Walmart may soon let you shop in VR


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Walmart has been getting serious about VR and its next project could be a virtual shopping experience. The company has applied for two patents that describe a virtual reality showroom customers could visit and shop from through VR headsets, Bloomberg reports. The idea is that customers could then forgo the traditional shopping experience at a brick-and-mortar store and instead use a VR setup to select items from virtual shelves, which would then be shipped to them.

In February, Walmart acquired the virtual reality startup Spatialand as part of its effort to push VR initiatives, and in June, it launched a virtual shopping tour that let users peruse a virtual apartment in VR. With that feature, users could navigate through the apartment, explore the dozens of items within it that are sold by Walmart and easily get to those items’ product pages if they wanted to learn more.

Walmart has begun implementing a number of services and technologies aimed at making the shopping experience more convenient for its customers — many of which off alternative ways to shop. And those efforts, which include Pickup Towers, automated kiosks, grocery delivery and text-based shopping, are all aimed at giving the retailer a leg up against rival Amazon.

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TiVo falls on report Amazon is developing live TV recording device

Shares of TiVo fell as much as 5 percent in afternoon trading Friday following a Bloomberg report that Amazon is eyeing a live TV recording device.

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TiVo quickly pared some losses and was last seen roughly 2.5 percent down. The drop extends a challenging run for TiVo, which is now off 20 percent in 2018 and 30 percent in the last 12 months.

Amazon is known to scare investors and send stocks tumbling with news of a planned entrance into a new industry. Earlier this week, movie theater stocks dropped on a report that Amazon is considering a bid for Landmark Theaters.

Representatives for Amazon and TiVo were not immediately available to comment.

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How Homeland Security is gearing up to protect the midterms from hackers

With all the concern over cybersecurity heading into the midterm elections, it’s actually quite difficult for outsiders to directly manipulate votes. Unlike corporate networks and email systems, voting machines aren’t connected to the internet, making them hard to access.

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So as government officials prepare for the hotly contested congressional elections in November, their focus is more on protecting the integrity of the systems that support the pre- and post-voting periods than on the ballots themselves.

“This is about more than just voting machines,” Jeannette Manfra, the top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, told CNBC in an interview on Wednesday. “If an [attacker] was intent on sowing discord, how could they do that? It involves us looking at the broad elections administration process.”

Manfra was in Washington, D.C., this week for a three-day series of simulated cyberattacks. Officials from 45 states and territories participated, both in Washington and remotely, in an effort to consider a vast array of scenarios that could be used to interfere with the elections.

It’s a different approach than what you will find at hacker conferences, which have tried to show how easy it is to break into voting machines. For example, last week children as young as 11 took part in an educational exercise at the DEFCON hacking conference in Las Vegas, demonstrating that even kids can crack into the machines and change votes.

But according to Manfra, that’s not how it works, in part because states are required to use machines without internet connections. To tamper with such a device, someone would need direct access to it. Additionally, each state has its own protocols and their voting machines consist of hardware and software that differ from place to place.

The more concerning methods are those that could affect much wider swaths of voters. As the Russians showed in 2016, there’s a coordinated effort to cast doubt on results and “sow uncertainty and discord” in the election process itself, Manfra said.

DHS has been working to protect places where hackers could do real harm, like administrative offices and the databases that house voter registration information. The agency has placed new sensors on the databases to monitor web traffic in and out so they can more precisely spot malicious activity.

DHS is also working with state and local cybersecurity organizations under the umbrella of the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, an organization that allows specialists at the state and local level to swiftly share data about potential attacks.

Greater communication and collaboration is important, Manfra said. DHS is planning ways to communicate various issues that may arise both to election officials and the public.

None of this is to say that voting machines are perfectly secure. One key safeguard to the machines themselves is giving all of them the capability to print out paper records right after someone votes so that any discrepancies can be discovered. While most states have adopted that feature, Georgia is among the few that have not.

Spurred by stories of foreign interference in the 2016 election, a group of voters in Georgia filed an injunction earlier this month to stop the state from using the existing machines in November. David Cross, a partner with law firm Morrison & Foerster who is representing Georgia voters in the case, cited work by security researchers and academics showing that these machines may not be reliable.

“Now that we know that a sophisticated nation-state was actively trying to intervene, we’re concerned that [an attack] would not be that difficult,” Cross said, in an interview. Russia has “been clearly working and focusing on this for years,” he said.

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HBO gave an official series order to its first superhero TV show, 'Watchmen,' which has an all-star cast

WatchmenHBO

  • HBO has ordered superhero show “Watchmen” to series.
  • The network revealed in a video teaser on Twitter that it will premiere in 2019. 
  • The show is based on the acclaimed graphic novel of the same name.
  • The series is being developed by “Lost” and “The Leftovers” co-creator Damon Lindelof.

HBO has officially given a series order to its first superhero show, “Watchmen,” based on the acclaimed graphic novel of the same name by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons. 

