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›  He?s The Last Male Northern White Rhino On Earth, And He?s Now On Tinder

In his Tinder profile, Sudan is described as “one of a kind” — and that’s not a baseless boast. 

He’s the last male northern white rhino on the planet and, as his profile explains, “the fate of my species literally depends on me.”

On Tuesday, Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy and dating app Tinder announced a joint campaign to raise awareness about Sudan’s plight, and to raise funds to support efforts to save the northern white rhino from extinction.

“We partnered with [the conservancy] to give the most eligible bachelor in the world a chance to meet his match,” Matt David, Tinder’s head of communications, said in a statement. 

“I perform well under pressure. I like to eat grass and chill in the mud,” reads Sudan’s Tinder profile. “6 ft tall and 5,000lbs if it matters.”

Starting Tuesday, Tinder users in 140 countries could stumble upon Sudan’s profile as they swipe through potential matches. Users will have the option to swipe right on Sudan; if they do, they’ll see a message that features a link where they can donate.

Sudan, who lives at the conservancy where he’s protected 24/7 by armed guards, is one of three remaining northern white rhinos on Earth. The other two — females named Najin and Fatu — also live at the sanctuary. Attempts to breed the rhinos naturally have thus far failed, however.

In a last-ditch effort to save the northern white rhino, scientists have turned to in vitro fertilization. IVF is a challenging, costly and controversial solution, but it’s the “last option” left to save the subspecies, the conservancy’s CEO Richard Vigne said in a statement this week.  

Researchers in the United States, Germany and Japan are currently testing ways to use IVF on Najin and Fatu, as well as female southern white rhinos, with Sudan’s stored sperm, said the conservancy.

Southern white rhinos number about 17,000 in the wild but are a distinct subspecies. Still, crossing the two subspecies would be better than extinction, conservationists say.  

The research consortium says it hopes to establish a herd of 10 northern white rhinos after five years of using IVF. If it works, it’ll be the first time artificial reproduction will successfully be carried out in a rhino species. 

But according to Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, which is involved in the IVF effort, “financial support remains the biggest challenge to this project.”

“To win this run against time it is very crucial to find major funds as quickly as possible,” a spokesperson for the German institute said this week.

Tinder said its campaign aims to help raise the $9 million needed for research into the “assisted reproductive techniques” that scientists hope could save the animal.

“As a platform that makes millions of meaningful connections every day, raising awareness about Sudan the rhino and the importance of finding his match seemed like something we could support in a really impactful way,” a Tinder spokesperson told Mashable. “We’ve heard countless stories about Tinder babies, but this would be the first match to save a species.”

In 1960, more than 2,000 northern white rhinos lived in the wild, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. Poaching, however, decimated this number to just 15 by 1984.

“The plight that currently faces the northern white rhinos is a signal to the impact that humankind is having on many thousands of other species across the planet,” Vigne said. 

Tinder and the Ol Pejeta Conservancy have both expressed hope that this campaign could mark a positive turning point for the critically endangered subspecies. 

“I would not be surprised if Mr. Sudan turned out to be one of our most Right Swiped users,” Tinder’s David said on Tuesday. 


Dominique Mosbergen is a reporter at HuffPost covering climate change, extreme weather and extinction. Send tips or feedback to dominique.mosbergen@huffingtonpost.com or follow her on Twitter

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›  Why Sheryl Sandberg Decided To Speak Openly About Losing Her Husband

Nearly two years ago, Sheryl Sandberg poured 1,743 words of raw emotion into a Facebook post that essentially made everyone on the internet cry.

Her husband, Dave Goldberg, had died suddenly at the age of 47, not even 30 days earlier. The calendar marked the end of the traditional Jewish mourning period for spouses, but she hardly felt done with grief. Sandberg wasn’t even sure she would hit publish, the Facebook executive told HuffPost last week. She wrote feverishly, put it aside and went to bed.

The post was her desperate attempt to connect with friends and coworkers from whom she felt increasingly isolated in her mourning. “I woke up and thought, this is so bad. And I hit post,” she said.

The writing is pure heartbreak. Sandberg writes over and over about her sadness. About mothering her children while they screamed and cried in pain. “I have lived thirty years in these thirty days. I am thirty years sadder. I feel like I am thirty years wiser,” she writes. “When tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning.”

Though she didn’t realize it at the time, Sandberg’s essay marked a clear tipping point in her journey back from the hell of a shocking loss. By opening up about her feelings, Sandberg was inviting others to support her ? including colleagues and friends who’d been unsure of what to say. The post offered guidance.

And that guidance formed the basis for Sandberg’s next project. Her latest book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, out Monday, tackles a universal yet enduringly under-discussed subject: grief.

While her Silicon Valley peers have worked for years on technologies that would extend life, Sandberg’s project offers up a path to happiness based not on fantasies of immortality but on the reality of the sorrow of life itself.

At the time she first posted about Goldberg’s death, Sandberg had already returned to work at Facebook, where she’d been chief operating officer for nearly a decade. She was feeling increasingly lonely.

A notoriously outgoing and collaborative manager, she was surrounded by familiar colleagues and friendly faces. Yet, with the exception of her boss, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, no one at the office seemed to know what to say to her. 

“When I came back to work there was a real feeling of isolation,” she said. “It felt like no one was talking to me.... The chitchat ground to a halt. People looked at me like I was a ghost.”

