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June 16th, 2014
03:08 PM ET

Virtual reality's new reality

There’s something a little strange that one of today’s hottest trends in technology is… virtual reality.

It’s an idea that seems past its time; sitting alongside household atomic generators and personal jetpacks as visions for the future that seem laughable today. But VR isn’t a joke anymore.

I had the chance to try on the headset that has almost single-handedly revived interest in virtual reality: the Oculus Rift.

For now, the Rift is only in the prototype stage and has some way to go before it’s ready for consumers. Still, even at this early stage the potential of the Rift is incredible.

It looks big and bulky, but once it was strapped to my head I couldn’t feel the weight of the Rift. The whole setup is slightly cumbersome; you have the headset, then you have to put on headphones and find your controller — without being able to see either, because your eyes are covered by the Rift.

My first impressions of the Rift? It’s a little unsettling. I was surprised by the low resolution of the screen, individual pixels reminding me that my eyes were millimeters away from them; I was acutely aware of the edges of the display; and basically, I could feel like I had a big plastic visor strapped to my face.

But then you move your head… and your view of the world shifts almost perfectly with your movement. Move your head to the left, and you’re looking left.

I played a 3D platforming game called Lucky’s Tale (from the creator of Words With Friends). To be brutally honest, it felt a little like a simple Mario clone: You make a cute little fox run and jump along a basic path running from left to right. Then the path turns back to the left… and you find yourself scoping out the way ahead simply by turning your head to look at it.

Video games have allowed you to move your view of the world for years through a controller. It’s not a new idea. But with the Rift, looking around a game’s world is as natural as looking around our own.

That’s when the Oculus Rift experience starts to click, and it all starts to work.

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Filed under: Gadgets • Games • Technology
June 10th, 2014
02:46 PM ET

One year of Edward Snowden's revelations

"If history tells us anything it's that whistle-blowers are usually treated kindly, and claims of national security much less so."

Here's my interview with Edward Snowden's legal adviser, Ben Wizner, one year after Snowden revealed himself as the NSA leaker.

May 15th, 2014
05:34 PM ET

Breaking down #FCCNetNeutrality

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has voted to move forward with a proposal that could create Internet "fast lanes." Now the FCC will collect public comments on the new rules for net neutrality.

There have long been concerns that the rules would undermine an open Internet where all content is treated equally, and instead allow companies to pay for priority access.

A Twitter chat earlier this week reveals that the FCC is concerned about protecting an open Internet and is considering all options.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler tweeted, "Title II is a viable option we’re considering. We are listening and welcome continued discussion. #FCCNetNeutrality"

That's a reference to Title II of the Communications Act. Currently, broadband Internet is not bound by those common-carrier regulations.

Our regular tech contributor Nick Thompson, editor of the NewYorker.com, points out that there are two ways to for the FCC to safeguard net neutrality: pass new rules that could get bogged down in court, or reclassify Internet providers as public utilities under Title II.

Click on to hear Nick break down the issues at stake and the options for the FCC.

May 8th, 2014
01:59 PM ET

Weighing in on the Alibaba IPO

Alibaba has filed its IPO in New York to raise $1 billion, but former Alibaba CEO David Wei is confident it will raise even more than Facebook's $16 billion bonanza.

Though many anticipate a blockbuster IPO, industry watchers also expect significant challenges ahead for the Chinese e-commerce giant.

How will Alibaba address concerns about the amount of counterfeit goods sold by its users - concerns that prompted Wei to resign after a fraud inquiry in 2011?

And how will Alibaba manage the shift to mobile, especially given the threat from Tencent's WeChat - the Chinese mobile app already on its way to becoming a global brand?

Click on for my conversation with China tech investor and former Alibaba CEO, David Wei.

(His catchphrase to describe founder Jack Ma may raise an eyebrow!)

May 1st, 2014
07:54 PM ET

Game Faces: Jake Kazdal

It's always special to see a product that truly reflects its creator. GALAK-Z: The Dimensional bears the fingerprints of 17-BIT's Jake Kazdal. FULL POST

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Filed under: Game Faces • Games • General • Technology
April 24th, 2014
11:01 PM ET

Why would Nike kill the FuelBand?

Sometimes it feels like everyone is wearing a fitness band on their wrist, whether it's the Fitbit Flex, Jawbone Up or Nike FuelBand.

But now there are reports that Nike might kill the FuelBand.

Why would Nike kill an apparently popular gadget?

The New Yorker's Nicholas Thompson suggests that Nike might be trying to pull out of dedicated fitness bands before they're replaced by other wearables - such as the much-hyped Apple smart watch.

"Think about the Flip video camera, which was a huge sensation, everyone thought they'd be huge. And then suddenly the iPhone can take videos that are just as good, and Flip went away."

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Filed under: Gadgets • Health • Technology
March 12th, 2014
12:00 PM ET

World Wide Web turns 25

It started as a project by a British computer scientist to make it easier for universities to share and navigate large amounts of information.

Twenty-five years on, the World Wide Web stands as perhaps our greatest ever creation: A way to access the collective knowledge of humanity.

You can watch our tribute to Sir Tim Berners-Lee's creation above and check out a recreation of the first ever webpage right here.

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Filed under: General • Technology
February 21st, 2014
09:44 AM ET

What's the big deal with WhatsApp?

So Facebook purchases the mobile messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock.

And the world raises a collective eyebrow.

Yes, the app has over 450 million monthly active users. But is it truly worth it?

According to Silicon Valley insider Om Malik, the answer is yes... if you're Mark Zuckerberg.

Malik tells me, "What seems like an insane amount of money is not insane when you feel a little worried about the long-term prospects of the company."

Click on to hear more about why Facebook forked up so much money for WhatsApp, and to see how the app's key metrics compare to its rivals.

January 31st, 2014
03:35 AM ET

Saving Nintendo

Nintendo is in trouble.

It's hard to disagree with that after it slashed its forecast for Wii U sales from 9 million to just 2.8 million. Less dramatic but perhaps just as troubling: It also cut its forecast for its market-leading 3DS handheld. Nintendo now expects to sell 13.5 million of them, down from the 18 million they originally expected.

But what's up for debate is how Nintendo can climb out of this hole. By far the most common solution suggested: Nintendo should put games like Mario and Zelda on smartphones and tablets.

I disagree.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Games • General • Personal musings • Technology
January 27th, 2014
10:36 PM ET

She made the Macintosh smile

happymac

Anyone with an older Mac probably knows this icon: A boxy all-in-one computer with a simple smiling face on screen.

Like all good symbols, the Happy Mac serves multiple purposes. The official reason it exists is to tell you that your Macintosh has begun the process of booting up without error.

More than that, the Happy Mac was a symbol of intent from Apple: This computer is friendly. It doesn't have an impenetrable interface filled with text you don't understand. The Mac has pictures. And it's smiling at you!

Susan Kare was the graphic designer who created the Happy Mac. She spoke to us about the process behind that and many of the other icons that made the original Macintosh so different to any computer before it.

FULL POST

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