Common bacteria on verge of becoming antibiotic-resistant superbugs

Antibiotic resistance is poised to spread globally among bacteria frequently implicated in respiratory and urinary infections in hospital settings, according to new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The study shows that two genes that confer resistance against a particularly strong class of antibiotics can be shared easily among a family of bacteria responsible for a significant portion of hospital-associated infections.

Drug-resistant germs in the same family of bacteria recently infected several patients at two Los Angeles hospitals. The infections have been linked to medical scopes believed to have been contaminated with bacteria that can resist carbapenems, potent antibiotics that are supposed to be used only in gravely ill patients or those infected by resistant bacteria.

"Carbapenems are one of our last resorts for treating bacterial infections, what we use when nothing else works," said senior author Gautam Dantas, PhD, associate professor of pathology and immunology. "Given what we know now, I don't think it's overstating the case to say that for certain types of infections, we may be looking at the start of the post-antibiotic era, a time when most of the antibiotics we rely on to treat bacterial infections are no longer effective."

Dantas and other experts recommend strictly limiting the usage of carbapenems to cases in which no other treatments can help.

The study, conducted by researchers at Washington University, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the National University of Sciences and Technology in Pakistan, is available online in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The researchers studied a family of bacteria called Enterobacteriaceae, which includes E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Enterobacter. Some strains of these bacteria do not cause illness and can help keep the body healthy. But in people with weakened immune systems, infections with carbapenem-resistant versions of these bacteria can be deadly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae as one of the three most urgent threats among emerging forms of antibiotic-resistant disease. Studies have shown the fatality rate for these infections is above 50 percent in patients with weakened immune systems.

Two genes are primarily responsible for carbapenem-resistant versions of these disease-causing bacteria. One gene, KPC, was detected in New York in 2001 and quickly spread around most of the world, with the exception of India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries. This gene was present in the bacteria that recently contaminated medical equipment in a Los Angeles hospital where two patients died.

A second carbapenem resistance gene, NDM-1, was identified in 2006 in New Delhi, India. It was soon detected throughout South Asia, and most patients infected by bacteria with NDM-1 have had an epidemiological link to South Asian countries.

Dantas and his collaborators were curious about why the two resistance genes seemed to be geographically exclusive. For the study, they compared the genomes of carbapenem-resistant bacteria isolated in the United States with those of carbapenem-resistant bacteria isolated in Pakistan.

Based on the apparent geographic exclusivity of the two resistance genes, the scientists expected to find that bacteria from the two regions were genetically different. Such differences could explain why the two resistance genes weren't intermingling. But the researchers' results showed otherwise. The bacteria's high genetic similarity suggests that the antibiotic resistance genes could be shared easily between bacteria from the two geographic regions.

The researchers also sequenced a special portion of bacterial genetic material called plasmids. Most of a bacteria's DNA is found in its chromosome, but bacteria also have many extra, smaller and circular bits of DNA known as plasmids that easily can pass from one bacterial strain to another. A plasmid is like a bacterial gene delivery truck; it is the primary way antibiotic resistance genes spread between bacteria.

The researchers identified a few key instances in which the plasmids carrying NDM-1 or KPC were nearly identical, meaning they easily could facilitate the spread of antibiotic resistance between disease-causing bacteria found in the United States and South Asia. Recent evidence suggests that this intermingling already may be happening in parts of China.

"Our findings also suggest it's going to get easier for strains of these bacteria that are not yet resistant to pick up a gene that lets them survive carbapenem treatment," Dantas said. "Typically, that's not going to be a problem for most of us, but as drug-resistant forms of Enterobacteriaceae become more widespread, the odds will increase that we'll pass one of these superbugs on to a friend with a weakened immune system who can really be hurt by them."

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington University School of Medicine . The original article was written by Michael C. Purdy. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Google Sends Reporter a GIF Instead of a ‘No Comment’

Not to be all snooty about online publishing, but your newspaper can’t do this:

This adorable animated GIF is apparently the official answer Google sent to a Daily Dot reporter in response to his seeming scoop on a new YouTube livestreaming plan. Richard Lewis reported that Google-owned YouTube was going to take a new swing at “eSports”—a.k.a. watching other people play videogames—as services like Amazon-owned Twitch gain popularity.

In an update to the story today (h/t Business Insider ), Lewis wrote that a YouTube spokesperson sent him an animated GIF in response to a request for comment. He assumed it was a joke. “Earlier today, the rep assured us it was not,” Lewis said.

“‘The GIF really was our official response,'” Lewis quotes the rep as saying.

On the one hand, it’s fair to look back on the print-first news organizations of the 20th century and criticize them for not moving fast enough as the efficiency and reach of online publishing became apparent. On the other hand, you can’t really blame anyone twenty years ago for not anticipating that the PR shop of one of the most world’s most valuable publicly traded companies would send out cute moving pictures of kids as an official response to anything.

WIRED reached out to Google to confirm that the GIF came from them, but the company has yet to respond. If it does, I hope the reply looks something like this:

Tech Luminaries Tackle Big Questions on Small Napkins

Tech Luminaries Tackle Big Questions on Small Napkins

Launch Slideshow Launch Slideshow


NSA Doesn’t Need to Spy on Your Calls to Learn Your Secrets

Governments and corporations gather, store, and analyze the tremendous amount of data we chuff out as we move through our digitized lives. Often this is without our knowledge, and typically without our consent. Based on this data, they draw conclusions about us that we might disagree with or object to, and that can impact our lives in profound ways. We may not like to admit it, but we are under mass surveillance.

Much of what we know about the NSA’s surveillance comes from Edward Snowden, although people both before and after him also leaked agency secrets. As an NSA contractor, Snowden collected tens of thousands of documents describing many of the NSA’s surveillance activities. Then in 2013 he fled to Hong Kong and gave them to select reporters.

Excerpted from Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World Excerpted from Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World

The first news story to break based on the Snowden documents described how the NSA collects the cell phone call records of every American. One government defense, and a sound bite repeated ever since, is that the data they collected is “only metadata.” The intended point was that the NSA wasn’t collecting the words we said during our phone conversations, only the phone numbers of the two parties, and the date, time, and duration of the call. This seemed to mollify many people, but it shouldn’t have. Collecting metadata on people means putting them under surveillance.

An easy thought experiment demonstrates this. Imagine that you hired a private detective to eavesdrop on someone. The detective would plant bugs in that person’s home, office, and car. He would eavesdrop on that person’s phone and computer. And you would get a report detailing that person’s conversations.

