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How vape pens allow you to better manage your high

This post is part of our High-tech High series, which explores weed innovations, and our cultural relationship with cannabis, as legalization in several U.S. states, Canada, and Uruguay moves the market further out of the shadows.


For many, the days of palming eighths from a seedy dealer are over — as states scramble to legalize recreational and medical marijuana, consuming weed has become sleeker, cleaner, and more complicated

With the influx of cannabis-related products in legal states, shopping for weed is all the more confusing. How much THC should you look for in your vape pods? What the hell is a terpene? Should your vapes produce massive mango-scented clouds? 

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of flavors to try, much less the kind of high you’re trying to achieve. 

“There’s a unique synergy that goes on with those molecules,” Jeffrey Raber said over a phone call. Raber has a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Southern California and founded The Werc Shop, one of the first research laboratories testing cannabis. 

According to Raber, recreational users aren’t just looking to get high, but are seeking specific effects “based on these molecules being present.” 

Here’s the rundown on what you should look for in a good cannabis oil vape, often just referred to as a  pen.

Sativa or Indica?

If you’ve ever passed around a joint, you’ve probably asked the seminal question for all stoners: Is this a sativa or indica? 

While indica-dominant strains are known for the most stereotypical, clouded “couch lock” high, sativas claim to promote creativity with a clear mind. Raber says that’s mostly bullshit. 

“The potential for these effects is absolutely real,” he said. “Do they come from those plants labeled or designated as those types of botany definitions? That’s very mixed up.” 

Here’s the thing: Labeling something as a sativa or indica doesn’t tell you much except what the plant looks like. Cultivators still categorize strains by indica and sativa labels to denote growth patterns and physical traits. As Weedmaps puts it, “Botanists use these terms to classify plants on the basis of shared characteristics, not on their effects on the human body.”

“It’s unfair to tell an insomniac an ‘indica-like’ plant is going to give you a sedative effect and you’ll be able to sleep better, when in fact it may not,” Raber said.

According to Raber, most strains are pretty hybridized at this point. If you’re looking for a specific kind of high, you should keep an eye out for terpenes. 

What the heck is a terpene?

Terpenes are oils found in all plant life — Raber calls them the “fundamental building blocks” for flora to communicate with the world around it, from attracting insects to releasing scents.

“Different terpene mixtures will define what makes different cultivar strains of cannabis,” Raber said. If you remove the THC and CBD from a strain, the defining factors differentiating each strain are the terpenes present.

Lavender oil, for example contains linalool, a terpene found to induce relaxation and reduce anxiety. When combined with CBD, it can produce a sedative-like high. 

Researchers have found that terpenes work along with cannabinoids like CBD and THC to have an “ensemble” or “entourage” effect. 

“Cannabinoids are important for turning it on,” Raber explained. “But which direction is goes is gonna be determined by which terpenes and other minor cannabinoids are around them.”

So if a cannabinoid — like THC, for example — is your acceleration, then terpenes are your steering wheel. Instead of falling for what Raber calls the “name game” of increasingly bizarre labels for new strains, the chemist suggest “trusting your nose.”

“In the absence of test data, try and smell it!” he said.

Is more THC a good thing?

There’s no doubt that weed is way stronger than it used to be. But a higher THC content doesn’t necessarily yield a better high. Although some brands boast pods that clock in at 90 percent THC, Raber warns against consuming products like that.

“It’s either bad testing or devoid of terpenes,” he said. Raber reasons that a pod with 80 percent THC that includes 10 percent terpenes will be “much stronger” than anything that measures 90 percent or more THC. 

“They really add to the effect,” he said. “It’s important that you’ve got a well-rounded composition with many components as opposed to just THC.” 

Cutting agents? Fillers?

If you create massive vape clouds every time you take a hit, it’s probably not a good sign. Although juuls and other nicotine pens are known for producing fruity cumulus-like puffs, cannabis vapes shouldn’t. 

Raber says there are “much better” alternatives to the fillers used in nicotine pens. 

“This is a much different set of molecules that you can deliver in different ways,” he insisted. While nicotine is more water soluble, Raber says, cannabinoids and terpenes are oil soluble. 

But you can’t just put extracted oil in a cartridge and expect it to have the same effect as lighting the bud and inhaling its smoke. To get around the complicated hassle of figuring out a well-rounded compound, companies “cut” the viscous oil with additives to sell cheaper, lower quality products. 

