SurfSafe offers a browser-based solution to fake news

In the aftermath of a school shooting that claimed the lives of 14 students and three staff members, students like Emma González, David Hogg, and Cameron Kasky soon became household names. They managed to snag the attention not just of their peers, but the populace as a whole as they toured the country in a push for common sense gun regulation. The right took notice. As has become commonplace on social media, partisan politics got in the way of actual debate when National Rifle Association supporters began circulating an image of González ripping apart the United States Constitution. The image,…

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A New Yorker invited over 150 men on the world’s most bizarre Tinder date

More than 150 men showed up to Union Square in Manhattan on Sunday, some with roses in hand or a gift for the mysterious Tinder match who’d ghosted them for weeks before luring each of them to this spot, at this time. Natasha Aponte is real. Well, the woman is. The name, Tinder profile, and any inkling of a backstory the men were able to glean before agreeing to this impromptu meeting? That’s less clear. What we do know is that the men, each a potential love connection, were targeted over a period of weeks — sometimes months. Each swiped…

This story continues at The Next Web

Or just read more coverage about: Tinder

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Facebook faces backlash over discriminatory ad tools it promised to fix

Facebook was hit, over the weekend, with a complaint by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD claims Facebook’s allowing advertisers to discriminate against users searching for property with tools the company said it’d eliminated back in 2016. The HUD alleges that Facebook’s ad targeting tools may be used to keep people of certain genders, races, religions, and familial status from being able to see ads for certain properties. It goes on to say: “Facebook then invites advertisers to express unlawful preferences by offering discriminatory options, allowing them to effectively limit housing options for these protected…

This story continues at The Next Web

Or just read more coverage about: Facebook

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Report: Apple’s new Mac Mini to be aimed at pro users, could be more expensive

It’s been over four years since the Mac mini received any kind of update, but rumors suggest a new one will arrive this year at long last. Thankfully, it seems Apple isn’t just going for a basic spec bump. According to a report by Bloomberg, the new Mac mini will be aimed specifically at pros. That comes as a bit of a surprise, considering the mini has long been by far Apple’s cheapest computer (it starts at $500). Bloomberg’s sources says to expect new storage and processor options to make it more expensive than previous versions, although it’s not clear…

This story continues at The Next Web

Or just read more coverage about: Apple

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We can’t tell if this art-creating AI is brilliant or broken

A team of researchers developed an AI called AttN:GAN last year that generates original images from text input. Now you can try it for yourself, and we hope you do. Because we can’t figure out whether it works or not. The big idea behind AttN:GAN, which was developed by researchers from Microsoft, Lehigh University, Rutgers University, and Duke University, is to automate the task of generating images. Researchers consider this one of the fundamental challenges of machine learning. It’s relatively easy for a computer to generate text from an image – it compares the pixels of an image to what it’s been…

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Spaceport Colorado wins FAA license

News Brief: Colorado’s Front Range Airport is getting a new name — the Colorado Air and Space Port — thanks to the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval of a spaceport license. The facility, six miles southeast of Denver International Airport in Adams County, won’t be used for vertical rocket launches. Instead, it’s approved for horizontal takeoff-and-launch operations like the procedures planned by British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch venture. In an Associated Press report, airport director Dave Ruppel said the first space missions are probably at least five years away. Nevertheless, it’s a “tremendous feeling” to win FAA approval, he said. There are 10 other FAA-licensed launch sites, spread from Florida and California to Alaska.

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A ripple in Google Street View: 360-degree camera on a boat captures Bill Gates’ mansion and more

Who needs a street for Google Street View? The 360 camera, left, that Paolo Tosolini and David Geller used to map part of the Lake Washington shoreline from aboard a boat. (Paolo Tosolini Photo; Google screen shot)

If you live in the Seattle area, or have visited, and have had the pleasure of boating on Lake Washington, chances are you’ve drifted past the Medina mansion of Bill Gates and family for a closer look at how the billionaire set lives. Maybe you’ve even snapped a few pictures, hoping to preserve your offshore visit to the Microsoft co-founder’s $60 million lakeside dwelling.

Paolo Tosolini, tech veteran and founder of Bellevue, Wash.-based Tosolini Productions, decided to go beyond floating snapshots. He captured the property and the surrounding Lake Washington shoreline — the state’s wealthiest zip code — with a 360-degree camera atop a boat, and uploaded the images for anyone to experience on Google Street View.