Now imagine that you asked the detective to put that person under surveillance. You would get a different but nevertheless comprehensive report: where he went, what he did, who he spoke to and for how long, who he wrote to, what he read, and what he purchased. That’s metadata.

Eavesdropping gets you the conversations; surveillance gets you everything else.

Phone metadata reveals what and who we’re interested in and what’s important to us, no matter how private.

Telephone metadata alone reveals a lot about us. The timing, length, and frequency of our conversations reveal our relationships with each other: our intimate friends, business associates, and everyone in-between. Phone metadata reveals what and who we’re interested in and what’s important to us, no matter how private. It provides a window into our personalities. It provides a detailed summary of what’s happening to us at any point in time.

One experiment from Stanford University examined the phone metadata of about 500 volunteers over several months. The personal nature of what the researchers could deduce from the metadata surprised even them, and the report is worth quoting:

Participant A communicated with multiple local neurology groups, a specialty pharmacy, a rare condition management service, and a hotline for a pharmaceutical used solely to treat relapsing multiple sclerosis.

Google knows what kind of porn each of us searches for, which old lovers we still think about, our shames, our concerns, and our secrets.

Participant B spoke at length with cardiologists at a major medical center, talked briefly with a medical laboratory, received calls from a pharmacy, and placed short calls to a home reporting hotline for a medical device used to monitor cardiac arrhythmia.

Participant C made a number of calls to a firearms store that specializes in the AR semiautomatic rifle platform. They also spoke at length with customer service for a firearm manufacturer that produces an AR line.

In a span of three weeks, Participant D contacted a home improvement store, locksmiths, a hydroponics dealer, and a head shop.

Participant E had a long early morning call with her sister. Two days later, she placed a series of calls to the local Planned Parenthood location. She placed brief additional calls two weeks later, and made a final call a month after.

That’s a multiple sclerosis sufferer, a heart attack victim, a semiautomatic weapons owner, a home marijuana grower, and someone who had an abortion, all from a single stream of metadata.

Web search data is another source of intimate information that can be used for surveillance. (You can argue whether this is data or metadata. The NSA claims it’s metadata because your search terms are embedded in the URLs.) We don’t lie to our search engine. We’re more intimate with it than with our friends, lovers, or family members. We always tell it exactly what we’re thinking about, in as clear words as possible.

Google knows what kind of porn each of us searches for, which old lovers we still think about, our shames, our concerns, and our secrets. If Google decided to, it could figure out which of us is worried about our mental health, thinking about tax evasion, or planning to protest a particular government policy. I used to say that Google knows more about what I’m thinking of than my wife does. But that doesn’t go far enough. Google knows more about what I’m thinking of than I do, because Google remembers all of it perfectly and forever.

I did a quick experiment with Google’s autocomplete feature. This is the feature that offers to complete typing your search queries in real time, based on what other people have typed. When I typed “should I tell my w,” Google suggested “should i tell my wife i had an affair” and “should i tell my work about dui” as the most popular completions. Google knows who clicked on those completions, and everything else they ever searched for. Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt admitted as much in 2010: “We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.”

We kill people based on metadata. Former NSA Director Michael Hayden

If you have a Gmail account, you can check for yourself. You can look at your search history for any time you were logged in. It goes back for as long as you’ve had the account, probably for years. Do it; you’ll be surprised. It’s more intimate than if you’d sent Google your diary. And while Google lets you see it, you have no rights to delete anything you don’t want there.

There are other sources of intimate data and metadata. Records of your purchasing habits reveal a lot about who you are. Your tweets tell the world what time you wake up in the morning, and what time you go to bed each night. Your buddy lists and address books reveal your political affiliation and sexual orientation. Your email headers reveal who is central to your professional, social, and romantic life.

One way to think about it is that data is content, and metadata is context. Metadata can be much more revealing than data, especially when collected in the aggregate. When you have one person under surveillance, the contents of conversations, text messages, and emails can be more important than the metadata. But when you have an entire population under surveillance, the metadata is far more meaningful, important, and useful. As former NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker said: “Metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata you don’t really need content.” In 2014, former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden remarked: “We kill people based on metadata.”

The truth is, though, that the difference is largely illusionary. It’s all data about us.

Excerpted from DATA AND GOLIATH: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World by Bruce Schneier. Copyright © 2015 by Bruce Schneier. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Facebook Unveils Immersive 360-Degree Video for News Feeds

Facebook is testing what it calls spherical videos, part of a new breed of online video you can “move through,” much like a 3D game.

Company founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the technology on Wednesday morning, during his keynote at Facebook’s annual developer conference in San Francisco, saying these videos are shot with 24 cameras working in concert. “You can move around inside the video,” he said, “and view it from different angles.”

The company is demonstrating these videos for attendees at this week’s conference—showing off a 24-camera-view of the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California—and the plan, Zuckerberg says, is to eventually get this kind of “immersive, 360-degree video experience” into your Facebook News Feed.

According to Facebook, the more than 1.3 billion people its on social network view more than 3 billion videos on the service each day, and now it hopes to push these users towards this new breed of video. Beginning today, the company is asking third-party publishers to create their own spherical videos for sharing across Facebook.

The move is a small taste of how Facebook plans to push into the world of virtual reality in the months and years to come. The company describes its spherical videos as a “first step” towards even-more-immersive videos that we’ll view through virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift, which strap over your eyes and provide the illusion of stepping inside a digital environment. “You’re going to be able to put on your Oculus headset,” Zuckerberg said, “and view spherical videos there too.”

Last year, Facebook acquired the maker of the Oculus Rift, a headset built for VR games, and chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer is expected to discuss the progress of the Oculus during his keynote on Thursday. Much like Google, with its Google Glass eyewear, and Microsoft, with its Hololens headset, Facebook believes the future internet will rely heavily on virtual reality and “augmented reality”—where the digital enhances what we see around us here in the real world.

The difference with the “spherical video” demonstrated by Zuckerberg is that it doesn’t require a headset. It runs inside standard browsers and on standard phones. That will limit how “immersive” it will be. Plus, as Gartner analyst Brian Blau points out, the specialized hardware needed to produce these videos will limit how prevalent they are. “Is this for consumer creators or professionals?” Blau asks. And he adds that similar videos can already be uploaded to services like YouTube.

