Snopes ends fact-checking partnership with Facebook

Snopes ends fact-checking partnership with Facebook


NurPhoto via Getty Images

Snopes is no longer helping Facebook debunk fake stories. the fact-checking company announced Friday that it isn’t renewing its agreement with the social networking giant. Snopes said that it is still open to working with Facebook again in the future, but the small operation simply didn’t have the bandwidth to continue helping debunk bad information being spread across Facebook’s platform.

Snopes began contributing to Facebook’s fact-checking initiative in 2016, at first for free and then with additional compensation from Facebook. Despite the benefit the funding provided, Poynter reports the operation was stretched too thin trying to work within Facebook’s system. Facebook required fact-checkers to manually enter each false post the flag in a dashboard, and for Snopes — a company with just 16 employees — the work required started to outweigh the benefit it was providing. Facebook also came under fire at times for withholding data from fact-checkers that may have helped them do their jobs.

Snopes‘ contract with Facebook ended in December and the operation attempted to negotiate a new deal with Facebook that would make it easier to flag false stories on the platform. More broadly, Snopes was hoping to expand fact-checking efforts beyond just Facebook’s ecosystem. Snopes said it’s still open to working with the social network, but will spend the lead up to the 2020 US presidential election focusing on its own service rather than doing work for Facebook.

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‘Fortnite’ now lets you use a Bluetooth controller to play on your phone

‘Fortnite’ now lets you use a Bluetooth controller to play on your phone


Epic Games

Epic Games is helping to level the playing field for Fortnite players on mobile with its latest patch. The update brings support for Bluetooth controllers to iOS and Android versions of the hit battle royale game (as promised back in November). Switching from touchscreen to an external gamepad should make the experience less fidgety on the go. And that could be critical when you’re locked in a cross-play battle with PC and console players.

In the V7.30 patch notes, Epic says that MFi gamepads should work with iPhones, including the Steelseries Nimbus and devices from Gamevice. Android users, meanwhile, can sync “most” Bluetooth controllers, with Epic shouting out the Steelseries Stratus XL, Microsoft’s Xbox One pad, the Razer Raiju, and Moto Gamepad.

The update also includes 60Hz support on select Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (US variant), Huawei Honor View 20 and Huawei Mate 20 X. It follows 60 fps support for all 2018 iPhones, meaning Fortnite now has a higher frame rate on some iOS and Android mobiles than it does on the Nintendo Switch. Epic is also throwing in a new “chiller” grenade shaped like a snowman, several vaulted guns, and an experimental tournament mode that allows players to edit each other’s structures regardless of team status.

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GoFundMe launches campaign for government workers hit by shutdown

GoFundMe launches campaign for government workers hit by shutdown


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People have frequently used GoFundMe to lend a helping hand to others in need of some help, but the site itself is getting involved in light of the US government shutdown. The company has teamed up with Deepak Chopra to launch a donation campaign for government workers who’ve been furloughed or are being forced to work without pay. The initiative will donate contributors’ money to “several” non-profits providing relief, including #ChefsForFeds (providing food) and the National Diaper Bank Network. More organizations will come onboard as the campaign continues, GoFundMe CEO Rob Solomon said.

The executive stressed that this was “not about politics.” It was a matter of “lending a helping hand” to people who need it, he said. The funds are going to the public Direct Impact Fund charity.

Whatever the motivations, it’s uncommon for GoFundMe to wade into situations like this. The company tends to stay out politics entirely unless a campaign violates policies. At the same time, it’s a reflection of how much charity has changed with the advent of online crowdfunding. Those sites are quickly becoming the first destination for people looking to help, and GoFundMe is clearly aware of that trend.

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Google Translate will help Wikipedia fill its non-English websites

Google Translate will help Wikipedia fill its non-English websites


Google

Google is helping the Wikimedia Foundation achieve its goal of making Wikipedia articles available in a lot more languages. The Foundation has added Google Translate to its content translation tool, which human editors can use to add content to non-English Wikipedia websites. Those editors can take advantage of the new option — “one of the most advanced machine translation systems available today,” the foundation called it — to generate an initial translation that they can then review and edit for readability in their language.

The Foundation says volunteer Wikipedia editors have been asking for Google Translate integration for a long time now. According to VentureBeat, this move is an expansion of an earlier partnership, wherein Google promised to help Wikipedia make its English posts more accessible in Indonesia. Mountain View also donated to the Wikimedia in the past.

