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Update October 2016


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Update October 29, 2016

Mobile game replaces Pokemon creatures with Clinton, Trump

Hanover, N.H. (AP) - While some voters may wish the presidential candidates would just go away, Dartmouth College has created an app for those who want to find them around every corner.

Two professors at the Ivy League college worked with developers to produce “HillaryDonald Go,” their take on the popular “Pokemon Go” mobile phone app.

Instead of searching for Pokemon creatures, those playing the new augmented-reality game must find the nearest Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump “booth” and send their preferred candidate “good vibes” that allow them to grow in support.

Once a booth has received more than 50 percent of the “good vibes” from those who have discovered it, it takes on the face of that candidate. Players viewing the candidates will see them react with humorous expressions and hear them recite soundbites from the campaign trail.

The college says the game can be played in nearly 1 million locations in parks, libraries, monuments, cafes and other public places across the United States, as well as U.S. embassies around the world.

“Since the birth of democracy in ancient Greece, modern politics has been, in essence, a competitive game,” said professor Mikhail Gronas, a specialist in digital humanities and Slavic studies who created the game with Professor Joseph Bafumi, who specializes in American politics. “Games are often considered a less serious social activity; however, elections are some of our nation’s most important political decisions and are very much game-like: we follow the scores or polls, and we root for our teams,”

Gronas said perhaps the game can “inject some lighthearted competition into this election season, lessen the acrimony and allow us to take a brief break from the tensions of the campaign.”

Bafumi said he hopes the game will engage more people in the political process.


Update October 22, 2016

Facebook’s Oculus to start selling hand controllers

Oculus hopes people find their Oculus Touch hand-held controllers more comfortable and intuitive to use than traditional video game controllers. Users can make gestures and grasp virtual objects within the simulated worlds projected by Oculus Rift headsets. (Oculus via AP)

Brandon Bailey

San Francisco (AP) - Facebook says it’s working to make virtual reality more social as the industry gets more crowded.

With a host of leading tech companies now selling VR products, Facebook’s Oculus division is hoping to distinguish its offerings with more interactive and social experiences. At an event Thursday, the company announced a long-awaited shipping date - Dec. 6 - for its Oculus Touch hand controllers, designed to let users make gestures and grasp virtual objects within the simulated worlds projected by Oculus Rift headsets.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, meanwhile, donned one of those headsets for an onstage demonstration in which he visited Mars, played virtual cards with two other people, then made a video call to his wife while standing in a digital simulation of his living room.

Zuckerberg said his company has invested $250 million to back developers building new games and other virtual-reality programs for Oculus, and is vowing to double that amount. He also said the company is working on a prototype for a mobile VR headset that doesn’t have to be linked to a personal computer, which the Oculus Rift requires, while promising a better experience than current headsets powered by smartphones, like those sold by Samsung and Google.

Other Oculus executives showed a host of new virtual-reality games for their platform and new tools for software developers to build programs in which multiple players can interact.

In addition to Zuckerberg, Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe and other company leaders spoke during a two-hour presentation, but co-founder Palmer Luckey did not appear on stage. Luckey recently made a public apology for donating $10,000 to a political group that boasted of creating negative social media posts about Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton.

Oculus has been showing prototypes of its Touch hand controllers since last year, but started shipping its high-end virtual-reality headsets without them this spring. Gartner tech analyst Brian Blau said the controllers will let people do more with the Oculus system, which should increase consumer interest.

But they won’t be cheap. Oculus will sell a pair of controllers, with a sensor device, for $199. Oculus says they’re designed to be more comfortable and intuitive than traditional video game controllers, which can be purchased for less than $50.


Update October 15, 2016

MIT’s flea market specializes in rare, obscure electronics

A vintage electronic voltmeter/ohmmeter, circa 1960, is displayed at MIT’s Radio Society flea market on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Collin Binkley)

Collin Binkley

Cambridge, Massachusetts (AP) - Once a month in the summer, a small parking lot on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s campus transforms into a high-tech flea market known for its outlandish offerings. Tables overflow with antique radio equipment, some of it a century old. Visitors can buy a telescope that’s the size of a cannon. One man has hauled in a NASA space capsule he owns.

It’s known as Swapfest, a place where tinkerers from across New England go to buy and sell the gadgets they can’t find in stores. Some arrive searching for parts to build robots. Others are amateur radio enthusiasts adding to their collections. For some, it’s simply an outdoor museum of the strange and surprising.

Vendor Chuck Ochs shows a 1921 Crosley Model 51 radio, priced at $100, at MIT’s Radio Society flea market. (AP Photo/Collin Binkley)

“You can pretty much find all things nerdly,” said Steve Finberg, an MIT alumnus and longtime organizer, who arrives every month wearing a cowboy hat and a bushy beard. “The flea is where you go to buy the stuff you didn’t know you needed.”

The event started 30 years ago as a campus fundraiser for student radio clubs at MIT. It still supports those groups, but it’s grown far bigger. Sellers now drive from hours away to hawk their goods, some arriving the night before to claim marquee spots for their tables. Hundreds of shoppers come to browse every month.

New England hosts other flea markets with a high-tech spin, but this one has a reputation for drawing the rare and obscure. Some credit it to the market’s location, surrounded by MIT and technology companies around Boston, whose retired equipment sometimes filters down to the sale tables.

