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In the early '90s, four odd-looking arcade games appeared at a rented-out store in my local mall. For about seven dollars, anyone could stop in and play three minutes of a new virtual reality game called Dactyl Nightmare. I paid up, put on the massive helmet... and then the game was over before I'd even figured out what I was doing in the blocky, chessboard-like environment. The whole experience left a lot to be desired and I never went back. It certainly wasn't the first VR experience (or the most advanced) made available for public consumption, but it sums up how many felt about the ill-fated, first wave of consumer-facing VR projects: all hype and not enough substance. The times and technology have changed, though, and it's finally time for round two. VR systems are being developed and promoted at a rate that outstrips the previous era, with better graphics and games (and far less queasiness) than ever before. VR, it seems, is just about ready for prime time. So to commemorate its second coming, let's take a look at virtual reality's bumpy road to mainstream recognition.

[Image: AP Photo/Mark Cowan]

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Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you'll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.

Why VFX Is Being Vilified
by Raqi Syed & Sonya Teich
Motherboard

By now, you've heard someone complain about the prevalence of visual effects in movies. Perhaps you've groaned about it yourself. Sure, there are varying degrees of execution, and some of the results that made the final cut have been downright awful. Take Avengers: Age of Ultron for example. The film was a massive success at the box office, but critics griped about the role visual effects played in the bulk of the action. Is all the post-production to blame for ruining movies?

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Ecocapsule is a small, egg-shaped abode that could be the perfect home for someone who wants to let it all go like Elsa and live off the grid. Its roof is decked with 600W solar cells and a built-in 750W wind turbine that store the energy they harness into a high-power battery. The structure's shape also allows its inhabitant to collect rainwater by placing containers around it. Since it measures just 14.6 feet long by 7.4 feet wide by 8.4 feet tall, anyone who isn't into tiny houses (and we do mean tiny houses) might feel more than a bit claustrophobic inside. Its designers, Nice Architects from Slovakia, made good use of every inch of interior space, though, fitting in a folding bed, a small kitchen, a dining area, a shower and flushable toilet, and even some storage space.

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As depressing as it may be, selfie sticks are inescapable despite how many places ban them. It's a sad truth of the future we live in. But! An enterprising artist by the name of Pablo Garcia has figured out a way to "reduce vainglory and self-importance" by adding pixely emoji to the reviled smartphone accessory. It's a bit more difficult than it looks, though. Garcia says he employed elements of anamorphosis, a technique to distort an image so that it's only visible from a specific angle, to make sure the smiling pile of poop, thumbs up and party horn appear correctly when shot from the smartphone's extended perspective. Is there some bigger message or implication here? "Perhaps it's a sober reminder of your mortality in the midst of your vainglory, or simply a pile of poop with eyes," Garcia writes. There you have it folks: sometimes a rose really is just a (smelly) rose.

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Congress Rdp

The USA Freedom Act aimed at addressing the NSA's bulk collecting of phone call metadata was approved by the House of Representatives ten days ago, but blocked by the Senate tonight (live video stream here). The Section 215 provisions of the Patriot Act used to enact the program are set to expire June 1st, and it could go away if a compromise isn't reached to extend it. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky filibustered to push the vote to this late hour, while Sen. Mitch McConnell pushed for a series of extensions to the program, claiming the security of the country could be at risk. The Senate is taking a weeklong Memorial Day break, but will come back on May 31st for more discussion and probably more voting. The voting is done for tonight, but we expect much more discussion over the next week.

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Android's factory reset function isn't as effective as we'd all like it to be, according to a team of Cambridge University researchers. The group estimates that as many as 500 to 630 million Android devices might not be capable of completely wiping the data saved in their internal disks and SD cards. They came to that conclusion after testing 21 devices running Android 2.3 to 4.3 from five different manufacturers that already went through factory reset. During their tests, they were able to recover at least part of the data stored in each sample device -- even if it was protected with full-disk encryption.

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Inside Etsy Inc.'s DUMBO Headquarters Following Company's IPO

There's a lot to love about Etsy -- it's one of the best places on the internet to find all sorts of stuff like minimalist Captain America prints or laser-cut Deathly Hallows earrings, but shipping windows are kind of a crapshoot. That could change because Amazon is apparently emailing some of the hand-crafted goods emporium's sellers and offering them to peddle their wares, according to The Wall Street Journal. The forthcoming section on Bezo's ecommerce behemoth is called Handmade, and invites lead to a survey asking about what categories the wares would fall under (11 total, including baby, apparel, pet supplies) but there isn't any word about when the section will go live.

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Dating apps are often characterized as 21st century "meat markets" and, thanks to this Dutch art installation, Tinder's getting uncomfortably close the real thing. The piece, appropriately called Tender, was built by four students at Leiden University in the Netherland. It's scheduled to debut at the Habitat art exhibition at Radion Amsterdam next weekend. But don't worry about getting hooked up with cold cuts, the app is actually a Tinder knockoff called 6Tin and that's an instant dealbreaker.

[Image Credit: The Ministry of Gifs]

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Hillary Clinton Says Her Use Of Private E-Mail Was Legal

Worried that your own inbox isn't keeping you busy enough? Following a judge's request to release emails from Hillary Clinton's private account on a rolling basis, the State Department posted some 296 of them to its Freedom of Information Act website. The emails are from Clinton's time as Secretary of State between 2009 and 2013, and have come under scrutiny because she used a private email server for correspondence instead of her official email address. An investigation into attacks in Benhazi, Libya and Clinton's run for President in 2016 have made the emails (and her decision to selectively turn over archives to the State Department before wiping the email server) an issue. You can read through them here, or enjoy a long holiday weekend -- we wonder if that's a coincidence?

[Image credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]

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Mad Max: Fury Road is already one of the year's best movies, but you know what was missing in all of director George Miller's gear grinding under the desert sun? Mario Kart's banana peels and green shells. Check out the video below for a quick look at the mashup that'll almost positively never, ever happen: Chomp chains destroying dune-buggies, Bob-ombs attached to the kamikaze-like warboys' staffs and so, so, so much more mayhem than Nintendo would likely ever allow. We're just going to have to close our eyes (for a different reason this time) and imagine sucking dairy dust from our teeth in Cheese Land in a Mercedes is the same thing.

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