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Major League Soccer has big plans for the World Cup and beyond

On June 12th, most football fans around the globe will have their eyes set on Brazil's Arena de Sao Paulo, where the host nation is set to take on Croatia in the opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Here in the States, ESPN has already revealed how it plans to deliver coverage of the world's biggest sporting event, making it easy for you to watch anywhere, anytime. Sure, there are some caveats (namely, you still need to be a pay-TV subscriber to watch games), but the way ESPN intends to bring you content from Brazil will likely still be better than anything we've seen from previous World Cups. And "The World Wide Leader in Sports" won't be the only one. Major League Soccer, too, wants to be a source of info for anything that comes out of the event in South America.

"It allows [us] to create real-time content. We have to innovate."

To do this, MLS recently revamped its digital properties, with one of the goals being to make great use of them during the World Cup. That, of course, includes the desktop and mobile sites, as well as apps on iOS, Android, Apple TV and Roku boxes. Also as part of the redesign, MLS MatchCenter has been drastically improved. Not only is it now prettier to look at, but also you can use it to get a ton of in-depth info during World Cup matches, like live stats and detailed shot charts. Chris Schlosser, VP of MLS Digital, told Engadget that it is very important for Major League Soccer to keep investing heavily in these properties: "It allows [us] to create real-time content. We have to innovate."

Speaking of which, providing live game info won't be the only thing MLS will be focusing on in Brazil. The league is also planning to produce an extraordinary amount of content on its YouTube channel KICKTV, which has become one of the most popular hubs for footy fans on the Google-owned video site. According to Major League Soccer, there will be great World Cup stuff to watch there, such as live daily shows and a behind-the-scenes look at the people on the ground following the United States team around. "The idea is to get more fans involved," Schlosser said.

MLS is excited for what's to come after the current season.

Beyond this year's World Cup, MLS is excited for what's to come after the current season. Thanks to a new deal with TV networks, Major League Soccer's exposure should improve and, hopefully, help it grow its fan base along the way. ESPN, for one, will stream over 200 out-of-market games starting next year in the US. Though, as you may know, ESPN3/WatchESPN requires a subscription to a cable or internet service provider, which isn't something that all would-be viewers have access to. As such, we had to ask if it was true that ESPN is looking to offer an MLS package for cord-cutters -- not surprisingly, however, we were told there was nothing to be shared at the moment.

"The world is changing. The key was to be able to watch on as many devices as possible," Schlosser stated, emphasizing that the most important thing for MLS is to give you the best experience overall.

[Image credit: AP]



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Back to life: A collection of ‘holographic’ appearances

We've offered up the details about holographic live appearances, and now it's time to kick back and take in a few. Jump in the gallery below for performances from Michael Jackson, Tupac, Mariah Carey and more. There's also a feat from Sir Richard Branson allowing him to be in two places at once and a rather odd appearance from Al Gore.

Hologram performances

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Engadget Podcast 399

We're taking the elephant in the room for a ride this week and jumping right into Apple's purchase of Beats, including both its Electronics and Music divisions. Since we're back in cramped confines of our NYC "studio," that scenario is more implausible than usual, especially with our guest Edgar Alvarez adding to the head count. Space issues like this may soon be forgotten as Oculus is picking up some heavy hitting partners for expansion of its virtual reality plans. This time it's joined forces with Samsung to work on a mobile device-based platform that plans to put VR into the hands of everyday smartphone users. Ben also chats about his visit to the White House Science Fair, where young minds are delivering some serious research and engineering projects. With our future in good hands and delicious waffles on the horizon, we wish you a happy Friday and leave you with another edition of the Engadget Podcast.

