The Download, Feb 14, 2017: VR Storytelling, iPhone 8 Lust, and Mariana Trench Pollution
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Apple’s Next iPhone Is Creating an Almighty Buzz
Last year, Apple’s annual iPhone reveal fell flat. But this year, analysts, insiders, and commentators appear to think that the next iteration could make up for the disappointment. Fast Company, ranking Apple as the fourth most innovative firm in the world, argues that the company's increased focus on building chips in-house will allow it to create "the most compelling consumer-electronics experiences." Our own Will Knight explains that Siri could be getting a shot in the arm, by learning from its mistakes. And the rumor mill predicts a slew of new iPhone features, including wireless charging, curved screens, and superior battery life. That buzz, combined with stronger-than-expected iPhone sales over the holidays, saw Apple stock reach an all-time high at the close of the markets yesterday. It remains to be seen, of course, whether the bluster amounts to much.
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Imagining the Future of VR Storytelling at Google
Jessica Brillhart is the principal filmmaker for virtual reality at Google. But what, exactly, does that mean? In an interview with our editor in chief, Jason Pontin, she explains that she gets to explore how everything from exotic 16-camera rigs to cheap cardboard headsets could be used to provide new experiences that traditional film cannot. It may sound like one of the more cushy and creative Silicon Valley jobs, but it poses some challenging puzzles. “VR is an embodied medium: creators are taking [a] detached eye and reattaching it to someone’s face,” she explains. “VR reminds us of the nuances of experiences, what connects people with each other, with places, with things in the real world. And that to me is the key to really understanding what kind of storytelling could even exist in a VR space.”
Converting Climate Change Deniers
There’s an ever-growing base of evidence to support the fact that humans cause climate change—and it's (slowly) nudging public acceptance of the phenomenon to increase. The results of global warming are manifest around the planet. The 700-foot high Oroville Dam currently teeters on the brink of disaster, with a climate-exacerbated double blow of drought and flood causing operators to use its emergency slipways and evacuate nearly 200,000 people. Sea ice levels have hit record lows at both poles. And in Australia, longer heat waves are causing increased bushfire risk. A new equation suggests that humans are causing the climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces. And, in the UK at least, people are willing to believe it: more people than ever there now believe that climate change is real. How long until the new White House administration follows suit?
Ten Fascinating Things
What lurks in the ocean’s deepest reaches? According to a new study of the Pacific's Kermadec and Mariana trenches, high levels of chemicals that were banned in the 1970s. Researchers claim that levels of contamination are similar to the most polluted industrial areas of the northwest Pacific.
Four weeks ago, 20 percent of Cameroon's population found their Internet blocked—and it remains the case. Affecting just English-speaking parts of the country, it’s believed to be politically motivated. It ought stop: the ban will be hurting the country’s economy.
Researchers have used pottery from the ancient Judean people to show that Earth’s magnetic field briefly spiked to nearly twice its current intensity in the 8th Century BC. If correct, a similar event could wreak havoc with modern technology.
Ever since Uber conceded the Chinese market, it’s shifted its Asian attentions to India. But now it, and large homegrown rival, Ola, have a problem: thousands of drivers in New Delhi have gone on strike for four days, demanding better pay.
Watch out, Skype: Amazon is after you. The e-tailer has announced Chime, which will host video conferences and live-share documents on its servers. It may sound ten years late, but Amazon is targeting the businesses sector—which, as many of us know, remains lacking.
Over the last year, Google’s self-driving car project haemorrhaged staff—including its technical lead. New reports suggest that the exodus was the result of a pay structure where early staffers received so much money that they had little incentive to stay.
In many parts of the world, humid conditions can lead to loss of crops via rot and fungal toxins. A new kind of ceramic bead sucks moisture out of the air and could make the process of drying crops twice as energy efficient.
Tens of thousands of Americans die in hospital every year because of preventable causes. Joe Kiani, head of medical device firm Masimo, hopes to reduce that number by having medical devices communicate on a single, open platform.
Nutritionists make foods healthy by sucking salt, sugar, and fat out—often at the expense of taste. But what if we could fool our brain into believing that the results taste like the junk we love? We may be able to, by tweaking the texture of food.
Triangulene sounds like it could be the potent foe of a superhero. But it’s actually an exotic molecule that IBM researchers have built by moving single atoms at a time.
Quote of the Day
"Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence … It's mostly about bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself.”
— Elon Musk thinks that, in a future filled with robots, humans will need to create a direct link with computers to move information around fast enough if they plan to keep up.