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January 29, 2015

Valve’s paid over $57 million to Steam Workshop creators

getaround3

Curious just how lucrative haberdashery for Team Fortress 2 is? Well, Valve's recently announced that since 2011, it's paid out over $57 million to folks participating in its Steam Workshop program. That tally encompasses some 1,500 content makers 3D modeling items for Counterstrike: Global Offensive, Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2 across 75 countries -- roughly $38,000 per person. If what's held you back from making and selling your own custom gear is a white-hot burning hatred for first-person shooters and MOBAs, well, Gabe Newell and Co. have news for you, too: curated workshops are opening for Dungeon Defenders: Eternity and first-person slasher Chivalry: Medieval Warfare.

And to give you a better idea of what hats of yours are most popular with purchasers, there's a new set of analytic and real-time measurement tools coming down the pike. None of this, however, will get us any more info on Half Life 3, but it could be your foot in the door for a game development job.

[Image credit: getaround3/Flickr]

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Source: Steam

January 29, 2015

Helmet that detects polluted air can also be a comedian’s prop

Ever seen a horse pull its lips back to show its front teeth? Looks hilarious, right? Apparently, that's called flehmen response, and animals do it to sniff out chemicals -- something designer Susanna Hertrich think humans could benefit from. Since we don't exhibit the behavior naturally, Susanna created a steampunk-meets-BDSM helmet that can physically lift a person's lips. (Seriously. Watch the video below the fold.) She calls it Jacobson's Fabulous Olfactometer, and it's equipped with sensors that can detect carbon dioxide in the air. The sensors then forward the data to an Arduino board, and if it determines that CO2 levels are dangerously high, the gears in the headset start moving to lift the hooks attached to the user's upper lip. That's ostensibly so the user can be warned of highly polluted air, but we can't help but think that it's just to make people laugh while the air ruins everyone's lungs.

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Via: Susanna Hertrich

Source: The Creators Project

January 29, 2015

Dixons Carphone just made a deal that should avert a Phones4U-style disaster

Carphone Warehouse

Although there were a multitude of reasons behind Phones4U's demise, one of the key factors was the overwhelming lack of support from the UK's major carriers. Three and O2 severed ties with the company way in advance of its closure, but it was a shake of the head from both Vodafone and EE that dealt the final blow. For a short time, it looked as if the mobile reseller model could be under threat, spelling trouble for Phones4U rival Carphone Warehouse, a retailer that had just been picked up by Dixons Retail for £3.8 billion.

Turns out that the company had nothing to be worried about. O2 pledged its support and Vodafone's reason for ditching Phones4U was so that it could sign an exclusive deal with Dixons Carphone. That left EE, which has today joined the competition in securing a new multi-year partnership with the retailer. That means you'll be still able to pick up a contract on any of the UK's biggest three carriers in a Carphone Warehouse or selected Currys or PC World store, if that's what works for you.

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Source: Dixons Carphone

January 29, 2015

Tumblr’s ‘big update’ promotes essay writing, fewer GIFs

If we're honest, there isn't enough money in monochrome erotica and Benedict Cumberbatch GIFs to sustain a billion-dollar website. That's why Tumblr is doing its very best to become more of a publishing platform that can attract the sort of writing (and attention) you'd normally find on Wordpress and Medium. The site began this process a few weeks ago by enabling embeds of its pages anywhere else on the internet, and now it's ready to give users a much stronger set of tools.

In essence, the revamped dashboard now lets users see exactly how their posts will be laid out when they've been published. Additionally, users will be able to break up blocks of text with sub-headings and line breaks, images and video can now be placed "anywhere," while typography nerds will be pleased to see better text rendering. This is, according to the site, just the beginning of a roll-out of new tools, and Tumblr is promising some "real crafty shit" will appear in the near future. Make of that what you will, but hopefully it'll make you think about posting something other than that GIF of Sherlock and Moriarty getting it on.

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Source: Tumblr, (2)

January 29, 2015

Shyp for Android is now shypping

Shyp, an app that helps making shipping goods easier, is now available for Android. The app has been on iOS for the past eight months or so (though it was in beta for awhile before that), and is currently live in San Francisco, New York and Miami, with plans to expand to Los Angeles. The way the app and service works is this: You snap a picture of the thing you want to send, enter in the relevant shipping and payment details and request a pickup. A guy from Shyp will pick it up -- you can even track his or her movements with the app -- package it and ship it for you. The cost is $5 plus the retail rate of the shipment, which is often on par with what UPS or FedEx would quote you.

