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LightRail art installation aims to bring San Francisco together

San Francisco’s Market Street cuts through the center of the city, from the Embarcadero to the Castro. It’s a microcosm of the highs and lows of not just the city, but the entire Bay Area. From the pageantry of high-end stores to boarded-up shops. Where the homeless sleep on sidewalks in front of the insular offices of tech giants Uber and Twitter. It’s the segmented heart of the City by the Bay. Now local art collective Illuminate SF wants to unify the entire street by way of lights that track the public transportation system.

That system is called LightRail, and it’s the brainchild of artists George Zisiadis and Stefano Corazza. That team, along with Illuminate SF, will construct two two-mile-long tubes on either side of Market Street, filled with LEDs that track the Muni and BART trains running in the subway. As a train zooms along underground, a corresponding beam of light will follow it. During a demo of the system, the glow of an upcoming train became hypnotic as it zoomed past me. I caught myself waiting for the next train, and the next. It’s a simple piece of art that’s part of a bigger plan.

One of its goals is to create a public piece of art that bridges the different social and economic aspects of the street and helps reinvigorate some of the area’s dilapidated spots. “Our feet tend to follow where our eyes go,” said Illuminate co-founder Ben Davis. “The idea that this thing pulls people a little bit further up the street helps create that transformation. I do want to break down those barriers.”

But breaking down the invisible barriers that mark the end of the shopping section of Market and the beginning of derelict storefronts requires more than just a good idea and warm, fuzzy feelings. Building anything in San Francisco requires navigating a labyrinth of bureaucracy and special interests. So it was surprising when Davis announced that the team had been able to secure permits and support for a four-year installation of LightRail between the Embarcadero and Van Ness Avenue.

That’s only a two-mile stretch of road, but if the installation is a big enough success, they’ll expand it to Castro Street, at the foot of Twin Peaks. There’s also the possibility that LightRail could become an ongoing fixture on Market Street, just as the Bay Lights, on the Bay Bridge, have achieved permanent status.

Whether the installation is up for four years or 100, LightRail is one of the first steps in San Francisco’s Better Market Street project. The plan is to make the throughway the cultural center of the city, in addition to a transportation route. “This piece of art will live for maybe four years. But it’s really meant to have an impact that changes the city for the next 60 to 100 years,” Davis said.


One of the ways it’ll do that is by replacing the ghastly orange sodium streetlamps that make everyone look like a zombie with white lights while it’s installing LightRail. So even when the art project is decommissioned, the project will have a lasting impact on the street.

There’s only thing left to do: raise $10 million from private and public donors. Davis seems sure that the money will become available. But he stresses that he doesn’t want to siphon funds from other city art projects. Illuminate is raising funds now and is hoping to tap some of the newer residents of Market Street, like Twitter and Uber. While tech companies have moved into the neighborhood (thanks in part to tax breaks from the city), they tend to insulate their employees from the neighborhood by offering free meals so they never have to leave their building.

But if they are invested in a project like LightRail, they might venture out and help uplift the rest of the street. Or at least get them walking down the street a few blocks. Davis hopes it’s possible. “As a community, let’s show that we care about [Market Street] now, and let’s let light do what it does so well, which is attract, enlighten and let us all see.”

Source: Lightrail


BitTorrent says it’s not killing its streaming media service

Last week, Variety published a report detailing some internal turmoil at BitTorrent: the company’s CEOs had both reportedly been fired, the recently-launched BitTorrent Now initiative was dead and the company’s new LA office / studio had been shut down. Today, BitTorrent has given us more details on the situation at the company — some of what Variety reported appears to be accurate, but the company has denied BitTorrent Now’s demise. The company says it “remains focused on the media space,” including BitTorrent Now.

Variety also said that the company’s two CEOs Robert Delamar and Jeremy Johnson had both been fired; we’ve learned today that only Delamar has moved on. BitTorrent did also confirm that its LA space had been closed down. The company didn’t have any comment on more widespread layoffs, but if it had been “bleeding money” through its music initiatives, it sounds like it’s not losing enough to shut them down just yet.

Indeed, BitTorrent says “there have been no changes to our platforms” at this time — we’re taking that to include not only BitTorrent Now but also the company’s newly-introduced news platform and live video streaming service.

Despite things not being quite as bad as the picture painted by Variety, it’s clear the company is going through some changes and perhaps a bit of turmoil right now. Even so, BitTorrent isn’t giving up on its Now initiative just yet — it only launched the ad-supported streaming music and video service in late June, so it seems reasonable to give it more time unless it has been a spectacular failure.

