Presented in a portrait ratio that takes up the entirety of the viewer’s smartphone, Content has been billed as “Australia’s first ever vertical video series”. It belongs to a small genre of narrative productions told entirely through screens, such as the feature film thrillers Searching and Unfriended, which unfold via laptop and smartphones.
If there was any doubt before, Q3 2019 has made clear that Snap is betting heavily on Augmented Reality (AR). Earlier this month, Snap announced a $1B fundraise to invest in AR startups. A week later, the Snapchat parent company unveiled the third-generation of Spectacles, its AR sunglasses, which are now available for pre-order. Snap is continuing its emphasis on the AR ecosystem in an announcement today: a major update to Lens Studio, the company’s desktop app for producing augmented reality “Lenses” on the Snapchat messaging platform. The update includes 14 new Landmarker locations, six new templates, and an updated UX that highlights new offerings and provides step-by-step tutorialization for beginners.
Lambda School is an online coding program that’s free until you finish and get a job. The central conceit is an income-share agreement (ISA): students pay nothing while attending the school and then pay a portion of their earnings once they’re employed. The concept, first proposed by economist Milton Friedman in the 1950s as a “human capital contract,” has been heralded by some as a market-based solution to student debt. Everyone is on the same page about the goal: finding a good-paying job.
For a hipster office-rental company with a chillax mood and kombucha on tap, the vibe around WeWork these days has gotten pretty gnarly. Is the I.P.O. filing by the We Company, the parent of WeWork, a “masterpiece of obfuscation,” as one savvy Wall Street analyst said this week, a thumbs-down sentiment that is shared by many others?
In her new book, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, Gretchen McCulloch challenges the idea that the rise of informal writing signals a trend toward global idiocy. Instead, she marks it as an inevitable and necessary “disruption” in the way human beings communicate. “We no longer accept that writing must be lifeless, that it can only convey our tone of voice roughly and imprecisely, or that nuanced writing is the exclusive domain of professionals,” McCulloch argues. “We’re creating new rules for typographical tone of voice. Not the kind of rules that are imposed from on high, but the kind of rules that emerge from the collective practice of a couple billion social monkeys — rules that enliven our social interactions.”
It’s the eternal Catch-22 of the working world: You can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job. While babysitting, waiting tables, and other part-time jobs have long been the purview of teens looking to pocket some money while waiting to land a “real job,” the skills gained in such positions don’t always equip you for an entry-level gig in a specific profession. This is where internships come in.
It seems that, in this time of unprecedented choice and quality, the so-called golden age of prestige television, most of us still want to watch half-hour shows about vaguely likable people in which everything turns out OK. Ideally from the 90s, but maybe the 00s. And preferably something that we have seen many, many times before. Welcome to the age of non-event TV.
If words like YouNow, Tanacon, Mikey Barone, or Musical.ly do not ring a bell, Hulu’s latest documentary offering, Jawline, will likely make you feel very, very old. But it will also make you glad you are no longer in high school. The film tracks the distinct breed of teen boy influencer who gains fame, particularly amongst the tween girl set, through livestreaming and niche platforms like Musical.ly (now called TikTok). In this post-YouTube era, these influencers need not have any marketable skills or preternatural talent to become stars. But they do all seem to fit a similar physical mold—pretty faces, toned but lithe physiques, gravity-defying coifs, and, as the title of the doc suggests, a chiseled jawline. And they all trade, like Beatlemania, in hysterical teenage girl lust.
A.I., most people in the tech industry would tell you, is the future of their industry, and it is improving fast thanks to something called machine learning. But tech executives rarely discuss the labor-intensive process that goes into its creation. A.I. is learning from humans. Lots and lots of humans.
Almost 1 in 4 US consumers (which equates to 32.6 million households) are unbanked or underbanked. That means these people either have no access to banking products like credit and debit cards, or must pay exorbitant fees to use instruments like prepaid debit cards. (It seems counterintuitive, but the highest fees in the banking and credit industries are charged to those who can least afford them.) Denying these individuals access to basic products and services based solely on payment method borders on discriminatory. It’s one thing for luxury brands to self-select their customers on the basis of price point, but it’s another for a retailer to deny access to a person trying to buy a pack of gum.
The dream of starting a company in your dorm room to solve the world’s problems and make billions in the process is still thriving on campus. But a competing dream, perhaps just as old, appears to be growing in fervor now, too: to use technical skills as an insurance policy against dystopia. Students have not failed to notice the unflattering headlines that have dogged Silicon Valley over the past several years—the seemingly unending scandals in which the biggest technology companies in the world have mishandled user data, facilitated the spread of misinformation, and sold software to the agencies enforcing the Trump administration’s harsh immigration agenda. All of this has sparked new conversations inside and outside the classroom, and there are signs that the once-reliable pipeline between Stanford and Silicon Valley is narrowing—at least a tiny bit.
