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Twitter cofounder Biz Stone on Jelly's failure, his hopes for his new app, Super

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AUSTIN, Texas — What do you do when your app fails? If HBO’s Silicon Valley has taught us anything it’s that you pivot

When Twitter cofounder Biz Stone’s Q&A app Jelly bottomed out in the App Store rankings after a much-hyped launch he knew he had two choices.

“We have plenty of money in the bank, we could slog away on this for four years,” he said. “I don’t think we’re ever going to be the next great search engine. We need to do something that’s going to have a whole lot of people using it in order to affect any kind of positive change in the world. We have to make something fun.”

And that’s how Stone’s newest app, Super, was born. Read more…

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Eavesdropping Barbie is "downright creepy," privacy advocates say

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Mattel’s new “Hello Barbie” has more tricks up her sleeve than just saying hello.

With the press of a button, Barbie’s embedded microphone turns on and records the voice of the child playing with her. The recordings are then uploaded to a cloud server, where voice detection technology helps the doll make sense of the data. The result? An inquisitive Barbie who remembers your dog’s name and brings up your favorite hobbies in your next chitchat

The doll, which made her debut at the 2015 American International Toy Fair, has privacy activists demanding its removal. Read more…

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Near Me is dead, long live iBeacons — at SXSW

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AUSTIN, Texas — Remember the Near Me app craze from a few years ago? At SXSW 2013, Highlight and Banjo were the hot apps of the moment. No one talks about them much anymore and they’re certainly not a presence here at SXSW 2015

But there is a presence watching, connecting and ready to provide hyper-local information almost whenever you need it: iBeacons.

This year, SXSW partnered up with Vancouver, Canada, based Eventbase, a mobile even platform company, to build out what Eventbase co-founder Ben West told me is “the largest beacon deployment ever done at an event.” They literally installed over 1,000 beacons, which come in two sizes: a palm-sized $35 AAA battery-powered device and a little blue one only a bit larger than a quarter. These beacons use Bluetooth Low Energy technology to connect with SXSW attendees who have downloaded the SXSW Go app Read more…

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Microsoft's Cortana may be coming to iOS and Android

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Microsoft is planning to offer a standalone app for its digital voice assistant Cortana on both iOS and Android devices, Reuters reports, citing people familiar with the project.

Cortana is currently available on Windows Phone 8.1 devices. The report comes shortly after the news that Cortana will be deeply integrated with Microsoft’s upcoming desktop operating system, Windows 10

Reuters did not get official confirmation about Cortana moving to other platforms, but it did interview the managing director of Microsoft Research, Eric Horvitz, who shared some of Microsoft’s plans regarding the voice assistant Read more…

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Apple releases iOS 8.3 beta with new, diverse emoji

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Apple has started to invite developers to try the beta version of its upcoming iOS 8.3 software, which will include the emoji update that features various character skin tones for the first time

Some developers who signed up to test the iOS software are now able to download the update, but invitations to give it a try is limited. Not everyone, even if you’re a developer, will be able to get access immediately.

For those who registered for the Apple Beta Software Program, the company has started emailing beta invitations to select members Read more…

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The new MacBook will support cheaper, non-Apple chargers

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Apple's MagSafe charger is a wonderful charging technology that has saved my MacBook more times than I can count, but if the cord frays — or if you lose or break it — you’re left with no choice but buying a new one from Apple.

I remember arriving in Las Vegas for CES in 2013 only to realize I forgot to pack my MacBook Air charger. Since MagSafe is patented and Apple doesn’t license the tech to third parties, no cheaper alternatives exist for customers to buy. It sucked. I had to fork over $79 for a new charger at the Apple Store.

According to 9to5Mac, though, Apple is finally loosening its tight grip with the new MacBook, which charges through its USB-C port. That means cheaper chargers will soon flood the market Read more…

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UK's Halifax bank testing a heartbeat sensor to unlock online banking services.

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LONDON — Passwords are easy to forget and fingerprints are easy to forge, so the Halifax bank is trying something new to protect customer privacy

It aims to use the human heart rate as a key to unlock your online banking services.