In addition to providing more accurate translations, Google Translate adds support for 15 more languages, including Hausa, Kurdish (Kurmanji), Yoruba and Zulu. All the translations it generates will be published under a free license and can be integrated back into Wikipedia. The Foundation also says that it won’t be sharing data with the tech giant and that it won’t be getting data from the company either.

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A Roland keyboard has Alexa built-in for voice control while you play

A Roland keyboard has Alexa built-in for voice control while you play


Roland

Alexa is handy for helping with a lot of activities, and soon the virtual assistant will help you control keyboard settings with your voice. Roland’s latest keyboard, a new version of its GO:PIANO, features Alexa built-in and the company says this feature offers hands-free control while you’re playing. Basically, you won’t have to take your hands off the keys to tweak the sound or access specific settings — thanks to the combination of the GO:PIANO and a new Roland Alexa Skill.

The company says the goal to enable voice control for musicians at any level. In addition the hands-free feature, the Alexa Skill will also provide access to libraries of play along tunes and enable sharing f recorded audio clips with friends and family. Roland promises to add new tools over time, including compatibility with other instruments.

Roland GO:PIANO 88

In addition the the GO:PIANO with Alexa built-in, Roland also revealed the GO:PIANO 88. As the name suggests, this portable keyboard model packs 88 full-sized keys and the “natural sound” from the company’s premium digital pianos. Another attractive feature on the GO:PIANO 88 is built-in Bluetooth, connectivity that allows you to use your phone as a learning tool. More specifically, a connected phone can be used to stream audio from online piano lessons, karaoke and tutorial videos.

Unfortunately, Roland’s announcements didn’t include any pricing or availability details, but hopefully we’ll get that info before we depart Vegas.

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Ubtech’s Walker robot now lends a helping hand at home

Ubtech’s Walker robot now lends a helping hand at home


Ubtech

Ubtech is best known for its toy-sized robots and STEM kits, but in recent years, it’s been building bigger machines as well. At CES 2019, the Chinese manufacturer is once again bringing out its Walker bipedal robot, except this time it’s gained a pair of arms, and it’s able to grab and pass objects to you thanks to its hand-eye coordination. Standing at 4.75 feet tall, Walker is more huggable for adult humans — and you might as well start hugging one since it does face recognition, so when the robots turn against humans, you’ll have a slightly better chance of surviving.

Compared to last year’s model, this updated Walker comes with improved self-balancing thanks to its retooled torso, with the trade-off being a weight bump from 82 pounds up to a whopping 170 pounds. To tackle complex terrain and external impact, the machine relies on 36 “high-performance” actuators along with sensors to help stabilize itself while walking smoothly. Like before, Walker relies on Ubtech’s very own Simultaneous Localization and Mapping technology (or “U-SLAM” in short) to plan paths while avoiding obstacles.

Also updated for CES 2019 is Ubtech’s Cruzr service robot, which unsurprisingly features improved overall performance — namely navigation, object avoidance, arm movement, audio quality, connectivity (now with 4G radio) and maneuverability. Many of these are thanks to the new, more powerful processor. In addition, the Cruzr also got upgraded with a refined body structure, servo motors and wheels.

While there’s no info on price and date for the Walker, we do know that the new Cruzr will be made available globally — including North America for the first time — this year. We’ll be checking out both robots here at CES, so stay tuned for more.

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Baidu taps Unity’s game engine to test its self-driving cars

Baidu taps Unity’s game engine to test its self-driving cars


Baidu

Unity, the same company whose 3D gaming engine brought you Cuphead and Hearthstone is now helping Chinese internet giant Baidu develop the next generation of autonomous vehicles, the two companies announced on Tuesday.

comparison

The collaboration is part of Baidu’s ambitious Apollo Plan, which seeks to devise, build, test and eventually distribute self-driving systems with level 3, 4 and 5 autonomy. So far the company has assembled a coalition of more than 50 automakers and OEMs.

Unity’s real-time simulation will enable developers to effectively digitize the development phase of these autonomous technologies, which leads to a number of advantages, Tim McDonough, Unity’s head of Automotive, explained to Engadget on a recent call.