Tosolini Productions is a digital agency and innovation lab, investing time and resources in emerging media to expand its storytelling capabilities. Tosolini attended the Google Street View Summit in Mountain View, Calif., this year and became enamored with the idea of contributing to the platform, which has been opened up to third-party contributors.

Paolo Tosolini, left, dons the captain’s hat even though he’s aboard David Geller’s boat as they capture images for Google Street View on Lake Washington. (Paolo Tosolini Photo)

“I was inspired by speakers who used my same camera (Insta360 Pro) to map villages in Pacific islands, South African parks and trails in Italy,” Tosolini told GeekWire. “When I came back to Seattle, I purchased a car mount with suction cups and did my first experiment mapping a piece of the Microsoft campus that wasn’t on Google Street before — Building 83. I learned the workflow and wanted to try something even more innovative, such as mapping a piece of Lake Washington.”

David Geller poses with the Insta360 Pro camera rig attached to the roof of his boat. (Paolo Tosolini Photo)

Because the best boat is your friend’s boat, Tosolini hooked up with Seattle entrepreneur and boat owner David Geller. Further solidifying the Gates connection, Tosolini previously spent about eight years at Microsoft, and he and Geller both worked at Paul Allen companies — Geller at Starwave and Tosolini at Asymetrix. Geller is founder and CEO of mobile communication platform Spryly.

The two tech vets share the same passion for R&D and have been experimenting with new ways to use interactive 3D images for training purposes — such as this peek inside Eastside Fire & Rescue Station 83, where Geller volunteers. When Tosolini reached out with the idea of mapping part of the lake, Geller was on board, literally.

Tosolini and Geller were joined on the project by VR designer Michael Gelon and producer Carly Kienow. The Insta360 Pro was secured to roof of the boat using tripod suction cups. The team captured 30 minutes of spherical footage at 5 FPS and 8K resolution. Tosolini said it took Google 48 hours to process the data

“Google then extracts individual frames from the video and creates the connection between photos,” Tosolini said. “The footage needs to be geolocated, so we connected a GPS to the camera and we powered the entire rig directly to a boat outlet. Although batteries can last around an hour, it’d have been inconvenient to swap batteries along the way.”

Three 10-minute segments of the Medina shoreline were recorded. Tosolini said a failure to stop the boat during the pausing and restarting of the recordings resulted in missing small segments of the lakefront. Once the recording was finished, it needed to be stitched together with proper software — and a powerful PC — before being submitted to Google. Google then took 48 hours to integrate the footage into its maps.

Because of recent smoky skies in the Seattle area from wildfires in Eastern Washington and British Columbia, the final images have a hazy appearance — here is Yarrow Point and here is Bill Gates’ house.

It’s tough to see through the trees, but this is a Google Street View image, taken from Lake Washington, of Bill Gates’s waterfront property. (Google screen shot)

Tosolini said he doesn’t think Gates will take offense.

“Our experiment was conducted with no intention to breach anybody’s privacy,” Tosolini said. “Our images were taken from public property with the goal to enhance the overall Google Street View experience. We just did it from the water instead of a street.”

As far as mapping more of the lake, Tosolini said that while it can be a fun activity during summer downtime, it takes time and resources, and to do it at scale he figured they’d need to look into some funding.

Google has already mapped Lake Union and the Seattle waterfront from the water.

“It’s hard to beat Google at its own game,” Tosolini said. “But the good thing is that Google Street View allows you to both map brand new locations and/or refresh previous ones. When new updated footage is submitted, it creates a time machine feature so you can go back in time and see how the surroundings have changed.”

He added, “I hope that this experiment inspires others to keep contributing to Google Street View as it helps everybody discover the world around us.”

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Amazon ends 20% video game pre-order discounts for Prime members, cuts back Twitch Prime benefits

"More" is less as Amazon cuts back Prime video game benefits
“More” is less as Amazon cuts back Prime video game benefits

Amazon is changing the terms of its Prime benefits for video game pre-orders, replacing the 20 percent discount with a $10 Amazon promotional credit on “select title,” as first spotted by Twitter user Wario64. Canadian gamers are likewise seeing their 10 percent pre-order discount eliminated, with no credit replacing it.

First launched in early 2016, the 20 percent discount for members of Amazon Prime originally applied to all new video games pre-ordered or purchased within the first two weeks of release. With most new games priced at $60, the benefit was typically worth $12. A year ago the discount window was reduced to include only pre-orders and day-of-release purchases, and just last month the benefit disappeared for remasters and re-releases.

