The Verge Detours season 2 returns August 27th

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Come along with The Verge for the second season of Detours. We’ve traveled across the country to find the people, groups, and companies that are solving America’s problems in new and unconventional ways.

We’ve looked far and wide, in Portland, New York, Boston, and San Francisco to find who is driving the next generation of innovation. These are the best and brightest going beyond just apps and gadgets, and they’re using science, technology, and design to attack all sorts of big problems and tough issues. We examine how groups are rethinking New York City’s approach to fighting flooding in New York City in a post-Sandy world, a new “wind wing” that could revolutionize boating, how realtime bike data is being used in urban planning,…

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Music festival PSA shows the sweaty results of a bad MDMA trip

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Electric Zoo is a three-day electronic music festival in New York, and it is very worried about you. To make sure festival visitors avoid bad trips, its organizers enlisted Dexter writer James Manos Jr. to create a two-minute PSA that warns people about the dangers of MDMA — often known by excitable youngsters in the US as “Molly.” Two people died from an overdose of the drug at the festival last year, but the new PSA might not be the most effective tactic in halting its use. According to the video, the dangers include an impressive flop sweat, the uncontrollable desire to close your eyes tight and spin around on the spot, and “golden waterfalls.” Sounds uncomfortable.

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Play this: ‘Bad Paper,’ a journalistic choose your own adventure story about debt collection

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In this week’s New York Times Magazineauthor Jake Halpern falls deep into the seedy, ethically questionable, and extraordinarily lucrative world of debt collection. His piece follows a firm in Buffalo, NY as it judges what debt packages or “paper” might prove lucrative, when bought for pennies on the dollar from banks and other businesses, and what debtors are most likely to pay up. To accompany it, Journalist Felix Salmon has developed Bad Paper for Fusion, a TV channel and website that he joined earlier this year. It’s what he calls the first of his “post-text” projects, moving into different forms of digital storytelling. More practically, though, it’s a “choose your own adventure” story where you play either a debtor trying to beat…

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Hundreds of unseen Andy Warhol films to be digitized for public screenings

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Approximately 500 movies made by pop art icon Andy Warhol, many of which have never been seen by the public, are in the process of being digitized. The project — a collaboration between The Warhol museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and two visual effects companies — will see almost 1,000 rolls of 16mm film converted to 2K resolution after being scanned frame by frame.

The painstaking process means the project is is set to take several years to complete, but some of Warhol’s unseen movies will be available for public consumption sooner than that. 15 digitized films will have their public premiere in October of this year as part of the Exposed: Songs for Unseen Warhol Films exhibition at New York’s Carnegie Music Hall. The Warhol says the…

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Watch Apple CEO Tim Cook take the ice bucket challenge

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Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is the latest notable person to undertake the Ice Bucket Challenge, and doused himself with icy water in the name of charity at a company event earlier today. The challenge was created to raise money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. So far, numerous celebrities and tech personalities have undertaken the challenge, including Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller, who posted a shots of himself getting doused on a beach today.

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Samsung buys SmartThings to gain a foothold in home automation

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Samsung, which already makes a variety of home appliances, just acquired a company that can help them work better together. The Korean company paid a reported $200 million to acquire the 2-year-old startup, which employs 55 people in Washington, DC, San Francisco, and Minnesota. Smart Things was founded to cut through the confusing network of standards that currently exist among home-automation products, and sells a $99 hub that lets appliances communicate across standards.

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Comcast, Time Warner Cable withdraw funding for dinner honoring FCC’s Clyburn

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Comcast and Time Warner Cable today withdrew their respective contributions towards a dinner that will honor FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn next month. The Kaitz Dinner is an annual event hosted by the Walter Kaitz Foundation, which champions greater diversity in the cable industry. This year, Clyburn will be honored with the “diversity advocate” award during the ceremony. According to Politico, Comcast had planned to spend $110,000 to earn itself the distinction of “presenting sponsor.” Time Warner Cable previously chipped in $22,000.

The timing of both Comcast and Time Warner Cable getting out their checkbooks raised red flags for at least one watchdog group, DC-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics. “They’re honoring an FCC…

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Microsoft’s Xbox TV studio not dead yet, reportedly looking for new home

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Xbox Entertainment Studios may have some life left, after all. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the studio has had preliminary talks with Warner Bros about possible acquisition. The deal is said to be unlikely, but it does suggest XES isn’t dead completely — even if it can’t stay at Microsoft. If a Warner Bros. deal did happen, THR’s sources say the studio would merge with Machinima, which Warner owns a minority stake in.

Microsoft had ambitious plans for Xbox as an entertainment brand, focused largely around the Xbox One console. But then it became the underdog to Sony’s 10 million-strong PlayStation 4, and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer left the company (eventually trading in Clippy for Clippers). Under new CEO Satya Nadella and even…

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Windows Phone sales decline as share shrinks to just 2.5 percent

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Windows Phone sales have been consistently increasing year-over-year each quarter for the last year, but new figures show that growth has significantly stalled recently. IDC reports that Windows Phone sales dropped by 9.4 percent in Q2 2014 compared to the same period last year. That’s a big set back for Microsoft’s Windows Phone efforts, just months after the company acquired Nokia’s phone making business. Overall, it means Windows Phone accounts for just 2.5 percent market share in the recent quarter. Compare that to the nearly 85 percent for Android and nearly 12 percent for iOS, and it’s clear to see the challenge Microsoft faces.

