Letter from the Editor
If you can define a year before it's halfway over, 2017 may well be the year of blurred lines. No, not the 2013 Robin Thicke song, but the lines that separate reality from fantasy. This week started off with White House officials questioning the laws of physics when Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway defended her boss's accusation via Twitter that former president Barack Obama had him wiretapped.
"What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other now, unfortunately. There was an article this week that talked about how you can surveil someone through their phones -- certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera," Conway told the Bergen County Record's Mike Kelly in an interview.
Microwaves that turn into cameras? The internet exploded. Our own Cherlynn Low debunked the baseless claim, and Conway, the mother of alternative facts, eventually admitted to CNN that she's "not Inspector Gadget" and doesn't "believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign." This particular political flub may have generated a few good laughs, but it's just one in a series of examples that bring into focus the sometimes bizarre, often unreal reality many of us find ourselves in today. In 2017, truth isn't about facts -- it's about perception.
As our coverage of SXSW 2017 shows, politics isn't the only arena where perception rules. This year, the excitement in Austin, Texas, didn't revolve around a hot new social app or politically charged panels. Instead, our attention was focused on how technology and art are merging to change the way we see the real world. Aaron Souppouris took us inside the Infinity Room, a stunning art installation that uses mirrors, sound and projection to create "alternate realities"; Devindra Hardawar took an 8K, hydraulic-assisted "virtual reality" flight over Tokyo from inside the Austin Convention Center; and Mona Lalwani explored new perspectives (see: all of them) in VR with Sony's experimental Superception.
Whether you're looking at the battle over facts between the White House and the press or the ways in which technology is looking to alter our perception of the real world, it's clear that reality is on shaky ground. We may be on a path to redefining what we all once took for granted as a shared constant. But -- and I do believe this to be capital-T true -- there's one thing we can all agree on: it's Saturday! So get out in the real world and enjoy it while it lasts.
-- Christopher Trout, Editor-in-Chief
As the battle between music streaming services heats up, exclusives have become heavy ammunition that could push customers to one service over another. On Twitter, Chance the Rapper revealed what it took for Apple Music to secure his (Grammy winning) 2016 album: "@apple gave me half a mil and a commercial to post Coloring Book exclusively on applemusic for 2 weeks."
In December someone tweeted a flashing, auto-playing image to journalist Kurt Eichenwald, who has epilepsy. The image caused a seizure, and now Eichenwald reveals that the FBI has made an arrest in the case. The suspect is facing federal charges (with more to come), while 40+ others who have also sent strobing images in the months since have also been submitted to the FBI.
People love using Google Chrome as a browser, but they don't always love its impact on battery life. Chrome already limited tabs considered "background" from updating more than once per second, but as of version 57, it aggressively limits background tabs using too much CPU power. That could have a significant impact on your PC since background tabs account for up to a third of Chrome's power usage.
A too-enthusiastic promo for the latest Disney flick popped up playing on Google Home's "My Day" rundowns this week, and as Nathan Ingraham argues, that's not what the device promised. While Google maintains the message wasn't intended as an advertisement, it's hard to interpret the unsolicited update as anything else. It sets a bad precedent, and has us all wondering how much the company considers people who purchased the $130 device as its customers vs. as the product it sells to interested "partners."
The funkiest addition to Samsung's 2017 TV lineup is The Frame. Using the company's new gapless wall-mount and single cable "Invisible Connection," it hangs just like any other canvas. Set it to Art Mode, and when not in use, it will display over 100 pieces of artwork to class up your place a bit.
If you're wondering what to watch this weekend that's not Iron Fist, try these restored nuclear test videos. Posted thanks to the collaboration of a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a film expert, they depict atmospheric nuclear tests conducted by the US government between 1945 and 1992.
This week on the podcast, Nathan Ingraham and Devindra Hardawar talk about what they've seen in Austin this week. That includes playing Rez: Infinite wearing a synesthesia suit and talking Muppets with Frank Oz. If you prefer video, try our seven-minute recap of the week that was.
But wait, there's more...
- Bad Password: Our privacy was on life support. The FCC is pulling the plug.
- Warner Bros. is reportedly considering a 'The Matrix' relaunch
- Drone vs. Patriot missile
- Sony will soon stop PS3 production and shipments in Japan
- What Trump's budget would mean for NASA and climate change
- NASA plans to make a telescope out of the Sun