“Nobody gets hurt in a video game,” he explained. “You can also test things that you can’t test in the real world. What happens if a kid runs up in front of the car, or a moose, those are things you just you just can’t test in the real world. But you can test infinite levels of detail in a simulation engine.”

key shot

The simulation system should also accelerate development by allowing Baidu’s consortium to run multiple instances of these “digital test drives” in parallel, which allows them to collect more data, faster than real-world tests. Additionally, Unity already has all of the digital assets needed to construct virtual worlds — from street signs and pedestrian traffic to weather and meteorological events.

“By using a platform like Unity, our developers can focus on testing and research without the worry of non-functional environments or building something from scratch,” Jaewon Jung, Baidu’s Chief Architect, said in a statement. “Unity gives the ability to expedite autonomous vehicle validation and training with precise ground truth data in a more effective and safer way.”

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Scientists brew lava and blow it up to better understand volcanoes

Scientists brew lava and blow it up to better understand volcanoes

What happens when lava and water meet? Explosive experiments with humanmade lava are helping to answer this important question.

By cooking up 10-gallon batches of molten rock and injecting them with water, scientists are shedding light on the basic physics of lava-water interactions, which are common in nature but poorly understood.

The project — a long-term, ongoing study led by the University at Buffalo — published its first results on Dec. 10 in the Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR): Solid Earth.

The scientists caution that the number of tests so far is small, so the team will need to conduct more experiments to draw firm conclusions.

The research shows that lava-water encounters can sometimes generate spontaneous explosions when there is at least about a foot of molten rock above the mixing point. In prior, smaller-scale studies that used about a coffee cup’s worth of lava, scientists in Germany found that they needed to apply an independent stimulus — in essence pricking the water within the lava — to trigger a blast.

The results reported in JGR: Solid Earth also point to some preliminary trends, showing that in a series of tests, larger, more brilliant reactions tended to occur when water rushed in more quickly and when lava was held in taller containers. (The team ran a total of 12 experiments in which water injection speeds ranged from about 6 to 30 feet per second, and in which lava was held in insulated steel boxes that ranged in height from about 8 to 18 inches.)

“If you think about a volcanic eruption, there are powerful forces at work, and it’s not a gentle thing,” says lead investigator Ingo Sonder, PhD, research scientist in the Center for Geohazards Studies at UB. “Our experiments are looking at the basic physics of what happens when water gets trapped inside molten rock.”

Sonder will discuss the findings at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting today.

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Understanding lava-water encounters at real volcanoes

In nature, the presence of water can make volcanic activity more dangerous, such as during past eruptions of Hawaii’s Kilauea and Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull. But in other cases, the reaction between the two materials is subdued.

Sonder wants to understand why: “Sometimes, when lava encounters water, you see huge, explosive activity. Other times, there is no explosion, and the lava may just cool down and form some interesting shapes. What we are doing is trying to learn about the conditions that cause the most violent reactions.”

Eventually, findings from the long-term project could improve scientists’ ability to assess the risk that volcanoes near ice, lakes, oceans and underground water sources pose to people who live in surrounding communities.

“The research is still in the very early stages, so we have several years of work ahead of us before we’ll able to look at the whole range and combination of factors that influence what happens when lava or magma encounters water,” says Valentine, study co-author and director of the Center for Geohazards Studies at UB.

“However, everything we do is with the intention of making a difference in the real world,” he says. “Understanding basic processes having to do with volcanoes will ultimately help us make better forecasting calls when it comes to eruptions.”

Large-scale volcanic experiments

Lava-water interactions are associated with a phenomenon known as a molten fuel coolant interaction, in which a liquid fuel (a heat source) reacts violently with a liquid coolant. Much of the experimental work in this field has been done in the context of industrial safety, with a focus on understanding potential dangers in nuclear power plants and metal production sites.

The lava-water experiments build on previous research in this area, while focusing on molten rock.

The work takes place at UB’s Geohazards Field Station in Ashford, New York, some 40 miles south of Buffalo. Run by the UB Center for Geohazards Studies, the facility gives scientists a place to conduct large-scale experiments simulating volcanic processes and other hazards. In these tests, researchers can control conditions in a way that isn’t possible at a real volcano, dictating, for example, the shape of the lava column and the speed at which water shoots into it.

