to say, […]

The Ingenious Way Iranians Are Using Satellite TV to Beam in Banned Internet Reza, a 20-something mechanical engineer working at an automotive parts factory in the northeastern Iranian city of Sabzevar, takes his web videos seriously. He’s watched the TED talk of amputee snowboarding champion Amy Purdy “over and over again.” The YouTube videos of Boston Dynamics robots Big Dog and Cheetah, which most of us find creepy, he describes as inspirational.“I was mesmerized by those videos,” he writes in an email, asking that WIRED not use his real name. “I wonder what would happen if I had the chance to watch [them] when I was a teenager. I might have studied harder in college.” If those viral clips mean more to Reza than to the average American, it’s probably because he has to work so much harder to see them. YouTube is blocked in Iran. The TED site isn’t, […]

The US Is Playing a Dangerous Game of Musical Chairs With Nuclear Waste The K-East nuclear reactor stands stripped bare and decommissioned near the banks of the Columbia River at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, in 2013.  Over the weekend, a giant tank of radioactive sludge in Hanford, Washington, sprung a new leak. It wasn’t the first time, and it likely won’t be the last. Hanford is home to 177 of these decade-old tanks, and workers have been scrambling to shuffle nuclear waste from tank to tank as they become leaky with age. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the current plan for dealing with the US’s dangerous high-level radioactive waste.This was not Plan A, of course. Plan A was a geological repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, where radioactive waste could be entombed for at least 10,000 years. Yucca Mountain was supposed to open—take a deep breath—in 1998. But politics have […]

Surprise! Insomniac Games Is Making Two More Oculus Titles Feral Rites.Insomniac It was surprising enough to hear that game developer Insomniac was making a virtual-reality game to be published by Oculus. Turns out, it’s actually doing three. In addition to Edge of Nowhere, a combination of ice climbing and Lovecraftian horror, Insomniac announced today that Oculus Studios also will publish The Unspoken, a player-versus-player game of magic spells, and Feral Rites, a third-person action game. Look for them toward the end of 2016. The Unspoken, says Insomniac’s Chad Dezem, is about an “urban magicians’ fight club” staged in secret arenas around Chicago. Players cast spells using the Oculus Touch motion controllers. Dezem describes it as a “fighting game meets an arena shooter,” in the sense that you must accurately input your magic spells using hand motions, but also must consider your position in the arenas, finding cover or taking the high ground. Unspoken’s gameplay focuses […]

Are You Infected With The “American Parasite”? The Story THEY Don’t Want You To Hear (Exclusive Video) Facebook’s Massive New Antennas Can Beam Internet for Miles Facebook’s ARIES wireless antennas. Facebook This year’s Facebook F8 conference is all about feats of hardware engineering—which is remarkable when you consider that Facebook is a social networking company. Yesterday, there was the 360-degree 3-D video camera, and this rather extravagant device pales next to the invention Facebook revealed today: a massive array of wireless antennas that can deliver Internet access to phones and other devices dozens of miles away.The company believes that with this technology, dubbed ARIES, it has set a new world record for efficiently transmitting data signals through the air, and the hope is that—across developing regions in Africa, India, and other parts of the world—the tech can sit inside well-wired cities and wirelessly deliver Internet access to surrounding rural areas. […]

Outlander Is Back, But the Sex Isn’t—Yet Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and Claire Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) in Outlander. Starz The first season of Outlander was … interesting, to say the least. The show started out as one thing—a historical romance with a time-travel twist, featuring Claire Beauchamp Randall, a British Army nurse from the 1940s who finds herself in 18th-century Scotland—but ended up as something entirely different. We were innocent and then we were no longer innocent.Yes, there was all the time-travel stuff and whatever—but it all paled in comparison to the sexual tension. And the sex. (I hadn’t read the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon, but I did know they featured a lot of hot sex. That is why I decided to watch the show.) In the beginning, we watched Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) fall in love. We got to appreciate a brawny man in […]

A Map of the Brain Could Teach Machines to See Like You Take a three-year-old to the zoo, and she intuitively knows that the long-necked creature nibbling leaves is the same thing as the giraffe in her picture book. That superficially easy feat is in reality quite sophisticated. The cartoon drawing is a frozen silhouette of simple lines, while the living animal is awash in color, texture, movement and light. It can contort into different shapes and looks different from every angle. Humans excel at this kind of task. We can effortlessly grasp the most important features of an object from just a few examples and apply those features to the unfamiliar. Computers, on the other hand, typically need to sort through a whole database of giraffes, shown in many settings and from different perspectives, to learn to accurately recognize the animal. Visual identification is one of many arenas where […]

SpaceX Rocket Lands at Last. Take That, Robot Boat! Spacex Today, SpaceX made history. It is the first company—the first anybody to send a rocket to space and then land it on a floating barge. Sixth time is the charm, apparently. Persistence pays off. Or at least, anyone with an interest in low cost access to space hopes it will.The launch was flawless. At 4:43pm ET, the nine engines on board the Falcon 9’s stage 1 rocket began pushing 1.53 million pounds of thrust against Earth. After about two and a half minutes, and several hundred thousand feet of elevation gain, the first stage detached and began a controlled fall back to Earth, arcing towards the football field-sized barge (charmingly-named “Of Course I Still Love You”) in the Atlantic Ocean. Spacex First-stage rockets are one of the most expensive parts of space launches (a Falcon 9 costs about $60 million […]

 Medium Takes Aim at WordPress With a New Way to Power Websites Medium is launching a set of tools to help publications publish and make money on the web. Dubbed Medium for Publishers, the WordPress competitor will offer publishers a free content management system, a standalone URL, and the ability to participate in two beta experiments—one to host promoted posts, the other to offer paid memberships.A dozen sites have signed up at launch, including The Awl, Pacific Standard and Femsplain. The ten to follow will include Bill Simmons’ new site, The Ringer, and Time Inc.’s Money and Fortune. In Williams’ version of the future, it will no longer make sense for publications to publish directly to the web at all. Medium founder Ev Williams hopes that, as publishers struggle with the rise of ad-blocking software and the falling price of display ads, Medium for Publishers will allow them to focus their […]

StubHub Will Use Virtual Reality to Let You Preview Your Seat Like many companies, eBay is convinced virtual reality is the next big thing. But also like a lot of companies, eBay is trying to figure out just what that means for its business. On Thursday, the company is announcing its first small foray into the VR arena, as subsidiary StubHub offers Final Four ticket buyers the option to get an immersive, 3-D view of available seats. A similar option will also appear for those looking to purchase baseball tickets for AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. The experience will work from within the existing StubHub apps for iOS and Android. Customers will have the option of either using a smartphone or tablet and rotating it around to see different views, or popping their phone into a VR headset like Google Cardboard or Gear VR for a more […]

Meet Tesla’s Model 3, Its Long-Awaited Car for the Masses Tesla Tesla Tesla Tesla Tesla Tesla Tesla Tesla Tesla The $35,000 Tesla Model 3 is finally here. It is sleek, quick as hell, and meant for the masses. And it is the most important car the company will ever build.The Model 3 is the car Tesla Motors has promised since the company’s founding, the car that CEO Elon Musk is convinced will push EVs into the mainstream and the technology to an inflection point. Not to put too fine a point on it, it is the car Musk believes will change the world.“It’s very important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport,” Musk said on stage. “This is really important for the future of the world.”In person and on paper, the Model 3 is a stunner. It’s a handsome sedan, with four doors and five seats, and all the comfort and practicality you’d […]