Halifax’s system, which is currently at the proof-of-concept stage, uses a piece of wearable technology known as the Nymi band; it monitors and stores a user’s heartbeat via an electrocardiogram (ECG).

Users must wear the Nymi on one wrist, and touch its top sensor with the opposite hand for it to work. The Nymi pairs with a smartphone via Bluetooth, using a companion app for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. Removal of the wristband invalidates biometric authentication. Read more…

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U.S. Patent and Trademark Office swears in first woman director at SXSW

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AUSTIN — Google veteran and Silicon Valley native Michelle K. Lee is now the first Woman director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

In an unprecedented move, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker swore in Lee on stage at SXSW Interactive on Friday.

The ceremony took place just moments after Lee delivered a speech which not only outlined her plans for the 225-year-old agency, but reminded people that the ascension is not the end of the journey for woman in tech.

"I’m deeply concerned that, 15 years into the 21st century, far too few women are getting into tech, and even fewer are staying in the field," said Lee, noting, "There’s no doubt that women in tech face too many barriers to entry and success." Read more…

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At SXSW, anonymity will be the best icebreaker

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It’s time we go back to the roots of online chatting

In the beginning, services such as Talkomatic and AIM (AOL Instant Message) were welcomed as a way for users to interact with people they wouldn’t have otherwise; their real life identity was not important. Users interpreted anonymity as a right, and any attempt to suppress it was considered a violation of the First Amendment.

But Facebook changed everything. With a public domain to connect with friends, family and coworkers, users willingly relinquished their right to anonymity in order to carry on their IRL relationships online. And because of this, offline communication suffered, and the effects of this are tangible Read more…

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High-tech glove could help the deaf-blind send text messages

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In German-speaking countries, deaf-blind people use a “tactile alphabet” called Lorm to communicate with one another, which involves a series of motions on the hand.

The problem with Lorm, though, is that few people understand it. This means that people who are both deaf and blind are often limited to communicating with others who understand Lorm.

But a new technology aims to help them communicate more easily with people who don’t understand Lorm. Researchers in Berlin are developing the Mobile Lorm Glove, with which deaf-blind people can transmit Lorm to text on a computer or mobile device. Read more…

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Google Flights will now show you which flights have Wi-Fi

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With more and more airlines offering in-flight Wi-Fi to passengers, there’s little reason why you should be stuck with an internet-less phone or tablet on your flight. Now, thanks to a partnership with Routehappy, Google Flight Search lets you know which flights offer Wi-Fi and other amenities at a glance

Routehappy is a service that lets you find the “happiest” flights — meaning those with the most amenities and the roomiest seats. Its data is already integrated with Google Flights — once you’ve selected a flight, you’ll see how much legroom you’ll get and whether it offers in-seat power or Wi-Fi Read more…

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The time may be near for Microsoft to surrender in mobile

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While smartphones are not an extremely new product category anymore, their widespread popularity certainly is. It’s only been in the last few years, a wholly recent phenomenon, that the word “phone” became shorthand for “smartphone.” It’s a bit shocking to realize, though, that not a single platform which was winning the early smartphone wars has held on to prosper in the more mature marketplace — in fact, they’re all dead by now.

Think about that: of the three widely used mobile operating systems in the ’00s — Palm OS, Windows Mobile, and Symbian — none of them were able to survive into the present day, much less succeed. Yes, Microsoft as a company was able to stay afloat after transitioning from Windows Mobile to Windows Phone (and soon, to plain old Windows), but it has continued losing market share at a steady clip. Read more…

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Asus ZenWatch is a smartwatch that achieves fashion zen

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The age of the smartwatch is upon us, and like the smartphone and tablet eras before it, it’s a case of Apple vs. everybody else

Asus, naturally, falls into the latter category, having hitched its wagon firmly to the Android Wear wagon, along with a number of other (here in the U.S. at least) higher profile companies.

As Google attempts to maintain some semblance of software consistency across the devices, manufacturers are once again forced to distinguish themselves almost entirely on hardware. From the moment the ZenWatch comes out of the box, Asus’s play is pretty clear: Making a smartwatch people might actually want to wear. Read more…

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