To make lava, scientists dump basaltic rock into a high-powered induction furnace. They heat it up for about 4 hours. When the mixture reaches a red-hot 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s poured into an insulated steel box and injected with two or three jets of water.

Then, a hammer drives a plunger into the mix to help stimulate an explosion. (In some cases, if enough molten rock was present above the injection point, an intense reaction began before the hammer fell).

In addition to identifying some preliminary trends, the published study attests to the wide variety of physical processes that can occur when lava and water meet.

“The system response to water injection varied from mild, evaporation-dominated processes, in which only a little melt was ejected from the container alongside some steam, to stronger reactions with visible steam jets, and with melt domains ejected to several meters height,” the scientists wrote in JGR: Solid Earth.

Breaking the vapor film?

The study did not examine why box height and water injection speed corresponded with the biggest explosions. But Sonder, whose has a background in geosciences and physics, offers some thoughts.

He explains that when a blob of water is trapped by a much hotter substance, the outer edges of the water vaporize, forming a protective film that envelops the rest of the water like a bubble, limiting heat transfer into the water and preventing it from boiling. This is called the Leidenfrost effect.

But when water is injected rapidly into a tall column of lava, the water — which is about three times lighter than the lava — will speed upward and mix with the molten rock more quickly. This may cause the vapor film to destabilize, Sonder says. In this situation, the unprotected water would expand rapidly in volume as it heated up, imposing high stresses on the lava, he says. The result? A violent explosion.

In contrast, when water is injected slowly into shallower pools of lava, the protective vapor film may hold, or the water may reach the lava’s surface or escape as steam before an explosion occurs, Sonder says.

He hopes to explore these theories through future experiments: “Not a lot of work has been done in this field,” he says, “so even some of these basic processes are really not well understood.”

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Media coverage of disasters can have lasting effects on children’s mental health: Researchers are helping teachers and parents be the first source of support to children exposed to disaster through media

Media coverage of disasters can have lasting effects on children’s mental health: Researchers are helping teachers and parents be the first source of support to children exposed to disaster through media

In 2018, American children have been exposed to multiple disasters — ravaging wildfires in California, to major Hurricanes in Florida and the Carolinas, and mass shootings in schools and places of worship — all of which have been covered 24/7 by the media. Disaster communication experts at the University of Missouri say disaster media coverage can have lasting effects on children’s mental health and suggest teachers and parents be prepared to respond to questions during and after a catastrophe.

Researchers in the MU Disaster and Community Crisis Center (http://dcc.missouri.edu/) found that teachers and parents might not be prepared to respond to students’ questions and anxieties in the aftermath of natural or human-caused disasters. The coverage can impact children’s mental health, not only in school but in response to future disasters as well.

“Teachers spend seven to eight hours a day with children,” said Jennifer First, program manager at the Disaster and Community Crisis Center and a doctoral candidate in the MU School of Social Work. “They often are the first responders, both directly and indirectly.”

The Disaster and Community Crisis Center developed a step-by-step plan with guidelines on how to discuss disasters with children. They found that teachers commonly don’t know how to answer children’s questions about disasters such as mass shootings or devastating wildfires, or explain why they happen at all.

“Images of disasters stay with kids for a long time,” First said. “That’s why it’s important to be prepared and offer helpful coping methods.”

The researchers surveyed 42 teachers on their preparation in dealing with media coverage of disasters. They also were asked what techniques they felt were needed to help students in dealing with their fears and anxieties. First and her colleagues found that many children bring concern to teachers and parents about why these terrible things happen and what can be done to stop it happening to them. The Disaster and Community Crisis Center includes instructions in their disaster intervention protocols about encouraging safety measures and helping victims. The detailed instructions can be found on their website.

“We believe that our guidelines offer a solid place for teachers and parents to learn about children’s emotions during these times,” said Brian Houston, director of the Disaster and Community Crisis Center and associate professor of communications at MU. “Children have easy access to media today, and we want to make sure they are getting the help and understanding they need when they feel unsafe or confused.”

“Student coping with the effects of disaster media coverage: a qualitative study of school staff perceptions,” was published in School Mental Health. Laura Danforth, assistant professor of social work at the University of Arkansas and graduate of MU, served as a co-author for this study.

