From Uber to Tumblr, The Vergecast explains it all

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Here we go, another classic episode of The Vergecast. There were a lot of little things that happened this week, and we wanted to discuss them all, so Nilay, Dieter, and Paul go through their list of hits on the site.

Also, to continue our weekly summer interview series, Nilay sits down with culture reporter Kaitlyn Tiffany to talk about her recent piece on Tumblr’s relationship with the fight over net neutrality.

There’s so much in between all of this, so listen to it all, and you’ll get it all.

1:17 – One Plus 5

4:29 – Scott Forstall breaks silence to talk about the iPhone’s creation

10:34 – First look at Samsung’s Bixby Voice preview for Galaxy S8

13:58 – Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 will reportedly be announced in August

17:10 – A…

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Monster Hunter World could finally be the series’s breakout global hit

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Ryozo Tsujimoto didn’t set out to create a Monster Hunter game aimed at Western audiences. It’s more like he stumbled upon the idea. Four years ago, Tsujimoto, who serves as producer on the upcoming Monster Hunter World, sat down with his development team at Capcom’s Osaka headquarters to brainstorm just what the next Monster Hunter should look like. Their first goal was to create a game for the modern generation of consoles. This was a big shift for a series that, despite debuting on the PS2 in 2004, has since become synonymous with portable platforms.

First, there was the question of what to do with all of that extra power. The team decided they wanted to create a world that was much more realistic than in games past. A place where the…

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Does Disney want its directors to have creative freedom?

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Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have been booted from the upcoming Han Solo movie — right in the middle of shooting — over creative differences with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter and Star Wars creative legend Lawrence Kasdan. Ron Howard has reportedly stepped in to fill the void, but he’ll need to pick up where Lord and Miller left off, without much runway to do it.

The Han Solo movie is one of the most high-profile projects in Hollywood, the first standalone Star Wars film to dig into a beloved character’s backstory. It’s a potential cash-cow for Disney, Lucasfilm’s parent company, and if done well, a blueprint for future origin-story films. Getting it right is clearly of paramount importance to the studio….

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YouTube TV is expanding to 10 new markets

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YouTube TV will expand to 10 more cities across the US, the company announced yesterday. The OTT service will expand to Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Houston, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, Phoenix, and Washington, DC.

The expansion comes two months after the launch of YouTube TV, which is currently only available in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and the San Francisco Bay Area. The slow rollout is due to the fact that YouTube TV heavily relies on the big four broadcast networks to compensate for its lack of channels (no Viacom networks, for one). So it needs to strike deals with affiliates in each city it launches in.

The company will need to speed up its…

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Watch SpaceX launch and land a recycled Falcon 9 rocket this afternoon

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This afternoon, SpaceX is set to launch a used Falcon 9 rocket for the second time ever. The rocket will take off from SpaceX’s launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and it’s sending a communications satellite into a super-high orbit around Earth. The launch is scheduled to occur as early as 2:10PM ET, but SpaceX has a 2-hour window during which it can fire up the Falcon 9. You can watch a live stream of the launch above — coverage should begin around 2PM ET.

The satellite being launched today is BulgariaSat-1, which is owned and operated by Bulgarian TV service provider Bulsatcomm. It’ll be riding into orbit on the same Falcon 9 that SpaceX used to launch 10 satellites for Iridium in January of this year.

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Microsoft’s Whiteboard app leaks, shows the future of Windows 10 stylus support

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Microsoft first demonstrated its Whiteboard app for Windows 10 back at the company’s Surface Pro event in May. While the software maker promised it will launch later this year, an early copy of Whiteboard has leaked onto the internet today. It features many of the abilities that Microsoft demonstrated, including automatic inking to shapes and tables as well as the ability to see angles on shapes.

It appears that the Whiteboard app is targeted towards schools as this particular version is “Education Preview.” Microsoft has also included a ruler for more precise inking, and a variety of basic pens and highlighters. One of the more interesting additions is the ability to insert images from the web and automatic creation of an equation chart…

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Amazon’s vision for the future: delivery drone beehives in every city

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Amazon’s drone delivery program stopped being a joke a while ago, but the company still has to overcome serious challenges to make the technology actually work. One of these is getting drones near enough to large populations so they’re more efficient than regular road delivery. Amazon has an idea for that though: Huge. Drone. Beehives.

