YouTube Creator Plusses; Apple vs Qualcomm; Facebook Messenger Translations; Stanford Blockchain Research

YouTube has announced new ways for content creators to make money. Now, according to engadget.com, channels with over 100,000 subscribers will have access to Memberships, which will let viewers pay a monthly $4.99 fee to get exclusive access to badges, emoji, livestreams, members-only videos and shoutouts. YouTube had already offered this with Sponsorships, but that category was only available to a select group of content producers. If you have less than 100,000 subscribers, YouTube says it will offer Channel Memberships at $5 a month to more people in upcoming months. They are also partnering with Teespring for a merchandise shopping tool creators can use to sell custom gear on their channel. Initially, there are 20 different kinds of gear available. YouTube claims 1.9 billion monthly logged in viewers. 

The Apple-Qualcomm legal battle rages on. Apple has now filed petitions with the US Patent and Trademark Office challenging validity of 4 Qualcomm patents…saying they don’t cover new ideas. Macrumors.com says they cover camera autofocus, a gadget that functions as a phone and digital assistant, touch-sensitive displays, and circuit memory. This type of challenge is a favorite of Apple lawyers…Apple has filed just shy of 400 such challenges with the Patent Office. A panel of 3 judges will now consider Apple’s petition and Qualcomm’s response. Apple and Qualcomm have been hashing it out legally since early 2017, mainly in a dispute over royalties due Qualcomm.

Facebook has rolled out M Translations for Messenger. M Translations join the existing M Suggestions features that are already built into Messenger for things like quick replies, polls, and sharing your location. English-Spanish translation should now be available in both the US and Mexico. The feature was announced at Facebook’s F8 gathering earlier this year. Theverge.com reports that translation had been available for Marketplace transactions, but now all Messenger conversations have the feature. It should work pretty seamlessly. The app will note if, for example, English is your default language, and the Messenger bot will automatically pop up and offer to translate a message you receive in Spanish. Facebook says other languages will be coming, but hasn’t offered a time line as to when.

A group of crypto startups and organizations are sponsoring a new blockchain research center headquartered at Stanford University. According to coindesk.com, The Center for Blockchain Research is being led by two professors who have specialties in blockchain and cryptocurrencies. The research outfit plans to “develop best practices” for blockchain by bringing the university scientists and the industry’s top leaders together. The center will focus on designing a blockchain curriculum for both students and working professionals. The new center notes that blockchain is becoming increasingly critical to doing business globally.


Verizon Says Demand for Pixel Outstripping Supply; Flying Airbus Taxis by 2017; MacBook Pros Get Updated Again This Year; Caffeine Blocks Inflammation; Smartphone Air Freshener

The buzz on the Google Pixel phone is enough that demand at Verizon is outstripping supply. 9to5google.com says it has accounted for over 12% of smartphone sales at Verizon. Right now, it looks like you won’t be able to score most Pixel models until March!

Forget Uber…which knows nothing about flying. Airbus is shooting for testing self-flying taxis by the end of 2017! Zdnet.com reports that commuters could book an Airbus flying cab with a smartphone app. There are obvious regulatory hurdles before this can happen, but as they point out, it could free up roadways and the cost associated with them enormously. Besides Uber’s flirt with this, you have Terrafugia, Aeromobil, and EHang working on them, but Airbus is really the 800 lb. gorilla for the flying cab future, with their vast aircraft experience.

The new Macbook Pros that dropped this fall have been panned for lack of ports and battery life. Now, 9to5mac.com reports that they will be refreshed again this year, and get Intel Kaby Lake processors, and 32 gigs of ram. The processors are more stingy with power consumption, and the higher ram will ease a knock from actual pro power users who need all that memory. They will probably debut this fall.

Ok, take another big swig of that coffee! There have been numerous studies finding correlation between caffeine, coffee, and better health, but according to a new one from Stanford picked up by theverge.com, we may now know why. Caffeine may apparently be able to block inflammation! The study actually started as one on aging, but it turned out that people who consumed more caffeinated beverages had less inflammation, had lower blood pressure, and were generally healthier. Have another cup!