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Materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia. Original written by Erica Jones. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Music streaming is fueling vinyl’s resurgence

Music streaming is fueling vinyl’s resurgence

Streaming has been blamed for killing off the CD, but industry experts agree it’s helping bolster the growth and quality of another physical music format: vinyl. Since 2015, streaming income has eclipsed CD sales, and the likes of Apple Music and Spotify have become major players in the music industry. This year the Recording Industry Association of America reported 75 percent of music revenue in the United States came from streaming services. In the past three years, vinyl sales in the US have steadily risen about $2 million annually.

On paper, it doesn’t make sense. Why would anyone buy an album they can only listen to in one specific environment, when, for half the price of a new record, they can put it and millions of others in their pocket and listen anywhere?

“It’s a completely inconvenient way to listen to music, it really is,” Caren Kelleher, founder and president of Gold Rush Vinyl, said. Before starting her own pressing factory in Austin, Texas, Kelleher was the head of music-app partnerships at Google and a band manager.

Kelleher and other experts gathered at the recent Making Vinyl conference in Detroit agreed that streaming and vinyl are complementary rather than competitive. As a consumer, it’s a lot harder to take a risk on a $30 record you think you might like when a Spotify subscription costs $10 per month.

“Vinyl is not a discovery format,” Jessa-Zapor Gray, vice president of marketing for Intervention Records said.

Tidal App As Jay Z's New Album Becomes Available Only To Users Of The Streaming Service

Comparatively, the most expensive streaming subscription — Tidal HiFi — costs $20 a month. For the price of one record, you get access to some 25 million songs in Tidal’s catalog and high-res streams. That value proposition is hard to ignore, more so if you opt for a lower-cost service like Spotify or Apple Music. No one likes wasting money, and even when vinyl was the dominant format, not every album was worth buying. Chances are if you form a connection with an artist you happened upon via streaming you’re more likely to buy a physical version of their music.

Log into Spotify and you’re immediately presented with music you might not have heard. There’s no risk rolling the dice on the album that surprise-dropped this week and your social feeds are raving about — even if you don’t typically listen to Lil Wayne.

Vinyl Me, Please

“The best discoveries come from the unexpected,” Matthew Fiedler, CEO of record-of-the-month club Vinyl Me, Please, said during a panel at the event. The problem is that algorithms by design deliver things you probably already will like. Conversely, a friend or record-store clerk will offer personal recommendations out of left field you’d never have heard otherwise.

Fiedler, along with musician/Third Man Records founder Jack White and many others, feels the formats are mutually beneficial — streaming is a good method for discovery while vinyl is for investing in the artists and albums you love. The unfortunate side effect is that streaming has commoditized music. Every music app more or less looks the same, and you pick tunes much like you would scan your inbox, by dragging your finger through a list of data. But it fills a vacuum in an era when terrestrial radio is no longer a reliable way to discover new music.

Young couple shopping for records together

During vinyl’s heyday, 45 RPM singles were everywhere. Artists would put out three of them, then a full-length album. They didn’t sound great, but they were cheap and used to drive full-album sales.

Now, many major labels intensely focus on streaming because it means bigger profits for them, less risk and no costs from producing vinyl. Physical-media distributor Alliance Entertainment Chairman Bruce Ogilvie mentioned the lack of vinyl releases for some of this year’s biggest albums like Drake’s Scorpion and Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy as examples of the music industry prioritizing streaming.

Before leaving Google, Kelleher gave a presentation about why artists were frustrated with low royalty payments. One slide, in particular, caused a stir: the payout difference between physical and streaming. Her data showed the average independent artist needed 2.5 million YouTube views or 368,000 Spotify streams to make the same amount as selling 100 vinyl records.

“Their eyes just popped out of their heads,” she recalled. “I tried to [illustrate the data] as an infographic and I couldn’t fit it all on one slide.”

Without knowing how much the artists charge for the records or the quantities they’re buying in, it’s hard to verify that claim. For 300 black standard-weight 12″ records with a standard jacket, plain sleeve and shrinkwrap, Universal Record Pressing quotes the job at just over $2,000. Each record costs about $6.91 to make, and bands typically charge $25 at the merch table. That’s $5,427 profit on the batch or $1,809 per 100.