In a patent application published yesterday, Amazon described how “multi-level fulfillment centers for unmanned aerial vehicles” could help put drones where they’re needed. The application notes that due to “their large footprint,” current warehouses are located “on the outskirts of cities where space is available.” But multi-story drone centers could be built vertically, rather than horizontally,…

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Chicago’s new Apple store has a giant MacBook for a roof

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Construction is underway at the new Apple store in downtown Chicago, and today, as reported by DNA Chicago, a new design element was added — a giant Apple logo. A construction crew laid out the logo on the store’s silver, rectangular roof, making it look like a giant MacBook. It stayed for less than an hour before crews rolled up the logo and removed it.

Designed by London-based Foster+Partners, the store is a relocation of Apple’s original Chicago flagship and is a 20,000-square-foot space which, upon completion, will have all-glass walls and a thin, carbon fiber roof… that looks like a MacBook.

The first renderings were originally unveiled in 2015, and touted the project’s “echo” to Prairie Style homes. As the Chicago Tribune…

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YouTube Red originals have racked up nearly 250 million views

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The eighth annual VidCon starts today, and all eyes are on YouTube, the world’s biggest platform for online video. It’s been almost two years since the company announced Red, its subscription service, and began creating ad-free original content that would exist behind a paywall. While the company hasn’t shared any hard subscriber numbers yet, it’s made clear that its bet on original programming is only going to grow.

For its first season, YouTube Red produced 24 films and series. This year, the company plans to produce more than 40 originals, and will reportedly commit hundreds of millions of dollars to the effort. While expanding its efforts around originals, YouTube is also making one major strategic change. The first slate of…

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Google is launching a new line of cameras for 180-degree VR video

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Google is launching a new, more limited cinematic VR format that it hopes will be almost as accessible as regular YouTube videos. It’s called VR180, a collaboration between YouTube and Google’s Daydream VR division. And it’ll be produced with a new line of cameras from Yi, Lenovo, and LG, as well as other partners who meet VR180 certification standards.

As the name suggests, VR180 videos don’t stretch all the way around a viewer in VR. They’re supposed to be immersive if you’re facing forward, but you can’t turn and glance behind you. Outside VR, they’ll appear as traditional flat videos, but you can watch them in 3D virtual reality through the YouTube app with a Google Cardboard, Daydream, or PlayStation VR headset.

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Asus’ new Vivobook S has slim bezels, a 7th-generation processor, and only costs $700

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Asus launched a new VivoBook S, the S510, today that features a seventh-generation Intel Core i7 processor, runs Windows 10, and is designed to look nearly identical to the MacBook Air. The laptop weighs only 3.3 pounds and has 7.8mm-thick bezel.

Here are the specs:

  • 15.6-inch Full HD, 1920 x 1280 display
  • Either Intel Core i7-7500U or i7-7200U processor (depending on model)
  • 8GB of RAM
  • Ports: USB-C, USB Type-A, USB 2.0, HDMI, headphone jack
  • Up to 1TB of storage (depending on model)
  • Windows 10 Home
  • Included SD card reader

It starts at $699 and goes up to $799 for a better processor and more storage. It’s available through Asus’ online store, ABT, B&H, Computer Upgrade King, and Newegg.

Asus debuted its VivoBook S line at Computex this…

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Airbnb reportedly launching a premium tier to compete with hotels

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Airbnb is getting ready to launch a new premium service meant to attract higher-paying travelers, according to Bloomberg. This tier will try to lure new customers who have yet to try the platform because they prefer the amenities that come with upscale hotels.

This is the first time upscale properties will be segmented into their own category, and Bloomberg’s sources say the included listings will be officially inspected by Airbnb to make sure the homes meet designated standards and will offer incentives for participants — like a consultation with an Airbnb-provided interior decorator. Requirements for the program include new and matching bedding, single-use toiletries, available bottled water, tea, and coffee, and other amenities…

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Cracking the egg mystery: what makes eggs round or pointy?

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Scientists may have just cracked the mystery of why bird eggs come in all shapes and sizes: it has to do with the bird’s ability to soar up in the sky — and the body changes wrought by years of evolution.

Egg shapes are incredibly diverse among bird species: hummingbirds lay eggs in the shape of Tic Tacs; owls make globe-like eggs; and sand pipers lay pointy eggs shaped like raindrops. But how did different egg shapes evolve, and why?

Through the years, scientists have come up with many explanations: birds that make their nests on cliffs tend to lay pointy eggs because if a pointy egg is bumped, it will spin in a circle instead of rolling off the edge of the cliff. Birds with a diet low in calcium make round eggs because they require the…

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Airbnb is testing split payments so you won’t have to nag your friends

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Airbnb is testing a feature that should have existed ages ago: split payments.