There are four widely used cutting agents: Polyethylene glycol (PEG), Propylene glycol (PG), Vegetable glycerin, and coconut oil. Since vegetable glycerin is “more like water,” according to Raber, it’s unlikely you’d find it in a weed vape. And while coconut oil and other fatty acids blend beautifully for tinctures, they’re not ideal for vaping because they tend to dry out more quickly. 

PEG and PG aren’t great for you either; As Rolling Stone pointed out in an investigation on vape pen safety, “A study from 2010 showed inhaling propylene glycol can exacerbate asthma and allergies, and multiple studies have shown that propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol break down into carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde — especially when vaped at high temperatures.”

Just avoid cutting agents at all costs — Raber suggest looking for cartridges that use terpene-based fillers, both for a better high and healthier lungs. 

Personalization and predictability 

As recreational users figure out what kind of high they want, vaping has become more personalized, and more predictable. 

Dosist, formerly branded as hmbldt, manufactures impossibly aesthetic weed pens that administer a precise 2.25 mg dose of vaporized cannabis with every hit. A review in the Atlantic compared the little pens to “if Muji made a tampon.” The pens come in six different categories, including “sleep” and “arouse,” defined by desired mood instead of by flavor or strain. 

“Dose is critical to any therapeutic tool and it’s no different with cannabis,” dosist CEO Gunner Winston said in a emailed statement. “If you don’t know how much or what formulation you’re ingesting, you can’t effectively manage or predict the benefits.” 

The PAX vape battery has a similar philosophy; the powerful little PAX Era allows the user to adjust the temperature, potency, and flavor via an app. An app!! According to its product description, wants users to “achieve session predictability.” 

Look for the same high every time

Predictability is something that Raber wants to see more in the cannabis industry — sure, you may be able to finally get the precise kind of high you were looking for, but can you recreate that? Are your reactions consistent? There are few regulations that require growers to continually produce plants and compounds with consistent results.

“As a consumer, am I getting the same thing every time?” he asked. “And then I can start to count on it and fine-tune what compositions I like and my desired effects.” “

In California, where The Werc Shop is based, Raber wants to see stricter statewide regulations that would require companies to include not only the THC and CBD percentage of their products, but the terpenes and cutting agents included as well. He believes that greater transparency will allow people to have more control of the high they’re seeking. Brands and manufacturers are already pushing for it. 

“The people have spoken, all over the place, that we want to know more about this plant, we want access to this plant,” Raber said, referencing the push for nationwide legalization. “Now the question has become, ‘Which version of the plant?'”

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New payment app helps you earn cash rewards just for paying your bills

Do you have that one friend who always forgets their wallet? As annoying as it might seem when it comes time to pay the bill, they might be onto something. They just haven’t figured out what it is yet. It’s time to introduce them to Paytm: the new way to pay your bills and repay your friends using your smartphone.  

Paytm Canada recently launched a free mobile application that gives you a secure way to pay your bills through your smartphone and earn rewards points. We aren’t just talking about your phone bill or your cable bill. We are talking about bigger budget items like your property taxes, utility bills, and credit cards. I can just see the points adding up right now!

You can also send cash to anyone with a Paytm account; making it easy for you to spot a friend some cash or collect money from those who might otherwise stiff you on the bill. 

So, how does it work? It’s super easy. Download the app to your smartphone. Add your billers from a list of more than 5,000 of Canada’s largest service providers then choose your payment option. Now this is the best part. You can use any payment method you want ̶ cash, direct debit, or credit card ̶ all without fees. Set your payment frequency to once, monthly, quarterly or annually and then sit back and be rewarded.

Now imagine you set up your Rogers bill and then paid it with your MasterCard through Paytm. You will collect 1 Paytm Point for every $1 spent on your Rogers bill, plus you will still earn any points you collect on your credit card. That’s double the points. If you turn around and pay off your credit card through the app, you get Paytm points again. And that’s what we call the triple-dip people!  

For a limited time, you will receive 10,000 welcome bonus points for just downloading the app. Ten thousand points can be redeemed for a $10 rewards cards from a growing list of over 65 merchants, including the Apple App Store and iTunes, Cineplex, Tim Hortons, Sephora, !ndigo, Uber, Lululemon, Amazon, Hotels.com, and Esso. 

You are literally earning rewards just for paying bills that you have to pay anyway. It seems like a no-brainer to me. So why are we just hearing about this now? Well, it turns out that Paytm is an internationally recognized mobile payments and financial services company with over 230 million users and 8 million merchants in India. Canada is their first foray into another market, and we are glad they chose us.

