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23
Mar

Instagram is rolling out new safety features, will blur ‘sensitive content’


Why it matters to you

Last year, Instagram promised to cut down on cyberbullying and other problematic content on its platform. Now, it has new tools to help do that.

Instagram is continuing to act on a promise it made last year to keep the photo-editing and sharing app “a safe place for everyone.” On Thursday, the Facebook-owned social media platform announced the addition of a few new features that seek to help foster a safer, kinder community.

Sometime soon, Instagram plans to start blurring out “sensitive photos and videos” from your feed or a user’s profile. Moreover, the app has made two-factor authentication available to everyone, helping you keep your account safe. And finally, Instagram has created a resource page where you can learn how to protect yourself while enjoying your and your friends’ photos.

In terms of Instagram’s plans to blur certain content, the app hasn’t clarified what it will classify as “sensitive.” In a blog post, Instagram pointed out, “While these posts don’t violate our guidelines, someone in the community has reported them and our review team has confirmed they are sensitive.” The hope is that by placing a screen over these photos and videos, users won’t have any “surprising or unwanted experiences in the app.” That said, if your curiosity gets the best of you, all you need to do is tap the covered post, and you’ll be able to see it in all its … glory.

More: Now 1 million advertisers strong, in-app booking is coming to Instagram

As for two-factor authentication, users who elect to enable this security feature will have to provide an additional code from their smartphone every time they log in. To enable this extra layer of protection, tap the gear icon in Instagram, and toggle the Two-Factor Authentication option in order to switch it on.

Finally, Instagram’s new safety site promises more information on tools like account blocking, comment controls, and photo tagging. Users will also be able to access support services in their respective countries, and learn more about Instagram’s efforts in building a positive community, such as its upcoming Worldwide InstaMeet on March 25 and 26. The 15th such meetup of its kind, InstaMeet encourages folks from around the world to spread kindness by leaving a nice comment, liking an inspiring person, or sharing a supportive message. You can find an InstaMeet near you, and spread a little love this weekend.

23
Mar

Wikileaks’ ‘Dark Matter’ release reveals CIA efforts to infect the Mac


Why it matters to you

If you’ve been thinking your Mac was safe from the CIA, Wikileaks’ latest release proves otherwise.

Wikileaks isn’t done with its Vault 7 release of CIA hacking documents, which has already created quite a stir by outlining various exploits that the CIA created for a variety of platforms. While Wikileaks has not revealed sufficient detail to allow the exploits to be easily used by cybercriminals, it has pointed nefarious parties in the right directions.

Now, Wikileaks has released another bundle of documents, this time dubbed “Dark Matter.” This time, the organization turned an eye to Apple’s Mac, with a number of exploits that are both insidious and persistent, MacRumors reports.

More: Some companies are having problems with Wikileaks’ demands over CIA hack fixes

The leak highlights a specific CIA program, “Sonic Screwdriver,” that was created by the agency’s innocuous-sounding Embedded Development Branch. The exploit uses infected USB drives to inject code that attacks a Mac while it’s starting up and bypasses a user password to instead “boot its attack software.” Allegedly, the code has even been installed to modified firmware on Apple’s own Thunderbolt-Ethernet adapter.

Sonic Screwdriver isn’t the only exploit contained in the Dark Matter leak:

“‘DarkSeaSkies’ is ‘an implant that persists in the EFI firmware of an Apple MacBook Air computer’ and consists of ‘DarkMatter’, ‘SeaPea’ and ‘NightSkies’, respectively EFI, kernel-space and user-space implants.

Documents on the ‘Triton’ MacOSX malware, its infector ‘Dark Mallet’ and its EFI-persistent version ‘DerStake’ are also included in this release. While the DerStake1.4 manual released today dates to 2013, other Vault 7 documents show that as of 2016 the CIA continues to rely on and update these systems and is working on the production of DerStarke2.0.”

