All posts in “Consumer Tech”

The Winklevoss twins may have lost A LOT of money on Bitcoin

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss have a lot of bitcoin, but the coin is crashing.
Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss have a lot of bitcoin, but the coin is crashing.

Image: Theo Wargo/Getty Images For US Weekly

With Bitcoin crashing, some cryptocurrency HODLers are hurting. That might include the Winklevoss twins. 

Tyler and Cameron bought 120,000 bitcoins in late 2012 with money from the $65 million payout from their lawsuit against Facebook.

That’s more than $1.32 billion worth of bitcoin at Wednesday evening’s value of about $11,000 per bitcoin. That seems like a lot, but just two days ago a bitcoin was worth $14,000. 

Here’s the chart on Bitcoin since 2012. Up and up and up. 

Bitcoin's value since January 2012.

Bitcoin’s value since January 2012.

Image: coindesk

But then this week, it’s been down, down, down. 

Bitcoin this past week has been rough.

Bitcoin this past week has been rough.

Image: coindesk

If you do the math, if the twins held onto all of those 120,000 bitcoins, they’re down more than $350 million in just a matter of days.

But that seems like nothing if you look at how much they’ve earned since buying the bitcoins for about $10 a piece back in 2012. Overall, Bloomberg estimated, they’ve seen their personal fortunes drop 37 percent in the last month. 

There’s a chance, however, that they’re HODLing on tight. Last year, they told the New York Times that they aren’t selling their Bitcoin no matter what, saying, “We still think it is probably one of the best investments in the world and will be for the decades to come.”

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CES’ sexism problem is about more than booth babes and pink robots

Models dressed as mermaids promote a Sublue underwater scooter during CES 2018 at the Las Vegas Convention in Las Vegas.
Models dressed as mermaids promote a Sublue underwater scooter during CES 2018 at the Las Vegas Convention in Las Vegas.

Image: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

CES is a place of extremes. Each year, tech companies big and small spare no expense in coming up with bizarre ways to showcase their (often relatively mundane) gadgetry: massive tunnels made of huge OLED displays, home appliances with built-in assistants, and weird concept cars unlikely to make it far beyond the Las Vegas Convention Center floor.

But, peer behind the over-the-top displays of headline-grabbing “innovation,” and there’s a troubling truth that should come as little surprise to anyone in the industry: CES still fuels the sexist narratives so many have worked to change over the last year. 

From troubling beauty tech products (A “smart mirror” might sound cool, but it also amplifies the anxieties many women already have), to pink house-cleaning and “helper” robots, and VR porn exhibits, CES is filled with all kinds of subtle and not-so-subtle sexism.

To be clear, the annual trade show has long been criticized for sexist undertones. Male-dominated tech companies have been hiring women to work as “booth babes” since the 1960s (fun fact: they were called “CES guides” back then.) Today, “booth babes” are slightly less prominent than in years past, but the practice, as evidenced from the photo atop this post, is far from dead.

A robot by Avatarmind sits on display on opening day at the 2018 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 09 January 2018.

A robot by Avatarmind sits on display on opening day at the 2018 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 09 January 2018.

Image: LARRY W. SMITH/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

More troubling, the event’s organizers routinely fail to include women speakers. This year, CTA, the organization responsible for CES, insisted they couldn’t find a single lady tech executive that rose to their standards of being qualified to give a keynote address. It opted for a lineup consisting almost entirely of white men instead.

CES also lacks an official code of conduct with an explicit anti-harassment policy. “We don’t necessarily have specific rules because we assume everyone will be held accountable to the standards of being in an office,” CTA SVP Karen Chupka told Reuters.

Not only is this a laughably bad (lack of) policy, the #metoo movement proved it’s that kind of thinking that enables bad behavior.

And despite its insistence on ignoring women leaders, it’s more obvious than ever there’s a strong desire to hear from those voices — and that CTA does a huge disservice by not enabling them to be heard.

This year, Twitter took it upon themselves to organize its own event featuring six women in the tech industry. The relatively small event, which consisted of informal discussions highlighting the women’s experiences working in tech, proved just how valuable it is to highlight these voices. Not only was it more engaging than any dry marathon-length CES keynote I’ve attended, it was incredibly popular.

Just a couple days after the event, its livestream has been viewed more than 2 million times and there’s still a lively discussion happening around the #HereWeAre hashtag.

Maybe next year more people will get the message.

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The biggest trend at CES was sleeping through CES

It's been a long week.
It’s been a long week.

Image: BRIDGET BENNETT/MASHABLE

CES is a ruthless grind. As the largest tech convention in the world wraps up today in Las Vegas, thousands of attendees are engaged in one last push to make the most of a hectic week filled with problematic product launches, power outages, and too many sales pitches to count — and they’re dead tired. 

The cracks started to show Wednesday, technically only the convention’s second day. Mixed in among the drone-racing courses, home robots, and at least one promise of free beer (only while supplies last!), were an untold number of people from around the world just trying to catch a goddamn minute of sleep. 

From nodding off at booths, to head-in-lap moments of presumed peace, to just saying “screw it” and laying on the floor, it was abundantly clear that the biggest trend at CES was sleeping through CES. 