Video will likely play a role in our VR future, Blau tells WIRED, but in the beginning, the Oculus and the Samsung Gear VR will be used primarily for games. This morning, at today’s conference, Facebook began demonstrating the Oculus and the Samsung Gear VR for conference attendees and press, and the demo did not involve video. It showed off games and digitally-created virtual worlds—a gothic hall where a 3D dinosaur turns the corner and walks toward you, a city street where soldiers of the future battle some sort of angry robot.

The next step is video, where you digitally step into real places filmed by real cameras. That’s still a ways away, but it’s where Zuckerberg is looking. “We’re starting to see real video merge with virtual reality and augmented reality,” he said.

Zuckerberg Wants to Move Fast and Help Everyone Make Money

Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at the f8 Facebook Developer Conference Wednesday, April 30, 2014, in San Francisco. Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at the F8 Facebook Developer Conference Wednesday, April 30, 2014, in San Francisco. Ben Margot

In addition to preaching to developers, Facebook’s CEO has long used the annual F8 developer conference to communicate more broadly about the company’s future direction. Last year, he publicly retired the word “hack” as its rallying cry, introducing a phase in which Facebook invested more in listening to both users and developers and shoring up its network of products and services. Speaking to WIRED, he explained the company had changed its internal motto to “Move fast with stable infrastructure.”

It wasn’t nearly as catchy as “Move fast and break things,” which was the point: Facebook was emerging from its startup history to become a mature company able to help its developers reach large audiences consistently and profit from their work.

At F8 today in San Francisco, the company is unleashing a spate of updates and announcements designed to amplify these efforts. (You can read about those announcements here.) Thematically, Zuckerberg wants the world to understand that Facebook is much more than the blue “F” icon on the front of your smartphone. (Thank god, because you won’t even find it on many teens’ phones.) It’s a collection of socially fueled services, from Instagram and Whatsapp to the virtual reality headset manufactured by Oculus. And with the success of Messenger, Facebook’s messaging app, the company has finally proven that it doesn’t have to buy new growth; it can build a new and robust social service in-house.

Facebook’s web of products and services now reaches 1.4 billion people around the globe, many of whom tap into the social network through its connection to Instagram, Whatsapp and Oculus. Zuckerberg notes that many of these newer services are growing their multi-hundred million user bases faster than the original social networking site. That’s part of what has made the past year so profitable for Facebook. The company’s revenues jumped nearly 60 percent to $12.5 billion last year.

To continue this supercharged growth, developers will be crucial. They build much of the software that draws those users and entices them to stick around longer. In a recent conversation at Facebook’s Menlo Park campus, I asked Zuckerberg to share a few thoughts on his developer philosophy, his perspective on Google, and how all of Facebook’s products and services fit together.

WIRED: I’ve been to most of the F8s. They’ve changed in recent years. They began as a conversation with the world. And they’ve become a conversation with developers. Who are you are addressing?

ZUCKERBERG: I think the bigger shift is that they used to be [for] major product announcements. And now they are our moment to get the developer community together to talk about how we are thinking about all of our different products and services. The first F8 was announcing the whole platform, and even the second and third F8s, the keynotes were kind of short and focused on one thing we were talking about. We announced Connect and didn’t at all talk about the Canvas games business, which had grown to this really large business. I think a lot of what we’ve tried to do is just grow up and make sure we have this moment to talk to all the different folks in this community about the different products that we have.

WIRED: One of last year’s big themes was that as Facebook entered the next phase of its corporate life, it would focus on listening really well to people. Do you feel you’ve lived up to this goal?

ZUCKERBERG: I think it’s a multiyear thing. You can’t just say, we’re going to be stable, and have people believe you in six months. You get a reputation for stability if you are stable for years. So it’ll be something we’re going to talk about at this year’s F8 and next year’s F8 and F8 2020. Right now I don’t think we have a reputation for being unstable.

Similarly I think that there’s this reputation that the people using apps [that rely on Facebook] are often not happy with what [those] apps ask for in terms of permissions. We cut back on the default amount of information that apps could ask for. We started testing anonymous login. We redid login. We are going to continue that this year.

WIRED: You have twice as many developers this year. Your event is twice as long. And you have developers for so many different products. How does everybody fit together?

ZUCKERBERG: So this is a big theme for this year, too. It’s a theme for the developer community but it’s also a big theme for our whole company and our mission and what we’re doing. A lot of people think about Facebook as this one blue app. The Facebook company is synonymous with the Facebook product. But that is becoming less and less true. Not because the Facebook app is becoming less important; I think it’s actually grown in importance in the world. But because now there are these other services like Messenger, which has 600 million monthly active users. Whatsapp has 700 million. Instagram has 300 million. Groups has 700 million. Those are all continuing to grow at an even faster rate than the core Facebook app.

So [developers] are building apps and content that can flow through all these different social media channels. I think there’s this narrative that needs to be told about how they all fit together. One way that we talk about this internally is that a lot of natural systems in the world fit this pattern of arteries and capillaries, or a highway and side roads, or fiber and then the last mile to the home. Human communication fits the same pattern. You need your thoroughfare where communication can be broad, and there are multiple of those. And then you need really targeted, more precise things that actually deliver the message directly to people with more certainty. We have that between the News Feed system, which is the biggest artery, and things like Messenger and Whatsapp to one extreme, and then things like Groups in the middle. I think that that’s an interesting opportunity for developers and a cool way to conceptualize how the communication system for the world evolves.

WIRED: Several of Facebook’s announcements position the company to compete more directly with Google. For example, Facebook Analytics for Apps, which provides developers an analytics tool that works across devices. There’s also the work Facebook is doing in video. How are you thinking about that?

ZUCKERBERG: I think the people covering us think about things in terms of competition more than you actually do when you are running a company. It’s fun to talk about a conflict between companies. But really, we have goals. We are trying to help people make money. We are trying to help people advertise effectively. If you’re advertising and a big part of what you do is targeting to people, measurement is really important to understand: are you hitting them with your message and is it actually converting for people? To the extent that we are doing measurement and Google did measurement, that’s just because Google is smart and they also realize that measurement is valuable, but it’s not like we are trying to take measurement away from them. It’s an obvious thing you’d want to do if you were an advertiser. You want to have the best understanding you can about how your stuff is performing.

Same on the video front. Video is growing very quickly on Facebook. A lot of people compare that to YouTube. I think that kind of makes sense. YouTube isn’t the only video service, but I think it’s the biggest and it probably makes more sense to compare Facebook video to YouTube rather than Netflix because that’s a completely different kind of content. When we are thinking about stuff like embeds we are not thinking about how we are competing with YouTube. We are thinking about how are we going to make it more useful for people to share stuff on Facebook.

