Big Tech &
Facebook announces Horizon, a VR massive-multiplayer world (3 minute read)
Facebook has unveiled its plans to build Facebook Horizon, a virtual reality sandbox universe where users can create their own environments and games, play and socialize with friends, or just explore user-generated landscapes. Based on Ready Player One's Oasis, Facebook Horizon will allow users to design their own avatars and travel between virtual locales, interacting with other players and creating new environments. Users will be able to define personal space boundaries, as well as mute, block, and report other players. A shield button will transfer users to a private space parallel to Horizon. Horizon's design means that it will improve over time as users create more things to do. It will launch in early 2020 as a closed beta. Facebook will shut down Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms on October 25 as part of the launch.
Juul Accepts Proposed Ban On Flavored Vaping Products As CEO Steps Down (4 minute read)
Juul Labs will stop advertising its e-cigarettes in the United States. Kevin Burns has stepped down as Juul's CEO and will be succeeded by K.C. Crosthwaite. Crosthwaite has stated his intention to work with regulators, policymakers, and other stakeholders in order to regain public trust in Juul's products. At least 530 people have recently developed vaping-related lung diseases, and nine people have died. Experts have not yet linked the outbreak to any specific product or type of e-cigarette, but many of the illnesses are connected to people who have used black market marijuana vaping products. Juul is under investigation to see whether its marketing to teens was a violation of consumer protection laws. The FDA will release its policy regarding the sale of flavored vaping products in the coming weeks.
Experimental Brain Implant Restores Visual Perception to the Blind (6 minute read)
Researchers at UCLA Health have created a device that can help blind people navigate the world by restoring their ability to perceive objects and movement. So far, six blind patients have had the devices surgically implanted in them. With the implants, the patients are able to complete daily tasks like sorting laundry or finding and picking up items from a table. The device is designed for people who have lost their vision due to injury or disease. It is the first device of its kind that can be used in a patient's home without having to be plugged into another external device. The device works by converting images from a video camera mounted on sunglasses into a series of electric pulses that stimulate the 60 electrodes implanted on top of the patients' brain's visual cortex. Patients report seeing in 'dots' rather than full images.
Ford self-driving cars to launch in Austin in 2021 (1 minute read)
Ford will add Austin to the list of cities where it plans to launch its commercial transportation service using automated vehicles in 2021. The service will also be available in Miami and Washington. Ford is working with Argo AI to create its self-driving system, which is now being tested in Ford's Fusion Hybrid sedans. The commercial transportation service will use purpose-built hybrid vehicles that can be equipped to carry either people or goods. Development teams will be manually driving the Fusion test vehicles in Austin in order to map the city streets and assess driver and pedestrian behaviors before the launch.
Programming, Design & Data Science
Hacktoberfest is a program by DigitalOcean and Dev where developers can win a t-shirt by making four pull requests to any open source project on Github during October. The goal of Hacktoberfest is to encourage contributions to the open-source ecosystem. There are also events happening globally during the month to help developers meet and collaborate. Anyone can participate in Hacktoberfest. Registration is open throughout the whole of October.
Cutestrap Two (Website)
Cutestrap Two is a strong, independent CSS framework that is only 2.7KB when compressed. It uses a simple API and has robust customization options. The website contains examples and instructions on how to use the framework.
Match.com connected daters to fake accounts to boost subscriptions, US regulators say (3 minute read)
The Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit against Match.com alleging that the company connected non-paying users to fake accounts in order to get them to subscribe to the service. Non-paying users can't view or respond to messages, but are notified if they received a message. Many users would pay Match.com to view a received message only to find that the account that had sent the message was banned, or was soon to be banned. When users complained and requested refunds, Match.com denied any wrongdoing. The FTC found 499,691 new subscriptions that were linked to fraudulent communications between June 2016 and May 2018. Paid customers would have their messages reviewed for fraud before being notified, but non-paying customers were notified of every message, regardless of authenticity. The lawsuit also alleges that Match.com did not fulfill its promises to customers for a free six-month subscription if they weren't successful in using its service, and that the company purposefully made canceling the service incredibly difficult.