Hosts: Ben Gilbert, Terrence O'Brien

Guest: Edgar Alvarez

Producer: Jon Turi

Hear the podcast:

03:20 - Apple acquires Beats Electronics for $3 billion
20:00 - Samsung is working with Oculus on a media-focused VR headset
42:45 - Exploring the best of the best at this year's White House Science Fair

Subscribe to the podcast:

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Contact the podcast:

Connect with the hosts on Twitter: @terrenceobrien, @realbengilbert
Email us: podcast [at] engadget [dot] com



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Motorola confirms Moto Maker isn’t dying, despite US factory closure

Today's revelation that Motorola is shutting down its sole American plant is an indication that its latest flagship didn't do as well as expected in the US and the costs of operating the Texas factory were simply too high to continue operations. Since the facility focused heavily on shipping Moto Maker products to US consumers, speculation arose that the feature -- which gives you the ability to customize the color and trim of your Moto X -- would die along with it. Upon reaching out to Motorola, a spokesperson confirmed to us that Moto Maker is not going away as a result of the factory's closure.

There are still plenty of questions about Motorola's future, most significantly how its product strategy will change under Lenovo's leadership. Unfortunately, we won't hear more details on Lenovo's plans until the acquisition (barring rumors, of course), so exactly how the Moto X and Moto Maker will change is up in the air for now.

But just because the Texas factory is shutting its assembly lines doesn't necessarily spell the end for Motorola's latest flagship or its customization options. Let's look at the bigger picture: The company has plants in other countries around the world, and the US plant merely assembled parts that were already made in China, so Motorola may not even experience much of a squeeze on production. Additionally, Motorola confirmed in February that Moto Maker should come to Europe and Mexico this quarter; there's no word on if or how the closure will affect expansion.

The primary concern to US folks is that even though Moto Maker isn't technically dying, the company's withdrawal from the country is likely to strongly impact shipping time, which may adversely affect sales even more. Thanks to the Texas factory, Motorola was able to send out custom orders to consumers within two to three days, but international shipping from one of the company's other factories will undoubtedly take more time. Motorola's rumored to be preparing a follow-up to the X known as the "X+1," however, so we're curious to see if it will offer custom options with longer wait times or just limit the feature to a handful of other markets or regions.



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Tune in to our liveblog of Apple’s WWDC keynote Monday!

Get ready to put on your Sunday best, kids -- WWDC 2014 begins in just a few days. The developer conference will begin with its traditional keynote, headlined by CEO Tim Cook and the rest of the executive gang. We'll be liveblogging the event so you can see what we see as it happens, and if you use Safari, you can watch along with us here. What can we expect to see at the event? SVP Eddy Cue mentioned this week that this year's product lineup is the most exciting one in 25 years, so we'd love a sneak peek. We've already seen banners indicating that iOS 8 will be shown off (as if there was any doubt), and we'd place our bets on the next version of OS X. New hardware? Quite possibly. A platform for connecting your home? Smartwatch or television? We'll believe it when we see it. Sure seems likely. Stats and videos about education and Apple's retail stores? Absolutely. Regardless, it should make for an interesting afternoon. Bookmark the link below and come join us!

WWDC 2014 Liveblog



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MIT project transforms selfies into pro-style portraits

As it stands, you can spice up your selfies with Instagram filters and other edits before beaming to the interwebs. But what about making a truly compelling smartphone self-portrait? Well, a team of researchers from MIT -- alongside folks from Adobe and the University of Virginia -- created an algorithm that could allow you to accurately apply the stylings of critically-acclaimed portrait photographers to everyday self-made snapshots. According to MIT grad student YiChang Shih, "style transfer" from the likes of Instagram and other filter-applying apps isn't well-suited for complementing facial features. Instead, this software uses existing works (Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, and Martin Schoeller are cited as examples) and makes an appropriate match with the captured image. Eyes, beard, skin and lighting are all compared to make an ideal pairing before applying the artistic details. "You can't get stylizations that are this strong with those kinds of filters," says Adobe's Robert Bailey. "You can take a photo that has relatively flat lighting and bring out portrait-style pro lighting on it and remap the highlights as well."