A New App for Facebook Messenger Turns Your Text Into a Pop Song

The Ditty app lets you pick a song, type in a message, and create a short video you can send to a friend via Facebook Messenger. The Ditty app lets you pick a song, type in a message, and create a music video you can send to a friend via Facebook Messenger. Screenshots: Zya

At today’s F8 Developer Conference in San Francisco, Facebook announced its Messenger service would now be an open platform for third-party developers. You might think that sounds a little boring. You’d be wrong, because one of the first available Messenger upgrades, an app that converts typed text into popular music, is not boring at all. It is dope.

Zya Ditty is a text-to-autotune generator that lets you compose up to a 70-character message, pick a background song from among several popular, recognizable tunes, and chill out for a few seconds while Ditty stitches together a 20-second music clip and text-based music video out of it. At launch, licensed song choices include Sia’s “Chandelier,” OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars,” and The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie,” among others, as well as public-domain songs. The results look and sound like this:

It’s very fun. The tech behind it is also very complicated.

“There’s an ingestion process where we study the melody of the song and the phrasing of the original melody versus what a user types in,” says Dean Serletic, head of licensing for Zya Music. “The syllable count could be entirely different. We’ve got to make that work somehow. Our team goes all the way back to classical music theory, how Bach and Mozart handled music composition, up to modern techniques like stutter techniques and things in pop culture.”

While Ditty is launching alongside the Facebook Messenger announcement, it also works as a standalone app for both iOS and Android. You can compose a text-to-song creation, save it to your camera roll as a video, and then share that video with any service that supports video attachments. But there’s a direct-to-Facebook Messenger button within Ditty.

At launch, the app will have around 30 tracks to choose from, both public-domain songs and licensed hits. Most of the public-domain tunes, mostly familiar nursery rhymes and “Hail to the Chief,” will be free to use. Some of the licensed catalog will cost 99 cents per song; you’d buy each song once and then be able to use it for as many Dittys as you want. Zya’s Serletic says the company is also exploring ideas to offer song bundles for a lower price.

The first wave of licensees is from the Sony/EMI catalog, and Serletic says Zya’s goal is to get 100 songs on offer within 90 days of the app’s launch. One of Zya’s previous games, “Zya: The Ultimate Music Game,” involved licensing deals with all the major labels. Serletic says that experience should help them grow out the song offerings quickly.

“What we’ve found is that something as simple as nursery rhymes are immensely fun,” says Serletic. “The idea that whatever you have to say can be put into classical music or something we all heard in elementary school… You always want to build something engaging, but when you’re building it and having fun and laughing your ass off at the same time, that makes for the best products.” And for the very most ridiculous messages.

The Ditty app will be available for free in the iOS App Store and Google Play store later today.

Facebook Thinks Its Messenger Can Kill Junk Mail

facebook business messenger FacebookFacebook has an ambitious plan to fix junk mail. You know the stuff I’m talking about. The numbingly distracting notifications that arrive after you’ve ordered a pair of jeans, say, or a new coffee maker. “At best it’s four emails” to confirm an order, says David Marcus, the former PayPal CEO who arrived last August to jumpstart Facebook’s messaging app. To say nothing of the promotional emails that follow—sales, plugs, newsletters, and on and on until you get the urge to dump the whole thing into your spam folder and be done with it already.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Or at least, that’s what Facebook believes. Today at Facebook’s F8 developer conference, Marcus is debuting Messenger for Business, a feature set to launch in a few weeks that will allow businesses to send receipts, notify customers that their packages have shipped, and provide basic customer service directly over Messenger. Marcus hopes to rethink the way people and brands talk to each other.

“The problem with email is that there is no one in between you and the business,” he says. As our inboxes grow fuller, he explains, businesses try harder to get our attention by sending more emails, which exacerbates the problem. “The fact some email providers are actually putting promotional emails in a separate folder is not helping,” he adds, taking a shot at Google.

By inserting Facebook’s supercharged algorithms between you and your jeans purveyor, Marcus hopes Messenger can strike a perfect balance, helping users get more of the customer service they want from companies—and helping businesses establish a stronger communications channel for their customers.

The move happens just as the homegrown app that people initially passed over in favor of competitors like Snapchat, Kik, or Vine hits a big milestone: Messenger now has 600 million users, nearly triple the number it had a year ago. It’s this size that makes this move significant. Facebook’s near ubiquity means its potential impact is vast. It also coincides with Messenger’s announcement that the app is now open to partnerships with outside developers—nearly 50 have signed on so far, including big companies like ESPN as well as popular photo apps like the GIF-maker Giphy.

While Marcus has no plans to charge companies using Messenger for Business initially, it’s easy to foresee a number of ways Facebook will be able to profit from these relationships in the future, such as charging businesses a fee to send messages, or incorporating a payment feature, or using the data it collects about e-commerce transactions to improve Facebook’s advertising products. “There might be a business model to find between solving a problem for consumers and enabling merchants to grow their businesses in a more effective and personal way,” he says.

Initially, Messenger for Business will start slowly, rolling out with two launch partners: the children’s toy and clothing company Zulily and the fashion basics company Everlane. When a customer makes a purchase on either of their sites, she’ll have the option at checkout to get realtime shopping updates via Facebook, matching a Facebook identity to an order. Marcus pulls up an Everlane checkout page on his laptop to show a tiny opt-in Messenger icon embedded on the screen verifying payment and shipping information. (You may remember Messenger launched a peer-to-peer payments system last week; users can send each other money on it, but they can’t pay businesses yet, so for now, it has no connection to this feature.)

facebook business messenger Facebook

If customers opt in, they’ll receive a receipt and shipping updates in Messenger. An elegant map allows them to track a package’s progress directly from the app. Push notifications can alert users when the package arrives at its destination, and the customer can follow up with the business directly over Messenger. Like your new Everlane cotton t-shirt in navy? Send Everlane a gigantic thumbs-up image, just like you might send one to any other friend on Messenger. Want a black one just like it? No need to visit the site or make a call or even click a link. Just write back to Everlane and as long as the retailer has your credit card on file, a customer service representative will send one. Your entire correspondence history will be recorded in one message thread.

