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MasterCard is testing a new way for you to pay with your face

MasterCard announced on Thursday that it's looking to add a layer of biometric security to its credit cards and all user will need to do is simply take a selfie. The system will create a digitized map of your face, convert that map into a hash and compare it to the hash stored on Mastercard's servers. Users will be able to pay through a mobile app with either their fingerprints or by staring into the device and blinking once. The blink is used to prevent someone from just holding up a picture of you to spoof the system. What's more, "They're storing an algorithm, not a picture of you," Phillip Dunkelberger, who runs Nok Nok Labs, told CNN Money. "And I'm sure they're doing the appropriate stuff to guard it."

The company reportedly already has deals in place with Google, Apple, Blackberry and Microsoft, with hopes to begin a limited 500-person pilot program later this fall. Once they work out all the kinks with the new system, it could be available to the public as early as next year.


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Watch Russia launch crucial Space Station cargo at 12:55AM ET

The International Space Station has had a tough time getting supplies lately between two rocket explosions and an orbital failure, but it's going to get an important lifeline in the near future... hopefully. Russia is about to launch Progress 60, a cargo ship that will ferry over 3 tons of much-needed food, fuel and other equipment to the ISS. You won't have to wait until its expected Sunday arrival to find out how it fares, though. NASA is streaming the launch at 12:55AM ET -- tune in below and you'll have a sense of whether or not Progress 60 fares any better than its ill-fated predecessor.

Update: After a successful launch, Progress 60 is on its way to the ISS. It's scheduled to dock with the station at 2:30AM ET Sunday, which will also be covered live on NASA TV.


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BlackBerry’s ‘Venice’ Android slider is coming to AT&T (update)

Rumors of a fully Android-powered BlackBerry device popped up again last month, and today Evan Blass aka evleaks has posted a picture showing a glimpse of the phone. Specs for the alleged "Venice" popped up on N4BB a couple of weeks ago, calling it a slider with a 5.4-inch screen, 18MP rear camera and 1.8GHz Hexa-core CPU. According to Blass, the Venice will run Android, and is coming to ATT first.

Update: We're told the picture is of the old Passport with the screen mocked up, but the "Venice" is coming, and should have a more sensible profile.


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DNA sequencing shows how woolly mammoths got that way

In what is being called the "most comprehensive" study of its kind, a team from the University of Chicago claims that it has revealed the massive amount of genetic change needed for woolly mammoths to adapt to their arctic environment. The study, which was published on July 2 in Cell Reports, shows that genes controlling everything from skin and hair development to fat metabolism, insulin signaling -- even skull shape -- differed from their contemporary elephant kin.

"This is by far the most comprehensive study to look at the genetic changes that make a woolly mammoth a woolly mammoth," study author Vincent Lynch, PhD, of the University of Chicago, said in a statement. "They are an excellent model to understand how morphological evolution works, because mammoths are so closely related to living elephants, which have none of the traits they had."

And while the woolly mammoth genome has been extensively studied (two other mammoths had their genes sequenced just this April) these efforts have typically only generated limited insight into how the animals evolved. However, in this study, the team found 1.4 million unique genetic variants affecting the proteins produced by some 1,600 genes. These results probably won't help scientists reconstruct a modern-day mammoth line (at least, not yet) but it will help geneticists better understand the the molecular basis of their evolution.

[Image Credit: Associated Press]


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Casio is making smartwatches, too

When America's greatest actor needed to defuse a bomb mounted to a passenger bus, there was only one name he could trust to keep time: Casio. Like Keanu Reeves, the company's fallen out of the limelight a bit since then. It has a comeback plan, though: smartwatches. As The Wall Street Journal tells it, the outfit thinks it has what's necessary to compete in the crowded space too. Namely, a rich history of making watches that do more than tell time. It expects the device to hit "a level of smartwatch perfection" by being durable, easy to put on and generally being comfortable to wear.

The gizmo's been in development for a few years already and Casio expects it to ship domestically and to Japan next March, tentatively for around $400. Does the storied electronics company have what it takes to hit its lofty $80 million goal for smartwatch sales? That's anyone's guess at this point. But hey, if this week's Top Gun news is any indication, we could at least see Mr. Whoa himself rocking one of the new devices in an upcoming Speed sequel/reboot.

[Image credit: Adam Piotrowski/Flickr]


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N64 controller modded to (sort of) work with the Xbox One

Microsoft has an exorbitant $150 controller coming this year that it hopes will make up for the Xbox One's middling gamepad, but that won't make the upcoming Rare Replay feel any more authentic when you play. The folks at Hyperkin -- makers of the Retron 5 console -- know this and set forth a challenge: mod a Nintendo 64 controller to work with Microsoft's latest game console. And they succeeded. Mostly. As you'll see in the video below, the three-pronged paddle can navigate the console's dashboard and select apps, but, since there's only one analog stick, that rules out it playing nicely with a vast majority of modern games. The wiring is a bit wonky and certain inputs trigger at random, but, from the sounds of it, the project is far from over.

