Photo: Giorgio Montersino/Flickr

Google now controls vast swaths of the physical infrastructure that delivers its web services to the people, including everything from the massive data centers that underpin these services to all the machines it strategically places inside the ISPs that run internet connections to your home.

And Yahoo wants to be more like Google.

On Tuesday, TechCrunch reported that Yahoo had acquired PeerCDN, a “content delivery network” that puts photos and videos and other rich media internet media files closer to the people who want to look at them. This may seem like a rather geeky — and minor — bit of news, but it hints at the future of Marisa Mayer and company.

Netflix and Google, the owner of YouTube, already operate their own CDNs inside data centers owned by residential ISPs such as Comcast. That’s how you reduce delays when people want to watch online video, and clearly, Yahoo wants to do the same.

Is Yahoo a video company? Of course it is. It just hired former CBS anchor Katie Couric, and it is apparently bidding to acquire online TV hub Vimeo. Clearly, Yahoo is looking to provide more entertainment to its users, and a service like the one operated by PeerCDN would be a key part of this effort.

The PeerCDN acquisition highlights yet another way Yahoo is becoming more like Google. Once positioned as little more than a technological middleman arbitraging advertising opportunities, Yahoo now wants to reclaim its engineering mojo — and for good reason. Mayer has been outspoken about her dissatisfaction with a deal that outsourced Yahoo search to Microsoft. With the PeerCDN deal, she’s moving things in the other direction.

For Mayer, a computer scientist and longtime head of Google search products, integrating geeky operations like PeerCDN is the easy part. The hard work lies elsewhere: Shooting video that people actually want to see.

AwoX StriimLight

This lightbulb is playing Led Zeppelin right now. Tim Moynihan/WIRED

The AwoX StriimLight B-10 sounds crazier than it actually is. It’s a lightbulb, and it’s also a Bluetooth speaker. You screw it in, pair it to a device, and stream music to an 8W LED lightbulb. The light socket powers both the speaker and the bulb, so the latter has to be screwed into a socket for the speaker to work.

This is a better lightbulb than it is a speaker. It produces bright and warm-looking 3000K light that resembles the output of a fluorescent tube. It’ll screw into any E27 Edison mount, and we had successful results with three different lamps in the WIRED New York office.

As you’d expect, the speaker is not very good. A single 2-inch, 10W mono speaker in the middle of the LED lamp kicks out mediocre, bass-bereft audio. But those shortcomings are forgivable as the StriimLight leans heavily on gestalt principles.

AwoX StriimLight speaker grille

Pairing it to a device is a simple process: You turn the bulb on, it beeps twice when it’s discoverable, and then you find the “StriimLIGHT” on your device’s pairing menu. Turning the lamp on and off restarts the discovery process if you have trouble finding the bulb in its Bluetooth menu; it’s basically a hard reboot of the bulb.

One little perk is that the StriimLight comes with its own remote control. The included plastic watch-battery-powered clicker is made of plastic, and lets you turn the light on and off, turn the speaker volume up and down, and mute the audio entirely.

AwoX StriimLight with remote

Unlike your average lightbulb, this one begs to move around a lot. You’ll want to screw it into a socket on the porch, in the bathroom, or in the bedroom so you can listen to some music wherever you happen to be. But the StriimLight heats up pretty quickly, and you need to let it cool down for a minute or two before unscrewing it and carrying it around. After initial setup, we used it for about 20 minutes (both as a light and as a speaker) before wanting to take it out and test it in another lamp. Both the speaker grille and the bulky construction underneath it were very hot to the touch. So it’s portable, but only after a cool-down period.

Unlike “smart” LED bulbs like the LIFX and Philips Hue system (both of which cost around the same price and don’t have built-in speakers), the StriimLight doesn’t change colors or offer control via a mobile app. It’s a lightbulb, and it’s also a Bluetooth speaker. That’s it.

The idea behind the StriimLight isn’t as goofy as it sounds. It certainly isn’t an essential product, but it’s an early and interesting sign of where consumer electronics are headed over the next few years.

Namely, we’re in the thick of an era where single-purpose devices are on the way out. Our phones have also been our cameras, MP3 players, and remote controls for years now. The next slew of convergence will take place in our homes, inside now-mundane pieces of hardware. Our fridges will also be Wi-Fi routers, our side tables will also be wireless charging devices, and our lightbulbs (and showerheads) will also be Bluetooth speakers.