“It’s the high-tech community in Boston that makes it unique,” said Finberg, who’s also an engineer at an MIT-affiliated research lab. “People will bring surplus runs from production at some facility which dumped a project, and you’ll find resistors that cost big bucks being sold for a dime apiece.”

Some of the vendors are professionals, there to buy and sell electronics for a living. Others are amateurs, mostly there to clear out their garages. They all get the same warning: It’s considered taboo to sell furniture, clothes or other typical yard-sale fare. The Swapfest has a charter explicitly barring it from becoming a general flea market.

Since the beginning, the event been held the third Sunday of the month, from April through October. Its tables fill a surface lot next to an MIT power plant, with dozens more in a nearby parking garage.

Among the crowd last Sunday were Neel Shah and Sasha Berisheva, two juniors at Northeastern University who are building a car that runs on chemical reactions. It’s part of an annual competition at their university, and they came to rummage through boxes of electronic baubles, hoping to find capacitors for their project.

David Purrington brought his 10-year-old son, Alec, to check out radio gear, a shared hobby between the father and son from Needham, Massachusetts.

“My dad has gotten me into ham radio,” Alec said, adding that he was in good company at the sale. “I would definitely call this a geekfest.”

Among the items for sale at the latest gathering: an ultrasound machine, like those used to capture images of unborn infants, and a dish antenna, said to be plucked from a 1960s fighter jet.

One man, Tom Perera, routinely brings his collection of Engima machines, the ciphering devices that Germans used to pass coded messages in World War II.

Joel Goldberg, of Newton, Mass., browses MIT’s Radio Society flea market. (AP Photo/Collin Binkley)

Chuck Ochs has been a regular seller since 1991, stacking his table high with vintage radios and electronic testing equipment. His rarest item up for sale last week was a Crosley Model 51 radio from 1921, going for $100.

Over the years, Ochs has taken his collection to dozens of other sales, but he says none quite compare to MIT’s flea.

A photo slide Magic Lantern projector, circa 1930, is displayed at MIT’s Radio Society flea market on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Collin Binkley)

“A lot of this stuff was thousands and thousands of dollars when it came out,” said Ochs, of East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. “If it exists in the city, this is where you’ll see it.”


Update October 8, 2016

LinkedIn adding new training features, news feeds and ‘bots’

Brandon Bailey

San Francisco (AP) - LinkedIn wants to become more useful to workers by adding personalized news feeds, helpful messaging “bots” and recommendations for online training courses, as the professional networking service strives to be more than just a tool for job-hunting.

The new services will arrive just as LinkedIn itself gains a new boss - Microsoft - which is paying $26 billion to acquire the Silicon Valley company later this year.

LinkedIn said the new features, which it showed off to reporters Thursday, were in the works before the Microsoft takeover was announced in June. But LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said his company hopes to incorporate some of Microsoft’s technology as it builds more things like conversational “chat bots,” or software that can carry on limited conversations, answer questions and perform tasks like making reservations.

Chat bots are a hot new feature in the consumer tech world, where companies like Facebook, Apple and Google are already racing to offer useful services based on artificial intelligence. As a first step, LinkedIn says it will soon introduce a bot that could help someone schedule a meeting with another LinkedIn user, by comparing calendars and suggesting a convenient time and meeting place.

The new bot will be part of an online messaging service that LinkedIn is gradually expanding to make it easier for users to communicate without opening a new screen or switching to email.

LinkedIn is also adding more personalized features to its news feed, where members can see articles and announcements posted by their professional contacts. A new “Interest Feed” will offer a collection of articles, posts and opinion pieces on major news events or current issues.

While many people already turn to Facebook, Twitter or individual news sites for similar updates, LinkedIn managers suggest their feeds will be more tailored to each user’s professional interests, by a combination of human editors and computer algorithms. Similarly, LinkedIn says it’s begun using the online training resources of its Lynda. com educational subsidiary to make personalized recommendations for online courses that augment each user’s current skills or career interests.

The new features are the latest additions LinkedIn has made to its core service in recent years - for example, by inviting prominent people and ordinary members to write their own articles or essays for the site.

LinkedIn Corp. makes most of its money from fees that job recruiters pay to use its database of more than 450 million members worldwide. But it wants to keep members engaged so they check in regularly and keep their profiles updated. Weiner and other executives say they want to make the site useful for more than just job-hunting.

The idea is to “help members be more productive and successful in what they’re trying to do,” said LinkedIn vice president Ryan Roslansky in an interview.

LinkedIn has measured an increase in routine visits to its website and mobile apps over the last year, Roslansky said, even after the company cut back on the volume of email notifications that it sends to members. It did so, he acknowledged, after members complained they were getting too many emails.

Microsoft Corp., meanwhile, wants to augment its own workplace software with LinkedIn’s stockpile of information about its members’ job histories and professional contacts. It may combine LinkedIn’s data, for example, with online programs that Microsoft sells to businesses for managing sales, hiring and other back-office functions.

Weiner, who is expected to continue running LinkedIn as a semi-independent subsidiary of Microsoft, said the two companies are working on ways to integrate some services. But he said he wasn’t ready to disclose more details.
 


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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Mobile game replaces Pokemon creatures with Clinton, Trump


Facebook’s Oculus to start selling hand controllers


MIT’s flea market specializes in rare, obscure electronics


LinkedIn adding new training features, news feeds and ‘bots’


 



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