Just a few years ago, Sandberg wrote Lean In, exhorting women to be ambitious, to ask for what they want, to be their full selves at work.  

“Losing Dave brought that home for me,” she said. “My whole self was so sad.”

She found herself increasingly holed up in a conference room with Zuckerberg, hiding from the awkwardness of the office. “Mark was the person I turned to,” Sandberg said. 

Sandberg, who first met Zuckerberg when he was a 23-year-old CEO struggling with his role, has long been credited with guiding him to maturity. But this time he was helping her.

“Mark is one of the first people I called when I lost Dave,” she said. “Mark planned the funeral.” He and his wife, Priscilla, were frequent visitors to Sandberg’s house in Menlo Park during the days and weeks after Goldberg’s death. They played with Sandberg’s kids. Zuckerberg helped her son with his math homework, she said.

At work, Zuckerberg was supportive in a very traditional way, telling Sandberg to take as much time as she needed. But, crucially, he also encouraged her actual work. In one of her first meetings after she returned, Sandberg was a bit out of it, she writes. She even misidentified a colleague, and instead of criticizing her or saying something about how he understands she’s still adjusting, Zuckerberg insisted she would’ve made the mistake before Goldberg died. And, even better, also told her she made a great point in the meeting. In short, he made her feel valued.

Sometimes people just need someone to tell them they’re doing OK, and that is key to helping a colleague in grief, Sandberg said. She wanted to feel like she was still a productive worker. “I had no idea how he knew ? I am older and I didn’t know how to do these things. I don’t think this is me teaching him, it’s him teaching me,” she said.

Typically, no one knows what to say to someone who is suffering a loss or an illness or a trauma, Sandberg said. “You want to silence a room? Get cancer. Have a friend or a family member who goes to prison. Lose a job,” she said. “We isolate ourselves.” 

In her post, Sandberg offered guidance on what to say.

“When people say to me, ‘You and your children will find happiness again,’ my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, ‘You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good’ comfort me more because they know and speak the truth,’” she wrote in her post.

“Even a simple ‘How are you?’—almost always asked with the best of intentions— is better replaced with ‘How are you today?’ When I am asked ‘How are you?’ I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear ‘How are you today?’ I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.”

Sandberg was opening up about death in a real way. For many who’ve struggled with grief, to read an honest piece from the accomplished executive, about a subject so taboo and painful, was a revelation. The post today has more than 400,000 shares, close to 1 million likes and tens of thousands of comments.

The effect for Sandberg was immediate, she said. “Everyone started saying, ‘How are you today?’” Sandberg said. People started telling her about their own experiences with loss.

“I felt connected to a larger experience of life. There’s so much hardship out there,” she said. “The grief didn’t change, but the isolation did. I felt so much less alone.”

When I hear ?How are you today?? I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.
Sheryl Sandberg

Like Lean In, the new book is part memoir. She writes of the agony of telling her two young children, just 7 and 10 years old, that their father was dead. “I have terrible news. Terrible,” she told them. “Daddy died.”

“The screaming and crying that followed haunt me to this day,” she writes.

The book is also a practical guide for handling grief and adversity. With her coauthor, and friend, psychologist and Wharton professor Adam Grant, Sandberg lays out anecdotes ? she’s spoken with rape survivors, people who’ve gone to prison, refugees ?  and research on perseverance and resilience.

Acutely aware that she’s a billionaire privileged beyond all imagining, Sandberg is extremely careful to write about the suffering of others. In conversation, she acknowledges her privilege repeatedly. When asked about her struggles to parent as a single mother, she demurred. “So many people have immense hardship.” 

In Sandbergian fashion she has also launched a website, OptionB.org, where people can turn for support and guidance in the face of loss.

Surely, an unintentional side benefit to Sandberg’s latest project is that she’s essentially made the case for Facebook ? it offers human connection ? at a time when the social network is under criticism for increasing political polarization.

The new book and website is an attempt to open up conversations about difficult subjects on a mass scale, furthering Facebook’s ostensible mission.

Sandberg found her husband, already dead, on the floor in a hotel gym in Mexico where the two were celebrating a friend’s birthday. Sandberg had unwittingly spoken her last words to him, “I’m falling asleep,” while laying poolside earlier that day, ending a game of Settlers of Catan they were playing on their iPads. That afternoon she had told her son she’d have to talk to his dad before they could make a decision about buying new sneakers.

An autopsy would later confirm that Goldberg, who was CEO of Survey Monkey and a well-known Silicon Valley figure, had a fatal cardiac arrhythmia, caused by coronary artery disease, while running on the treadmill.

They were married for 11 years; friends for longer than that.  

Now she’s dating again. “I never wanted to,” she said. “I wanted to spend my life with Dave. That’s a choice I don’t get to make.”

Sandberg, who is 47-years-old, used to joke about getting older. No more. “There’s only two choices we grow older or we don’t,” she said. “I took it for granted I would grow old and Dave would grow old. It never occurred to me we wouldn’t,” she said.

Finding growth and ultimately joy is the project of Option B. Sandberg makes a point of emphasizing this aspect. The title echoes something a friend told her after Goldberg’s passing. 

When Sandberg was sad she couldn’t bring Goldberg to a school event and had to find someone else to fill in. “But I want Dave,” she said to her friend, as she recounted in her post and again in the book. “He put his arm around me and said, ‘Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of Option B.’ “

A chronic over-achiever, Sandberg has definitely lived up to that plan. After Goldberg’s death, she was just struggling to make it through the day she said. But with this book it’s clear that the Harvard MBA, former Google executive is just as ambitious as ever.