Of course, businesses will be able to tailor the feature as they desire. Not every company will, like Everlane, provide live chat. “It’s up to the business to fine tune what elements it will use,” says Marcus. Also, once the relationship has been established between the customer and the business, businesses will be able to contact customers with promotions, newsletters or other news.

In this scenario, it’s easy to imagine a future in which Facebook’s business messages are just a new form of junk mail. But Marcus says Facebook will monitor these interactions aggressively to make sure that “the signal-to-noise ratio is correct.” He references a formula on which Messenger will rely to make sure its users don’t receive too much unappealing correspondence from advertisers. That’s a strategy that has worked successfully for Facebook in choosing how many ads to show users in its news stream.

No one is more motivated to get this balance right than Marcus himself. With a host of messaging apps competing to be the default service we use to talk, pay, and hang out with each other, he can’t afford to piss off users. They would be gone in a snap(chat).

Kleiner Lawyer Says Pao Twisted Facts to Get a Big Payout

Ellen Pao. Ellen Pao. Christie Hemm Klok/WIRED

Early on in her closing argument, defense attorney Lynne Hermle showed the jury a picture of the plaintiff, Ellen Pao, surrounded by photos of 13 colleagues she had clashed with during her time at Kleiner Perkins, the legendary venture capital firm she’s suing for gender discrimination. The pictures ranged from Pao’s own assistant to her ex-boss and mentor, John Doerr. The slide on the projector was titled, “Pao’s Numerous Conflicts: What Is the Common Denominator?”

According to Hermle, what they all had in common was Pao. Pao had conflicts with virtually everyone she worked with closely, Hermle argued as she began recapping the defense’s case late yesterday. Closing arguments continued this morning. The crux of Kleiner’s defense is that Pao herself was the problem at the firm, not her gender. The only people who she didn’t have issues with, Hermle argued in San Francisco Superior Court, were employees with whom she didn’t work closely in the first place.

Pao is suing her former employer, whose full name is Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, for gender discrimination and retaliation. She claims she was unfairly passed over while men were promoted; when she complained about her issues, she says, she was penalized and eventually terminated. The trial, now in its fifth week, has sparked soul-searching about the lack of diversity in a tech industry where the workforce is dominated by men.

The case is expected to go the jury for deliberations later today after Pao’s team presents its rebuttal. Pao attorney Alan Exelrod summed up her case yesterday in a three-and-a-half-hour argument that Pao brought in the returns while men got the promotions.

Nothing to Do with Gender

Hermle argued that Pao’s failure to succeed at Kleiner Perkins had nothing to do with gender or retaliation. On the contrary, she said, Pao saw an opportunity for a big payout. And, when she saw the writing on the wall that she would probably be fired, Hermle said, she went on the defensive. “Her complaints did not cause the lack of promotion,” said Hermle. “The lack of promotion caused Ellen Pao’s complaints.”

Throughout her closing argument, Hermle sought to show that Pao blamed others for her own failings and that she was simply not cut out to be a venture capitalist. Pao twisted facts to support her allegations, Hermle said, and she never intended to support other women. ‘The circumstances show you the complaints for Ellen Pao were made for one purpose,” Hermle said. “A huge payout for Team Ellen.”

Pao Was Ahead of the Game From the Start

In 2005, her first year at the firm, Pao had already started ahead of her peers, Hermle argued. She had famed VC John Doerr’s support and mentorship from the beginning, but she did not succeed because she had her own advancement in mind rather than the good of the group, Hermle said. “She was not a fit for the team-based culture at the heart of venture capital, and she wanted credit,” Hermle said. “She was dismissive of colleagues over and over.”

On the other hand, Hermle said, Pao’s peers did what they could to overcome the criticisms they met early on in their careers. Pao, meanwhile, “refused to deepen her expertise to a thought-leader level,” Hermle said, intimating that because Pao had already minted a sterling academic record, she may have thought she was a success “in her own mind, and didn’t need to fix anything.”

But when Pao started to work closely with others in a team setting, she argued, her negative traits emerged. Hermle pointed to accusatory messages, unpleasant emails, constant complaints about colleagues—even a complaint about a peer “while his mother was dying of brain cancer in China,” Hermle said.

Twisting Facts

As soon as Pao realized she wasn’t doing well for the firm, Hermle said, she began to collect evidence for the suit against Kleiner. She sent emails to herself, kept text messages of an affair between her and a married colleague “only when things were going badly,” and got a lawyer to represent her during an internal investigation in which the firm looked into her claims of gender bias.

One by one, Hermle sought to poke holes in Pao’s version of events at Kleiner that allegedly showed gender bias No one but Pao could back up her claim that a male partner had said “women kill the buzz,” she said. Many men were asked to sit in the back and take notes during off-sites. And a senior colleague’s Valentine’s Day gift of a Buddhist-themed poetry book that Pao called inappropriately erotic had a perfectly innocent explantation. Events that allegedly showed bias lacked context, or may not have even occurred, Hermle said.

Finally, Hermle implored the jury, consider the highly successful women at Kleiner who declined to join Pao’s suit. Not only did they refuse to join, Hermle said, but they testified had seen no discrimination at the firm.

To See the Birth of an Atlantic Hurricane, Look to Africa

The winter crushed the East Coast of the US. So let us crush your dreams of spring with a gentle reminder: Hurricane season is right around the corner. And the hurricanes that will slam into the Atlantic seaboard in just a couple of months are already glints in the eyes of storms-yet-to-be-born in Africa.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially kicks off in June, but it starts over the Sahara. In the Sudanese highlands—the same place the Nile begins—sun-heated air bubbles upward and condenses into mushroom-shaped thunderheads thousands of miles high. At the same time, enormous waves of air in the upper atmosphere push those storms west, toward the Atlantic. Most of these tempests will die on the coast. But some get second lives—as tropical storms or hurricanes. That turns out to be an important connection if you’re trying to predict hurricanes. New research shows that the temperature of clouds in those African storms could help meteorologists figure out which will mutate into coast-and-island-pummeling monsters on the other side of the ocean.

While these tall clouds are growing out of the high desert, a massive, oscillating atmospheric pattern called the Africa Easterly Wave is settling in thousands of feet above. It’s a vast, sine wave-shaped air flow that carries weather across the Sahara, east to west. When those Sudanese thunderstorms rise, they get caught up in the flow, off to drench Africa’s west coast. And there they stop; the Atlantic Ocean is cold, and thunderstorms thrive on heat.