At $100, the StriimLight is too expensive. It doesn’t sound good enough to justify the price. But would $100 be too expensive for a speaker/lightbulb with better audio quality and app-adjustable colors? Or one that doubled as a Wi-Fi repeater or cell-signal booster? Mull it over while you listen to our Spotify playlist for Bluetooth Lightbulbs:

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The Pokemon Company International released a new trailer today showcasing the upcoming Pokemon Bank, a service whose biggest draw is the ability to transfer Pokemon from previous titles into the new Pokemon X and Pokemon Y, and which doesn’t actually dispense Pokemon from ATMs.

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Using the bank, gamers can do the following awesome things:

- Deposit, withdraw, and oversee up to 3,000 (!) Pokemon in private boxes online, provided they have a stable internet connection.

- Transfer Pokemon from numerous copies of Pokemon X and Pokemon Y, regardless of whether they are the digital or retail versions, using one handheld.

- Move Pokemon from Pokemon Black, Pokemon White, Pokemon Black 2, and Pokemon White 2 into X or Y using the Pokemon Transporter, which conveniently comes with the Pokemon Bank.

Both the Pokemon Bank and the Pokemon Transporter will be available to download December 27th. Players who download the software between December 27th and January 31st will get to enjoy the services free of charge for 30 days; after that, it’s going to cost $4.99/£4.49/€4.99 per year to enjoy the happiness of using the terrifying Munna on a daily basis.

More info on the Pokemon Bank is yours for the taking here. Gamers, including myself, have been eagerly anticipating this; anyone else super happy the bank is coming so soon and has an affordable yearly price?

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Warner Bros. has announced that an all new multiplayer mode for Batman: Arkham Origins has been released for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. “Hunter, Hunted” can be accessed by accessing the multiplayer option in the game, and brings a new take on the “last man standing” gameplay.

The new mode is a 3v3v1: 3 Bane thugs vs. 3 Joker thugs vs. the Batman. Basically, you just need to be the last man left standing to win the match. But be warned! There are no respawns, so once you die, you die.

Check out the screenshots below!

Batman Arkham Origins Hunter Hunted

Batman Arkham Origins Hunter Hunted

  • Nervous System, the Boston-based design firm founded by Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg has been making stylish, 3-D printed jewelry for years, but have just developed new design software that could shake up the 3-D printing market. Photo: Nervous System

  • Their tool, called Kinematics, transforms large, slow-to-print models into flat objects that even low cost printers can produce rapidly. Photo: Nervous System

  • Unlike 3-D printed chainmail and other pseudo-textiles, Kinematics gives designers the ability to specify a balance between structure and flow. Photo: Nervous System

  • Each object starts as a 3-D model and the software breaks it down into triangular planes, unfolds the object into 2-D model, and adds hinges that allow the printed piece to be folded back into its original form—like a piece of plastic origami. Photo: Nervous System

  • Nervous system started by making jewelry, which has a simple set of constraints. Photo: Nervous System

  • After successfully printing jewelry, Nervous System moved onto more complex garments, like dresses. One of Kinematics most useful features in the ability to reduce the volume of a given model by up to 85 percent, allowing designers to print big things with small printers. Photo: Nervous System

  • Each 3-D printed piece is a chain of selectively laser sintered plastic featuring integral hinges that connect the parts and allow them to move freely. Photo: Nervous System

  • Kinematics was inspired by a commission from Google who wanted to 3-D print stylish products while customers listened to a sales pitch for the uber-customizable Moto X phone. Photo: Nervous System

  • Louis-Rosenberg believes we’re a long way to go before we’re printing our wardrobes. “Once we see 3-D printed fashion actually being worn at a real event by someone not as a 3-D printed thing, but simply as fashion, that will be a sign it is ready to go mainstream.” Photo: Nervous System

  • Kinematics shares similarities with Hyperform, the inventive “4-D printing” process developed by MIT alum and TED Fellow Skyler Tibbets. Photo: Nervous System

  • “Kinematics seems to have really clicked with people,” says Louis-Rosenberg. “It’s a great step towards engaging people in design and having consumers play a more active role in the things they own.” Photo: Nervous System