Still, things have changed. Sandberg said she travels much less than she used to. Long gone are the days of hosting women’s dinners at her house, she said. “Dave covered when I would have a women’s dinner,” she said. “I don’t do those things anymore.” But she quickly added: “So many people have so much hardship. That’s not what I mourn for. Of course, I had to make big changes.”

And when asked her about her career goals, she pivoted, saying it’s important to live your dreams and find things you want to do. “Even small silly things,” she said. “I’m a really bad piano player and I sing worse, but in those moments I can’t think about anything else. I won’t pretend the grief doesn’t still hit.”

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  This Flying Vehicle May Be Coming To A Lake Near You

As engineers tinker away at perfecting self-driving cars, Google co-founder Larry Page is preparing to release a personal flying vehicle. 

An ultralight aircraft called the Kitty Hawk Flyer has been unveiled in a YouTube video that shows it zipping over a lake while commandeered by a single rider.

The electric, propeller-driven prototype is the work of Page’s Silicon Valley startup company, Kitty Hawk, which announced that the vehicle will go on sale later this year.

“As you can see it’s a bit rough around the edges, but we were so excited to show you its capabilities that we didn’t want to wait until we finished its design. The consumer version will be available by the end of this year,” the company states on its website.

The prototype can fly up to 15 feet in altitude and can land vertically, eliminating a need for a runway, according to a press release by the company. The New York Times, which got a sneak peek at the aircraft, described the Kitty Hawk Flyer as sounding like a “speedboat.”

No pilot’s license or registration is required to operate the aircraft, according to the company citing the Federal Aviation Administration’s ruling on Ultralight vehicles. The Flyer’s use is limited to “uncongested areas” over freshwater, however. (Yes, that means no flying over lanes of stalled traffic.)

As for a price, a figure has yet to be released. Those who sign up for Kitty Hawk’s Flyer Discovery Membership do receive a $2,000 discount and placement on the product’s wait list, according to Kitty Hawk’s website.

Many other questions remain unanswered, including how fast it can go and how long the battery’s charge would last. The Times reported that today’s batteries are unable to support trips up to 30 to 50 miles.

A Kitty Hawk spokesperson, reached by HuffPost by email on Monday, said they’re unable to release more details at this time.

The final retail product is promised to have a different design than the prototype seen in the video released this week. The Times reported that it will also be a bit quieter.

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›  Samsung Destroys Guy Who Made A Dick Pic Joke On Twitter

What a tool.

Last week, Samsung posted a photo of its latest phone release, the Galaxy S8, on its Twitter page. In the caption, the company encouraged its fans to share the first photo they took with the new phone.

Many of the tweets were pretty cute.

Then that guy, who goes by the Twitter handle, @savEdward, decided to pipe up and make a that joke.

But Samsung wasn’t having any of that. The company decided to respond to @savEdward with a simple yet effective emoji.

Needless to say, Twitter was quick to sing Samsung’s praises.

Well played, Samsung. Well played.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  You Can Now Download And Use The Fonts Of Your Favorite '90s TV Shows

If you’ve longed to write “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” fan fiction in the exact font the iconic ‘90s horror anthology used for its logo ? well, dedicated SNICK follower, your time has come.

Thanks to this website, you can write all the teenage campfire drama you want, in the Benguiat Bold typeface you’ve come to love. In fact, you can even read a bit about the font’s origins, and other typefaces destined for ‘90s TV show stardom, thanks to typography expert Alexander Tochilovsky, the design curator of the Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography in New York City.

“The ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ logo is an interesting one,” he explains on the site. “While it’s seemingly very simple with the oval and a clip art like hand, the decision to use this particular typeface is slightly more sophisticated. Conceptually, though, it fits the show perfectly and has the right feel for the intended audience ? especially with the ‘glow in the dark’ vibe it carries.”

Not interested in Tochilovsky’s breakdown of “AYAOTD?” font? (For shame.) How about his take on the “Frasier” typeface? Or “Rugrats”? Or “Fresh Prince”? Or “Twin Peaks”? 

The list goes on. Tochilovsky’s got a whole host of downloadable fonts on the site, courtesy of interactive content creation platform Ceros, along with blurbs that let you know that Gabriel Weiss’ “Friends” font is hand-drawn, and that the “Law and Order” typeface is called Friz Quadrata Std Roman, while the “90210” font is Newhouse DT SuperCondensed Bold. 

Typography devotees, go ahead and enjoy a little bit of nostalgia with your dose of design.

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›  Target Turned Its Shopping Carts Into 'Mario Karts'

Mario Kart fans, get pumped!

In honor of the April 28 launch of Mario Kart 8 for Nintendo Switch, Target has unveiled themed shopping carts, entrance music and more. 

On April 20, over 650 Target stores across the country went into “full game-on mode” with Mario Kart carts featuring Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach. This is the first time Target has decorated its iconic red carts.

The stores also feature big round Mario and Luigi bollards, and the entrances have been transformed into starting lines. “As you walk through, motion sensors fire up flashing lights and play Mario’s catchy theme song,” states a press release for the video game festivities.

“Experience counts—it’s what keeps guests coming in and coming back to our stores,” senior vice president of merchandising, Scott Nygaard, notes in the press release. “So we’re delivering the fun like only Target can, giving generations of Mario fans a shopping trip they won’t soon forget.”