Financial Markets Wall Street Spotify IPO

According to Kelleher’s data, Spotify pays artists $.007 per stream (the reality can be more or less, depending on whether someone is a paid vs. an ad-supported listener), which equals around 260,000 streams to hit the $1,809. So the figures don’t quite add up, but that doesn’t really matter. Spotify pays less per stream than Apple, and Pandora pays less than Spotify. Likewise, if you double the order size, the per-unit cost of vinyl drops by over 60 percent. The point is, selling a few hundred records a month can keep an artist afloat, and you can’t say that about a few hundred streams.

Unfortunately, albums leak. The three-month gap between a record’s journey from studio to retail only allows more time for that. It’s why Eminem’s Kamikaze or Kanye West’s Ye were released to fans via Apple Music and Spotify by surprise, mere hours after they were finalized. That couldn’t happen in a physical-only era. Until we get to the point where every new album arrives in record stores day-and-date with digital (a lofty ambition), don’t expect big labels to prioritize vinyl even though it’d benefit their bank accounts.

Vinyl may make an artist more money than streaming, but that’s because vinyl costs so much more; it’s a luxury item. Citing an industry poll, The Guardian wrote in 2016 that almost half of record buyers own a turntable they never use. Instead, they’re making purchases dependent on packaging they can display in their home. Which, in turn, is pushing boutique labels like Mondo and others to embellish their album design.

“We’ve got a lot of labels now that are doing a lot to sell a package,” Rob Maushund of Stoughton Printing told Engadget during a panel on the importance of packaging. The production planner described a recent reissue of Ennio Morricone’s score for John Carpenter’s horror classic The Thing. Waxworks Records asked for a slipcase that resembled an iceberg you’d have to “break open” to access the records. Try doing that with your iPhone.

ENNIO MORRICONE — THE THING

The package was a very limited run, and fan response was frenzied. Waxworks’ co-owner told Maushund he’d gotten death threats because the pressing sold out so fast. What was originally a $32 record resells for as much as $250 on eBay. Maushund said this is evidence specialty packaging makes physical media more attractive to buyers than digital music.

“It’s making customers want more and buy more,” Gray said.

Ogilvie concurred. He mentioned K-pop group BTS as an example. Several of the Korean boy band’s recent albums were released with bespoke physical CD editions packed with stationery, stickers, photos and even a diary. “Nobody’s cracking them open and listening to the CD — they just want the artwork. It’s always been that way,” he said.

Fiedler said if labels just rush to put out vinyl and don’t take the time to assemble a package worthy of a new record’s high price, customers feel shortchanged — specifically if a label or artist charges $30 or more and cuts corners by not mastering an album for vinyl and ships it with a flimsy slipcase.

“If you have a subpar product with vinyl, then it’s gonna be hard to have that complementary experience,” he said. While vinyl can make more money for musicians, it isn’t always a consumer-friendly format. Used albums are one thing, but a new single-LP album costs $20, on average. Add in fancy gatefold packing or multiple discs and the price climbs.

Vinyl and streaming each have benefits. Streaming gets music into your ears faster and is ridiculously convenient, while vinyl gives superfans something tangible to showcase their love for an artist. It also gives them a chance to hear it without the compression of typical streaming bitrates. While 160kbps streams might not be the best fidelity, their lack of pops and scratches has had an impact on the ears of two generations — millennials and those under 25 — kids who grew up in the era of digital remasters, with CDs and MP3s as the dominant formats. In turn, that’s driven innovation within the vinyl industry.

When she was managing musicians, there wasn’t much Kelleher could do if her client got a bad-sounding record. The plants were operating at capacity, and the alternative was waiting another six months. Now production time has halved, and thanks to competition and demand, it’s getting more efficient every year. These days, record-pressing factories and equipment manufacturers are striving to create cleaner-sounding records as a direct result.


Chalffy via Getty Images

“Digital music, in general, has led people to certain expectations about what music should sound like: clean and pop-less,” Gray said. She said people are comfortable with the sound of an older, used record when they typically cost $10 or less. “But when you’re getting new vinyl you want something quieter,” she said.

The desire for something more is what’s driving the music industry as a whole. Streaming revenues are up, and the value proposition of paying for a subscription will likely never disappear. The price for new records won’t drop anytime soon, either. Streaming was the byproduct of Napster. Now it’s the predominant format and helping musicians get paid for their work.

It’s no coincidence that vinyl’s upswing charts a similar course with paying Spotify customers. Digital left a void, and superfans wanted to start reconnecting with the music they loved. Its homogenization of the artform unexpectedly pushed vinyl back into the zeitgeist and forced the aging industry to adapt to modern ears. You can bet Sean Fanning and Sean Parker never saw that coming.