The show was in the pilot stage until now, but HBO released a short teaser video on the network’s Twitter on Friday to celebrate the series order. The video shows the text “Nothing ever ends” and the bloody smiley face that is the novel’s signature image, before revealing that the show will premiere in 2019. 

“Nothing ever ends” is a reference to a quote from the graphic novel, in which the “smartest man” on Earth Ozymandias asks the omnipotent Dr. Manhattan if, in the end, he was right to sacrifice so many lives for what he believes is the greater good. Manhattan responds, “In the end? Nothing ever ends.”

The show’s source material is widely regarded as the best graphic novel of all time. It takes place in an alternate reality 1980s where the world is on the brink of war. A group of masked vigilantes find themselves involved in a grand conspiracy after one of their own is murdered.

After a long history of failed attempts, it was finally adapted into a film by director Zack Snyder in 2009 to mixed critical reception. “Lost” and “The Leftovers” co-creator Damon Lindelof is developing the HBO series.

Lindelof revealed plot details about the series in a letter on Instagram in May. The show will be an original story with new characters, but take place in the universe of the graphic novel. He implied it would be set in a post-Trump world. 

Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Adelaide Clemens, Andrew Howard, Tom Mison, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Lily Rose Smith, and Adelynn Spoonmake up the all-star cast.

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Every bizarre thing that has happened since Elon Musk sent his 'funding secured' tweet about taking Tesla private (TSLA)

  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk has attracted controversy for his statements about taking Tesla private.
  • Questions have persisted about the amount of funding Musk had secured when he first suggested he had the backing necessary to convert Tesla into a private company, barring a shareholder vote.
  • The SEC has reportedly asked Tesla about statements made by Musk and the company.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk shocked observers when he said on August 7 that he was thinking about taking the company private. Since then, Musk’s comments have captivated Wall Street, drawn the attention of regulators, and raised questions about how close the company is to locking down the financing necessary to leave the public markets.

Here’s what you need to know to get caught up:

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Three simple charts show just how dedicated Google is to dominating Amazon and Microsoft in artificial intelligence (GOOG, GOOGL)

robot artificial intelligence AIReuters / Fabrizio Bensch
  • Researchers at CB Insights waded into Google’s earnings, public statements and patent filings to illustrate where the search giant is headed.
  • When it comes to artificial intelligence, Google is filing for more AI-related patents than Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook. 
  • Their extensive report shows that when it comes to the amount of money Google commits to  overall R&D when compared to competitors, the search giant spends on the high-end.
  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai said he believes AI will have more impact on our lives than the invention of fire. 

Researchers at CB Insights have released an extensive report on Google’s business, illustrating just how dedicated the search company is to artificial intelligence.

CB Insights found that Google typically files each year more AI-related patents than the company’s top rivals, including Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook.

Google, AI patents,Google is filing for more AI patents than rivalsCB Insights

Google’s top execs have long said that AI is  core to the company’s future growth, but CB Insights looked at a wide variety of data to try and learn how determined Google is to dominate AI. One area within AI that is of particular interest to Google is neural networks.

“Google is also focused on building out its deep learning capabilities,” CB Insights researchers wrote, “which is more complex than traditional machine learning in that it generates predictions using an artificial neural network inspired by the human brain.” 

CB Insights searched the patent filings and noted that among Google’s top patent keywords, “neural network” was becoming more prominent.  

Key words for Google patentsA list of Google’s top patent key words. Neural network is growing in prominence.CB Insights

When it comes to overall Research & Development, the amount Google spends compared to rivals is on the high side, according to CB Insights–both in terms of absolute dollars and as a percentage of sales.

Google, R&DWhen compared to rivals, Google’s investment in R&D is on the high-end.CB Insights

According to CB Insights, Google’s plan is to defend the core search business while disrupting such industries as  transportation, logistics, and healthcare. But at the center of everything is AI.

“Unifying Alphabet’s approach across initiatives is its expertise in AI and machine learning,” the researchers wrote, “which the company believes will help it become an all-encompassing service for both consumers and enterprises.”

For Google, AI is a major strategic initiative. Even as Google uses AI to bolster its consumer services, its Google Cloud unit is working to gain ground on the cloud market-leading Amazon Web Services, and the second-place Microsoft Azure. 

And besides the competitive impetus, Google believes that AI is really the next big thing.

“AI is one of the most important things humanity is working on,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said earlier this year. “It is more profound than, I don’t know, electricity or fire.”

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Lian Li's Lancool One is an affordable case that blends old and new trends

Why it matters: Lian Li is known for producing some of the best all-aluminum cases the industry has ever seen. It’s latest offering, however, trades in the aluminum for cheaper materials to reach a more affordable price point.

Lian Li is returning to its roots while simultaneously catering to current trends with its latest computer chassis.

The Lian Li Lancool One is a mid-tower style case that supports up to E-ATX motherboards. There are seven primary expansion slots as well as two additional vertical spots for those who want to show off their video card through the tempered glass side panel window.

The case can also entertain four 2.5-inch SSDs and two 3.5-inch hard drives and has front-mounted I/O ports for USB 3.1 Type-C, standard USB 3.0 and HD audio. Both air and liquid cooling accommodations are welcomed with room for fans and radiators at the front, up top and in the rear.