As MacRumors points out, Dark Matter also has iOS in its sights, with a number of iPhone-related exploits that are injected into target devices during the actual manufacturing process. These exploits have allegedly been underway since 2008, or soon after the iPhone was first released:

“While CIA assets are sometimes used to physically infect systems in the custody of a target it is likely that many CIA physical access attacks have infected the targeted organization’s supply chain including by interdicting mail orders and other shipments (opening, infecting, and resending) leaving the United States or otherwise.”

You can check out the Wikileaks source documents here. We’re likely to see additional leaks going forward, which, along with efforts to understand the documents that have already been leaked to date, will keep security analysts and the companies that make affected machines busy.

23
Mar

Affordable, midrange Samsung Galaxy J7 V, LG K20 V now available from Verizon


Why it matters to you

Looking for a fairly powerful phone at a low price? Verizon now offers two midrange models that fit the bill.

Two new midrange phones are making their way to Verizon. The carrier has announced that it’s now offering the LG K20 V and the Samsung Galaxy J7 V, a pair of phones that come with a relatively decent price tag.

The phones are available on both Verizon’s prepaid and postpaid plans, with the LG K20 priced at $168, while the Galaxy J7 costs a little more at $240.

More: New York is suing Verizon over poor fiber rollout

Samsung Galaxy J7 V

So what kind of specs do the two new phones have to offer? Let’s start with the Samsung J7 V. The phone has a relatively large 5.5-inch display, along with an 8MP rear-facing camera and a 3,300mAh battery that should provide at least a full day of use. Powering the phone is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor. The phone comes with 16GB of storage, but it has a microSD card slot so you can expand the storage up to an additional 256GB. It’s not a bad deal for the price — although there are definitely more powerful phones out there.

LG K20 V

Then there’s the cheaper LG K20 V, which is a little smaller with its 5.3-inch display. This device offers a 13MP rear-facing camera, along with a 5MP front-facing device. You’ll also get a 2,800mAh battery and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor. The phone comes with 16GB of storage, but again, you’ll get a microSD card slot for expanding storage.

Both of the devices come with Android 7.0 out of the box, so if you’re looking for a cheap way to get the latest and greatest version of Android, then either one of the devices might be a good one to get.

You can get the Samsung Galaxy S7 V and the LG K20 V for yourself from the Verizon website.

23
Mar

Don’t eat this spinach: Scientists grow heart tissue on Popeye’s favorite greens


Why it matters to you

In order to scale up human tissue regeneration, it’s important to find the best platform for growing tissue in a lab. Spinach leaves may be the answer.

Chances are that when you think about cutting-edge bioengineering techniques for growing heart tissue, the word “spinach” isn’t the first thing that springs to mind.

Maybe it should be, though, since that’s exactly what a multidisciplinary research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Arkansas State University-Jonesboro has been using as a platform for growing healthy heart tissue.

Their work is described in a new paper, attractively titled “Crossing kingdoms: Using decelluralized plants as perfusable tissue engineering scaffolds.”

More: Soft robot sleeve will help hearts to beat when they’re failing

“In this work we combine advantages available in the plant kingdom to address needs in human tissue regeneration,” Glenn Gaudette, a biomedical engineering professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, told Digital Trends. “A major limitation in making new heart tissue is the lack of a fluid transport system to supply growing tissues with the nutrients they need to survive. We looked to the plant kingdom to see how plants transport fluids, and found that plants have a similar fluid transport network as humans.”

The team built on this discovery by first removing the plant cells from a spinach leaf, and then demonstrating that it’s possible to use the veins remaining in the leaf structure to transport fluid and small particles, the approximate size of blood cells. In addition to this, they seeded heart cells on the plant scaffold to show that the scaffold can serve as a basis for building heart muscle.

“I think some of the excitement comes from the idea of having a natural solution available for what’s been a real limiting problem in regenerative medicine,” Gaudette continued. “For example, plant biologists can grow plants in many different sizes and shapes, which could be engineered to be scaffolds for different human tissues. In addition, plants are relatively inexpensive and readily available.”

Long-term, the dream is that it will be possible to use this discovery in the tissue engineering field. Plants can quickly be grown to different sizes and shapes that may allow for precise scaffolds for individuals, and for specific organs. In the short term, the team hopes to develop a potential platform for testing new drugs on tissue-engineered constructs which can be perfused through the plant vascular system.