The plan is to make "an awesome controller" work in time for Rare Replay's release. Does that mean Hyperkin will actually sell an N64-styled controller for the game? It sounds like a possibility. We've reached out to the company for more info and will update this post should we hear back.

[Image credit: Reintji/Flickr]

Nintendo 64


Chevy’s 2016 cars can keep charging phones from overheating

Early summer on the East Coast hasn't been its usual level of brutal this year, but it's only a matter of time before smartphones start wigging out in the heat. Things only get trickier when you're charging up in your sweltering car, so Chevy cooked up an "active phone cooling" system to keep gadgets from overheating in their 2016 range of vehicles. Don't get too carried away, though: That's just a high-falutin' name for an air vent that points at a warm phone while it's wirelessly charging.

It's a simple solution for sure -- you've basically got a teensy icebox in your car -- but it could go a long way in keeping your phone happy and healthy. Prolonged exposure to heat often means bad news for the lithium-ion cells that keep everything running, and really, the last thing a worried driver needs is their phone shutting off mid-navigation because it's suddenly running too hot. Chevy claims they're the first manufacturer to focus on the plight of our nation's hot smartphones, but the answer they've cooked up is so simple we'd be surprised if other car makers didn't take the hint. Until then, though, you'll have to own a 2016 Volt, Cruze, Impala or Malibu with the wireless charging option to stay frosty.


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EE fined £1 million for not properly dealing with complaints

As part of its job as the communications industry regulator, Ofcom routinely checks to see if UK mobile carriers are doing a good job of looking after their customers. This includes how they log complaints and what they do once they've received them. After almost three years of investigation, the watchdog announced today that Britain's (current) largest operator, EE, hasn't properly handled customer complaints and has issued it with a £1 million fine.

Ofcom says that between July 22nd 2011 and April 8th 2014, EE did not send written notifications to customers to highlight their right to take a complaint to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme. When a customer raises a complaint, they can refer it to an ADR scheme eight weeks after their initial contact, so that an independent body, like an ombudsman, can reach an impartial decision. EE either didn't send written confirmations, known as "deadlock letters", in the necessary time or failed to send them at all.

Following Ofcom's probe, EE has updated its Customer Complaints Code to let customers know that it will send these letters. It will also include references to ADR schemes on paper bills and other written correspondence. In a statement, the company said: "This fine relates to our historic performance regarding complaints handling, collected from 2011 to April 2014. While this is in no way excuses it, it is important to note that we identified issues in our complaints handling and began our programme to tackle these problems head on in 2013, before Ofcom started their investigation. We have made considerable improvements since then."

"Ofcom's current figures highlight that complaints into Ofcom about EE have fallen by 50% in the past year alone and, while even one complaint is one too many, we're working tirelessly not only to improve the handling of complaints but also to identify root causes, and fix problems customers have with us, to ultimately achieve our goal of offering the best service in the market." Back in October 2014, Three was found guilty of closing customer complaints when it shouldn't, which resulted in a £250,000 fine. Like its rival, EE has 20 days to pay its fine, which will be absorbed by the Treasury.


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Music streaming has officially exploded in the UK

Music streaming has never been more popular in the UK. The latest figures from the Official Charts Company show that 11.5 billion tracks were streamed in the first six months of 2015. That's almost double the 6.4 billion recorded for the same period last year, and close to the 14.8 billion tracks logged for the entirety of 2014. Likewise, streaming on video platforms such as YouTube are skyrocketing. The Official Charts Company reported 14.3 billion streams last year, and already listeners have clocked 12.5 billion streams in 2015.

What impact is this having on the rest of the industry? Pretty much what you would expect. CD and digital album sales are in decline, although vinyl has continued its resurgence with a 56.3 percent rise in 2015. It's a little early to project end-of-year figures, but the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) is suggesting that sales of the classic format could top 2 million this year -- its highest tally since at least 1994. Vinyl sales are, however, still a blip against the gargantuan rise in music streaming. Now that Apple Music has entered the fray, we expect these numbers will be even higher during the latter half of 2015.


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Microsoft and Kyocera quietly squash patent beef

Microsoft can cross out another patent dispute in its list, now that it has settled its issue with Kyocera. Redmond filed a lawsuit against the Japanese electronics maker back in March, claiming that the latter's Android phones infringe upon seven patents it owns, including their messaging and location tracking features. Several Android device manufacturers, such as HTC, ZTE and LG, have been paying Microsoft royalties to use its patents for quite some time. It's unclear if money will change hands when it comes to this particular deal, though, since its announcement only talked about signing "an agreement expanding" an older one. The two have apparently signed a cross-patent license after making peace, allowing them to use each other's technologies in their own devices.


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