Indeed, both parents and kids who love Mario Kart have been enjoying the new additions.

But not everyone is a fan. Writing for Scary Mommy, Valerie Williams noted that while mothers love Target for its breastfeeding policies, empowering clothing options and more, this latest innovation may not be ideal for all parents. 

“Ugh. So that means if we have our kids with us, they’re going to beg for one of the few Mario Kart carts and then possibly mow people down while we mull over our face wash options?” she wrote. “And that’s assuming we can get one and they aren’t throwing a fit because there are no Princess Peach carts left.”

If you share Williams’ concerns, fear not! The Mario Kart elements are part of a limited-time experience expected to last only a few weeks.

So for everyone else, get your fix while you can.

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›  Ad-Blocking Just Might Save The Ad Industry

By Klint Finley for WIRED.

The Coalition for Better Ads, a consortium of ad, publishing, and tech companies, wants to save the advertising industry — by killing it. Or at least parts of it. Companies in the coalition will discuss, among other idea, pre-installation of a selective ad-blocker on web browsers as a means to effectively purge the internet of the most intrusive types of ads, such as those that automatically play sound, take-up too much of your screen, or force you to wait a certain amount of time before you can dismiss them.

The idea was first reported Thursday by The Wall Street Journal, which suggested that ad-blockers would be built into Google’s Chrome web browser and turned on by default.

“We do not comment on rumor or speculation,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “We’ve been working closely with the Coalition for Better Ads and industry trades to explore a multitude of ways Google and other members of the Coalition could support the Better Ads Standards.”

READ MORE: The Ad-Blocking Browser That Pays the Sites You Visit

Stuart Ingis, counsel for the Coalition for Better Ads, says the group will begin discussing specific ideas in coming weeks, though it would be six months to a year before anything is implemented. “To my knowledge Google has not made any decision,” Ingis says. “But certainly a natural way to solve this problem would be in the browsers, whether it’s Google or Microsoft or Apple or any of them.” Ingis doesn’t like to call this ad-blocking, because ad-blocking is generally associated with indiscriminate blocking of all ads on all sites.

Whatever solution the group arrives at, Ingis says, Google won’t be making decisions for the industry unilaterally. The ad formats that are blocked will be decided by the coalition’s members based on its research on what types of ads consumers find most intrusive. The technology, if the coalition moves forward with it, will likely be eventually supported by other browsers as well. (WIRED publisher Conde Nast is a member of Digital Content Next, a trade group that is part of the Coalition for Better Ads.)

It might sound strange for advertising companies to embrace ad-blocking in any capacity, but there is a clear upside to instating this practice. About 26 percent of internet users have ad-blockers on their computers, according to a survey conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and and about 10 percent use ad-blockers on their phones. The main reason people use ad-blockers, according to survey, is that ads make sites slower and harder to navigate. If the advertising industry can keep people from installing more strict ad-blocking tools by blocking the worst offending advertisements — or get some of those people who already use ad-blockers to turn them off — then perhaps it can save more advertising revenue than it stands to lose by running noisy ads that take over your screen.

RELATED: No One Can Stop Ad Blocking. Not Even Facebook

Last month, the Coalition for Better Ads published research to determine which specific ad-formats and behaviors most bother people. Based on this research, it created the “Better Ads Standards,” which will form the basis of any efforts the group takes to kill-off bad ads and promote good ones.

What the group hopes to do is discourage the use of annoying and intrusive advertising practices across the web in an attempt to win back consumer trust. Advertisers and ad-purchasers will play an important role in this by shifting their spending to publishers and ad-networks that only run ads that comply with the coalition’s guidelines says John Montgomery, the executive vice president of brand safety at GroupM, a Coalition member and the largest ad-purchasing agency in the world. Browser-makers like Google and Microsoft, however, could also play a role by not just blocking annoying ads, but blocking all ads on sites that include ads that violate the coalition’s guidelines.

That would be even more controversial than just selectively blocking ads, but it would also likely be the most effective way to pressure even the sketchiest of websites to comply. Google Chrome alone was used by about 53 percent of all web users last month according to web analytics company StatCounter. Few publishers are likely to risk losing more than half their ad-views just to run a few obnoxious ads. Ingis says if the group does go down this route, it will make sure decisions about which sites are blocked and which aren’t made by a single company, and that there will be an appeals process for publishers that feel they’ve been treated unfairly.

But the Coalition for Better Advertising is still only addressing one part of the problem with digital advertising. The thing is, web ads aren’t just annoying. They can also be dangerous.

Last year several mainstream sites, ranging from the New York Times to nfl.com, accidentally served ads containing code that tried to install malware on users’ computers. It wasn’t an isolated incident. Security researchers have been complaining about the scourge of “malvertising” for years. Meanwhile, adtech companies have a tendency to slurp up as much data about you as possible, likely violating your privacy in the process.

Most people use blockers for the sake of convenience, but many others use them to protect their privacy and reduce their risk of attracting malware. Ingis says that the Coalition for Better Ads isn’t looking at privacy–at least not yet — but other industry groups like the IAB are working on data protection and security standards for the industry. Until the industry cleans up its privacy act, ad-blockers will still be relevant.