We may not be quite at the point where your heart transplant can be grown on a fresh bed of spinach leaves, but this work suggests that it’s not totally out of the question, either.

Popeye would be proud!

23
Mar

Samsung Galaxy J7 release: Everything you need to know


Samsung has finally launched the much-anticipated 2017 version of the Galaxy J7 in the form of the Galaxy J7 V — with the V standing for Verizon. The device largely has the expected specs, although there are a few surprises.

If you’re not a Verizon customer, don’t worry yet — it’s likely we’ll see the device come to other carriers in the weeks ahead.

More: The Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime could be a high-spec version of the original Galaxy J7

So what does the Samsung Galaxy J7 have to offer? Well, let’s start with what’s under the hood. The phone features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, along with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. While that’s not much storage, the phone does have a microSD card slot so you can add extra storage if you so choose.

While the Galaxy J7 was rumored to feature a 13MP rear-facing camera, the device instead ended up with an 8MP rear-facing camera and a 5MP front-facing camera. The display of the phone sits at 5.5-inches and has a resolution of 1,280 x 720 — which isn’t bad for a phone in this price range.

The design of the new phone is actually pretty nice. Sure, it’s no Galaxy S series, but it’s basic and sleek with a metal body. On the back, you’ll find a colored band that stretches across the camera module. As expected, the design is much cleaner than the 2016 version, meaning you won’t have to settle for a cheap-looking phone just because you’re getting a midrange device.

If you’re looking to get the device for yourself, you can visit the Verizon website. We’ll update this article as we hear more about the Samsung Galaxy J7’s availability across different carriers.

Updated on 03-23-2017 by Christian de Looper: Added news that the Samsung Galaxy J7 is now available.

23
Mar

3Dmark benchmark test now lets you compare Direct X 11, 12, and Vulkan


Why it matters to you

If you want to see just why more developers should adopt Vulkan and DirectX 12 APIs, the 3Dmark overhead test will show you.

Futuremark added the Vulkan API to its Overhead test in 3Dmark, letting users see how their system handles draw calls in DirectX 11, 12, and now Vulkan. Although Vulkan should decimate DirectX 11 in testing, it will be interesting to see how different systems fare when comparing it to DirectX 12.

When AMD debuted its Mantle API, it forced the hand of Microsoft in the development of DirectX 12, to give developers much lower-level access to hardware. That lead to a huge increase in its ability to send draw calls to the GPU, increasing it by several times. Vulkan, the results of the Khronos Group building upon Mantle’s foundations, does much the same, making it a strong competitor for DX12.

With that in mind, many developers will be looking to optimize their games for Vulkan and DirectX 12, but which low-level API gets the most support from them could well depend on which is a better API. A big deciding factor in that will be end-user performance and the new Vulkan enabled API test in 3Dmark will be a great way to test that.

More: The history and future of 3DMark, the world’s most popular gaming benchmark

In the 3Dmark API Overhead test, the software sends an increasing number of draw calls to the GPU and keeps doing so until the frame rate drops below 30, at which point it ends the benchmark and notes down the maximum number of calls it could make.

Futuremark makes a point of stating in this release that the API Overhead test is not designed as a general graphics card benchmark and shouldn’t be used to compare graphics card performance. Instead it is purely designed to show the capabilities of different APIs.

In the past, DirectX 12 and Mantle have been shown to be capable of many times the draw calls of DirectX 11, so it will be interesting to see what Vulkan can do in the same test. Vulkan replaces the original Mantle test, so that latter, older API, will no longer be part of the benchmark.

Anyone looking to try out this benchmark themselves, needs to update their professional or advanced version of 3Dmark, to v2.3.3663.

23
Mar

HTC U Ultra second opinion: U expect more


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HTC’s first phablet in years is a perfectly fine phone that feels a little half-baked in places — and for $750… well, you expect more.

Five or six years ago, HTC was a titan of the smartphone world. But the past half-decade hasn’t been kind to the Taiwanese company. It’s lost money, market share and several high-profile designers and executives.