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Oppo’s N1 Mini makes iPhones look tiny

The N1 isn't exactly a household name, so allow us to refresh your memory: it's a CyanogenMod phone with a selfie-friendly swivel camera made by Chinese manufacturer Oppo. Well, its creator just announced a mini version of the device -- except it's not exactly something you'd call small. Oppo shaved just 0.9 inches off the full-sized N1, so the ironically named N1 Mini is still quite a large 5-inch phone -- larger than other "mini" follow-up devices like the 4.3-inch Galaxy S4 Mini. While the new device is slightly lighter (150g) than its older sibling (213g), it packs the same 13-megapixel swivel camera, but enhanced with an "Ultra-HD" mode that can produce 24-megapixel shots -- which is similar to the Find 7's 50-megapixel mode.

The N1 Mini also aces its larger sibling out with the added LTE support, which is unfortunately coupled with a smaller battery (2,140mAh vs. the larger one's 3,610mAh). As you'd except, the Oppo N1 Mini's shipping in China first on June 11th loaded with the company's Color OS Android ROM. Whether it'll follow in its predecessor's footsteps and heading stateside, we still don't know, but we'll keep you posted.



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Recommended Reading: Beer genetics and Kinect physical therapy

Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you'll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.

Strange Brews: The Genes of Craft Beer
by William Herkewitz, New York Times


White Labs has been providing professional and home brewers with the requisite yeast strains that they need for proper fermentation for years. Now, the suds-focused laboratory has gone a step further by creating the first genetic map for the yeasts. The company has sequenced DNA from over 240 strains from all over the globe, reading the 12 million molecules that compose each line by line. Not only will direct comparisons be an option, but also discovering exactly how the mapping translates to the final taste and the overall brewing process.

How the Kinect Saved My Life and Why I Don't Want it to Go Away
by Holly Green, Polygon

We've seen Kinect used in a variety of ways over the years, and aiding physical therapy patients is just one of the myriad tasks. Finding relief from her Reflex Neurovascular Dystrophy, Polygon's Holly Green took to Dance Central for at-home sessions and staying motivated to get the much-needed exercise in. With Microsoft recently making the choice to unbundle the Kinect from Xbox One packages, the future of the add-on could be in jeopardy, and Green pleads her case for it to stay.


Why This NASCAR Team Is Putting RFID Sensors On Every Person In The Pit
by Matt Hartigan, Fast Company

A fraction of a second in the pits could mean the difference between winning a race and finishing fifth. Until now, NASCAR crews have used video footage and stopwatches to gauge performance, but a company is looking to outfit each person over the wall from Michael Waltrip Racing with RFID Sensors. By doing do, the effort seeks to maximize efficiency by gauging each turn of the track bar, tightened lug nut and fuel fill-up to ensure that races are won -- and not lost -- on pit road.


Kickstarter Helps Revive a Film Ansel Adams Used
by Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe

Thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, Polaroid's popular large-format black-and-white Type 55 film is set to return. A new release based on the original photo material -- which was used by Ansel Adams to shoot stills of Yosemite National Park -- is scheduled to debut next year thanks to the efforts of inventor Robert Crowley.


How To Redesign Stadiums For People Who'd Rather Watch Games On TV
by Evan Gant and Alex Tee, Fast Company

Let's face it: Sometimes it's just better to stay home and watch the big game on TV. There's the traffic and the overpriced beers and the view from the nosebleeds to make the experience a bit less than ideal. Most folks are okay to stay at home, so attendance is suffering, but there are some things that can be done to motivate couch potatoes to turn out.




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Meet NASA’s commercial space capsule contenders

Sure, the Dragon V2 is the latest (and greatest) spacecraft from SpaceX, but it's not the only capsule that may one day schlep astronauts to the International Space Station. In fact, Elon Musk's firm is just one of three private outfits currently competing in a NASA program for commercial launches with their own vehicles. We've surveyed the space capsule landscape and have whipped up a primer on the future crafts that may wind up taking humans to space.

Dragon (V2)

The second-gen Dragon just had its coming-out party, but we'll recap the highlights. As SpaceX's workhorse, the original Dragon has sat atop Falcon 9 rockets and carried cargo to the International Space Station, but it hasn't been able to safely transport humans. Dragon V2 remedies that, providing accommodations for up to seven passengers (or less for additional cargo space). What's more, it's expected the capsule can be used up to 10 times before needing significant repairs.