The 20 percent discount is valid on all pre-orders placed through Aug. 27, giving gamers just one week to take advantage of the benefit before it is cut.

The move comes just three months after Best Buy killed its own 20 percent discount membership program: Gamers Club Unlocked, which Amazon’s Prime discount originally competed directly with.

Many gamers are criticizing Amazon’s move as a calculated maneuver to capture the market from Best Buy, then reduce the benefits as soon as they eliminated the competition. A Reddit thread on the change is full of gamers threatening to kill their Prime subscriptions over the elimination of the 20 percent discount.

Twitch Prime benefits are being cut as well
Twitch Prime benefits are being cut as well. The highlighted section no longer appears on the Twitch Prime benefits page.

In addition to cutting back the new game discount, Amazon has also eliminated the Twitch Prime benefit of “Ad-Free Viewing Experience Across Twitch,” which no longer appears on the Twitch Prime benefits page as of an update this morning. Amazon acquired the popular game-streaming platform in 2014 and launched the Twitch Prime program in 2016.

Twitch sent out an email to Twitch Prime members this afternoon explaining the changes:

As we have continued to add value to Twitch Prime, we have also re-evaluated some of the existing Prime benefits. As a result, we are announcing two changes.

First, universal ad-free viewing will no longer be part of Twitch Prime for new members, starting on September 14. Members with monthly subscriptions will continue to get ad-free viewing until October 15. If you already have an annual subscription, or if you upgrade to an annual subscription before September 14, you will continue with ad-free viewing until your next renewal date.

Advertising is an important source of support for the creators who make Twitch possible. This change will strengthen and expand that advertising opportunity for creators so they can get more support from their viewers for doing what they love. You can read more details on this change in our recent blog post.

Second, starting on August 28, Prime members will now get a $10 Amazon credit when pre-ordering select games on This credit can be used on almost anything sold by This new pre-order benefit is replacing the current discount on physical game pre-orders. All eligible pre-orders placed before August 28 will still receive the 20% discount under the existing benefit once the game is released. For more information and restrictions on this new Prime benefit, click right here.

We have reached out to an Amazon representative for further comment on the changes and will update this article with any response.

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Ofo picks 3 nonprofits to receive donated bikes as bikeshare company shuts down Seattle operation

Ofo bikes in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

As it shuts down service in Seattle, Ofo is donating its bright yellow, shareable bikes to a handful of nonprofit organizations.

Ofo confirmed plans to donate bikes to Cup of Cool Water, World Vision, and Working Bikes in an email to GeekWire Monday. The company would not say how many bikes will be donated. Bikes that are in disrepair will be recycled.

Ofo operated about 4,000 free-floating bikes in Seattle as part of a year-long pilot program to test dockless bikeshare technology. That pilot concluded in July and Seattle approved a new fee structure for permanent bikeshare permits.

When the Seattle City Council passed the $250,000 annual fee, Ofo confirmed plans to leave the market. The company cited the fee as its primary reason for departing but Ofo was already shuttering operations in most U.S. markets including Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, and Miami.

GeekWire media partner KING 5 first reported on the nonprofits that will receive Ofo bikes.

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I used the Facetune app to try to make my selfie look as smooth as Newt and Callista Gingrich’s

Before, left, and after some “mild” retouching. (Facetune screen grab / Kurt Schlosser)

I shaved over the weekend to achieve a youthful and presentable appearance. But I’ve never been as smooth as Callista Gingrich, the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, and her husband Newt, the former U.S. Speaker of the House.

An Instagram selfie shared by the power couple in honor of their wedding anniversary has attracted a bit of attention online because of the Gingrichs’ flawless skin and the muted, cool tones they achieved in the image.

Happy Anniversary to my husband, Newt!❤️

A post shared by Callista Gingrich (@callygingrich) on

Some, including New York Magazine, called out the retouching app Facetune as the likely reason Cally and Newt looked so spectacular. And the image came on the heels of another notable Washington couple who stopped aging sometime after the invention of this app.

So I downloaded Facetune to give it a try for myself.

I skipped through the app tutorial a little too quickly, it seems. In my rush to achieve a forehead with no wrinkles and a chin and cheeks with no Monday morning beard shadow, I ended up pretty much smoothing away my mouth and nose.

My head looks like it’s supported by a mannequin neck.

But I guess if I wanted a selfie that looks like it was taken through the shower door, then I would call my attempt a success.

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