I spoke to company spokesperson who told me that Paytm is investing more than $50 million to grow their operation in Canada over the next decade. This means we can expect to see more billers and more reward merchants added to the already impressive payment application.

And remember that friend who never carries a wallet? If you refer them and they use your referral code to sign-up you will both receive 5,000 Paytm Points. Once they pay a bill of at least $50, they will receive the 5,000 Paytm Points and you will also receive 5,000 Paytm Points. Oh, it’s definitely payback time.

It’s also time to ditch the wallet and watch the rewards points pile up instead of the bills.

An annoying reminder that holograms like Amy Winehouse aren’t *actual* holograms

Amy Winehouse will return to the stage in 2019 as a "hologram."
Amy Winehouse will return to the stage in 2019 as a “hologram.”

Image: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty images

Oh, what’s in a name?

Amy Winehouse’s hologram will be going on tour in 2019 along with a live band, according to Engadget. Proceeds from the tour will benefit the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which raises funds for substance abuse programs. 

The beguiling powerhouse vocalist, who died in 2011, will get the Tupac Shakur Coachella treatment. That is, remastered images and vocals will appear in concert as an apparently three-dimensional projection.

There’s something slightly creepy or at least uncouth about “bringing back” a celebrity who passed away for our own enjoyment; a macabre tribute at best, or a disrespectful co-opting of another human’s likeness, without their consent, at worst. Who’s to say, but the age of hologram concerts has been here.

Amy Winehouse’s reappearance makes a splash because of the tragic circumstances of her life and death — made widely known in the award-winning 2015 documentary Amy — and the devotion she engenders thanks to her life story and remarkable talent. Raising funds for the artist’s foundation is a worthy use of hologram technology (but don’t think somebody isn’t making money off of this). And, what a chance for fans to hear that voice again.

There’s just one teensy thing.

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but the most widely used “holograms” as we understand them today aren’t actual 3D projections. Instead, they are 2D projections of a 3D image (like an Animoji or the Face ID image that unlocks your iPhone). These “holograms” use a reflection technique that’s been around since the 1800s called Pepper’s Ghost. Vimeo’s head of its Creative Labs, Casey Pugh, recently told me that the 3D video community gets a bit miffed when people refer to this long-standing illusion as a hologram. Because actual hologram technology is still very much in the works

The company responsible for Winehouse’s projection, Base Hologram, says that the technique that it uses is different from the Tupac technology. It is a proprietary mix of “digital and laser imaging.” But Base CEO Brian Becker still acknowledges the distinction between the sci-fi understanding of holograms, and holograms as they exist today. 

“No, no. This is a 3-D illusion,” Becker recently told CBS about another holographic tour. “‘Holographic technology’ or ‘hologram’ is just a good name that people recognize.”

That isn’t to say that this isn’t something special. The CEO of production for Base Hologram, Marty Tudor, told Mashable over email about how much goes into making this show compelling and special.

Without giving too much away, these tours are created utilizing cutting-edge techniques to be able to bring these projects to the stage. We start with a body double who works closely with our director to choreograph the performances and then we take the results of that and go to work on it digitally along with in many cases cleaned up and re-mastered cuts of the songs. The technology has evolved so the team can for the first time strip out the vocals and separate the tracks from both orchestra and other singers. From there it’s marrying that audio with digital and laser imaging, CGI techniques and spectacular showmanship.

So support, enjoy, love Amy Winehouse. But for the tech geeks among us, let’s just remember that true hologram technology is exciting, but still nascent.

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Porgs make Magic Leap fun. The Internet of Things could make it useful.

The porg on the carpet looked up at me, its watery eyes pleading, tiny wings flapping uselessly. It wanted a snack. Or maybe a toy? In the background, C-3P0 droned on, occasionally interrupted by a bleating Chewbacca. 

This was mixed reality experienced through the Magic Leap One, the long-long-long-awaited AR headset now available for the robust price of $2,295. Here’s what you get for your money: a surprisingly comfortable headset, a controller, and a small computer called a Lightpack, which resembles a thick hockey puck you can clip into your pocket or wear on a strap. 

I was at the very first L.E.A.P Conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, smiling my way through “Star Wars: Project Porg.” Created for Magic Leap by ILMxLAB, the emerging technologies arm of Lucasfilm, the “experiment” was slick, charming, and immersive. 

But it was the lamp that captured my attention. Not a virtual lamp. We’re talking about a physical, very ordinary desk lamp.

I pointed my controller at it, clicked, and the lights turned on. (The porgs were lit accordingly.) Later, when The Last Jedi began playing on a real-world TV, the porgs waddled over and watched until they (awww) fell asleep. 