Over the past decade, Timothy’s covered everything from drag shows to heavy metal, and he even debunked a local ghost story before joining Engadget in 2013. He’s an A/V enthusiast who adores physical media, much to the chagrin of his available shelf space. Movies by David Fincher and music from Amon Tobin, Deftones, Run the Jewels and Trent Reznor are his favorites. He has a complicated relationship with photography too and shares an exact birth date with Katy Perry.


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Intel’s AI wheelchair can be controlled by facial expressions

Intel’s AI wheelchair can be controlled by facial expressions


Intel

Motorized wheelchairs are traditionally controlled by a joystick or sensors attached to the user’s body, but now innovation in artificial intelligence is helping severely disabled people drive their chairs with their facial expressions.

Working in partnership with Intel, Brazil-based Hoobox Robotics has created the Wheelie 7, a piece of AI-leveraging kit that allows disabled people to control a motorized wheelchair though 10 facial expressions, from raising eyebrows to sticking out tongues.

The tech learns about the user’s gestures automatically and takes just seven minutes to install (hence the name “Wheelie 7”). Using an app, the user — with assistance from a caregiver — can assign which expressions are linked to the chair’s movements. Through a combination of facial recognition software, sensors, robotics and an Intel 3D RealSense Depth Camera that’s been mounted on the wheelchair, Wheelie captures a 3D map of the face and uses AI algorithms to process data in real time to direct the wheelchair. The kit works in both sunlight and dim light, and is compatible with 95 percent of motorized wheelchairs currently on the market.

The prototype is currently being tested by more than 60 people in the US, most of whom have quadriplegia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or have age-related disabilities. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, there are around 280,000 people in the US with spinal injuries, and 17,700 new cases every year.

“The Wheelie 7 is the first product to use facial expressions to control a wheelchair. This requires incredible precision and accuracy, and it would not be possible without Intel technology,” said Dr. Paulo Pinheiro, co-founder and CEO of HOOBOX Robotics. “We are helping people regain their autonomy.”

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The Morning After: Zuckerberg talked to CNN

The Morning After: Zuckerberg talked to CNN

Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Microsoft made a big step toward helping us live without passwords, while NASA is looking into Elon Musk and SpaceX. Also, there’s an update on Telltale’s The Walking Dead game, and we know what’s coming to Netflix next month.


That’s one way to avoid getting phished.You can sign into your Microsoft account without a password

Now there’s an option for signing into your personal Microsoft account using the Edge browser and either Windows Hello or a FIDO2-based security device like Yubico’s YubiKey 5. You won’t have to remember your password every time you want to check mail in Outlook or buy a game for your Xbox.


Thin and light.The best ultraportable laptops of 2018

Almost every laptop we review at Engadget, same for gaming rigs, can be considered an ultraportable. But like Apple did with the optical disc drive on the original Air, companies have had to continue making trade-offs in the name of weight savings. Before you buy your next laptop, it’s important to be aware of the compromises you’re likely to make. The XPS 13, new MacBook Air, Surface Laptop 2 and MateBook 2 topped our list — read through to find out why these are our favorites.

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SpaceX isn’t the only one.NASA launching safety review of SpaceX because Elon Musk smoked pot

When NASA tapped SpaceX and Boeing to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, the companies likely expected the government agency would keep an eye on things. But they probably didn’t expect a probe prompted by a podcast. According to the Washington Post, NASA is conducting a safety review of both companies because some officials were annoyed when they found out SpaceX CEO Elon Musk smoked weed with Joe Rogan on the latter’s popular podcast.

A space agency spokesperson told the Washington Post the probe would “ensure the companies are meeting NASA’s requirements for workplace safety, including the adherence to a drug-free environment.” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine was also cited as saying “culture and leadership start at the top.”


You’ll even get release dates soon.Work resumes on Telltale’s final ‘The Walking Dead’ season

A few weeks after it’s own resurrection from the dead, work has restarted on The Walking Dead, the franchise. Robert Kirkman’s Skybound has tapped “many” of the people who worked on the game the first time around. Expect the company to announce release dates for the last two episodes “soon.”