More from WIRED:

9 Magical Photos Of California’s Wildflower Super Bloom

Obama Talks AI and the Future of the World

America’s Electronic Voting Machines Are Easy Targets

What Happens When You Talk About Salaries at Google

Hackers Trick Facial-Recognition Logins With Facebook Photos

A Hacking Group is Selling iPhone Spyware to Governments

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›  The Rise Of AR Will Recreate Your Filter Bubbles In The Real World

By Cade Metz for WIRED.

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled what he calls the world’s first augmented reality platform, a way of layering digital effects atop anything we see through our smartphone cameras. Eventually, he says, this platform will even let you “pin” digital objects to locations in the real world, allowing anyone else who comes along to see them too — assuming they’re also using Facebook. If this effort plays out like Zuckerberg says it will, the real and the digital will merge the way they do with Pokemon Go — only on a much larger scale, and within the confines of Facebook.

But if Zuckerberg is looking that far ahead at the social and creative possibilities — he showed off an AR art installation pinned to the outside of Facebook headquarters — it’s also worth looking just as far ahead at the potential pitfalls. Namely: What if the reality built by you and your circle of friends separates you from other circles — kinda like Facebook filter bubbles already do in the (purely) digital world? What if Apple builds its own augmented reality platform? And Google, Microsoft, and Amazon? Could these competing layers of reality separate us even further? And won’t they all start serving us ads?

RELATED: The 10-Year Quest to Make Your Phone Do Everything

Brian Blau, a hardcore virtual reality veteran who closely tracks the development of VR and AR at Gartner, a tech research firm, calls this the meta-verse problem. “It’s something that people first talked about years and years ago, when VR and AR first came around,” he says. “How many meta-verses will there be?” And indeed, how will meta-verses separate us from real reality? Or even from each other?

If AR takes off, these questions will become increasingly urgent. As the New York Times explains, Zuckerberg has always lamented that Apple and Google beat him out in building the world’s dominant mobile phone platforms. Now he’s racing these old rivals and others to the next technological beachhead. “All these companies want to turn the physical world into a digital world,” Blau says.

Just as Google and Facebook want your attention when you’re on the internet, they will seek to capture your attention when you’re doing anything else, anywhere else. That was the implicit goal of Google Glass, which wasn’t ready for the mainstream. Zuckerberg is now looking for a shortcut to the same point. Microsoft is making its own play with an AR headset called the Hololens, and reports indicate that Apple is exploring similar areas. If all those companies are in the mix, you can bet that Amazon will follow as well. In the process, the online dominance these companies enjoy will creep farther into the offline world.

Competing Realities

For all these companies, the potential benefits are enormous. Initially, AR technology will provide a new way of playing games and tinkering with photos and videos. But eventually, AR and VR could serve as the most direct way yet of getting from digital ad to making a purchase — digital creations that let you purchase in a brick-and-mortar store or in a simulation of a virutal store. The path between ad and transaction becomes all the shorter. “Will people buy things in VR? Yes, they will,” Blau says.

READ MORE: In Facebook’s Future, You Live Through Your Phone

At the moment, Facebook says, it’s not all that concerned with the business end of AR. When building a new platform, explains chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer, “we make sure people are enjoying it before we start thinking about building a business model.” The company’s history bears out that assertion. But in this particular case, there are other issues to address. Is Facebook thinking about the meta-verse problem? Is it considering the possibility of driving a wedge between us and reality? That’s less clear.

“We start with: What is the compelling consumer experience?” Schroepfer says. “We can talk about the philosophy all we want, but if people don’t enjoy it — don’t want to do it — then it kind of doesn’t matter.”

But Schroepfer will say he believes in making sure you can pass between competing corporate meta-verses. If other companies do build their own platforms, they can also build ways of sharing digital objects between these platforms, he says. “There are lots of ways to collaborate on this, just as you can take a photo on Facebook and share it on another network,” he says. Indeed, cross-platform AR doesn’t seem to be a major technological hurdle. But even if Apple and Google and Facebook play nicely with each other, that compatibility doesn’t overcome the greater concern about shutting ourselves off from others inside a digital space encroaching farther than ever into the physical.

Today, we have our differences, but at least when all share the same world, the same physical space, the same reality. But if we start tinkering with this reality and share changes only with certain people, the world starts to split. The possibility is a long way off. But we should consider it now.

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›  Encrypted Chat Took Over. Let?s Encrypt Calls, Too

By Lily Hay Newman for WIRED.

As end-to-end encrypted messaging apps have exploded in popularity, several well-known services have added encrypted calls as well. Why not, right? If it works for text-based chat, voice seems like a natural extension. If only it were that easy.

Encrypting calls has plenty of value, keeping conversations strictly between the two parties. They can circumvent government wiretaps, or criminal snooping. But a host of technical challenges with facilitating the calls themselves has slowed the spread of voice over internet protocol overall. Bandwidth is expensive. Firewalls and network filters make it harder to route data streams. Even basic call quality issues, like delays and echoes, prove difficult to fix. Adding encryption on top of all of this takes additional resources and specialized developers.

All of which has delayed encrypted calling — but not stopped it. And a new groundswell of enthusiasm is bringing more options than ever.

Dropped Calls

The challenges of making reliable encrypted calling starts with the underlying premise of internet-based calls. They’re hard. While VoIP calling has become more reliable over the years, it remains technically challenging in itself, especially when people use cellular data instead of more stable ethernet or Wi-Fi connections.

