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Viral cooking videos control Buzzfeed’s $150 Bluetooth hot plate

If you’ve ever been reading Buzzfeed and thought “this is a company that should get into the hardware business,” well, you’re in luck. The media company has paired with GE to bring you a Bluetooth-enabled induction cooktop that pairs with their all-new Tasty app for the iPhone. It’s available for preorder now and will set you back $150.

Called the Tasty One Top, this fancy hot plate can be used for many types of meal preparation, from slow cooking to sous vide. It will track the temperature of both your pot and your food to make sure you get great results out of cooking; if you’ve ever worried about burning food or undercooking your chicken (something that worries everyone, let’s be honest), this will set your mind at ease. The team’s hope is to make cooking more widely accessible through the Tasty app, which contains more than 1,700 recipe videos.

Users can select a video on their iPhone’s Tasty app, which will sync with their One Top. The videos and app will instruct users through step-by-step instructions while also communicating with the induction cooktop, setting the temperature automatically. The Verge reports that the cooktop will also have a manual mode, so you can use it without the Tasty app if you prefer.

This might seem like a strange move for a media company, to be branching out into hardware. According to the press release, since its launch two years ago, Buzzfeed’s Tasty has become the “largest social food network in the world.” It makes sense that Buzzfeed would want to capitalize on its popularity. While people who are comfortable in the kitchen will likely raise an eyebrow at this device, it’s not meant for or aimed at them. Instead, this could help people who aren’t at ease with cooking figure out how to prepare meals for themselves. And considering how much healthier it is to cook for yourself than eat out constantly, we’ll call that a win.

Source: Business Wire


Facebook helped blunt Russian meddling in French elections

Facebook played a key role in identifying and stopping Russian interference in the recent French election, a US congressman has revealed. During the attack, Russian intelligence operatives attempted to spy on Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign by posing as friends of Macron’s and attempting to glean information. This was in conjunction with the previously reported Russian interference, where spies also used fake Facebook accounts to spread misinformation about the French election.

Speaking to Reuters, Facebook confirmed that it detected these suspect accounts and shut them down during the first round of the French Presidential elections. With Facebook often coming under fire for not being quick enough to act in matters of fake news, election fraud, and social media manipulation, the networking company claimed that it was able to deal with these accounts swiftly thanks to its improved automated detection tech.

Facebook also reveals that it has stepped up its human efforts to track down sophisticated attacks too, making high-level fraud investigations a priority at the company. In the same conversation with Reuters, the social networking behemoth states that it suspended 70,000 accounts in France for promoting propaganda or spam, with the majority of those cases being related to the election. This is significantly larger than the mere 30,000 French account suspensions that Facebook confirmed just before the end of the election, in April.

Thankfully, Facebook acted swiftly, with the company stating that the spies did not have the chance to get their intended targets to reveal personal information or download malicious software. These Russian intelligence agents reportedly used the same tools previously used by Russia’s GRU military intelligent unit, who have been blamed previously for hacking the Democratic National Committee in last year’s U.S election.

Despite the interference, Macron went on to win the French election with a landslide victory in May. Russia is, unsurprisingly, denying any involvement in the election fraud.

Source: Reuters


Sony’s A7S II camera shot 4K video from outside the ISS

Sony has revealed some dazzling 4K video shot by its low-light champ A7S II from the ISS, showing the US and Japan by day and night. The mirrorless, full-frame model is not the first 4K camera on the International Space Station — the 6K Red Dragon preceded it — but it’s the first to capture images from outside of it, Sony says.

The A7S II is mounted on the Japanese Experiment Module, on an outside research plaform called KIBO. There, it’s pointed toward and can be controlled remotely from Earth. Prior to being deployed, it was cleared by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to survive the temperatures, radiation and vacuum of space. Other than a radiator and heater built into the mount to keep it within the operating temperature range (as shown below), “the camera’s hardware itself is almost untouched,” says JAXA engineer Toshitami Ikeda.

The 51,200 ISO used for some of the night videos barely fazes the A7S II, which has enormous light-gathering pixels on its full-frame, 12.2-megapixel sensor. “Phenomena such as Aurora or meteors, or the earth seen at night from space, are a little different from when seen on the ground, so the high sensitivity capture that the A7S II offers is perfect for night shooting,” said Ikeda. “Using our previous system, we couldn’t even consider shooting at night, which comes around every 45 minutes.”

While it doesn’t produce ultra high-resolution RAW images like the RED camera, the compressed images can be transmitted directly back to Earth. And the 4K video quality, as you can see below, is still pretty damn good — for the other three videos, check the article on Sony’s site.

Source: Sony


‘Marjorie Prime’ imagines a world where AI keeps us from grieving

Despite humanity’s astounding technological advances, the one thing that we’ve never been able to invent our way out of is our own mortality. But what if you never actually had to lose the ones you love? That’s the premise of upcoming sci-fi flick Marjorie Prime, where advances in AI make the human grieving process a thing of the past. Struggling to come to terms with the death of her husband, the movie’s main character, Marjorie, uses a computer program to immortalize him as a piece of AI.