Currently, if you book an Airbnb for a group of people, one person has to charge the entire expense, and if there’s a need to collect payments from other parties, well, that’s on you. Now, as reported by The Next Web, Airbnb is testing a function with a small group of listings that allows payments to be split up to 16 ways beforehand.

Airbnb has been rolling out several updates this year to make the service more streamlined and easier to use — like standardizing the check-in process with host-supplied photos and text instructions. Adding split payments is a welcome, but long-overdue update that comes with plenty of benefits (no more nagging your friends for…

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Mark Zuckerberg just unveiled Facebook’s new mission statement

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When asked about his life’s work, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has traditionally fallen back on a somewhat nebulous answer: making “the world more open and connected.” It was an almost quaint euphemism for the company’s more capitalistic goals of vacuuming up the attention of billions of humans and selling boatloads of advertising. Yet even for Zuckerberg, who does earnestly believe in Facebook’s power to continue transforming the world and improving our lives, that mission statement no longer cuts it.

So the company is unveiling a new one: “To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” It’s a culmination of months, perhaps years, of apparent soul-searching on Zuckerberg’s part and…

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The best deals on Steam’s summer sale: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Mafia III, and more

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Valve’s summer sale on Steam kicks off today, bringing with it savings on popular PC titles. If you’ve held off on games like Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Mafia III, or Rocket League, now is the time to grab them.

Shadow of Mordor: Game of the Year Edition is only $3.99, 80 percent off its usual price. If you missed Mafia III when it launched last year, you can now grab it at a discounted price of $14.79. A slew of Final Fantasy games on Steam — which includes Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, the Final Fantasy X and X-2 Remaster, and many more — are also half-off, as are games in the Call of Duty franchise.

Award-winning indie titles like Abzu, Transistor, and Hyper Light Drifter are also on sale for $5.99,…

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Ford’s on-demand bus service Chariot expands to Seattle

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Chariot, the on-demand shuttle startup owned by Ford, is bringing its app-based, crowdsourced transit service to the traffic-choked streets of Seattle.

Chariot, which has been operating in San Francisco since 2014, is part of a recent trend of bus startups that use algorithms to develop transit routes based on user demand. Using the app, customers can book a seat in one of the company’s blue-and-white shuttle vans for around $4 a trip. It’s a cheaper but less convenient alternative to ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. The company sold to Ford in 2016 for $65 million; a month later it expanded to Austin.

But the new transportation option won’t be immediately available to all Seattle…

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Bionik’s Power Plate keeps your Joy-Con controllers playable while they charge

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The Nintendo Switch was very difficult to charge with anything but a Nintendo-branded wall charger when it was first released. But life is improving for people who want use the Switch for more than a few hours away from a dock — although we’re still waiting on that holy grail solution.

Bionik is about to offer the Power Plate, a 4,500mAh battery that can snap on two Joy-Con controllers to charge them while you’re playing. It also has USB-C out to charge a Switch, with enough juice for one full console charge. It’s ideal for anyone whose favorite way to play a Switch is with Joy-Con docked on the sides. Are there people like that?

Also, if you can’t afford or find a Switch, you could just use this to play pretend: as Gizmodo points out,…

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This smart bike lock will disable your phone when you ride

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Most states in the US have banned texting and driving, but what about texting and biking? Dutch telecom provider KPN is developing the Smart Lock, which will disable the mobile network on your smartphone once you unlock your bike using the app. Designed in partnership with the Dutch Traffic Safety Association, the Smart Lock is targeted at kids to promote “the safe use of smartphones in traffic.”

While this seems like a good idea at first glance — it’ll probably stop distracted kids from riding dangerously — there are a number of issues with locking down your smartphone like this.

For one: navigation won’t work, unless you save your maps offline. Neither will Spotify and Apple Music. And what happens if you crash? Or the phone dies and…

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The Holo app is a tease of what’s to come with AR on the iPhone

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The most exciting thing about Apple’s recent announcement of iOS 11 at WWDC, to me, was ARKit. The idea that augmented reality is going to be baked into the mobile operating system means all sorts of weird stuff is on the way this fall. If, like me, you’re anxious to play around with AR, but you also don’t want to burden your iPhone with a buggy developer beta version of iOS 11, a new app called Holo is almost good enough to scratch that itch.

Holo was created by a VR / AR company called 8i, which we actually profiled back in February. It’s a simple app that lets you place “holograms” — essentially animated 3D models of people or animals — in your world using your iPhone’s screen as a viewfinder. There’s a burgeoning “store” inside the…

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