Facebook Buys Oculus VR…There Goes The Metaverse?

on Tuesday, Mar. 25th

Here’s one that none of us saw coming.

Facebook just bought Oculus VR, creators of the much buzzed about Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. From the Oculus blog:

A few months ago, Mark, Chris, and Cory from the Facebook team came down to visit our office, see the latest demos, and discuss how we could work together to bring our vision to millions of people. As we talked more, we discovered the two teams shared an even deeper vision of creating a new platform for interaction that allows billions of people to connect in a way never before possible.

Today, we’re pleased to announce that we’ve joined forces with Facebook to create the best virtual reality platform in the world.

At first glance, it might not seem obvious why Oculus is partnering with Facebook, a company focused on connecting people, investing in internet access for the world and pushing an open computing platform. But when you consider it more carefully, we’re culturally aligned with a focus on innovating and hiring the best and brightest; we believe communication drives new platforms; we want to contribute to a more open, connected world; and we both see virtual reality as the next step.

My instant reaction: April 1st is a week away, what gives?

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Erik Moore, Venture Capitalist, ‘Unapologetically Black’

on Monday, Mar. 17th

Erik Moore’s career in venture capital began with a hot tub.

It sounds like the ultimate Bay Area cliché, perhaps even more vividly so when you hear that the hot tub in question was destined for the downtown building once sought after by flashy former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown.

It was 1999, and Tony Hsieh, one of the building’s well-to-do tenants, had just sold his first company to Microsoft. Hsieh wanted to install a Jacuzzi in his penthouse apartment – but it was against policy in the building, where Moore lived, too. After the fellow tenants ran into each other one night, Hsieh drafted Moore onto the homeowner’s association. They got the sought-after hot tub installed, and became friends.

Good enough friends that Moore invested in Hsieh’s company, one called Zappos.

At the time, he told Hsieh, “I’m not sure I have ever heard of a more stupid idea than selling shoes online.” But, deciding that Hsieh’s obvious talents as an entrepreneur outweighed the apparent dead-end nature of the internet service that became Zappos (which was later acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion) Moore made the investment that eventually provided the seed money for his venture capital fund, Base Ventures. (more…)

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Tickets For MLG Championship’s Return To Anaheim Go On Sale

on Friday, Mar. 14th

Over the past few years video games have been growing in popularity as a spectator sport. Millions of gamers watch each other online and thousands show up for live events.

Major League Gaming, which has been in the eSports business for over a decade now, brings its championship tournament back to Anaheim, CA in June and the promoter expects to break last years attendance record of 21,000 fans.

At the moment three game tournaments have been announced: Call of Duty: Ghosts, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, and a returning favorite Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Melee. $135,000 in prizes have been announced for these three championships combined.

Details on the games after the jump.

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McAfee: Target Data Heist Made Possible By Cybercrime Service Industry

on Monday, Mar. 10th

The latest quarterly report by computer security firm McAfee Labs says that the massive Target data breach occurred with the help of a cybercrime service industry:

That industry allowed the thieves to not only buy custom-made malware for the theft, but also to quickly sell credit card numbers from 40 million shoppers affected by the breach. The thieves sold the numbers through online back-channels that security experts call the “dark web,” the company said.

Every night is service industry night on the Internet, and it’s always nighttime somewhere!

Via CNBC

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Reflections on Innovation Past and Present, From SF Designer Yves Behar

on Wednesday, Feb. 26th

When San Francisco designer Yves Behar was 14 years old and living in his native Switzerland, he had a design epiphany, thanks to the Sony Walkman.

An aunt had sent the device to Behar, who’s now the Chief Creative officer of Jawbone, as a gift. He told the crowd at this week’s Launch Festival that for a teenager, being able to carry his music around was revelatory enough, but there was more — the ability to plug in a second headset, allowing him and a girlfriend to create an intimate world, free from adult intervention.

This seeded his philosophy that if you’re treating customers well — emotionally, ergonomically then you’re probably practicing good design. (more…)

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YCombinator Founder: “Starting a Startup Hurts”

on Monday, Feb. 24th

The founder of YCombinator is very, very happy that he’ll no longer be running that startup incubator.