RELATED: Time for Journalists to Encrypt Everything

Despite those challenges, Signal, the well-regarded secure communication platform, has offered encrypted calling since 2014. And when WhatsApp followed in 2016, bringing encrypted calls and video chat to more than a billion users, it helped shake off some longstanding inertia. Other secure messaging apps like Wire and Telegram have added encrypted calling over the last year. Signal itself even rolled out call quality improvements in February.

Signal developer Open Whisper Systems open-sources its code, so that companies can borrow from it to build their own encrypted chat and calling features. For example, while WhatsApp’s overall setup is proprietary, it bases the key exchange for its end-to-end encrypted messages and calls on Signal Protocol. Its users have to trust that it is implementing true end to end encryption in the way it claims. In exchange it brings some form of end to end encryption to an enormous user base that would probably otherwise have little exposure to or protection from the feature. And customers who don’t have faith in a large provider like WhatsApp now have other options, given the recent proliferation of both VoIP in general and encryption specifically.

“There’s so much happening right now in this space which is really exciting,” says Nathan Freitas, the founder and director of the Guardian Project, a privacy and security nonprofit that worked on an encrypted calling platform called Open Secure Telephony Network. “In 2012 there was just Skype basically. Google Hangouts didn’t even exist. FaceTime existed kind of. So we’re really happy when there’s so much public innovation that includes privacy and security.”

Though not nearly as much as there could be, if everyone could get on the same page.

Closed Networks

As with messaging, end-to-end encrypted calls require that both ends of the conversation use the same system. In other words, using Signal to call a landline won’t cut it; you need to connect with another Signal user. Given this reality, many developers naturally gravitate to implementing encryption in closed systems; it’s easier both to manage and monetize.

For users, though, this approach has downsides. Unless the developer makes the product fully open source, or allows for extensive independent auditing, there’s no guarantee that the encryption implementation works as advertised. The lock-in factor also limits who you can safely communicate with, which slows adoption.

READ MORE: Don’t Let WikiLeaks Scare You Off of Signal and Other Encrypted Chat Apps

Imagine, instead, an open communication standard that includes end-to-end encryption. It would allow secure communication with more people between different products and interfaces, because the protocols facilitating the end to end encryption would be the same.

The Guardian Project’s OSTN experiment attempted to create exactly that sort of comprehensive, open communication suite. It focuses on using existing open, interoperable communication standards, employing classic protocols like ZRTP, which was developed in the mid 2000s by PGP creator Phil Zimmerman, and SRTP, which was developed in the early 2000s at Cisco. It also coordinates and controls its voice calls using the Session Initiation Protocol, developed by the telecom industry in the mid 1990s.

That retro backbone didn’t come by choice; there simply aren’t a lot of more modern open protocol options available. Most big VoIP plus encryption advances have come from private companies like Skype (now owned by Microsoft), Google, and Apple, who offer varying degrees of encryption protection for calls and tend to value locked-in users over interoperability. That left OSTN with old tools.

“While they’re very powerful, these are things that are 10, 20, 30 years old in terms of the architecture and the thinking,” Freitas says. “They’re definitely showing their age.”

And while a few smaller services, like PrivateWave and Jitsi, have adopted OSTN, the decision by larger companies to go it alone has limited its open-protocol dreams. That’s especially a shame for people who need absolute guarantees of security.

Rolling Your Own

With proprietary apps, it can be hard for a user to tell if end-to-end encryption is enabled on both ends. Or, in the case of apps whose encryption protocols have not been fully vetted, whether it works as advertised to begin with.

“For mainstream services, crypto is a nice add-on to give users the idea that they can feel more secure, but that’s completely different than when your [customers] are people who are under threat,” says Bjoern Rupp, the CEO of the boutique German secure communication firm CryptoPhone. “If you have to fear for your life, not all secure communication systems are designed for that.”

Encryption die-hards can host their own system using open standards like OSTN, similar to how you might host your own email server. Though it takes some technical knowhow, it’s an option that gives users real control and that isn’t possible with closed systems. Another option is to use a security first service like CryptoPhone that offers an integrated, one-stop solution.

READ MORE: The Race To Build An AI Chip For Everything Just Got Real

CryptoPhones can only call other CryptoPhones, but the company made that choice so it could control the security and experience of both hardware and software. To reconcile this closed system with transparency, the company is open source and invites independent review. It also has over a decade of experience. “CryptoPhone has been making high-end commercial products for secure voice calling for a long time,” the Guardian Project’s Freitas says. “They had these crypto flip phones, which were awesome.”

Central Processing

None of which leaves the average consumer with widespread encrypted calling that works across multiple services. There may be some help on the way, though, in the form of a new, open, decentralized communication standard called Matrix that includes end to end encryption for chat, VoIP calling, and more. Matrix could be a clean, easy to implement standard underlying other software. For instance, if Slack and Google Hangouts both used the Matrix standard, you would be able to Slack someone from Hangouts and vice versa, similar to how you can send emails to anyone using their email address, regardless of what provider they use.

“The net owes its existence to open interoperability,” says Matthew Hodgson, technical lead of Matrix. “Then people build silos to capture value, which is fair enough, but you get to a saturation point where the silos start really stifling innovation and progress through monopolism.”

The catch, of course, is getting buy-in from companies that have little incentive, or getting new services built on a standard like Matrix to take off. Walled gardens tend to produce more profit than open ones.

Still, having these new options is an important first step. And combined with the broader proliferation of encrypted voice-calling apps, change finally seems to be coming from a lot of directions at once. “I think there’s a longer-term project going on called the internet,” Freitas says. “Some of us still believe in it.”