With Madmen’s Jon Hamm playing the protagonist’s hunky holographic husband, the trailer gives us a glimpse into how Marjorie’s daughter struggles to come to terms with seeing an AI version of her late father. Like Spike Jonze’s award-winning Her, Marjorie Prime looks to explore what it means to be human and the role that technology could play when it comes to helping us cope with loss.

The movie is based on the Pulitzer-Prize nominated play of the same name, written by Jordan Harrison. Unsurprisingly, it’s already drawing comparisons to Black Mirror, thanks to its refreshingly human-focused and grounded take on a fairly out there sci-fi premise. If it were me, I’m not sure whether I’d opt for the AI route or take the grief cold-turkey. Given his rather outspoken statements on AI, however, I think we all know what Elon Musk would choose.

Marjorie Prime will be premiering in New York and L.A on the 18th of August, with a wider US release following shortly afterward.

Source: Marjorie Prime


Airbnb helps you tell everyone why you left that dive early

Airbnb is changing its online reviews system so it’s easier to leave feedback for a property you vacate before your stay is complete. Previously, the only way to do this was through Airbnb’s customer service department, which is something most people probably can’t be bothered to do.

Now, if you leave the property early, you’ll be able to leave a review as you normally would with a completed stay. This means you can give other Airbnb users a heads up if the property turns out to be a dump or the host is unnervingly creepy.

The move follows consultations with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which acts as a watchdog for online reviews. Airbnb has promised the CMA the changes will be made globally to its reviews system by the end of August, so if your summer holiday doesn’t go to plan you’ll have to make do ranting about it on Facebook instead.



Google and MLB team up for behind-the-scenes Daydream VR videos

Sports teams are no stranger to VR; after all, the NFL partnered with Google Daydream to produce an exclusive series called All or Nothing last year. Major League Baseball has also collaborated with Google Daydream on a video game and the At Bat app. Now, they’ve announced their latest partnership: “On the Verge,” which is a VR series that profiles up-and-coming baseball stars.

The first episodes are available now, and each centers on a different new MLB player. The first four, respectively, focus on Josh Bell of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox, Manuel Margot of the San Diego Padres and Jose Berrios of the Minnesota Twins. The aim is to take baseball fans behind the scenes and show viewers what it’s like to be part of the MLB.

Google promises that more episodes are to come, and will be released at “key moments” during the 2017 Major League Baseball season. Google used Jump, its VR platform that seamlessly stitches together video using a smart algorithm for 360-degree coverage, to film this series. You can find the series in the At Bat app in Daydream. MLB will also make them available on YouTube in the near future.

Source: Google


Just Eat is trialling restaurant deliveries like Deliveroo

For the longest time, all takeaway sites were the same. You searched by post code or cuisine type and then browsed the businesses listed in your local area. Then Deliveroo came along with its army of couriers and the promise of big-name restaurant food, like Byron, PizzaExpress and Strada. A wave of copycats followed, including Amazon and Uber, luring customers away from traditional takeaway websites like Hungryhouse. It’s taken some time, but Just Eat has now admitted it needs to play catch-up. In an interview with the Financial Times, interim CEO Paul Harrison said it was running “some early pilots” with unnamed chain restaurants.

He wouldn’t confirm that Deliveroo and UberEats were siphoning customers away, but agreed the company was in “pretty competitive markets” that included “Uber, one of the best-funded companies in the world”. The expansion would be a huge shift for Just Eat. At the moment, the company acts as an aggregator for small, independently-run restaurants. It lists their menus and processes your order, but doesn’t handle the delivery directly. Deliveroo and its rivals, meanwhile, are logistical juggernauts that courier food on behalf of restaurants. To compete, Just Eat will need its own battalion of cyclists and drivers.

Source: Financial Times


Gucci’s latest fashion is a retro sci-fi mashup

While some designers look to the future of fashion and tech, Gucci is going back to what 1960s and ’70s Hollywood thought the future would be. For its Gucci and Beyond Winter Instagram campaign, the fashion house showed off some colorful, kaleidoscopic fashions on a Star Trek bridge and transporter room, with Forbidden Planet’s robot thrown in for good measure. There’s also a daffy video (below) that captures all the sci-fi tropes, including a shaky, tilting Star Trek camera, a lurking Creature from the Black Lagoon and a giant cat on a rear-projection screen.

Chanel had its own spin on tech recently, with robot fashion models in a faux data center and a smoke-spewing rocket ship at Paris Fashion Week. However, Gucci designer Alessandro Michele was apparently going for both futuristic and vintage, so the wild colors are married with mixed patterns, embroidery and metallic accents. The video and Instagram shots were filmed by fashion photographer and director Glen Luchford on what we imagine were some very weird and expensive sets. If you’ve got the budget (this ain’t ready-to-wear), the styles should be coming soon to a Gucci shop near you.