I tried the new Android app out recently, and it seems to be pretty similar to the app on iOS. I logged in with my Facebook credentials, entered in my payment info and then took a picture of the Sony Smartwatch 3 review unit that I was returning. I didn't even bother packing it. Then I entered in the recipient's address along with my current location plus whether I would prefer an "economy" shipment, which would typically take three to five days, or an "express" shipment, which is a little faster. I then requested a pickup.

Within seconds, the app notified me that my "Shyp Hero" had been summoned, and that his name was Patrick. I was able to track his movement towards the building, similar to the way you would track a delivery person on Postmates or a car from Uber or Lyft. In 15 minutes, he was at the door. I simply gave him the watch, told him the box needed a bit of taping together -- he bundled the watch in a bag for safety -- and that's it. The whole process was really easy, and I can see myself using the service again.

Kevin Gibbons, Shyp's CEO and co-founder, tells us that Shyp manages to keep prices competitive by sheer volume. Additionally, he tells us that if you're just returning an item from Amazon or another e-commerce site, all you have to pay is the $5 and they'll pack and ship it for you using your pre-printed return label. "It's a courtesy," he says, adding that it's a nice little bonus to help spread the word of Shyp. However, if you're the sort to print your own shipping label from FedEx or UPS for non-return-related shipments, they won't accept it. After all, you paying for the shipping is how they make their money. Oh, and each shipment is automatically insured for up to $1,000, just in case you're concerned.

So what took the company so long to get an Android app? "For us, it was important to get the business down first, and then look to expand," he says. In the end though, he says the demand for it was so high that he couldn't ignore it. "Our goal is to remove the hassle of shipping for everyone." So if this sounds like something up your alley and you live in one of the aforementioned cities, you can go ahead and download it and try it out -- whether you're on iOS or Android.

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Source: Shyp (Google Play), Shyp

January 29, 2015

IBM Research and Mars tackle food safety with advanced genetics

FRANCE-ECONOMY-FOOD-MARS

In an effort to help prevent foodborne illnesses and contamination, IBM Research is teaming up with Mars for a safety study that'll examine how supply chains affect what we eat. Specifically, the duo will take a closer look at microorganisms in a safe factory environment to help cut down on the billions of dollars lost each year to medical costs and discarded food. By studying detailed genetics of bacteria, fungi and viruses, scientists can not only assess their growth, but also determine how to ensure our well-being when they're present. Many companies like Mars -- owner of Snickers, Uncle Ben's and other culinary brands -- already keep close tabs on quality control, but this new partnership aims to get super-specific about cataloging and analysis at an unprecedented scale.

"By mining insights from genomic data, we're seeking to understand how to identify, interpret and ultimately create healthy and protective microbial management systems within the food supply chain," said IBM Research's Vice President and Lab Director Jeff Welser. The collaborative effort is dubbed the Sequencing the Food Supply Chain Consortium, and while raw materials and factory conditions will garner attention first, research will eventually cover the entire food supply chain -- all the way down to info for farmers. This means that IBM and Mars will analyze the organisms present in distribution and retail channels, too. If you're more of the visual type, the infographic below provides an easily digestible summary of the whole thing.

[Lead photo credit: Patrick Hertzog/AFP/Getty Images]

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January 29, 2015

Forget 999, Brits may soon get the option to report crime online

In the UK, the simplest way to report a crime has always been to pick up the phone and speak to someone. Whether that's dialling 999, 101 or the Crimestoppers charity, the general process has stayed the same. However, that could soon change in the not-too-distant future. The UK's Home Secretary Theresa May has announced that the Home Office is working with the Surrey and Sussex police forces to develop a new online alternative. The service is envisioned for non-emergency crimes and could reduce the costs and general workload placed on the police. Of course, it'll still need manning, but May claims it could save 180,000 officer hours a year, or roughly £3.7 million. It might also make victims and witnesses more comfortable about reporting problems to the police, and speed up the time it takes for officers to mount a response. Of course, all of this depends on the government building a website that's reliable and simple to use. May says a prototype is currently in development, so we'll reserve judgment until it's up and running.

