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Tech News Today for April 18, 2017

Tech News for Tuesday April 18, 2017

Facebook is holding its annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, and there’s always a nice selection of news from the event. Today is no exception. Facebook launched the beta version of Facebook Spaces, its way of merging its efforts in the social realm with its efforts in Virtual Reality. Spaces launches on Facebook’s Oculus Rift with the Touch controller and allows Facebook users to communicate with friends by voice and including a virtual avatar that animates with full body language. Read more at techcrunch.com.

Facebook also spent time on Augmented Reality by showing off its new Facebook AR platform, something Zuckerberg calls the first mainstream AR platform. With AR, Zuckerberg posits that perhaps many of the things in our home for example could instead be represented virtually, that they didn’t need to be there physically in the first place. Zuckerberg showed off the Camera Effects developer platform for filters ala Snapchat, because the first AR platform will be using a camera and not fancy glasses. Read more at venturebeat.com.

Facebook also announced new features in its bot and messaging platform. David Marcus, the head of Facebook Messaging says the company's aim is to become the Yellow Pages of bots. There was much fanfare about bots last year at F8, but those of us who tried some of the offering on stage last year were less than pleased in reality. Marcus says the growing pains are behind them and that bots are about to become mainstream. Translation bots to help refugees, homework bots to help kids learn, and medical bots that help diagnose that persistent itch you've been experiencing. All that sounds well and good, but do you believe them? Read more at newsroom.fb.com.

The NDA has lifted and many sites are publishing their reviews of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+. Here are a few common thoughts from the reviews we’ve read: The Infinity display is the best display many have ever seen on a smartphone, the size is unexpectedly slim even with the larger screen sizes thanks to the near bezel-less display, the camera is one of the best on the market with noticable improvements thanks to an improved sensor, but the rear fingerprint sensor is placed awkwardly and is easy to miss, and Bixby, Samsung's highly touted digital assistant, is half baked at launch. Read more at macrumors.com.

When he isn't jumping up and down at LA Clippers games or teaching at Stanford and USC, former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer is launching a watchdog site to track government spending. USAFacts will make it easier to understand how the US government is spending your tax dollars that you should have sent in by today. According to CNN, Ballmer wants to release annual reports on the government much like public companies do. The reports would provide a comprehensive view of the combined US federal, state, and local governments’ revenues, expenditures, and key metrics and the factors that may affect future operations. Ballmer has hired a team of researchers for the project and has already spent 10 million dollars on it. Read more at money.cnn.com

Let’s top this off with some fun rumory stuff. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Min Jeong Lee have more details on Apple’s upcoming ten year release of the iPhone. Rumors say to expect three new models this fall, with two upgraded versions of the currently available model, and one premium version with a completely overhauled design. Upgrades include curved glass that nearly covers the full frontside of the device resulting in a larger display in a smaller body, as well as merging the home button into the screen similar to that on Samsung’s S8. Read more at bloomberg.com.

Megan Morrone and Jason Howell are joined today by Amul Kalia from the EFF to talk about a new report about schools collecting and storing information on kids. Tech News Today streams live weekdays at 4PM Pacific, 7PM Eastern at twit.tv/live. You can subscribe to the show and watch it on-demand at twit.tv/tnt.

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