If you want to get a rosy view of the future of virtual and augmented reality, ask a company that works in the space. If you want to get a pessimistic view, ask an investor. But if you want a realistic view, one shaped by experience instead of conjecture and wishful thinking, ask the folks who are actually making the stuff. From their perspective, according to a new report from the organizers of the annual conference XRDC, things aren’t looking bad at all.
As a primer on the scandal, which dominated headlines around the world for two years after the election of President Donald Trump, the film is both succinct and thorough. It begins as news is breaking that Cambridge Analytica unethically scraped data from millions of Facebook users and used it to target vulnerable and impressionable voters in an effort to elect Trump and pass the Brexit resolution. Then it tracks the fallout. The film is bookended by professor David Carroll’s quest to get his own data back from Cambridge Analytica—a story WIRED told in depth—but focuses mainly on former CA employee Brittany Kaiser and her abrupt and somewhat baffling decision to turn against her employer.
TikTok can feel, to an American audience, a bit like a greatest hits compilation, featuring only the most engaging elements and experiences of its predecessors. This is true, to a point. But TikTok — known as Douyin in China, where its parent company is based — must also be understood as one of the most popular of many short-video-sharing apps in that country. This is a landscape that evolved both alongside and at arm’s length from the American tech industry — Instagram, for example, is banned in China.
Under the hood, TikTok is a fundamentally different app than American users have used before. It may look and feel like its friend-feed-centric peers, and you can follow and be followed; of course there are hugely popular “stars,” many cultivated by the company itself. There’s messaging. Users can and do use it like any other social app. But the various aesthetic and functional similarities to Vine or Snapchat or Instagram belie a core difference: TikTok is more machine than man. In this way, it’s from the future — or at least a future. And it has some messages for us.
Pocket Operator [is] a device released four years ago by a Swedish company called Teenage Engineering. To date, the company has made nine different models of the same basic design, and it has sold more than 350,000 of them worldwide, making the Pocket Operator one of the most popular synthesizers in history. The Korg M1 — famous for producing the sound of Seinfeld’s slap bass and Madonna’s “Vogue,” and one of the best-selling and most influential synths of all time — is estimated to have sold 100,000 fewer units over nearly twice as much time. The “portable” version of one of the Pocket Operator’s earliest forebears — the telharmonium, constructed more than a hundred years ago — cost more than $5 million to build in today’s dollars, weighed 200 tons and required a team of specialists to achieve peak performance. A Pocket Operator costs about $60 and fits in the palm of your hand.
All of our screens are now TVs, and there is more TV to watch on them than ever. More dramas, more comedies, more thrillers, more fantasy-adventure series, more dating shows, more game shows, more cooking shows, more travel shows, more talk shows, more raunchy comedies, more experimental comedies, more family comedies, more comedy specials, more children’s cartoons, more adult cartoons, more limited series, more documentary series, more prestige dramas, more young-adult dramas, more prestige young-adult dramas — more, more, more.
It’s no wonder that the phrase “everyone has a podcast” has become a Twitter punch line. Like the blogs of yore, podcasts — with their combination of sleek high tech and cozy, retro low — are today’s de rigueur medium, seemingly adopted by every entrepreneur, freelancer, self-proclaimed marketing guru and even corporation. (Who doesn’t want branded content by Home Depot and Goldman Sachs piped into their ears on the morning commute?) There are now upward of 700,000 podcasts, according to the podcast production and hosting service Blubrry, with between 2,000 and 3,000 new shows launching each month. In August William Morrow will publish a book by Kristen Meinzer, a co-host of the popular “By the Book” podcast. Its title: “So You Want to Start a Podcast.”
And yet the frequency with which podcasts start (and then end, or “podfade,” as it’s coming to be known in the trade) has produced a degree of cultural exhaustion. We’re not necessarily sick of listening to interesting programs; but we’re definitely tired of hearing from every friend, relative and co-worker who thinks they’re just an iPhone recording away from creating the next “Serial.”
Four of the seven Google employees who organized a 20,000-person walkout in November have resigned from the company, including two women who claimed Google retaliated against them for their internal activism. The latest to leave is Meredith Whittaker, who ran Google Open Research and has emerged in the past couple of years as a prominent voice demanding increased accountability from tech companies around uses of artificial intelligence.
Spend enough time on the social media app TikTok, and you’re bound to see a Life360 meme. That’s because Life360, a location-sharing app aimed at families, is apparently ruining the lives of teenagers all across the United States. The service allows parents to track their kids’ whereabouts in real time, among other features. As one girl with long, blond hair jokes in a popular TikTok clip, it’s set her summer vacation on fire. Some of the videos have racked up hundreds of thousands of likes—in other words, they’re relatable.