And then there were the recliners. 

Zzzzzzz.

Zzzzzzz.

Image: BRIDGET BENNETT/MASHABLE

The overpowering fluorescent lights and incessant din of hopeful pitches were no match for the powerful siren call of lounging chairs equipped with various types of massage tech. People lined up for the chance to lay down, close their eyes, and catch up on some much needed REM under the presumed guise of product research. 

The five or so separate recliner booths we spotted in the South Hall promising a brief moment of respite were a clear favorite among attendees. Even if it wasn’t to literally conk out, just getting off their feet for a few moments was enough for some. 

Much needed.

Much needed.

Image: BRIDGET BENNETT/MASHABLE

And yes, people were still interested in all the other tech on display. A phone that doubles as a laptop trackpad? Sure, why not. Apparent holographic video produced by spinning projectors of some kind? Don’t mind if I do! But oh, to sleep, even if just for a second. 

Bliss.

Bliss.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Clearly, even in the presence of all the cutting-edge gadgetry featured at CES, humans still must grapple with the need for good old fashioned shut-eye. 

And that’s something no drone, robot, or new phone can change (yet). 

But don’t worry, we’re sure some company somewhere is working on a product to do just that — possibly coming to a CES 2019 booth. Just don’t sleep through the sales pitch.

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I played ping pong with a robot and lost

The Omron ping pong robot vs. Mashable's Karissa Bell
The Omron ping pong robot vs. Mashable’s Karissa Bell

Image: Michelle Yan/Mashable

If you’re still unsure if robots really are taking over, CES 2018 serves as a good reminder that our future is both robot-flled and mildly terrifying.

But if our future really is a robot dystopia, at least there will be ping pong. Industrial robot maker Omron is helping making sure of that, with a massive ping-pong playing robot, called Forpheus.

Not only has Omron successfully trained Forpheus to play ping pong, it’s designed it to be a kind of coach. It attempts to match your skill level and will even send encouraging messages if its face recognition detects that you’re unhappy or frustrated. 

The automated ping pong-playing contraption was on-hand at CES, and I was able to put its skills to the test. Well, sort of. I should preface this with the fact that I am terrible at ping pong. Just awful. And playing with my robot opponent was no exception.

I opted for the robot to serve first. I returned, and it lobbed a perfect hit directly back. I attempted to return the shot but was so wildly off the mark the ball soared straight past my target — its poor robot arm was no match for my expert lack of hand-eye coordination. You can see my fine form in the clip below (starting at about the 0:45 mark):

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Of course, balls fly off the table all the time in ping pong. In these instances, Forpheus is able to grab another ball and serve again. But, this time, the robot remained still. Several seconds went by. The robot’s handlers looked slightly concerned. I looked over at the Omron reps who, to their credit, managed not to laugh at me.

“It’s… never seen a shot like that before,” one of them explained. That’s right, my shot was so bad, I momentarily confused the robot’s AI. 

Do not play ping pong with this robot.

Do not play ping pong with this robot.

Image: Karissa Bell/Mashable

Luckily, Forpheus soon got back and track and I managed to sustain one only somewhat below-average rally. It was even nice enough to beam a few words of encouragement at me through my near-constant swearing.

I don’t think my short match actually improved my ping pong game any, but I could see how it might with enough practice. Better yet, it was only slightly more embarrassing than getting owned by an actual human. 

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Bitcoin conference stops accepting bitcoin for tickets, oh the irony

Bitcoin is getting dragged for not working well as a currency at its own conference.
Bitcoin is getting dragged for not working well as a currency at its own conference.

Image: ALEX HOFFORD/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

The irony of a conference dedicated to all things cryptocurrency that’s unable to accept bitcoin payments for conference tickets is glaring.

On the North American Bitcoin Conference ticketing page — where last minute tickets are $1,000 USD for the Jan. 18-19 event in Miami — an explanation for the “no cryptocurrency” policy cites “network congestion and manual processing.”

To be fair, processing fees are high for bitcoin. The price fluctuates, but it’s gone up in recent months, reaching an average as high as $55.  This week it’s closer to $30. As Bitcoin.com reported, a growing list of merchants is pulling back from bitcoin payments. It’s not a quick and easy transaction system.

Also, bitcoin — no matter how hard we try — is not a transaction coin. It’s more about its stored value. Instead of treating it like dollar bills in a virtual wallet, it needs to be viewed more as an asset — something you wouldn’t pull out for any old purchase.

Still, the optics aren’t good on this, and show the limitations bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies face to become more mainstream. Cue the “not the Onion” jabs and bubble-bursting predictions.

Here’s the full explanation from the Bitcoin Conference ticketing page:

Due to network congestion and manual processing, we have closed ticket payments using Cryptocurrencies — Hopefully, next year there will be more unity in the community about scaling and global adoption becomes reality. 

We have, and always will, accept cryptocurrencies for our conferences, up to fourteen days before the event. However, due to the manual inputting of data in our ticketing platforms when paid in cryptocurrencies, we decided to shut down bitcoin payments for last minute sales due to print deadlines.

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