Nevertheless, HTC’s still here, and still making pretty good phones, both under its own brand name and for Google under the Pixel contract. The latest high-ender to come out of HTC is the U Ultra, the first “phablet”-sized HTC flagship for more than three years — launched first in Taiwan before being sold unlocked in the US and Europe. It’s big, shiny, and more than a little quirky.

So does HTC still have some of its old magic left? I’ve spent the past week getting to know the phone, and while there are glimmers of hope, the U Ultra just isn’t competitive at its current price.

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An enormous phone, but one with top-notch build quality and an eye-catching aesthetic.

The HTC U Ultra is giant glass slab of a phone. We’re used to 5.7-inch devices becoming more svelte and hand-friendly, thanks to the late Galaxy Note 7 and the just-launched LG G6, but this thing is a big bezel-ly beast that’s a little tougher to one-hand than other phones with this display size.

Even the enormous Huawei Mate 9, with its sizeable 5.9-inch display, is actually smaller physically than the U Ultra. (Though, true, you lose some of that space to on-screen buttons on the Mate.)

What we’re dealing with here is essentially a supersized HTC 10 with a really unique and highly reflective polished glass rear, and one or two weird quirks up top thanks to an LG V20-style second screen.

For as physically huge as this phone is, it is at least a good-looking piece of hardware. HTC still knows how to design a phone, and the build quality is excellent, with flawless joins and a comfortable, if slightly slippery in-hand feel. And the back of the Ultra looks stunning, especially the blue model that catches the light like wet, metallic paint. The white model I’ve been using this past week has a pearlescent finish that’s also not without its charms.

Around the front, HTC’s stuck with capacitive keys, freeing up some display space, sandwiched around an excellent super-fast fingerprint scanner, which doubles as your home key.

And despite some fairly aggressive sharpening effects — which I don’t particularly mind, and may well bug you — the screen itself is impressive, with daylight visibility much improved over the HTC 10’s disappointing 5.2-inch panel.

Like the LG V10 and V20 before it, there’s not much depth or utility to the Ultra’s second display.

But that’s just one of the U Ultra’s two screens, so, let’s talk about that secondary display for a bit. LG fans may remember it from the V10 and V20, and HTC’s implementation of this feature is basically a carbon copy, inheriting all the same pros and cons as those devices. For me, the second screen never really goes beyond being slightly useful, with some areas of the software on it being decidedly half-baked, without much depth or utility.

The second screen can show you notifications, music controls, shortcuts to your favorite apps and contacts, and upcoming weather conditions. But the notification side of things — moderately useful as it is — doesn’t work perfectly with some apps. Same deal with the music widget, which hilariously doesn’t work with anything besides Play Music. And the contacts shortcut only lets you create shortcuts to call people, rather than text or instant messages. It’s all just a bit half-assed, like HTC put in the bare minimum work to get this feature done, without making sure it was fully baked.

Sense is still great, Sense Companion not so much.

The same goes for the much-vaunted Sense Companion feature, which is supposed to use AI (because everything is AI now) to show you weather conditions that might affect your plans, as well as traffic updates and something to do with fitness that never seemed to appear on my phone. If this sounds like a poor man’s version of Google Now, that’s because it pretty much is. I didn’t find it at all useful after the first few days, so I ended up turning it off in short order. (During that period, Sense Companion spent more time telling me about what it was going to do than actually doing it.)

Thankfully, the rest of HTC’s Sense software is far more competent. The experience is just as lightweight as on the HTC 10, with a handful of HTC apps complementing an otherwise Google-centric software suite. BlinkFeed is still around to bring social updates and news to your home screen, and HTC’s Weather and Dialer apps — though pretty much untouched for a couple of years now — work just fine. There’s nothing too crazy layered atop Android 7.0 Nougat, which is just fine for those of us who appreciate minimal clutter and a stock Android aesthetic.

On the inside, the U Ultra packs some small upgrades over last year’s HTC 10 — a Snapdragon 821, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of base storage + SD, a slightly upgraded 12-megapixel camera around the back, and a 3,000mAh battery.