There’s still some confusion as to what exactly is going on over at BitTorrent though, particularly around who else has left the company besides one of its CEOs. We’ll update this post if any more information comes out.


Science creates a cast that lets you scratch those itches

If you made a list of things that sucked about breaking your arm, the fiberglass cast to heal you would be close to the top. You can’t shower with it, you can’t get at your skin and you wind up an itchy, sweaty mess for months on end. Three college students out of Illinois believe that they can alleviate some of those bugbears with Cast21, a pretzel-esque sleeve that would replace traditional fiberglass castings.
The Cast21 sleeve is a mathematically-designed structure that’s as rigid as a traditional cast, but without most of those issues. For instance, its hollow design means that you can get to most of your skin, letting you scratch those itches when you need to. Plus, you can get it wet, it’s lightweight and can be removed with a pair of pointed shears. Oh, and it’ll cost roughly the same as the existing procedure, so it won’t put too much of a dent in your hospital bills.

The sleeve itself is made of silicon and comprised of a series of hollow tubes that are all connected together. Once a doctor places it on your forearm, two liquids are injected into the tubes and as they mix, the structure hardens. The silicon construction means that a wide variety of colors and designs can be incorporated into the cast, including block colors, camouflage pattern and even a “cookies and cream” motif.

The team behind Cast21 are currently looking for investors to help them get through the initial manufacturing and prototype stages. Should that cash arrive soon, it’s hoped that initial trials on human patients could begin as early as mid-2017, although that’s a very ambitious goal. COO Justin Brooks also has one eye on conquering the animal market, given how frequently you see dogs with broken forelegs. He also says that his company has one up on its 3D-printed rivals since there’s significantly less complexity with stretchy silicon.

Source: Cast21


Linksys boosts the speed of its customizable WRT router

Linksys has launched a new router in its WRT lineup beloved by WiFi tweaking aficionados. The WRT3200ACM has more bandwidth for its Tri-Band 802.11AC tech, amping the max speed to 2.6 Gbps, double the last WRT model. At the same time, it offers open-source firmware support for OpenWRT or DD-WRT, and no parental controls or other bloatware. It also comes with up to 512MB of DDR3 RAM, eSATA and USB like the last model, making it easier to load and run custom firmware.

Those speeds won’t be useful unless you’re connecting multiple devices at once, as no single phone or laptop can even run at a third of that. However, that’s not the point — it’s aimed at folks who want to use custom firmware or own a purpose-built router with no fluffy features. To prove its pedigree, the router even carries the same blue and black color scheme of the original WRT54G. If you’re in Linksys’ target market, you probably already know that the WRT3200ACM doesn’t come cheap — it’ll arrive in the next week for $280.

Source: Linksys


Streaming to Periscope is no longer confined to phones

Twitter’s live-streaming service is moving beyond the phone. Today, Periscope CEO, Kayvon Beykpour, announced that Periscope will stream videos from, well anything. The new “Producer” feature is aimed at content creators who might not want to be limited to just streaming from their phone.

In the near future, users can point their live streams to the Periscope servers whether it comes from a handset, drone or other connected camera. Those videos then show up on a user’s account as if they were shot on a phone. The difference being that the video can originate from a high-end camera, computer or hardware encoder (which opens this up to gaming streams, too). If the images can be streamed to a URL, it can be sent to Periscope.

During a demo, Periscope user Alex Pettit showed how using OBS Studio (an open source video streaming app for macOS, Linux and Windows) he could add graphics, footage from his phone, and pre-roll to this Periscope feed.

In fact, Periscope noted that companies like TechCrunch, Disney, Louis Vuitton, CBS 12, Telemundo and others have been beta-testing Producer for the past six weeks. While power users like Pettit and content-creating companies will start using the feature, it’s unlikely your average streamer is going move away from the phone and start using higher quality equipment for streams.

Beykpour notes that those who use this new feature will be a very small subset of users. “There are far more people who are interested in sharing what is happening in the world with their phones,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the company has added support for something other than phone. GoPro cameras have been able to stream to the app since January.

Beykpour says the company thinks it’s about how viewers interact with live video that’s important. Today’s announcement is just an additional way to get that video onto Periscope’s platform. “It’s a natural evolution for us to cover as wide of a spectrum as possible,” Beykpour said.

The new feature will begin rolling out very slowly and interested users will initially have to fill out a questionnaire to be whitelisted and have the feature added to their app. No solid timeline on when the feature will be available to everyone. Plus at launch, it’s iOS only but engineer Sara Haider said that Android support was coming.