But the Africa Easterly Wave persists, and sometimes so does the energy that used to be a thunderstorm. “And when the wave reaches the central part of the Atlantic basin, then some of the thunderstorms will start to develop again,” says Robert Rogers, a meteorologist with NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. Out in the mid-Atlantic, the water is warmer, the air more humid, and the wind stronger. And the Africa Easterly Wave’s undulations spin all those conditions into a nice cyclonic spiral.

Only about one in 10 of the African storms re-emerge, though. “That’s the million dollar question: What causes some of the storms in these Africa Easterly Waves to develop into a tropical cyclone?” says Jim Kossin, a climate researcher with the National Centers for Environmental Information. Even with a perfect accounting of environmental conditions in the mid-Atlantic, scientists still can’t predict which storms will complete the transition.

The fate might be written in the clouds of the thunderstorms. In new research, meteorologists from Tel Aviv University used geostationary satellites to look at the thunderstorms right before they disappeared off the coast of Africa into the Atlantic. Specifically, the scientists were looking at the temperatures at the very tops of each storm’s cumulonimbus clouds. Temperature is a proxy for height—clouds grow predictably colder as they rise. And the taller a cloud, the more energy it contains.

And surprise: These tall, cold clouds often prefigured later tropical storms. If the temperature of about 5 percent of the clouds in a thunderstorm drops to -58˚F mark—corresponding roughly to the maximum altitude for cumulonimbus clouds—the odds jump that it’ll resurrect as a cyclone.

And when does that happen? Well, 2015 is an El Niño year, so this season could be another dud. “Then again, it only takes one hurricane to make for an awful year,” says Kossin. Hurricane Andrew (the 1992 monster that flattened Miami) struck during an El Niño. No amount of prediction will ever stop a storm like Andrew (or any storm, for that matter), but right now meteorologists start tracking storms about a week before they look likely to make landfall. Looking at the cloud heights of African thunderstorms could double that lead time—and every added bit of foresight helps more people get out of the way.

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WIRED Binge-Watching Guide: Veronica Mars

It only lasted three seasons, and the last one wasn’t very spectacular, but Veronica Mars is already a cultural touchstone. Smart, funny, and blessed with a female lead who could do anything her character required, Rob Thomas’s show would take its relatively short run and use it to build a show praised by critics and beloved by fans.

The story of a high school gumshoe digging into the criminal underbelly of her seaside southern California hometown, Veronica Mars also presaged the current string of cable television crime serials while also creating one of the few modern female detectives to truly make an impact. That’s no small feat, and it’s one made even more impressive when you remember it was a show about teenagers on UPN that managed to soldier on even as UPN and the WB merged and the great CW experiment began.

Its three-season stint also means that it’s easy for anyone to join Veronica’s legion of ardent followers. Yes, you too can become a Marshmallow. With less than 100 episodes, it’s possible to get through the entire show in the same amount of time it would take to read some of great detective novels, sure, but do those all have a wisecracking high school girl whose diminutive appearance allows her to get the drop on unassuming suspects? We didn’t think so.

Here’s how to spend a few glorious weeks on Neptune, California’s mystery-riddled shoreline.

Veronica Mars

Number of Seasons: 3 (64 episodes)

Time Requirements: The show’s total run comes out to just under 46 hours of television. Mystery shows tend to pick up as they go along, so while it’s possible to watch a few episodes a night and get through the show in a month, it’s more likely that as the clues start to come together you’ll want to speed along and finish a little sooner.

Where to Get Your Fix: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play

Best Character to Follow: Veronica (Kristen Bell), duh. The show is named after her for a reason. Armed with the wit and sass of classic pulp detective characters, Veronica is what you’d get when crossing newshound Hildy Johnson from His Girl Friday and Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, or Nancy Drew mixed with Buffy. She’s unafraid to walk alone, but vulnerable enough to reveal in voiceover just how lonely it gets to project a stoic, disaffected demeanor all the time.

But if you’re looking for someone other than the title character, the most interesting supporting roles still have strong ties back to Veronica. Her father Keith (Enrico Colantoni) oscillates between a stern and protective guy who to see his daughter to have a normal adolescence to a beaming proud dad-joke machine who perfectly complements Veronica’s repertoire of references. And Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), try as he might to stay away, just can’t keep himself out of Veronica’s life. They’re like fire and gasoline: dangerous together, but the destructive havoc can sometimes be beautiful.

Seasons/Episodes (And One Movie) You Can Skip:

The final season of Veronica Mars is pretty spotty since at the time the show’s future at the fledgling CW hung in the balance. Instead of one dedicated season-long mystery like the first two years of the show, the final season sees Veronica handling a few multi-episode arcs while enrolled in her freshman year of college. Beyond that, here are a few episodes you can skip for sure.

Season 1: Episode 9, “Drinking The Kool-Aid” If there is a lowest point in the nearly impeccable debut season, it’s probably this episode, where Veronica infiltrates a potential cult called the Moon Calf Collective, only to find some mildly overeager hippies yearning for peace together.

Season 2: Episode 17, “Plan B” Veronica Mars goes out of its way in order to depict Neptune as a place where the haves and the have-nots come into conflict constantly, and those divisions often fall along racial lines. But when delving into something like a biker gang fighting with a big crime family, it loses the strong class struggle angle in a muddled turf war.

Season 3: Episode 4, “Charlie Don’t Surf” Matt Czuchry has proven against all odds that he’s not as punchable as his face suggests, turning in great performances on Gilmore Girls and The Good Wife. But as a journalist attempting to get closer to Logan by posing as a long-lost half-brother, he’s a terribly written character without much of a purpose.

Season 3: Episode 6, “Hi, Infidelity” Starting to sense a pattern? Yeah, the third season struggled to make the transition to what the CW wanted in its first year as a network. Sometimes that meant riveting, terrifying stuff—like the end of the next episode, “Of Vice And Men.” Other times, it meant a clumsy ruse where a group of feminist activists fake a rape in order to urge college administrators to take action against fraternities. Veronica Mars never shied away from hot-button issues and significant conversation topics, but it didn’t always handle them gracefully.

Veronica Mars (2014) Here’s a bitter pill to swallow: One year removed from the crowdfunded film’s release, it’s a lot easier to look back and wish the show had just remained a show. It was great to see the Marshmallow fan base rally around the Kickstarter for a film revival, but that’s basically all it was—fan service. An endless parade of cameos from beloved characters—Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen) the best of them, obviously—dragged down what could’ve been the start of a mystery franchise. The series of pulp novels co-written by Jennifer Graham—which feel a lot like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book continuation of a great series—are more worthy of the show’s legacy.