True to Lian Li’s heritage, you do get brushed aluminum albeit only on the front panel (they had to keep costs down somehow); the rest of the chassis is made of SECC steel and painted black. The Lancool One weighs 8.25 kilograms, or just north of 18 pounds, and as with most cases these days, comes outfitted with a customizable RGB LED light strip.

The Lian Li Lancool One is available as of writing from Newegg for just $89.99 (or $99.99 if you want the addressable LED strip).

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Netflix is reportedly testing unskippable 'promos' between show episodes

Facepalm: Netflix has always prided itself on the lack of advertisements on its platform. By charging users a monthly subscription fee, the service can continue to grow and produce original content without annoying its users – however, some Netflix customers now say the platform is beginning to test unskippable “promos” between episodes of their favorite shows.

Advertising is nothing new on the internet. Very few people like seeing ads, but most understand it’s one of the primary ways content providers keep themselves afloat.

However, websites like Netflix have attracted users in droves precisely because they don’t have ads, unskippable or otherwise. Instead, Netflix charges users a monthly subscription fee for an all-you-can-eat style of content viewing.

For better or worse, it seems Netflix is considering a pretty significant change to the way it does business. Reddit and Twitter users have noticed a new test the service is running – specifically, Netflix is showing unskippable “promos” between show episodes to an unknown portion of its users.

To be clear, Netflix isn’t testing ads in the traditional sense. Third parties are not promoting their products or services through the platform, and that will likely not change anytime soon.

Rather, these promos showcase other content on Netflix, original or otherwise. Naturally, that hasn’t stopped users who have been subject to these tests from voicing their frustrations on their social media platform of choice.

Whether or not this test becomes a full-blown “feature” in the future remains to be seen.

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The flame red HTC U12 Plus is now available in the US and Canada

HTC is bringing the U12 Plus in flame red to the US and Canada. It’s now available for preorder from the company’s website and ships next month. The other colors, blue and black, were already available for purchase, but it’s the flame red one that stands out.

The flame red color changes depending on what light it’s under, sometimes looking violet or gold in photos. A bunch of smartphones have appeared in iridescent shades lately, like the Huawei P20’s twilight color that can look purple or blue under different lighting and the Motorola P30’s similar “aurora” tone. The HTC U11 might have been among the phones responsible for sparking the trend.

All things considered, the U12 Plus is a pretty typical flagship phone for 2018, but its color and cameras are probably the most stand-out features about it. In our review of the phone, The Verge’s senior editor Vlad Savov found its more attractive aspects were overshadowed by dismal software and faux buttons that are difficult to use.

For the basic storage option, it costs $799 and also comes in blue or black. The 128GB version costs $849 in the US. In Canada, the U12 Plus costs C$1,099 with 64GB or C$1,169 with 128GB.

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Ariana Grande’s new album has a hidden tribute to victims of the Manchester bombing

Ariana Grande’s fourth studio album Sweetener is out today, and while it’s upbeat enough to sound like a bubbly celebration of the pop star’s domestic bliss with SNL fiancé Pete Davidson, there’s a subtler — and darker — undertone to it. In addition to a handful of references to the dissolution of her last relationship with rapper Mac Miller, Grande’s latest work gets a sense of urgency from the way she’s coped since the bombing at her concert in Manchester last year. Most references to the bombing in the album are ambiguous, but the album ends with an explicit nod to the tragedy.

The 2017 incident — which killed three and left over a hundred people wounded, many of them children — unfolded during her headlining concert at Manchester Arena on May 22nd. Grande was left feeling “broken” and reportedly struggled for months after the bombing. She explores some of these feelings through Sweetener’s ninth track, “breathin,” which is explicitly about coping with her anxiety. The album doesn’t linger here, though: on “no tears left to cry,” the first single released earlier this year, Grande sets the tone for the whole album. Yes, she suffered, but this is an album about picking yourself back up after something awful happens. No surprise, then, that the title track itself is about making the best out of a terrible situation.

These are the most obvious allusions of how Grande worked through the aftermath of the bombing, but there’s also a much more understated tribute to the ordeal. In “get well soon,” the final track, there’s 40 seconds of recorded dead air at the end. This brings the song to five minutes and twenty two seconds — for the date of the bombing, 5/22. Listeners have thus been interpreting the end of the song as a moment of silence for the victims. On social media, Grande gave fans a bit more insight into the nature of the song:

Grande did hold a benefit concert weeks after the bombing last year, but it’s clear that the tragedy still weighs heavy on her: during an interview on Beats 1 this morning, the singer burst into tears while discussing it.

“It changes your life quite a bit,” Grande said. “You really want to be more present, and follow happy impulses, and figure it out later, you know? Just stay in the moment. You try not to give into fear, because obviously [that’s] the whole point of being here. That was the point of finishing the tour, it was to set an example for my fans. They’re fearless enough to show up to the fucking show. Are you kidding? You want to set the same example.”

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