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ARTISTS ARE USING VIRTUAL REALITY TO CONVEY THE PERILS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

ARTISTS ARE USING VIRTUAL REALITY TO CONVEY THE PERILS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

Climate change is here but not everyone can feel the impact yet. Some artists are turning to virtual reality to help audiences better “experience” it. While climate scientists have warned about the effects of specific increases in the average global temperature, translating such numbers into something that people feel more viscerally has been a challenge, notes Nadine Kuhla von Bergmann, managing director of Creative Climate Cities, a Berlin-based consultancy that promotes climate change awareness and sustainable urban development. “Mobilizing people to fight the climate crisis is only successful if the impact on their daily lives is well-explained and illustrated,” she says. “Art triggers emotions which numbers usually don’t… and VR art is powerful.”
Stanford Team Aims at Alexa and Siri With a Privacy-Minded Alternative

Stanford Team Aims at Alexa and Siri With a Privacy-Minded Alternative

PALO ALTO, Calif. — It has been almost two decades since Google started to dominate internet search the way Microsoft dominated software for personal computers a generation earlier. Now computer scientists at Stanford University are warning about the consequences of a race to control what they believe will be the next key consumer technology market — virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. The group at Stanford, led by Monica Lam, a computer systems designer, last month received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant is for an internet service they hope will serve as a Switzerland of sorts for systems that use human language to control computers, smartphones and internet devices in homes and offices.
Kuo on 2020 iPhones: 5.4-Inch and 6.7-Inch Models With 5G, 6.1-Inch Model With LTE, All With OLED Displays

Kuo on 2020 iPhones: 5.4-Inch and 6.7-Inch Models With 5G, 6.1-Inch Model With LTE, All With OLED Displays

Apple plans to release three new iPhones in the second half of 2020, including high-end 5.4-inch and 6.7-inch models with OLED displays and a lower-end 6.1-inch model with an OLED display, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Those display sizes line up with aDigiTimes report from a few months ago.  In a research note obtained by MacRumors today, Kuo said the 5.4-inch and 6.7-inch models will support 5G, while the 6.1-inch model will support up to LTE. Qualcomm is still expected to be Apple's primary supplier of 5G modems, with RF power amplifiers supplied by Broadcom as part of an agreement with Apple. 
Mortgage rates level off after six-week slide

Mortgage rates level off after six-week slide

After more than a month of declines, mortgage rates paused their descent ahead of next week’s Federal Reserve meeting. According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average was unchanged at 3.82 percent with an average 0.6 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount and are in addition to the interest rate.) It was 4.62 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate average dipped to 3.26 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 3.28 percent a week ago and 4.07 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average slipped to 3.51 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.52 percent a week ago and 3.83 percent a year ago. Mortgage rates were flat this week, remaining near their lowest levels in more than a year as some uncertainty surrounding trade tensions appeared to ease,” said Matthew Speakman, a Zilloweconomist. “But the near-zero net change does not do justice to the bumpy ride rates took over the past seven days.
Against Gravity is building a VR world that won’t stop growing

Against Gravity is building a VR world that won’t stop growing

The quest to create a social auditorium in virtual reality has eaten many VC dollars over the years. While plenty of contenders have emerged, it’s likely Against Gravity’s Rec Room has been the most creative in its approach to capturing a niche market while plotting how to build a sustainable business based on users in VR headsets talking to one another. The Seattle startup has told TechCrunch exclusively that it has bagged $24 million over two rounds of funding. The studio’s Series A was led by Sequoia and their Series B, which just recently closed, was led by Index Ventures . Against Gravity has a bevy of top investors that also participated in the rounds, including First Round Capital, Maveron, Anorak Ventures, Acequia Capital, Betaworks and DAG Ventures.
Apple's former Siri chief says today's digital assistants still have a long way to go before they can really understand us

Apple's former Siri chief says today's digital assistants still have a long way to go before they can really understand us

If you've been paying any attention to the announcements Apple and Google made during their recent developers conferences, you probably already know that big improvements are coming to Siri and the Google Assistant. During its Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this month, Apple announced that Siri will be getting a more natural voice that's generated entirely by software when its iOS 13 update for iPhones launches later this year. Google said in May that its digital assistant will be able to understand and process requests up to 10 times faster, and Amazon recently launched a new version of its Alexa-powered Echo Show.
ZeroDown is constructing a new path to home ownership

ZeroDown is constructing a new path to home ownership

ven rich San Francisco residents can’t buy a home. Sure, if your startup just went public, you might be amongst a small class of people able to put in all-cash offers over the asking price. But most people living in the Bay Area, even those with six-figure salaries, only aspire to become homeowners. “Owning things is a pretty central idea to the American enterprise,” said Abhijeet Dwivedi, the co-founder and chief executive officer of ZeroDown, a new startup hoping to make home ownership in the Bay Area a reality for more people by combining the security of ownership with the flexibility of renting. “Anyone who has gotten rich in the last 240 years has done so by owning things.”
Bakkt Reveals Bitcoin Futures Contract Details Ahead of July Test Date

Bakkt Reveals Bitcoin Futures Contract Details Ahead of July Test Date

The Intercontinental Exchange’s pending bitcoin platform Bakkt plans to begin testing its two futures contracts on July 22 of this year. In a blog post that likened Bakkt’s launch to the Apollo 11 moon landing, chief operating officer Adam White wrote Thursday that the platform will “initiate user acceptance testing” for its bitcoin futures contracts, which will be listed and traded by its parent company. Bakkt announced last month that it would begin testing in July, though it did not provide a specific date at the time. In addition to the date, ICE provided new details for Bakkt’s monthly contract, as well as updated the contract specifications for its daily contract.
Amazon to Joe Biden: We pay all the taxes we owe

Amazon to Joe Biden: We pay all the taxes we owe

New York (CNN Business)Joe Biden jumped into the debate over corporate taxes with a jab at Amazon on Thursday, and Amazon jabbed back. "I have nothing against Amazon, but no company pulling in billions of dollars of profits should pay a lower tax rate than firefighters and teachers. We need to reward work, not just wealth," the former Vice President tweeted, linking to a New York Times story from April about how Amazon got a rebate on its corporate taxes in 2018. In the early evening, Amazon responded: "We've paid $2.6B in corporate taxes since 2016. We pay every penny we owe. Congress designed tax laws to encourage companies to reinvest in the American economy. We have. $200B in investments since 2011 & 300K US jobs. Assume VP Biden's complaint is w/ the tax code, not Amazon." According to the left leaning Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, Amazon got a $129 million refund on its $11.2 billion in profits in 2018 because of various tax credits. Taking out state taxes, the last time the company paid federal taxes was in 2016, according to the group's analysis of regulatory filings.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Checks Out HaptX And Their VR Gloves

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Checks Out HaptX And Their VR Gloves

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos literally went “hands-on” with the future of robotics  this past week during Amazon’s inaugural re:MARS conference in Las Vegas, NV. During a quick pop-in at the HaptX booth, the billionaire tech entrepreneur tried out the company’s new two-handed robotic system that uses a combination of VR gloves, haptics, and sensors to give you the ability to feel objects in VR anywhere in the world. The bimanual (performed with both hands) system is the first major advancement to the companies original HaptX VR glove, which—at the time—was capable of supporting only a single hand.
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