Seasons/Episodes You Can’t Skip:

Season 1: Episode 1, “Pilot” Who killed Lilly Kane? That’s the question that lingers over the Veronica Mars pilot, and the mystery that begat one of the strongest debut seasons of the century so far. Introducing Veronica as the once-popular daughter of disgraced sheriff Keith Mars, and as the ex-girlfriend of Duncan Kane (Teddy Dunn), her best friend’s brother. Most of the show takes place around Neptune High School, an area divided between the 09-ers, rich kids who can get away with anything, and the kids from outside that zip code, often represented by the PCHers, a Latino biker gang fronted by Eli “Weevil” Navarro (Francis Capra), who likes Veronica enough to help her out when she needs something on a case.

Season 1: Episode 18, “Weapons of Class Destruction” Like almost every other investigative show on television, Veronica Mars mixes the serialized mystery of Lilly Kane’s murder with individual cases that Veronica tackles each week. This time it’s about a string of bomb threats at Neptune High. But honestly, that’s not really as important as the episode’s romantic milestone: Veronica and Logan sharing their first volcanic kiss.

Season 1: Episode 21, “A Trip to the Dentist” Credited 17 times as a writer throughout the series, Diane Ruggiero is as important to the success of the show as Rob Thomas. The penultimate episode of the first season resolves the other season-long mystery surrounding Veronica being date-raped at a party. The information she uncovers is staggeringly heartbreaking, and the way in which the show handled the arc pays off with complex, difficult confrontations. Making Veronica a rape victim was contentious when UPN first picked up the series, but the critical acclaim for the plot line made it worth the dramatic risk.

Season 1: Episode 22, “Leave It to Beaver” Introducing a compelling mystery is easy. Finishing off those cases with an even better conclusion is incredibly hard (see: True Detective). But the initial season of Veronica Mars concludes with a grand twist and a deeply suspenseful climax, building to one helluva romantic cliffhanger. If the show had somehow been cancelled right after this, it would still rank as one of the best series in recent memory.

Season 2: Episode 11, “Donut Run” Duncan gets a bad rap because he just doesn’t have the chemistry with Veronica that Logan does. But that doesn’t mean the two don’t still care about each other. But the long con Veronica pulls to ensure that Duncan can flee the country with his child—even roping in the doofus private detective Vinnie Van Lowe (Ken Marino)—is nothing short of staggering.

Season 2: Episode 22, “Not Pictured” Cassidy Casablancas (Kyle Gallner) is the grand tragic villain of Neptune, California: Neglected by his family, derided by his brother’s friends, utterly forgotten by almost everyone but Veronica’s friend Mac. Season 2’s mysterious bus crash has a higher body count than the murder mystery in Season 1, but it’s not as focused as Veronica’s crusade to avenge her best friend. Still, the second season finale throws every bit of drama it can into the fold. In revealing a tangled web of child abuse perpetrated by Woody Goodman (Steve Guttenberg), Cassidy comes clean about his murderous plans for vengeance. Once foiled, in a rooftop confrontation that momentarily leaves Keith’s fate uncertain, Cassidy’s screams to Logan about what he has to live for equal the first-season’s memorable ending.

Season 3: Episode 20, “The Bitch Is Back” All the ups and downs of a college freshman season aside—and let’s leave any discussion of Logan-versus-Piz (Chris Lowell) out of this, since it’s not worth getting into how wrong people who favor the latter are—Rob Thomas found a way to end a tumultuous final season with a bookend that rewarded fans with one last glimpse of the sparks between Veronica and Logan, before finally settling on the father/daughter relationship that grounded so much of the series.

Why You Should Binge:

When Veronica Mars was on the air, it competed against California teenagers in The O.C. and Laguna Beach. It hit the air when the biggest police dramas still included the original Law & Order. And yet, it still feels fresh to watch a fiercely intelligent and uproariously funny female lead dominate scene after scene against any opponent because of how great the writing is and how natural Bell slips into the role.

Thomas would go on to create Party Down, another hilarious and astute series about a different aspect of southern California life. But the world he and his writing staff created in Neptune effortlessly combined messages with mysteries and romance in a way that never lost steam. It’s a near-impossible balancing act, and Veronica Mars pulled it off for three whole seasons.

Best Scene—Keith Saves Veronica:

Oh, this one is tough. There’s Logan and Veronica’s first kiss, the nearly silent coda of Beaver’s final scene in the second season finale, or any number of verbal tennis matches Veronica wins over various rubes.

But for sheer heart-pounding catharsis, there’s nothing like the climax of the first season finale, when Keith saves Veronica from burning to death. Sure, her father rescues her, and that’s a little disappointing—but even the best detectives need help once in a while.

The Takeaway:

Sometimes it’s OK to be a marshmallow.

If You Liked Veronica Mars You’ll Love:

For the same mystery-of-the-week-plus-serialized-overarching-plot format, look to Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Or, for those not ready to let the tragicomic crime-solving sensibilities of Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero go, their new CW show iZombie premiered last week.

Fantastical 2 Is a Crazy-Powerful Calendar App for Your Mac

When Michael Simmons and Kent Sutherland started building a calendar app for the Mac in 2010, their goal was simple: fix everything bad about iCal. The two-man team behind app developer Flexbits particularly hated how hard Apple’s calendar app made it to add events, so they built a natural-language parser that allowed you to type “Dinner with Kim 7PM next Thursday” and have the event automatically slot into exactly the right place. That became the core feature of Fantastical, the app Flexbits launched in 2011. It’s also about the only thing Flexbits hasn’t totally overhauled in Fantastical 2 for Mac, the brand-new, far more powerful app launching today.

Fantastical 2’s most important new feature is a full-size app window. The app previously existed only in the Mac’s menu bar, where a quick keyboard shortcut would drop your calendar down over whatever you were doing, so you could quickly add or check something. Now there’s a dedicated app window, which looks like, well, a calendar app. It has day, week, month, and year views, as well as a list of calendars on the left side. It’s pretty, and laid out similarly to most calendar apps you’ve seen.

That’s also, Simmons says, the best way to really dig in and get schedulin’. He says he’d noticed himself using apps other than his own whenever he needed to really organize his time, and thought, “why am I using another app? Why wouldn’t I want to make my experience better?” Fantastical set out to simplify the Mac calendar experience; Fantastical 2 is all about making it more powerful.