Source: Periscope


The foldable, fully-enclosed Passport drone is yours for $549

Foldability is all the hype in the drone world these days, as is the case with the GoPro Karma and the DJI Mavic. But before these two were announced, we already heard about Zero Zero Robotics’ Hover Camera 4K drone that is truly foldable and also fully enclosed — in the sense that you can grab hold it any way you want without getting cut by the propellers, plus you’re less likely to cause havoc in a room. That’s a rarity in today’s drone market. Today, we bring you the good news that this nifty little machine — under the new name “Passport” — is finally launching for $549.

For those who aren’t already familiar, the Passport is an ultra-lightweight and ultra-compact quadcopter powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Flight platform. It comes with a 13-megapixel still camera that can shoot 4K video, and there’s a foldable carbon-fiber enclosure for the propellers — the drone is about the size of a VHS cassette tape when folded, if you know what that is. Since the Passport only weighs 242 grams (it was originally aiming for 238 grams), it is not subject to the FAA’s Hobbyist Drone Registration.

There’s no controller; you’ll just be using your Android phone or iPhone to control it via WiFi — we’re told to expect a 20-meter range on a 5GHz connection, plus up to 10 minutes of hovering time per charge when there’s no wind. For the speed freaks, this machine can travel at up to 8 m/s or about 18 mph horizontally, but you’ll obviously want to keep a spare battery handy (the standard package comes with two batteries plus a dual-battery charger).

While $549 isn’t exactly cheap when compared to move conventional offerings, the Passport does come with some other handy features: It can automatically follow your face or body, orbit around a subject while filming it (similar to DJI’s Point Of Interest mode), and shoot a 360-degree panorama video. As before, the drone “takes off” by simply pressing the power button once while on standby, and then release it horizontally to let it hover right away; similarly, just grab it while it’s in mid-air and then point it downward to slow down the propellers, and then you can press the power button to stop it entirely. These are all made possible thanks to the Passport’s powerful processor, sonar, downward-facing camera plus other sensors.

For those who are willing to give the Passport a spin, you can place your order on the official website and take advantage of the $549 early-bird price; it’ll go up to $599 two weeks later. Meanwhile, stay tuned for our upcoming review.

Source: Hover Camera


Blue dye could help keep Ebola doctors safe

If you’re unfortunate enough to wind up in hospital with a dangerous infectious disease like Ebola, then keep an eye on what your doctors are wearing. If their hazmat suits are smeared with blue dye that gently evaporates as they work with you, you can rest easy. If they’re sporting the odd tint, it means that they’re taking proper precautions and keeping their biohazard gear nice and clean. It also means that they’re using Kinnos Highlight, a new wonder dye created by two students out of Columbia University.

Kinnos’ story began in 2014 at the height of the Ebola crisis, when Columbia University launched a challenge to look for solutions to the issue. Katherine Jin and Jason Kang looked at the transmission of the disease by medical professionals and found that there was a problem with the way doctors decontaminate. It’s current best practice to spray environment suits with bleach and wait 10 minutes before moving, but that’s fraught with problems.

First up, tired doctors weren’t waiting the full 10 minutes before deciding to disrobe. Secondly, bleach forms droplets when its sprayed, so it only covers around a third of the material. Thirdly, bleach isn’t exactly visible, so it’s hard for people to see if they’ve properly sprayed the clothing at all. Highlight is designed to resolve both of those issues, firstly by reducing bleach’s propensity to form droplets, ensuring greater coverage. Secondly, the blue dye is designed to gently oxidize with the air, evaporating over a set period of time.

It means that doctors have a very visual way of telling if their gear has been decontaminated properly before disrobing. That should help reduce their risk of catching a disease themselves or passing it on to other people. Each bottle costs less than a dollar and can be mixed with up to a gallon of bleach, so it’s not particularly expensive, either. The company is now working with bodies like MSF and the French Red Cross, and could be a small, cheap and rather elegant solution to a problem that’s dogged epidemic response teams for years.


Original PS3 owners can file claims in the ‘Other OS’ lawsuit

After more than six years, Sony agreed to pay out millions to settle the class-action lawsuit surrounding its removal of the “install other OS” feature from the PS3 in 2010. Now owners of the original version of that console can file claims. A settlement notice sent out this week states that PS3 “Fat” owners who made the purchase between November 1, 2006 and April 1, 2010 are eligible to do so.

Original PS3 owners who can submit proof of purchase and proof that they actually used the feature that allowed Linux to be installed on a partition of the console’s hard drive are entitled to a $55 payment. If you can submit only proof of purchase and state that you intended to use the tool, you’ll receive $9. Proof that you installed Linux can be submitted in the form of a screenshot/photo or documentation of communication between you and Sony or a third party. The installation would’ve had to be done before April 1, 2010.

