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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

The Upgrade

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The Upgrade

Competing visions for Elon Musk’s technology are coming down to Earth

The first public test of the Hyperloop — a tube- and-pod-based, sub-supersonic transportation system — was little more than an Erector et-style sled racing along a short strip of track in the parched Nevada desert. And it only lasted for a few seconds at 115 mph.

Put simply, there was nothing in the demonstration that even hinted at sleek pods rocketing through low-pressure tubes at almost 700 mph, as Elon Musk described in his original Hyperloop white paper. It was hard to imagine how Hyperloop One, or any company for that matter, would make the leap from these DIY test…

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Why paranoia about digital voice assistants is overblown

Star Trek vs. George Orwell’s 1984. No two cultural touchstones better illustrate our diametrically opposed feelings about voice systems.

Star Trek’s always listening, ever-helpful Computer represents the highest ideal of a digital assistant, while Orwell’s Telescreen, with its “Big Brother is watching” messages, was emblematic of our darkest fears. With each passing year and digital assistant breakthrough, we vacillate wildly between these two perspectives.

Bloomberg recently reported that Amazon was employing thousands of humans to comb through utterances and transcribe what we say to Amazon’s Echo-based voice assistant. …

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It’s not the best device on the market, but the price and performance is right

No notch, no laser-cut holes, no ungainly chin — just unblemished, AMOLED screen. That’s what you’re getting with the OnePlus 7 Pro, the upcoming flagship phone from a Shenzhen-based company best-known for Android devices that offer competitive features at a “midrange” price.

Don’t mistake the OnePlus 7 Pro as a no-frills update, though. As with Samsung’s Galaxy S10 line, the OnePlus 7 Pro hides the fingerprint sensor under the lower third of the screen. And for the selfie camera — the one that Apple’s carved out a notch for — OnePlus settled on something risky.

We put our smartphones through…

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The $399 headset is worth the splurge

I’m in a cage of my own making. I drew the boundaries, and now a glowing aqua ring surrounds me and rises into infinity.

This virtual cage — or “Guardian” — is part of the Oculus Quest’s new boundary system. It’s designed to keep me from walking into walls and furniture while I explore new worlds with Facebook’s standalone virtual reality headset, which is out next month and costs $399.

The Quest is a standalone Oculus, meaning it requires no external tracking system for positional awareness of your head, hands, and body. …

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That great deal you found on Amazon may have a dark side

The team moves through a dark, narrow hallway, emerging into a room crammed with an odd sort of contraband: toner and ink cartridges stacked almost to the ceiling. Authorities question a woman who deflects at first before finally admitting that all of them are counterfeits.

The video, shot in India and shared with me by Hewlett-Packard (HP Inc), illustrates the raids local authorities have conducted hundreds of times around the world to try and stem the flow of counterfeit ink and toner cartridges. It’s reminiscent of a drug bust, and the economic stakes are nearly as high.

According to the…

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An innocent account gets caught up in a bot purge, with no explanation why

WinObs was gone. Snapped away like a Thanos victim with no forwarding address. My long-time Twitter pal Rich Hay’s Twitter account was gray, though not quite dust.

Hay and I met nearly a decade ago at an early NASA Tweetup to celebrate and witness one of the last Space Shuttle launches. We bonded over our love of space and, later, a somewhat shared Windows expertise. …

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It’s easy to get lost inside News+

Back in the late ’80s, my favorite magazine was Premiere. This was a glossy movie magazine for those who obsessed over the craft and business of film. Celebrities appeared on the cover and actors were profiled, as was the case with People and the Hollywood Reporter, but no other magazine put you on the set, in the writers’ room, or at the negotiating table with execs like Premiere did.

I loved it for the insight, as well as the large photos and layouts, and I vividly recall when they shrunk the magazine down from Life size to something roughly equivalent…

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A-list talent alone won’t cut it

We used to wonder if Apple would make an actual TV set. Instead, it became a TV studio. Before Netflix, Apple would have seemed like an unlikely content creation house. Back in 2013, Tim Cook told journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, “We never felt we needed to own content. We need access to great content… We don’t have the skill to produce and direct.”

That has clearly changed. Apple has hired major talent to produce, direct, and star in a cluster of original programs. On Monday, the company held its equivalent of the network upfronts in, naturally, the Steve…

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A very long event was short on concrete details

Remember Monday well: It’s when Apple unabashedly shoved its services business into the spotlight, prioritizing content over the hardware the company has built its name and hundreds of billions of dollars in value on. It’s a smart move, because those service pockets are filled with money.

Services, which include things like the iOS App Store and iTunes, were a $5 billion business for Apple in 2015. Now, they account for well over $10.9 billion and climbing. Revenue from iPhone sales is still much larger, but Apple’s no longer breaking out specific iPhone unit sales numbers as it struggles with a…

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Elizabeth Warren has a point, but too much regulation could strangle the sector

After witnessing decades of unfettered growth and ever-increasing influence and power, consumers have understandably fallen a little out of love with the tech industry. Nor does it help that tech has at times been acting like America’s abusive boyfriend — mishandling data, violating user privacy, policing closed ecosystems. What was once an adoring relationship has flipped to distrust — and, sometimes, outright hate.

The undeniable power of these platforms and the tech giants that build them has prompted a wave of regulation that started in Europe with the General Data Protection Regulation and is poised to crash onto U.S. shores.


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