In the another first world problem department, isn’t it a hassle to have to change that room air freshener cartridge, or grab a can of air freshener? What if you could do it from your phone? Engadget.com says there’s an Indiegogo campaign for a tabletop air freshener called Moodoo. You can put up $139 for one, plus 4 scent capsules, and will be able to control it from your phone…including setting up ‘fragrance playlists.’ Yeah, this is a major first world problem for sure!


Apple Next Big Thing- VR; Your Twitter Timeline Isn’t Changing

Ever since Steve Jobs left the mortal world, there’s been fairly continuous hand-wringing about what Apple’s going to do when they run out of his clever ideas. Now, it appears Apple’s next big thing may well be virtual reality. What could be bigger than a powerful computer in your hand? How about dropping you into a totally computer generated world of VR, or assisting you with amazing augmented reality? Business insider.com points out that Cupertino is already staffing up, and that a division has been building VR prototypes for months, and that Apple has purchased at least 4 startups in related tech. Then, there’s the fact that Apple-ites hadn’t set foot in Stanford’s VR lab for 13 years…until lately. Now, they’ve dropped in 3 times in the last 3 months. Finally, think about the dual lens camera Apple has been placing large orders for…as we’ve reported, to go into the iPhone 7. Besides shooting stills and video at the same time, and multi focus adjustable pictures, a dual lens is good for augmented reality.

After a major freakout that Twitter was going to kill the chronological timeline, CEO Jack Dorsey had to come out over the weekend and say ‘it ain’t so.’ Dorsey says such a change was never planned, and in fact Twitter hopes to make your timeline feel more…not less…live. As engadget.com notes, the chronological feed is the feature that separates Twitter from the other social networks…and despite out of order features like ‘while you were away,’ it will continue to be a firehose of breaking news and fresh information.


Toyota Pumping a Billion into AI & Robotics in Silicon Valley; One-Touch Google Play Update

Toyota is dropping an eye-popping billion dollars in a research company it’s establishing in Silicon Valley, focusing on artificial intelligence and robotics. The automotive giant is determined to lead the way with top flight self-driving cars, in addition to applying AI and robotics to other areas of life. The AP reports that the initial facility will be near Stanford, with a second one planned later on to be set up near MIT.

Google has released version 8.3 of Google Play Services, with one tap Google sign in, and better wearable sync, according to 9to5google.com. Now, you can just press ‘Sign in with Google,’ and presto…you’re done. The update also makes signing in across devices easier, with a simpler dialog. The new version is supposed to use smarter syncing for wearables, too, improving battery life.


Cheap Way to Produce Hydrogen Continuously Discovered at Stanford

Hydrogen has been touted for years as a replacement for fossil fuels. It’s been no secret that the most common element in the universe is all around, as it helps make up water. For years, it’s been extracted from water by electrolysis. Now, geek.com says scientists at Stanford have come up with a cheaper, more efficient electrolysis process that can run 24/7. Instead of an anode and cathode and a pH barrier, the new process uses two nickel-iron oxide catalysts that can be right next to each other. The system is 82% efficient, much higher than traditional water electrolysis. If that holds up when they scale it up to mass production size, it may revolutionize making hydrogen at volumes useable by vehicles and heating and cooling plants.

It’s often fun to see what words get added to the venerable Oxford English Dictionary. Arstechnica.com reports that…amongst the 500 new words and phrases added to the latest quarterly update, you can now check the meaning of sexting, photobombing, vaping, crowdfunding, and gems like meh and twerk. Fans of actual good singing will be annoyed to find autotune in the OED now, and netbook now has an entry as well.


Samsung Working On Premium iPhone Competitor

Samsung may announce one of it’s most promising phones soon. Bgr.com says it’s the Galaxy A7. It has a 5.2 inch screen and better specs than the S5, but has a metal case for a more ‘premium’ look and feel.

Some scientists may have come up with a way to get more than 10-15% efficiency out of solar panels. Geek.com says hey imprint them with little bumps and pits like a Blu Ray Disk for a 22% boost in efficiency.

Stanford engineers have cooked up a nano-coating that reflects heat away AND directs internal heat away. Slashdot.org reports it can cool a building an extra 9 degrees.