  • Nervous System, the Boston-based design firm founded by Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg has been making stylish, 3-D printed jewelry for years, but have just developed new design software that could shake up the 3-D printing market. Photo: Nervous System

  • Their tool, called Kinematics, transforms large, slow-to-print models into flat objects that even low cost printers can produce rapidly. Photo: Nervous System

  • Unlike 3-D printed chainmail and other pseudo-textiles, Kinematics gives designers the ability to specify a balance between structure and flow. Photo: Nervous System

  • Each object starts as a 3-D model and the software breaks it down into triangular planes, unfolds the object into 2-D model, and adds hinges that allow the printed piece to be folded back into its original form—like a piece of plastic origami. Photo: Nervous System

  • Nervous system started by making jewelry, which has a simple set of constraints. Photo: Nervous System

  • After successfully printing jewelry, Nervous System moved onto more complex garments, like dresses. One of Kinematics most useful features in the ability to reduce the volume of a given model by up to 85 percent, allowing designers to print big things with small printers. Photo: Nervous System

  • Each 3-D printed piece is a chain of selectively laser sintered plastic featuring integral hinges that connect the parts and allow them to move freely. Photo: Nervous System

  • Kinematics was inspired by a commission from Google who wanted to 3-D print stylish products while customers listened to a sales pitch for the uber-customizable Moto X phone. Photo: Nervous System

  • Louis-Rosenberg believes we’re a long way to go before we’re printing our wardrobes. “Once we see 3-D printed fashion actually being worn at a real event by someone not as a 3-D printed thing, but simply as fashion, that will be a sign it is ready to go mainstream.” Photo: Nervous System

  • Kinematics shares similarities with Hyperform, the inventive “4-D printing” process developed by MIT alum and TED Fellow Skyler Tibbets. Photo: Nervous System

  • “Kinematics seems to have really clicked with people,” says Louis-Rosenberg. “It’s a great step towards engaging people in design and having consumers play a more active role in the things they own.” Photo: Nervous System

It might be hard to believe, but 3-D printers are already passé. Sure, there’ll be a steady flow of cool hardware and neat materials in the years to come, but the reality is that low-cost 3-D printers are basically machines that are great at cranking out small plastic objects, very slowly. But they don’t have to be.

Nervous System, the Boston-based design studio known for combining biologically inspired aesthetics with additive fabrication has developed a new software tool called Kinematics that pairs 3-D printers with web-based design tools to create large, desirable objects in under an hour.

Kinematics was inspired by a commission from Google who wanted a stylish way to promote their uber-customizable Moto X phone. Their goal was to send a van around the country to demo the device and leave visitors with a 3-D printed souvenir. The challenge was that the tchotchkes had to be customized by the shoppers and printed in the vehicle while they received the sales pitch.

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Nervous System was excited by the open-ended challenge, but knew that traditional prints would take far too long. They realized that by printing relatively flat designs with built-in hinges, parts could be folded into impressive structures, but printed in a fraction of the time. The result was a Javascript tool that allowed visitors to customize a chunky piece of jewelry via touchscreen and have it 3-D printed and assembled as they watched.

He believes Kinematics is a generalizable tool that can be applied to everything.

After Google 3-D printed their last tchotcke, Nervous System continued developing the software and upgraded to a larger, higher-resolution selective laser sintering 3-D printer that enables more adventurous geometries. Emboldened by the success of their jewelry, they decided to step up the fashion food chain and print entire dresses.

Each garment starts as a 3-D model, created in the traditional fashion. The Kinematics software then breaks the model down into triangular planes, flattens the now polygonal 3-D model into a glorified 2-D sheet, and adds hinges that allow the printed piece to be folded back into its original form like a giant piece of plastic origami. It then compresses the garment, reducing its volume by 85 percent, and sends it to the 3-D printer for fabrication.

The results are impressive and compare favorably to Iris Van Herpen’s 3-D printed haute couture and Victoria’s Secret’s rapid prototyped panties, but Nervous System cofounder Jesse Louis-Rosenberg believes we’re a long way to go before we’re printing our wardrobes. “Once we see 3-D printed fashion actually being worn at a real event by someone not as a 3-D printed thing, but simply as fashion, that will be a sign it is ready to go mainstream.” Instead, he believes Kinematics is a generalizable tool that can be applied to everything from wearables to sculptures. 3-D printer operators can try it out here.