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Uber’s regulatory battles continue as Berlin bans the service over safety concerns

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Yet another city government is cracking down on the taxi app Uber. The Berlin State Department of Civil and Regulatory Affairs announced that it was banning the use of Uber on safety grounds and would fine the fast-growing startup roughly $33,450 if it continued operations, and will hit Uber drivers with a $26,760 fine for working with the service. This follows an April ban on Uber in Belgium and widespread taxi strikes in London, Paris, and Barcelona, which snarled streets and had local regulators scrambling for solutions. Uber also has operations in Asia, and the local government in Seoul, South Korea has been openly discussing a ban.

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YouTube’s redesigned TV app puts focus on channels and playlists

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Today YouTube announced it’s rolling out a new TV interface that’s specifically been “designed for the big screen.” The updated app is already available on Xbox One, and should be available for other set-top boxes in the very near future. Based on a quick glance, it’s a bit strange for YouTube to say the new look was specifically designed for the television; it’s really just a new sidebar that nearly identical to the one iOS and Android users are used to.

But it does succeed in making your channels and subscribed playlists easier to get to, which is a welcome change. Underneath the sidebar, YouTube still looks very similar to what was there before. But the focus here is clearly playlists and getting videos from the site’s most popular…

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Before drones, the US Air Force shot at real pilots for target practice

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As an Army Air Force pilot during World War II, one could expect to take fire from time to time — but the bullets weren’t always coming from Axis aircraft. Sometimes, it was your fellow servicemen and women taking the shots.

The Bell P-63 Kingcobra fighter, developed in 1942, never got much love from the American military, which had a preference for the legendary P-51 Mustang. Instead, over 2,400 Kingcobras ended up in Soviet control under Lend-Lease, a wartime program to provide American allies with gear to fight Germany and Japan. That doesn’t mean the US didn’t put the P-63 into service, though: it ordered a bunch as the RP-63 “Pinball,” a substantially modified P-63 designed specifically to be fired upon for target practice. Though…

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The best fitness tracker you can buy

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I sit at a desk too much. I drink too much coffee. I don’t sleep very well. I have an odd feeling those three things might be connected. This thing on my wrist agrees with that assessment.

After a few months of wearing and interacting with a fitness tracker, I have a shockingly clear picture of my lifestyle. Some of the news is good (living far from the subway is actually a good thing), some is bad (seriously: too much coffee), but it’s all eye-opening. And with the right device, it can be…

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Twitter says it will improve harassment policies after Zelda Williams quits service

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Twitter has long received flack for its weak responses to clear instances of abuse over its network, but now it finally says that it’s going to do… something. In a statement provided to The Washington Post with regard to the harassment of Zelda Williams, Twitter’s vice president of trust and safety says that the company is currently “evaluating how we can further improve our policies to better handle tragic situations like this one.” He says that may include making Twitter’s policies stricter with regard to self-harm or private information, and it could also mean better watching out for users who have just had a family member die.

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Taser wants every cop to have a head-mounted camera

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You hear a click, like the sound of a light switch. Or a pencil being snapped.

You’re facing away from it, looking straight ahead, just as you were instructed. The click and the searing pain you feel are nearly instantaneous. But your mind tricks you into thinking that there’s a distinct period between the click and your first realization that something’s gone very wrong…

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Motorola sends invites to a launch event for phones, headsets, and the Moto 360

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We’re waiting for a few things from Motorola: the 360 smartwatch, the successor to the Moto X, and anything else the company soon to be owned by Lenovo might have to show us. And on September 4th, we’re going to get at least a glimpse. Motorola has just sent out invites to press to “a Moto Launch Experience,” complete with a Cootie Catcher that opens up to reveal the phrases “Choose To Discover” and “Choose to Have Fun.” (Apparently choice is important to Motorola. Who knew?) When it closes, there are four icons: A phone with an X in the middle, a phone with a G, a watch, and what appears to be a Bluetooth headset.

This isn’t exactly the most secretive invite we’ve ever seen. We’re apparently going to see two phones, the 360, and a…

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The ‘Batman v. Superman’ movie has taken over downtown Detroit

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A wedge of space on the border of Corktown and Downtown is a mega movie set right now, thanks to the production of Batman V Superman (the release date is March 25, 2016). Streets are blocked off and security is tight, but much can still be seen of the set, which is along 6th Street from Porter to Howard. And yes, one of the things you can see in this photo gallery is Ben Affleck, who is rumored to be renting in Royal Oak this summer…

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Tom Hanks just released a typewriter app for iPad

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Tom Hanks has made it well known that he’s one of the few remaining typewriter diehards, but today he’s taking that passion digital. He’s releasing an iPad app called Hanx Writer that recreates the typewriter experience on a tablet: keys clack, the paper moves side-to-side, and new sheets need to be rolled in each time you start a page. “Hanx Writer is just my little gift to the future Luddite hipsters of the world,” Hanks tells USA Today. Hanks’ app does make some updates for the modern age, adding in impressive new technologies like a “delete” key — though those who want the true experience can set it to just cross out unwanted marks with Xs instead. Hanks created the app in collaboration with the agency Hitcents.

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