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-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  Lobbyists Are Using Bad Science To Sneak A Porn Blocker Onto Your Computer

When Utah passed a resolution last year declaring pornography a public health crisis, critics were dumbfounded that such a deceitful measure could sail through the legislature.

The resolution used laughably bad science and outright lies in an attempt to prove that porn is bad for you. Still, nobody freaked out too much. Surely it was a hollow declaration with no influence on the law. Right?

Wrong. Lobbyists and lawmakers in other states are now using the resolution as proof that potentially unconstitutional pieces of legislation are viable.

The model legislation, called the Human Trafficking Prevention Act, would slap a pornography filter on cell phones, laptops and tablets until users pay a $20 fee. Device manufacturers would be required to put a label on material deemed “obscene” and you’d be blocked from seeing it until you paid what is essentially a tax on porn.  

The American Civil Liberties Union was quick to call this a violation of the First Amendment, saying that pornography is a free speech issue.

“This is definitely an attempt to infringe on people’s rights,” said Vera Eidelman, an attorney at ACLU. She called the model legislation “crazy,” noting that lobbyists would like to have a government-managed list of people who had paid to access porn. 

And yet such measures are making some headway. Chris Sevier ? the mastermind behind the act and an avid anti-gay marriage lobbyist who thinks his past conviction on an assault charge is “fake news” ? has already managed to convince lawmakers in 13 states to draft legislation. 

This is definitely an attempt to infringe on people?s rights.
Vera Eidelman, ACLU attorney

The Human Trafficking Prevention Act has problems at every level.

First of all, it’s based on the same “science” behind Utah’s resolution declaring porn a public health crisis. The Huffington Post has previously reported that the resolution drafted by state Sen. Todd Weiler (R-Salt Lake) is full of complete fabrications and cites poorly executed studies penned by anti-pornography groups, none of which prove a causal relationship between pornography and psychological harm.

But the Human Trafficking Prevention Act relies on the resolution to declare that “it’s a matter of science” that “pornography is really bad.”

That’s not true. The American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors & Therapists can’t find empirical evidence that sex or porn addiction are mental health issues. The group recommends that therapists and educators don’t tell people that “urges” related to porn are mental problems. Experts acknowledge that pornography triggers reward centers in your brain, but comparing it to alcohol or cigarettes is downright misleading. They say it should be compared to something more like dessert. 

“An addiction has to meet certain requirements ? one of the requirements is that it’s rewarding, and pornography does meet that, as do cake and pictures of babies,” said Dr. Nicole Prause, a sexual psychophysiologist who has more than a decade of research in addiction, sexual desire, erectile dysfunction and sexual problems. “But it fails the addiction requirements in a number of ways, and there’s just no evidence that porn is the same thing as, say, cocaine.”

Yet the flawed characterization of porn as a public health crisis is being used to trick lawmakers. Even the Human Trafficking Prevention Act’s title is misleading because it equates pornography with sex trafficking, and implies that the latter wouldn’t exist without the former.

“It’s scary to frame this as a solution to human trafficking,” Eidelman said. “The only way it relates to human trafficking is the chosen title.”

And what lawmaker is going to stand up for pornography?

We’re an easy mark,” said Adam Grayson, chief financial officer of porn production company Evil Angel. “But this kind of ridiculous legislation has come before, and it’ll come again. If this passes anywhere, what happens is our trade organization has to go file suit in federal court, and cost taxpayers a bunch of money while that state defends its statute. Basically, we end up where we started, which is that there’s no tax. And you just can’t tax speech.”

Critics say lawmakers are overlooking the constitutionality of the bill and sponsoring it because the porn tax would help fund groups that fight human trafficking and domestic violence.

Republican state Reps. Bill Chumley and Mike Burns co-sponsored the Human Trafficking Prevention Act in South Carolina, and Burns told the Daily Beast that he’s “behind the premise of the bill.” Chumley said he helped introduce the bill because human trafficking is an issue that he’s “really concerned with.” 

It’s unclear whether any of these measures will pass. Wyoming and North Dakota have already shot down the versions that have been introduced to their state legislatures. 

But Sevier has said he plans to introduce the porn tax at the federal level this month. He’s armed with draft legislation in states across the country, a handful of supportive congressmen and the measure that got him here: a state resolution that was passed despite bad science and an air of lies.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  These 3 Women Created An App For All Your Emergency Shape-Up Needs

Balancing school, work and being black can make it difficult to prioritize looking good. But three Howard alumnae and friends are making the efforts involved with being busy, black and well-kempt much simpler with an app providing on-demand barber service to your doorstep. 

The HausCall app provides on-demand barber services to users’ doorsteps. Created by Morgan Winbush, Killian Lewis and Crystal Allen-Washington, the app offers users the ability to book an immediate appointment with a barber of their choosing or schedule one in advance. 

“It’s homecoming at Howard. Every guy we know is trying to feel and look like Diddy,” Winbush, the Chief Marketing Officer told Vibe. “If you’re running or coming into town really late, and you had to go to #1000Bottles or whatever party is happening on Friday night, but you didn’t have enough time [to spare], you could use HausCall and a barber would come wherever you are to cut your hair and make sure you looked great.”

A soft launch of the app will take place in New York and Washington D.C. this June. If all goes well, it’ll be launching in Atlanta next fall. 