Policy chief Elliot Schrage took responsibility for hiring Definers PR firm.Zuckerberg says stepping down at Facebook is ‘not the plan’

Mark Zuckerberg appeared on CNN Business, following The New York Times‘ bombshell report into how Facebook had dealt with the messy last two years. The CEO didn’t directly address all the issues from the expose, saying “It is not clear to me at all that the report is right.” Zuckerberg says he won’t be leaving, and nor will Sheryl Sandberg. An internal memo showed that outgoing policy head Elliot Schrager is taking responsibility for the company hiring Definers, a PR firm that spread negative publicity about competitors and pushed angles linking George Soros to critics.

But wait, there’s more…


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Are You Ready To Support Cryptocurrency? Here’s What You Need To Know

Are You Ready To Support Cryptocurrency? Here’s What You Need To Know

In July, I talked about how easy it can be to add cryptocurrency to your business with the help of NASGO, a company helping businesses, sports influencers, musicians and many others to tokenize their businesses with features for point of sale, closer communication for customers, social media, tokenized loyalty programs, and as a means of supporting humanitarian causes.

As I write, the first musical performers, for example, including Jaafar Jackson (nephew of Michael Jackson), emerging vocalist Makela and Cali Tucker, who you may recall from The Voice, are tokenizing their musical releases. Other artists are moving this direction as well, which could turn the music recording industry on its head.

These decisions seem obvious and easy. But what’s less easy, as you get more deeply involved in tokenization, are the issues of cryptocurrency and taxation. Get this: the U.S. government’s investment in blockchain analysis companies has more than tripled since early 2018. So far, that investment totals $5.7 million, with the IRS leading the way.

Corey Blaser is CEO of SaaS-based tax reporting company ProfitStance.ProfitStance

So you can guess where the challenge is leading. If you are transacting in cryptocurrency there are tax ramifications that you need to know. Important in this is understanding, according to NASDAQ, is the IRS’ definition of cryptocurrency. If you are tokenizing your business to provide marketing and branding benefits to your customers, you’re home free, as far as the IRS is concerned. But if you are using cryptocurrency as actual currency (investing or accepting tokens as payment) you need to report these transactions to the IRS and if you fail to do so, in the worst case could be convicted of tax evasion, charged a penalty of $250,000 and sentenced to jail.

However, a company I’ve become aware of recently, ProfitStance, is working to alleviate this concern with a SaaS-based platform built by crypto investors to answer the taxation concerns of investing—record keeping and accounting of every transaction to ensure full compliance and eliminate the work (and the potential mistakes) in tax calculations. The developers of this extensive platform have provided support for all exchanges and wallets to make it easy to track every transaction (including investment, a purchase using cryptocurrency, or moving cryptocurrency between exchanges).

Pricing for the program ranges from free, for portfolio viewing and preparation of a 1099, to basic or premier retail service for $70-$600 per year to $2,600 for an enterprise/financial services organization.

Jeff Brimhall is Chief Revenue Officer of ProfitStance.ProfitStance

Finally, as you guide your company into crypto, here are several other tidbits you may find helpful as well. The first is The Pareto Network, a peer-to-peer financial content marketplace for the digital currency sector that connects providers of financial information in the sector with investors, giving foresight into market inefficiencies and opportunities. The Paretotoken has a unique classification that can count as a tax-deductible expense. That means the cost for PARETO tokens you hold on your balance sheet as an asset can be partially recouped or sold as profit.

Finally, another good news item: if you invested in Bitcoin in 2017 and have been stung by losses this year: You can use those losses to offset other types of capital gains, with any amount over $3,000 being rolled forward to the following year. So if this deduction applies to you, be sure you remember to take it.

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Microsoft Launcher for Android adds Timeline and new design

Microsoft Launcher for Android adds Timeline and new design

One of Microsoft’s focal points at its Surface event Tuesday was on helping you move seamlessly between devices. As part of that effort, it’s updating Microsoft Launcher on Android with some new features, including long-awaited Timeline support.

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Apple’s free ‘Everyone Can Create’ curriculum is available on Apple Books

Apple’s free ‘Everyone Can Create’ curriculum is available on Apple Books

In March, Apple unveiled its Everyone Can Create curriculum, a program aimed at helping educators integrate drawing, music, video and photo skills into their lessons and assignments. Now, the company has made that curriculum available for free throug…

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