Now, 3,000 isn’t a huge number for a phone with such an enormous display (or I guess “displays” in this case), but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how much mileage it gets me. The Ultra certainly isn’t a multi-day phone, but nor is it anywhere near as anemic as some past HTC efforts like the One A9, which would routinely expire by lunchtime. I’ve been getting a good solid day jumping between Wi-Fi and LTE, with around 4 hours of screen on time — comparable with what I’ve been seeing from the LG G6.

More: HTC U Ultra specs

There’s no wireless charging — disappointingly, for a glass-backed phone — but you at least get Quick Charge 3 for rapid refills.

The U Ultra has no headphone jack because ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Don’t expect to plug anything else into the Ultra’s while it’s charging. There’s no headphone jack here… and I really don’t understand why. It’s not like there isn’t the room for one. Now, HTC does include a set of excellent USonic USB-C earphones in the box, which sound great, because they use sound waves to map your inner ear and tune things accordingly. That’s all well and good, but there’s no headphone dongle in the box either, so you’ll have to order one separately to use your existing cans. This, in a phone which costs 750 U.S. dollars.

At least HTC continues to nail the basics of the smartphone experience. Day-to-day performance is just as great as I’ve come to expect from the company’s phones — speedy across the board, with fast app load times and no problems with apps getting bumped out of memory.

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The HTC 10’s 12-megapixel “Ultrapixel 2” camera was the first really great HTC camera in years, and the U Ultra builds on that with a slightly upgraded IMX378 sensor, added phase detect autofocus, behind the same f/1.8 lens, along with OIS.

I’m not quite as down on the Ultra’s camera as Andrew Martonik was in our review, but it’s clear that while it is good, it’s not up to the level of some of its immediate competitors, like the Google Pixel and LG G6. To me, it seems like the issue isn’t the optics — on paper, the U Ultra beats both the Pixel and the G6. But Google and LG have better processing, which means sharper low-light pictures and better dynamic range. The U Ultra sucks in lots of color detail in darker scenes, but fine details are blotchy, and the phone has a tendency to overexpose night shots, which only exacerbates things.

I’m pretty happy with the U Ultra’s camera overall. It’s not the best, but it’s pretty good. However I hope HTC steps things up a notch in the direct successor the 10, which is on the cards for later this spring. Again, it’s not necessarily the hardware that needs an upgrade, but HTC’s processing — what it does with all the data scooped up by the sensor.

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There’s maybe 80 to 85% of a fantastic handset here.

The U Ultra is a difficult thing to sum up. It’s not a bad phone by any stretch, and yet it doesn’t feel fully formed. There’s maybe 80 to 85% of a fantastic handset here, but I think there’s also a lack of focus. Gimmicky, half-baked features like the Sense Companion and Secondary Display don’t add much to the experience in their current form. Meanwhile on the hardware side, we have a gigantic phone with a relatively small battery capacity and giant bezels that go against the grain of the smartphone world in 2017. Expect the U Ultra to look even more dated when Samsung drops the almost bezel-free Galaxy S8 Plus on us in the very near future.

This is a phone which will satiate HTC fans just fine. But even they have to know something even better is coming in just a few months time — to say nothing of the U Ultra’s immediate competition from Huawei, LG and soon Samsung. You’ve got to really want that HTC software experience in a big ol’ form factor to drop 750 bones (or 650 quid) on this thing.

I really hope HTC can build on the positives here as it prepares its successor to the HTC 10. More than that, I want the company to convey what’s special about an HTC phone in a market where everyone has great build quality and decent performance. Because if the U Ultra is any indication, the search has so far been fruitless.

More: HTC U Ultra review

23
Mar

Samsung has announced a 4G LTE version of the Gear S3 Classic


The more stylish Gear S3 now gets all the optional functionality of the Frontier model.

Samsung is set to release a new version of its Gear S3 Classic smartwatch that will feature 4G LTE connectivity. This adds the same optional functionality found on LTE version of the Gear S3 Frontier, allowing users to make and take calls, text, navigate, pay, and more without needing your phone. The LTE version of the Gear S3 classic will be available from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, with each carrier expected to announce the pricing and availability.