ZOMG cute.

ZOMG cute.

Image: ILMxLAB

At L.E.A.P., the focus was often on the “wow” factor. Robots jumping out of portals. Virtual actors reciting Shakespeare. Sea turtles floating through the air. 

But the spectacle isn’t why Project Porg excited me. It was how ILMxLAB incorporated the Internet of Things (IoT) so seamlessly into its experience. To be clear, the IoT elements were not part of the official Star Wars-themed download, which is available for free now. Instead, they were were meant to “inspire developers about what could be possible in mixed reality,” ILMxLAB said.

From across the room, I clicked on a Sonos speaker, and music started playing, complete with a virtual display telling me the name of the song (the Star Wars theme, natch). Neat trick, but what’s the big deal? Well, if you hadn’t noticed, even your damn microwave is a connected device now. And 5G networks — which can transfer data more quickly and handle more devices than 4G networks —will only add fuel to the fire. 

Now, imagine if you could control every smart device with a stare or a flick of your wrist, and if those same devices revealed new information, controls, or animations in augmented reality. 

So expensive.

So expensive.

Image: Magic Leap

It’s an enticing vision of the future, and Magic Leap isn’t afraid of promising us the moon. Hell, it’s been hinting at AR miracles since it was founded in 2011 — and was mocked for not dropping an actual product until this year. 

The Magic Leap One is, um, not perfect. The resolution won’t blow anyone away. The biggest problem, however, is the field of vision. If you’re staring at a digital T. rex and you look up at your IRL friend, chances are the dinosaur will disappear.  It can really pull you out of an experience.

Still, some of the demos I tried on Tuesday morning were genuinely impressive. Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders reminded me of Oculus hit Robo Recall, but a little less claustrophobic and intense. 

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The big question: Are a few intriguing games and experiences enough? 

Right now, the Magic Leap One is only available in a few cities, but next month, you’ll be able to buy it in 50 cities across the United States. It’s meant mostly for developers, although curious consumers with $2,295 burning a hole in their pocket can buy one if they so wish. 

Magic Leap needs to spark excitement or developers won’t spend resources creating content, causing investor and consumer interest to wither and die. Oculus, loaded with Zuck bucks, was able to wander out of the content desert and will soon sell a $399 wireless headset that has a shot at competing with the Xbox and PlayStations of the world. 

Both Google and Apple are pushing their own AR platforms. But, for now, they’re mostly centered around the smartphone. Magic Leap has a chance to immerse us in a more seamless, interactive Internet of Things. It just needs to stop promising us the future, and actually deliver it. 

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Tokyo 2020 will be the first Olympic Games to use facial recognition

The 2018 Winter Olympics had quite the tech spectacle with 1,200 Intel drones producing a memorable light show. However, it’s likely the 2020 Tokyo Olympics won’t make as big a deal for a new technological feat: widespread facial recognition for increased security.

No, this isn’t some science-fiction dystopian future. Select attendees of the games — including athletes, media, staff, and volunteers — will have their identities verified via a face scan to enter venues, the Tokyo Organizing Committee said in an announcement. This extra level of security will be at all of the Tokyo 2020 games as well as the Paralympic Games — a first for both.

Technically it’s the first time this technology is in use at the Olympics formally, but in advance of the 2014 Olympics Games a face-recognition system was used at the Sochi airport.

For Tokyo 2020, NEC facial-recognition scanners will be at checkpoints throughout the games. In the press release, the Tokyo Organizing Committee noted that all accredited ticket holders will need to submit facial images ahead of the games. 

From a privacy perspective, this raises some red flags as neither the Tokyo Organizing Committee, the International Olympic Committee, nor NEC Corporation has explained how the images will be stored and what security steps are being taken to protect them. Mashable has reached out to NEC to learn more about this and will update this post when we hear back.

The scanners will check the ID card and then verify the image on file with the person in real life no matter the height, in addition to those in wheelchairs as noted by The Verge. This scanner needs to recognize all athletes at Olympic and Paralympic games for it to make the difference it strives for.

Tsuyoshi Iwashita, the executive director of security of the games, said in a prepared statement that this system is meant, “to prevent unauthorized access” at the venues. Security staff will still be present, but the system should make their job easier. Rather than having security staff check each person, the technology will scan his or her face, speeding up the entry process.

Tokyo is intended set the stage for a broader rollout of this technology at future games. However, until the unknowns around privacy and security of the images are resolved, we’re unsure if the benefits are worth the trade-off. 

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