Eight new SuperDraco engines are fitted into the vehicle, allowing it to land on solid ground with the precision of helicopter, all without using a single parachute. Of course, in an emergency, the vessel can use its reserve chutes and drop itself into the sea. A battery of tests is still in the cards for Dragon V2 before it goes airborne, but it's expected to fly with humans aboard in 2016.

Inside SpaceX's Dragon V2

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[Image credit: Boeing, PDF]

Boeing's entry into the commercial crew and cargo program is the Crew Space Transportation-100, or CST-100 for short. In addition to shuttling astronauts to the International Space Station, it's intended to carry folks to private space stations like those proposed by Bigelow Aerospace. When it's tasked with taxiing humans, Boeing's vessel can carry a crew as large as seven.

For landings, the craft slows itself down with parachutes and touches down on terra firma. In the case of an emergency, however, the vehicle can take a dip in the sea.

The CST-100 isn't quite ready to be tossed into the vacuum of space quite yet, but it's making good progress. In February, the hardware that connects it to Atlas V rockets passed muster with NASA, and it's on track to hit the development milestones the space agency is looking for in 2014.

Dream Chaser

[Image credit: NASA]

The odd duck in the government's commercial crew program is the Dream Chaser. Rather than rely on a capsule design, Sierra Nevada Corporation's built its astronaut taxi by picking up the space shuttle's mantle. Although it resembles NASA's retired 184-foot long workhorse, it measures up at just 29.5 feet long. Not only does it look like a pint-sized shuttle, but it also functions much like one.

The Dream Chaser uses an entirely different form of controlled descent from its competition. By gliding down from low-Earth orbit, the contraption is able to land at any airport runway suited for commercial airliners. While it builds on the shuttle's strengths, it also inherits some of its weaknesses. Sierra Nevada's solution can handle ferrying up to seven folks to space in low-earth orbit, but it's not fit for long trips to other planets.

In November of 2016, the pint-sized shuttle lookalike is scheduled to make it to orbit for the first time. As if the similarities to NASA's spaceplane weren't enough already, it's set to use the very same runway (for landing) as its much larger doppelgänger.


[Image credit: NASA, Flickr]

OK, NASA's next-generation space vehicle, Orion, isn't a commercial craft, but it's certainly worth mentioning. Although it was originally devised as part of the now-canceled Constellation program that aimed to take astronauts to asteroids, Mars and the moon, the space agency's building a version of the craft -- with the help of Lockheed Martin -- that'll become its Swiss Army knife. Now dubbed the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), it'll be able to make those same trips using a new rocket setup called the Space Launch System. What's more, it'll also be able to haul up to six people to the International Space Station if the need arises.

Returning to Earth for Orion means deploying parachutes and splashing down in the ocean, much like the Apollo missions did. In an emergency, however, the vessel can safely set itself down on soil.

NASA's Orion space capsule

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A bit of legwork is still needed before Orion can make its way into orbit, but its first test flight isn't far off. Come December 2014, it'll head 3,600 miles away from our blue marble and land -- if all goes well -- in one piece.


Though each of these commercial vehicles is progressing steadily, it may not be until 2016 that any of them are slung into orbit. Ironically, for as much as NASA's demise is proclaimed, it'll launch Orion before the CST-100 and Dream Chaser even get their first taste of space's vacuum. No matter which company (or companies) NASA ultimately taps for future crew and cargo missions, space aficionados will have the private space race as entertainment.



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The Big Picture: Exploring the deep blue in a wearable submarine

Developed and built by Nuytco Research, this exosuit is made from hard metal and allows divers to operate safely down to a depth of 1000 feet. The suit has four 1.6 horsepower propulsion thrusters, fiber optic gigabit ethernet, and a host of telemetry devices. The "Exosuit atmospheric diving system" (ADS) will allow wearers to work in deep water without facing problems with decompression. While still in testing right now, diver Michael Lombardi will be taking it out for its first full exploration mission later this summer, at a location called Canyons, approximately 100 miles off the coast of Rhode Island.



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