Source: Gucci (Instagram)


Facebook Messenger update makes business bots easier to deal with

After launching Messenger 2.0 in April, Facebook has just dropped the platform’s 2.1 update. Once again, most of these changes are here to help businesses, with Facebook focusing on improving how its Messenger bots work in the latest update. Messenger now has built in natural language processing (NLP), which means the platform can detect seven key traits of any message before passing it onto a businesses’ bots. The addition of NLP helps Messenger flag crucial information from an inquiry, like date and time, location, phone number, amount of money and email addresses.

This makes life easier for consumers too, meaning that they’re more likely to get the right help quickly, rather than spending a frustrating conversation talking to a bot that fails to register the crucial info.

With Facebook’s bots being far from perfect, 2.1 also brings with it a handover protocol, which allows a business to transition seamlessly from a bot responding to common queries to more complicated support from a human employee. This Handover protocol service is now in open beta.

In a move that will make life much easier for customers, businesses will now also be able to feature a wider choice of contact buttons on their Facebook page. Joining the currently available “Send Message” button are options for users to Shop Now, Get Support, Get Updates, Play Now or to Get Started.

As far as bots go, it’s certainly a good start. Still, It looks like we’re a way off from resurrecting our loved ones as holograms at the moment, so that’s something for Facebook to aim towards in Messenger 3.0.


Funny Or Die puts you inside a robot racing toward obsolescence

It’s 1982. A young boy named Dennis has just received the birthday present of his dreams. It’s you — a Japanese robot that can repeat words, although for the most part you just watch silently. That’s the premise of Felix & Paul Studios’ 40-minute-long VR comedic feature for Funny Or Die called Miyubi, which launches in the Oculus store today. Through events happening to a family over the course of a year, it tells a bleak story of the futility of trying to outrace obsolescence. The harrowing message hits especially hard because of how effectively the show’s creators used the medium, forcing you to witness times changing around you.

As a regular 2D film, Miyubi might have been boring or too on the nose. Some moments are pretty heavy-handed — like when the grandfather peers into your face and says you’re getting outdated together. But because it’s presented in VR, there is more for you to experience than just what is in front of you. The creators buried a couple of Easter eggs within the environment that unlock bonus scenes when you discover them, including an encounter with Jeff Goldblum, who plays the robot’s maker. Thankfully, these extras aren’t too intrusive or distracting — I didn’t even notice the clues, which glow when you look at them.

Miyubi is still enjoyable without the bonus scenes, but you’ll be greatly rewarded when you find them. Not only does Goldblum only appear in the extra, but It is also when you look into his teary eyes as he apologizes for your pain that the show goes from “okay” to “oh my God.” He is your Maker, and he’s created a little piece of heaven in your system for you to escape to, because he knew, even as he made you, that you were quickly going to be replaced. In the scene, the Maker wonders aloud if he should call this fantasy world “reality virtualized”, or, you know, something like that.

Robot heaven is the other bonus feature you can unlock, and it’s a colorful, 8-bit-esque world that’s free of the complications humans bring. (Hint for getting there: the Konami code.) Escaping people is a must in Miyubi, since the cast of characters you meet are a strange, dysfunctional bunch. There’s your owner, Dennis, who earnestly gazes into your face and smiles delightedly when you learn his name. His younger sister, Cece, has tea parties with you and tries to marry you, because kids love robots. As time goes on and your system starts to fail after getting wet in the rain, the children spend less time with you, and you’re stolen by Grandpa, who tells you the same war story over and over again.

You also (briefly) meet Dennis’ older brother Jordan and his friends, one of whom almost attacks you before being stopped by the others. It’s a fleeting moment that can be interpreted many ways — our resistance to technological advancement or our intolerance of anything new or foreign. But Miyubi doesn’t dwell too long on those thoughts, instead it moves along quickly before you have a chance to figure out what just happened.

That’s what makes Miyubi’s message so resonant. You can’t do anything as your personal space is invaded, as threats are made on your life and worst of all as you watch your own system deteriorate. You are mute and helpless. Obsolescence is relentless, unavoidable and frankly, terrifying.

Miyubi’s anachronistic setting also makes it relatable. The robot’s technology seems futuristic for the story’s 1980s time period, but when you realize how clunky and archaic it is by today’s standards, you’re slapped in the face by the show’s message once again. In fact, at the end of the feature, when Dennis’ father says he wants to create a self-driving car, you’re reminded of how far we’ve come. But at the same time, you’ll also wonder what we had to sacrifice to get here.

As Dennis sticks his young, innocent face in front of you and you realize that he abandoned you for something newer and better, resentment creeps in. Miyubi has a somewhat happy ending, but it is overall a strangely unsettling experience that I wasn’t expecting out of Funny Or Die. For its first VR feature, Funny or Die has delivered a competent and surprisingly well-executed work that shows it understands new technology.

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