The Year View in Fantastical 2 for Mac. The Year View in Fantastical 2 for Mac. Fantastical

This is the part where I should say I’ve been a Fantastical user since the beginning. I’m a dangerous combination of forgetful enough to be totally reliant on my calendar, and lazy enough not to enter anything if it takes effort. Fantastical made creating events as easy as typing a sentence, and suddenly I stopped missing meetings. In the week or so I’ve been beta-testing Fantastical 2, I still mostly use it for quick, simple interactions—am I free at 2? Yes? Okay, “Check-in with Joe at 2.” Done. There’s a new, flatter, Yosemite-inspired design, and a lot more color, but for me, Fantastical is still Fantastical.

This new iteration is capable of much, much more, though. Simmons says the bulk of his work with co-founder Sutherland was building a new CalDav engine—CalDav is the protocol used to send calendar information—so that they can send much richer information about alerts and recurring events, much more quickly. (He also cryptically hinted at using that engine to send more than just calendar events, but wouldn’t elaborate.) There are also new “Calendar Sets,” groups of calendars that you can toggle to quickly switch between different contexts. You can see eight (or however many you want) different calendars at work, and when you get home see up to eight others with just one click. It can even switch automatically, using your location to figure out when you get home or to the office.

In the full window view, seeing weeks and months at a glance is really simple: There’s a neat scrubber in the year view that pops up your events for whatever day you’ve hovered over, and days are color-coded by how busy you’ll be. Flexbits did clever work with a hard job: it maintained the app’s core simplicity by communicating a lot with just quick glances and interactions, but it also created powerful tools and features for those who really want to go to war with their schedule.

The "Mini Window" in Fantastical 2. The “Mini Window” in Fantastical 2. Fantastical

The language-recognition tool is even better now, too. With just “alert 15″ at the end of your event title, you can program it to tell you 15 minutes ahead of your meeting to actually, you know, leave for the meeting. You can also specify time zones for your meeting, or use “float” to keep your morning routine the same no matter where in the world you are. (If you travel a lot, you’ll know how shifting time zones can ruin your schedule.) When you write, “Take out the trash every other Wednesday and Thursday at 8PM,” it’ll nail it. You can use these tools to quickly create either calendar events or reminders, which sync with iCloud and thus other Apple devices.

On one hand, the app is made to make keeping your calendar easier. On the other, it’s a crazy-powerful tool for hardcore calendar-keepers. At $49.99, however, it’s priced only for that second group. (It’s only $39.99 while it’s brand-new, though, so hurry!) The previous version sold well at $19.99, though, even that price rankled some potential purchasers. You also need to buy the app separately on iPhone, iPad, and Mac; being a Fantastical user on all three platforms will set you back a whopping $65.

Simmons says that the Mac App Store has lots of best-selling apps well above this price, and that’s certainly true, but the biggest reason for the increase seems to be Flexbits’ desire to communicate that Fantastical 2 is not an update. It is a bigger, better thing, a totally new experience. Beyond that, whether you need $50 worth of calendaring power in your life is between you and your next missed appointment.

New Headset Could Seamlessly Mash Up VR and Hand-Tracking

The world of virtual-reality enthusiasts is one of early adoption, but also of adaptation. In the absence of polished consumer units, the only real hardware language available to hobbyists is a pidgin of devkits and kludgy peripherals; VR meetups and developer jams are still a chaotic sea of cobbled-together controllers.

Now, though, it appears that some streamlining is finally on the horizon. This morning, Leap Motion and the OSVR open-source ecosystem announced a partnership that would allow Razer’s OSVR HDK (hacker development kit) to ship later this year with a Leap Motion sensor embedded in its faceplate.

The sensor, which allows for nearly latency-free hand- and finger-tracking in 3-D space, has been a longstanding favorite among VR developers for its elegant controller-free solution—so much so that last fall Leap Motion began shipping a $20 mount that could attach its sensor to the front of an Oculus Rift devkit.

Leap Motion's sensor mounted externally to an HMD. Leap Motion’s sensor mounted externally to an HMD. Leap Motion

But by becoming an official partner of the OSVR’s modular headset, Leap Motion hopes to clear the playing field a bit. “Being embedded is just a better experience,” says Leap Motion CEO Michael Buckwald. “For developers, there’s no fragmentation, and it’s better for users. That’s always the end goal.”

Leap Motion’s sensor is already embedded in laptops and desktops from both Asus and HP; this is simply their first official partnership in the VR space, where input is still very much an open question. The virtual and augmented reality markets—together, let’s just call it “immersive tech”—has seemingly trifurcated into three primary categories: desktop PC, mobile, and console. On the console side, PlayStation has made its Project Morpheus prototype compatible with two of its existing controllers, the PlayStation Move and the Dualshock 4 gamepad. Things are muddier in the desktop segment; while Valve software is creating custom controllers for the Vive headset it produced in collaboration with HTC, Oculus still hasn’t announced any input solutions for the forthcoming consumer version of its Rift. (While Oculus purchased Leap Motion competitor Nimble Sense last year, it hasn’t yet confirmed whether the fruits of that acquisition would appear in the Rift.) And Samsung’s Gear VR—currently the most full-featured mobile solution, and one seeing a full consumer release this year–utilizes a small touchpad located on the headset, while also allowing the use of Bluetooth Android-friendly game controllers.

What all of these solutions are missing, of course, is Kinect-on-steroids experience of using your hands in VR—for navigation, selection, even control of three-dimensional objects in three-dimensional space. “We very much think the answer is going to be hands, and that we’re going to be providing that tracking,” Buckwald says. And because the sensor’s computational strength lies in its software rather than its hardware, the company can push frequent updates to keep its capabilities cutting-edge long after the headset goes home with you.

The OSVR HDK, which was first announced at CES and January and ships to developers in June, presents a much more modular approach than any other headset currently known about. While its resolution is just about identical to Oculus’ DK2 devkit, its open-source nature means it’s 3D-printable and allows for nearly unfettered modification and addons. (Even if developers buy a HDK without the optional Leap Motion embed, they can swap a different faceplate in later.) Yet, the OSVR HDK isn’t Leap Motion’s only partnership play. Far from it, in fact. Buckwald says the company has been talking to “pretty much all the major players” in the space. “Our goal is to be embedded everywhere,” he says. “This is not an experiment for us—we want to be the primary input for VR.”

OSVR-faceplate-with-Leap-Motion-side-STORY2 OSVR