That was a recurring theme of Paul Graham’s “Fireside Chat” with Launch founder Jason Calacanis, in which Graham also touched on various lessons from working with more than 600 startups, and being flamed on Twitter for comments about foreign accents and women in tech. (more…)

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Eat Your Heart Out, Snapchat: Facebook Buys Whatsapp for $16b

on Wednesday, Feb. 19th

After this afternoon’s news that Facebook is purchasing messaging app Whatsapp for $16 billion, there’s a sentiment that’s swirling around in the non-tech Twitterverse: “how can an app we’ve never heard of” be worth this much? (Emphasis mine).

Sequoia Capital’s blog has a celebratory post that breaks down some of the numbers, including a key one: Whatsapp has 450 million users.

And a lot of those users are in India and the UK, where the app took off a full year before I began noticing American friends appearing in my contacts list.
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The Allure of Anonymous Confessional Apps Secret and Whisper

on Wednesday, Feb. 19th

This post was also published on NPR’s All Tech Considered.

“I’m worth 83.7 million dollars and bored out of my mind.”

“My friend who is a banker just told me he’s working on Dropbox’s IPO…oooh.”

“The drug use in Silicon Valley is outrageous. So are the inflated egos. It’s like LA for smart, ugly people.”

Declarations like these — some plaintive, some fueled by professional frustration, and some just plain gossipy — tumble forth anonymously on the new app Secret, and because many of them seem to be coming from within the booming tech industry, the app has built early buzz. But if Secret, designed to maximize sharing and minimize risk, picks up traction, the whistleblower-enabling capability of the app could have implications for a broad range of industries that would prefer their workers be quiet as kept.
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Dorkiness Breakthrough! Scientists Create That Lamer-Than-Glass Look!

on Monday, Feb. 10th

For a minute there I was worried. What appeared to be the quintessentially dorky technology–Google Glass–is being spotted in the wild with alarming frequency. So much so that it is almost starting to seem normal

Scientists at Keio University in Japan have averted the “peak dork” disaster we have all been headed for by unleashing this demo video for the Neurocam. This device combines the power of the Neurosky Mind Wave Mobile brainwave reader, the computational might of an iPhone and the aesthetics of 1980s video game peripherals to create a piece of wearable technology that no human being will ever look cool using.

Sergey Brin probably has five of them already.

What does it do, besides rival the pocket protector has a badge of nerdly courage? The device uses the Mind Wave Mobile to gauge interest and automatically record videos of things the users find interesting. Like the dog butt featured in the video above.

This is, of course, just a prototype. According to Kurzweil A.I. “the researchers plan to make the device smaller, more comfortable, and fashionable to wear.”

Look: this stuff is actually fascinating… but it is exceptionally hard to take seriously when the demo video is of a girl with an iPhone strapped to the side of her head.

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California Regulators Say Coding Bootcamps “In Good Faith” Won’t Be Shut Down

on Monday, Feb. 3rd

The cease and desist letters sent to so-called “hacker schools” in California is an attempt to protect students, not entrenched educational institutions.

That, according to the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE), the state agency that regulates non-accredited schools (with some exceptions, like the Corinthian schools, and those that charge less than $2500 for the entire course of instruction). (more…)

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Augmented Reality: German Firm Shows Off Touch Based UI

We seem to be on a collision course with wearable computing.

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Will VR’s Killer App Make You Sick?

Polygon’s Ben Kuchera has a close-in look at the design philosophy going into Eve: Valkyrie, the “killer app” for virtual reality systems.

Image: Rachel I. Berman (Alice); Publicity image by Darial Sneed for Then She Fell.

Immersive Cinema And The Age of Voxelpunk

In the wake of the Facebook acquisition of Oculus VR the issue of the future of virtual reality beyond games has stepped into the media spotlight.

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Tribeca’s Storyscapes Returns For An Epic Second Year

The Tribeca Film Festival leapt into the vanguard of transmedia art last year with the inaugural edition of Storyscapes, an event led by TriBeCa’s Director of Digital Initiatives Ingrid Kopp.

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Simple Machine Announces Micro-Festival Grants

We’ve been keeping up with Simple Machine, the independent film curation tool for festival and art house programmers, since running across their booth at South By Southwest last year.

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