Sony reached a proposed settlement with the plaintiffs this summer and received preliminary approval from a federal judge last month. The settlement is still pending final approval from the court. The deadline to submit a claim is December 7th. A hearing where the court will decide whether or not to approve the settlement is scheduled for January 24, 2017. If approved, payments will be sent out about 40 days after.

The “Other OS” suit was filed in 2010 after Sony pushed a mandatory software update to the PS3. That download forced users to nix the ability to install Linux or lose the ability to play online. The company said at the time that security concerns were the reason for change. Note that the PS3 “Slim” model that debuted in 2009 isn’t included in the litigation even though it debuted during the aforementioned time frame. The “Slim” never had the Linux feature, so that’s why owners of that console aren’t eligible to file a claim as part of this class-action.

Via: Polygon

Source: “OtherOS” Settlement Notice


Twitter teams with BuzzFeed for a live election night stream

Twitter doesn’t want its live US election coverage to stop with the debates. It’s partnering with BuzzFeed News on a show for election night, November 8th. Visit Twitter starting at 6PM Eastern and you’ll get a steady stream of results and analysis as the votes pour in. And you might have reason to tune in through the social network instead of resorting to TV. The two companies are working with volunteer data outfit Decision Desk HQ to make calls on election results instead of leaning on a single source, like conventional broadcasters.

Be ready for the occasional interruption. BuzzFeed and Twitter will roll “TV style” commercials in between segments, so you’re not quite escaping the usual election night experience. Nonetheless, this could be more than a little helpful if you want to keep up with the vote wherever you happen to be.

Source: PR Newswire, Decision Desk HQ


Questionable Claims of Apple’s Interest in Sonder’s Dynamic E-Ink Keyboard Technology Emerge

Yesterday, a Redditor with the username Foxconninsider posted about a new Smart Keyboard claimed to be a working prototype potentially coming to both iMac and MacBook devices sometime in 2018. Created by Australian startup Sonder and displayed at an event in Tsinghua University in Beijing, the keyboard uses an e-ink display behind the keys of the board to dynamically change the input of the device to the whim of the user, which could range from different languages to social network shortcuts and emojis.

Sonder’s own Bluetooth e-ink keyboard, launching this year
The post ties Sonder to Apple through a potential acquisition deal that would integrate Sonder’s technology directly into Apple products, which reportedly generated discussion throughout the event, and after it. An excerpt from the original post follows:

I work on Tsinghua university campus, it is like the Chinese MIT. It hosted a Foxconn event where I saw the new Macbook keyboard module design and Apple’s 2018 E Ink Magic Keyboard that’s a DFT model. (DFT is design for testing).

The startup Sonder makes a smart keyboard module, it has a new magnetic mechanical mechanism and a lit E Ink display which allows for swapping shortcuts and languages etc. I saw it swap between a few programs and languages (English, Japanese, Taiwanese layouts etc).

The Foxconn Innoconn Executive said Apple’s PBO (Procurement board office) was closing an acquisition for the startup company that is now registered in Hong Kong for a big return of investment for Foxconn International Holdings and E Ink Holdings.

Aside from the unverifiable nature of the post, the claim is questionable for a number reasons, which together originally led MacRumors to decline to cover the story despite multiple contacts from the source prior to their sharing it on Reddit.

Among the questionable aspects of the story is Foxconn’s and Sonder’s apparent willingness to confirm Sonder is in discussions with Apple about the keyboard technology. Such talks are typically covered by non-disclosure agreements which would preclude them from acknowledging the discussions.

Today, however, The Guardian is corroborating the story with a claim that “separate to the Reddit report, The Guardian can confirm the Apple CEO, Tim Cook, met with [Sonder founder Francisco] Serra-Martins in China on Wednesday.” Cook is currently touring both China and Japan, but The Guardian’s confirmation doesn’t give specifics as to whether the meeting was simply in passing, or specifically related to a potential acquisition deal.

Regarding the technology at the center of the story, the original Redditor claimed that they “couldn’t film the macbook or magic keyboard test units at the event,” so the early demo keyboard shown in the video above represents a variation on what was seen at the event. The event’s keyboard allegedly had a single e-ink screen for every key on the MacBook, along with a backlit lighting panel. The technology would seemingly be used in future MacBooks and integrated into the iMac’s Magic Keyboard lineup.

With so many unconfirmed factors swirling around the story, it remains possible that Sonder itself is attempting to generate interest in its own upcoming Sonder Keyboard, which packs in all of the previously detailed e-ink technology, along with Mac compatibility, at $199. The company expects the keyboard to arrive sometime in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Tag: Sonder
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