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How Facebook’s crisis PR firm triggered a PR crisis

Pretend for a moment that you run a large and successful company. After years of outsized success, the company is confronted with a crisis. Public perception has begun to turn — against your company in general, and against you specifically — and your leadership team is now presented with the question of what to do.

Your head of communications is charged with managing the public response. In time it will come out that this response including hiring a public relations agency whose work includes what is euphemistically referred to as “opposition research” and is more commonly understood to involve smear campaigns. These campaigns target you critics with attacks that are tinged with anti-Semitism and employ the services of a partisan “news”...

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Xiaomi made a 150-inch $2,000 projector that’s available exclusively

Xiaomi has a couple of new products out in Walmart and gave press the rundown today at an event in New York City. The first is a 150-inch projector going for $1,999.99 at Walmart doubles up as a television with Android TV. It’s strangely overpriced for what it is, but it also marks one of Xiaomi’s infrequent expansions into American offerings.

There are a couple of things to break down here, namely that projector is oddly expensive for a 1920 x 1080p screen. Xiaomi says it has no concrete plans to bring a 4K version to the US, and that this is the same model it’s sold in China. You could have found cheaper 1080p projectors back in 2016.

Still, the projector has a number of positives including an ultra-short throw, so it can be placed 20...

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Verily pauses research on glucose-sensing contact lens

Verily, previously Google Life Sciences, is putting a hold on its program to build a contact lens that can monitor glucose in tears. First announced in 2014, the glucose lens has been one of Verily’s highest-profile projects, even as experts suggested the entire project was a pipe dream.

The lens — which was supposed to contain a tiny wireless chip and glucose monitor — was intended to help diabetic patients. People with diabetes need to carefully monitor their glucose levels, but all the existing monitoring options involve needles and can be painful. For many life science companies, building a needleless blood monitor is the holy grail of the industry, especially because 592 million people worldwide are expected to have diabetes by...

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With FilmStruck disappearing, Criterion is launching its own streaming

In the wake of WarnerMedia’s decision to shutter FilmStruck, The Criterion Collection is planning to launch its own standalone streaming service in spring 2019.

The new service, “The Criterion Channel,” will allow subscribers to stream the company’s library of celebrated films, ranging from Hollywood classics to arthouse cult films and foreign pictures. A blog post on the company’s site confirms The Criterion Channel will also be available on “WarnerMedia’s new consumer platform when it launches late next year.”

The decision to launch The Criterion Channel follows the heartbreaking news for cinephiles that FilmStruck, Warner Bros.’ classic Hollywood movie streaming service, would shutter at the end of November. FilmStruck had an...

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The internet is celebrating Danny DeVito this week

Sometimes, people can have really astounding weeks: they get engaged, promoted, and win their local karaoke competition all within a few days. Other times, they can have really terrible weeks: they go through a rough breakup, get fired, and are forced to listen to seven horrible rendition’s of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” at their local karaoke competition.

Danny DeVito had a legendary week — on the internet, at least. DeVito, who has become best known in recent years for his portrayal of Frank Reynolds on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, has long been a staple of internet culture. People adore DeVito and his strange character roles or commercials he stars in, but this week has seen an influx of strange DeVito stories celebrating...

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Verizon will launch RCS text messaging in early 2019

Yesterday at a small, business-focused GSMA event in New Jersey, Verizon’s SVP of consumer products, Aparna Khurjekar, announced that Verizon will launch support for RCS messaging in “early 2019.” The move is potentially significant as RCS is the new texting standard set to replace SMS just as soon as carriers around the world update their systems to support it.

More specifically, RCS Chat will replace SMS if carriers update their systems to support the “Universal Profile,” the version of RCS technology that allows messages to interoperate cleanly between carriers. Currently, very few do; in the US, that list includes Sprint, US Cellular, and limited support on T-Mobile. Other carriers like AT&T and Verizon use a proprietary texting...

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This might be Google’s budget Pixel, complete with headphone jack

Surely you remember the fateful week when Google’s big day was spoiled — when Russian bloggers revealed the Pixel 3 phone to the world in all its glorious detail? We still don’t know how, exactly, a batch of phones fell into their hands, but it may have just happened again: Russian tech blog Rozetked claims that you’re looking at the first images of the “Pixel 3 Lite.”

And unless our eyes deceive us, this phone comes with a bona fide headphone jack.

According to the publication, this Pixel 3 Lite has a 5.56-inch, 2220 x 1080-pixel IPS display, a plastic case, and a Snapdragon 670 processor, all of which would make it a cheaper Pixel but probably not a smaller one.

The existing Pixel 3 has a 5.5-inch screen, too — but G...

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Microsoft made an app to rate your facial expressions against emojis

Microsoft has launched a free Windows app that uses machine learning to guess the facial expression you’re making when imitating an emoji. Called Emoji8, the app gives you a score for how well you recreate the emoji, and it’s mostly meant to show off the capabilities of this brand of artificial intelligence in an accessible way.

The app serves up an emoji for you to mimic, analyzes the video feed from your computer’s webcam, then tells you your percentage of accuracy. Then, oddly, it gives you the option of creating a gif with some of your “craziest facial expressions” to share on Twitter. On Microsoft’s end, Emoji8 is supposed to show how quick and flexible its machine learning prowess is. From a user end, it’s a bit weird to show off...

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Facebook-linked PR firm Definers pushed criticism of Apple, Google, an

As Facebook reels from a bombshell New York Times report published this week, much of the focus has been on a controversial public relations firm hired by the company. Definers Public Affairs, a DC organization, pressed reporters with information favorable to Facebook, including by linking liberal billionaire George Soros to the funding of anti-Facebook activities.

Since the report was published, a fuller scope of the group’s activities has been established. The group also pitched reporters on negative articles about other tech companies: the Times and Business Insider have noted that the firm sought to portray Google and Apple in a negative light, and similar emails were also received by The Verge. According to CNN, one pitch about...

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Netflix’s Cam is an unsettling thriller about losing your online ide

There’s a moment about two-thirds of the way through Netflix’s creepy new tech thriller Cam where audiences will think they have a pretty good handle on where the movie is headed. Alice (Madeline Brewer), a cam girl who goes by the online name “Lola,” is trying to figure out what’s going on with her account. It’s been hijacked by a woman who appears to be her doppelgänger, someone regularly performing live broadcasts in her name. And none of the fans who send her money can tell the difference.

Given the timely concerns about deepfakes and altered video, it’s natural to assume the film will eventually head toward some sort of explain-it-all climax, using technology and machine learning as a boogeyman, and dissipating all the tension and...

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