So not only will these three women be taking home the profits from HausCall, but they also plan on hiring and servicing people of color. It’s brilliant. It’s bougie. The group even told Blavity they also have intend to employ those who were formerly incarcerated and are struggling to find jobs. 

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

›  New App Offers Ingenious Option For Guys Who Are Too Shy To Send Dick Pics

Sex Heroes is an ongoing HuffPost Q&A series by Voices Editorial Director Noah Michelson that explores the lives and experiences of individuals who are challenging, and thereby changing, mainstream culture’s understanding of sex and sexuality. 

In our modern age of online dating and internet hook ups, dick pics, for better or for worse, have become a kind of digital currency ? especially for gay men. Hop on Grindr or Scruff or any other web app designed to connect men looking for love ? or just someone to get off with ? and it won’t be long before you’re asked to show exactly what you’re packing.

For some, sharing explicit images isn’t a big deal. But for those who are worried about privacy and want to avoid having their nether bits distributed to anyone ? or everyone ? on the internet, dick pics have been seen as a total no-go.

Gyorgy Szucs, the 28-year-old gay CEO and founder of design and code company Creative Robot, wants to help eradicate dick pic stigma while promoting sex and body positivity and what he refers to as “kinkiness.” He’s developed a new app, called Dick Code, that lets users choose from a number of illustrations that most closely match their genitals and then generates a “code” that they can send to whomever they choose without fearing that move might eventually come back to haunt them.

Dick Code asks each user to select from a variety of physical penis characteristics ? from size and girth to hairiness and curvature ? in order to create an intimate profile of their member that is as representative as possible. Dick Codes also offers additional information that a dick pic can’t, like the trajectory and pattern of the individual’s ejaculate.

“I started by drawing many dicks as a practice,” Szucs told me in an email. “First I started with the obvious categories, like size and circumference and then I went on to the ‘dirty’ stuff and added everything that my mind could think of absolutely shamelessly.”

Szucs, who is originally from Hungary but currently resides in Santiago, Chile, also shared with me where the inspiration for Dick Code originally came from, his thoughts on the politics of dick pics (especially involving straight men sending unwanted images to women), his upcoming plans for Vagina Code and Sex Code apps and more.

The Huffington Post: Where did the idea for Dick Code come from? Was there a specific “a ha!” moment of inspiration?
Gyorgy Szucs: I received a picture from a friend with drawn penises where you could choose the right one for you. I felt it was incomplete and too complicated to communicate the result. I immediately thought it could be a great web app, especially if I put my kinkiness in it as well.

Do you intend for people to really use it when communicating with others online? Or is it more of an art or conversation piece?
I wanted a simple, handy tool that enables people to communicate more about their sexual features. I focused on the parts we tend to be shy about, so I intentionally didn’t give descriptions. I’m a very rational person, so I don’t feel like it’s an art piece ? I just want to help people and bring out their kink.

Dick pics are controversial and can be problematic because they are often sent to people who don’t want them ? especially by straight men to straight women. What are your personal thoughts about the politics of dick pics?
It depends. I believe if you receive a dick pic you didn’t ask for, most likely that means the owner of it has an ugly face and/or personality. But if you’re already in a conversation with someone online looking for a hookup, and passed the mental check, I see no problem in exchanging hot pics. Now you can exchange dick codes too.

Do you think that dick pics work differently among gay men versus non-gay people? How do you think women feel about this and do you think straight men would use Dick Code?
Let me tell you ? [by looking at Google analytics I learned that] 40 percent of the 1 million visitors I had in four days were women. I thought it would be a gay thing only, but I think now I’ll have to interview straight women too to see what’s going on. Based on the feedback so far, I believe that girls use it to describe their favorite dick. Straight guys don’t really use it, in fact they are mostly disgusted by this, but maybe they will soon be asked by their next date to share their dick code. No escape.

What has the response been? What are people saying?
I’m having such fun days. I’m receiving like 50 messages a day about how ingenious the idea is, how easy it became for shy people to be more kinky. They are laughing a lot while still sharing features they never talked about before. And the most amazing part is that people who created and shared their dick code tell me how surprisingly positive the responses are. They believed that their dick was not impressive as it is not “big,” but they had now come to the realization that people (women especially) are kinky deep inside and find certain aspects of a dick impressive, other than just the size.

And of course, girls keep asking for the V[agina] Code. I’m already working on that, I just need lots of help as I’m not experienced in that area.

Are there other “codes” in the works and when will they roll out?
Vagina Code and Sex Code. The latter will be basically about sex positions and games. Kinky games. I believe the V Code will come in the following few weeks, and the Sex Code after that. I’ll update the Dick Code page with details.

I’m absolutely shocked by the fact how many women use the Dick Code. I think the V code will be fun for straight guys mostly, but I guess the Sex Code will turn into the next “50 Shades of Grey.”

What do you ultimately want people to take away from this project?
I believe it is a fun tool to bring out your kinkiness in a very safe way and share it with your partner. It’s easy to tap innocent drawn images about dirty stuff. It is definitely not just a gay thing. People tell me and now I believe that I started something big, something that might reform online dating and the way we talk about sex. I’ll keep adding ways to it. I hope that dating sites will realize the value and maybe add a field in people’s profile for D, V and Sex Codes.

You can visit Dick Code here. For more from Szucs, visit his Instagram page.

Is there a sex hero you think deserves to be covered on The Huffington Post? Send an email to Noah Michelson.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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