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This will give those looking for LTE functionality in a smartwatch the option to choose between both the Gear S3 Classic and Frontier. But, as Andrew Martonik found in his review of the LTE version of the Gear S3 Frontier, the LTE functionality does take a bite out of the overall battery life of the watch depending how frequently you use the feature. Certainly something worth considering before you buy.

While we don’t know how much the new Gear S3 Classic will cost, but based on the pricing differences between the LTE and non-LTE Grea S3 Frontier, you should probably expect to play somewhere between $349.99 and $399.99 for the LTE version of the Gear S3 Classic, on top of roughly $10 a month for data from your preferred carrier.

Have you held off buying the new Gear S3 waiting for an LTE version of the more stylish Classic model? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

23
Mar

How to get the N7 armor in Mass Effect: Andromeda


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Because how your armor looks is more important than how well it protects you.

There’s a lot of stuff to do in Mass Effect: Andromeda and mixed in are plenty of nods back to the original trilogy. One of them is the N7 armor that you can unlock and craft in the game.

It’s pretty easy to do and doesn’t require any tough missions or super rare materials. You can also do it early and it makes for a great armor to wear while you’re working on unlocking those god-tier items. Here’s how to look like Commander Shepard, at least while your helmet is on.

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Warning: Spoilers ahead

You’ll need to find a research station. There are two that are easy to find if they’re something you haven’t come across just yet. The easiest one to find is on your ship, the Tempest. But you also get steered right to one if you play the campaign on the first planetary outpost you’ll likely come across on Eos during the “A Better Beginning” mission.

After you power up the generators and lay waste to the first batch of kett, you’ll be able to search the buildings of the deserted colony and one of the points of interest on your compass is a research station and some resources to use with it. When you first find it, you probably won’t have the resources to unlock and craft the armor, so remember where it is because you’ll be going back to Eos for some side missions shortly. But you can still look at the N7 armor and see what you’ll need to craft it — best of all, everything can be bought from the Nexus.

  • Approach the research station and choose research
  • Make sure you’re looking at Milky Way Technology
  • Choose the Armor folder

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Scroll through the choices and you’ll find four pieces of N7 armor: chest, legs, arms and helmet. You’ll have to unlock the blueprints for each piece with research points, the chest needs 100 points and the other pieces need 50 each. You should have around 150 to 200 points just from playing through the first missions, and the rest are pretty easy to get right on Eos. Just hit all the buildings and scan everything you can find and be sure to scan the corpses from your encounter with the kett.

After you’ve unlocked the blueprints you can build each piece by choosing the development screen from a research station. You only need common materials and I bought everything I needed on the Nexus or the Tempest from the vendor. If you can’t find the platinum, you can either save and restart until it’s there or go to the planets and deploy some mining probes. Don’t worry, it’s not too hard to find, and everything else is super common and always in stock.

After you get all the pieces built, head to your cabin on the Tempest and visit your wardrobe. Here’s where you can choose the colors to finish that OG Cmdr Shepard look. The colors you want to choose:

  • Color One: Grey
  • Color Two: Black
  • Color Three: Black
  • Pattern Select: 1.00
  • Pattern Color: Red

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While this isn’t the best armor in the game, it’s one of the coolest just because of the nostalgia factor. You might as well look good while you’re playing!

PlayStation 4

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  • PS4 vs. PS4 Slim vs. PS4 Pro: Which should you buy?
  • PlayStation VR Review
  • Playing PS4 games through your phone is awesome

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23
Mar

These are the best apps for watching 360-degree videos


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These apps deliver awesome videos from all over the world.

VR has already taken us on a pretty crazy ride, from roller coasters in VR to helping with new medical therapies. While the cutting edge stuff is fascinating, sometimes all you want to do is settle in and check out a great video. VR can deliver spectacular sights from places you’ve never even considered visiting. No matter your fancy, there are hundreds of great apps out there that deliver 360-degree videos to your VR headset of choice. Finding the best ones can be difficult, which is why we’ve put together this handy list for you!

Read more at VRHeads.com

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