[Image Credit: ukhomeoffice, Flickr]

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Via: The Telegraph

Source: gov.uk

January 29, 2015

Sky confirms launch of its own O2-powered mobile network

Sky HQ

Talks between Three owner Hutchison Whampoa and O2 haven't yet reached a conclusion, but already some of the UK's biggest companies are keen to take advantage of a future merger. After briefly flirting with Vodafone in a recent trial, Sky has confirmed it will become a quad-play provider with the launch of its own O2-powered mobile network in 2016. According to Sky, O2's current owner Telefónica UK will provide access to the carrier's 2G, 3G and 4G services, allowing it to go up against BT, Virgin Media and also TalkTalk, which signed a deal with the operator in November, to offer phone, broadband, TV and mobile bundles.

Today's announcement has certainly been on the cards, especially after BT first signalled it wanted to become a carrier again, nearly a decade after it exited the industry. The landline giant eventually decided EE offered more opportunities than O2, but interest remained in the UK's second largest carrier. With the potential consolidation of Britain's mobile market looming, Sky has deemed now is the right time to expand its offering, in the hopes that customers will add a phone plan to their existing packages.

But spare a thought for Vodafone. Sky initially leant on the carrier's network to offer 200,000 "handpicked" customers access to its mobile services as part of a trial at the end of last year. It's not clear how big the takeup was, but Sky has obviously decided the carrier wasn't the right fit. It's a similar picture over at TalkTalk, which chose to break ties with the operator and migrate its mobile service over to O2's network.

So what does this all mean? Well, should BT acquire EE, we'll have four major providers aiming to get you on one of their quad-play packages. Increased competition will likely encourage better service and lower prices, which is an obvious benefit to you.

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Source: Sky

January 29, 2015

Samsung’s Gear VR will soon keep Qantas first-class passengers entertained

Offering iPads as in-flight entertainment systems is so 2014. Australian carrier Qantas will soon welcome a new breed of gadget onboard -- the Samsung Gear VR, along with a Galaxy Note 4 to power it. The phone's loaded with a special app that shows you 360-degree views of the carrier's first-class lounges and even a virtual reality boat ride. You can also use it to watch a movie, but unfortunately, if you want to marathon House of Cards, you'll have to use your own laptop or tablet for that. See, the bad news is that there will be a limited number of Gear VRs available, and it's not accessible to everyone flying Qantas: only folks in Business Class aboard an Airbus A380 going from LA to Sydney or from Melbourne to LA can borrow one. Even then, they're expected to use it only for a limited time, so other people can take their turn.

According to Gizmodo Australia, Qantas is providing two units each for the Mebourne and Sydney first-class lounges, four for inbound flights from LA and another four for outgoing flights to the city. The lounges will be stocked with the units as soon as mid-February, whereas the planes themselves won't be offering the device until mid-March. If you're just looking to experience using the virtual reality headset, though, it might be wiser to just buy the $200 Gear VR and the $700 phone to power it, as each top-tier round-trip ticket for those Qantas flights cost roughly 20 grand.

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Via: Gizmodo, TheNextWeb

Source: Qantas

January 29, 2015

Google now lets Brits send money over Gmail

Instead of smartphone apps and traditional bank transfers, Google is hoping that its Gmail and Google Wallet integration can strike a chord with people wanting to send money in the UK. The feature has been available in the US for ages, but finally it's headed for British shores too. Once you've finished writing an email, you'll soon see a new "£" symbol at the bottom of Gmail's composer: type in an amount, select the source of your funds and then hit the "attach" option. Job done. It doesn't matter if the recipient has a Gmail address and, in addition, when someone sends you some cash Google will give you the option of redeeming it or returning it straight away. You can keep it in your Google Wallet account for further transactions, or transfer it to your bank account if you need it immediately. Google says the feature will roll out in the UK "over the coming weeks," so hang tight if you're not seeing it straight away. Is this a precursor to a full Google Wallet roll-out, with contactless mobile payments and physical cards galore? We aren't getting our hopes up.

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Via: VentureBeat

Source: Google