“A 3-D printer isn’t very useful if you can’t make anything for it to print,” says Louis-Rosenberg. “Design is the often neglected other half of making 3-D printing accessible.” Photo: Nervous System

New releases to the software will features options for building in locking mechanisms to stabilize the parts, alternatives to the bulky hinge mechanism, and developing new folding schemes that will help avoid the distinct polygonal feel many of the Kinematics pieces share. Eventually, Louis-Rosenberg would like to support printers capable of producing parts with multiple materials: “We are excited about the possibilities of combining hard and soft, conductive and insulating.”

Kinematics shares similarities with Hyperform, the inventive “4-D printing” process developed by MIT alum and TED Fellow Skyler Tibbets. Both tools radically expand the size of objects that can be printed on affordable machines, but Louis-Rosenberg is looking to solve an even bigger problem.

‘Design is the often neglected other half of making 3-D printing accessible.’

“A 3-D printer isn’t very useful if you can’t make anything for it to print,” says Louis-Rosenberg. “Design is the often neglected other half of making 3-D printing accessible.” Despite its importance, 3-D modeling software is expensive, difficult to learn, and apps that offer 3-D scanning as a solution often create monstrous results. There is also the deeper issue that for all the democratization 3-D printers bring to the world, few people consider themselves designers. They might be able to put together a slick ensemble from Nordstrom, but given a sewing machine and fabric, they’d freeze.

Going forward, Nervous System wants their design tools to be engaging, fun even, and so far they seem to be on the right path. “Kinematics seems to have really clicked with people,” says Louis-Rosenberg. “It’s a great step towards engaging people in design and having consumers play a more active role in the things they own.”

2013 can easily be called the year of 3-D printing with Makerbot’s acquisition by Stratasys, the launch of the hi-def Formlabs Form 1—among countless new systems—as well as the torrid stock performance of more established companies. That said, 2014 is shaping up to be the year that software engineers develop tools that will put all these amazing machines to good use and actually deliver on the promise of next-generation manufacturing.

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For 11 months each year, farmers in the Pacific Northwest grow some 8 million Christmas trees just in time for the holidays. But getting those trees cut, moved, and loaded into big rigs — and doing it quickly — requires air support.

Send in the helicopters.

In a mesmerizing ballet of precision flying and harnessing momentum, the helicopters use Kevlar lines with massive hooks to carry up to 600 pounds of trees in 40 seconds. It’s harrowing for the pilots, as they fly perilously close to thousands of trees planted on uneven terrain. But it’s absolutely hypnotizing to watch, and provides a new perspective on how that Douglas Fir winds up in our living rooms.

Fans of Namco Bandai’s long running and highly popular Tales series have reason to be feeling festive; a new entry into the series has been announced for the PS3, entitled Tales of Zestiria. The new installment will be the fifteenth game in the fantasy RPG franchise, its predecessor being Tales of Xillia 2. The game will be released simultaneously in Japan, America and Europe, possibly next year, marking the first time a Tales game has been announced for both Japan and the west at the same time.

As the logo suggests, the story is set to focus around dragons, that most underused of fantasy tropes, and this latest tale is set on the war-torn (naturally) continent of Glynnwood. Series producer Hideo Baba has said that the new game will feature a new battle system which has been implemented after Namco evaluated community feedback via a survey. If only all games producers listened to their fans so diligently…

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The highly anticipated Walking Dead: Season Two (Episode One) trailer is finally here!

After an impressively strong showing, Telltale Games is closer than ever to dropping the sequel to one of the hottest games of 2013. The story continues that of the apocalyptic orphan Clementine battling elements of the ever terrifying zombie infested planet, and as always, your decisions affect the outcome of the game. As for the trailer, it is visually and audibly put together well causing that gaming adrenaline to pump.

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Telltale Games is still waiting on confirmation for a release date but in the meantime save up your money for the digital download of 5 episodes or the $22.49 for all the episodes when available. Walking Dead: Season Two (Episode One) will be available for PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac and iOS.

California attorney Elizabeth Marie Pipkin is fighting an uphill battle concerning the secrecy of the U.S. no-fly list. Photo: Courtesy Pipkin

SAN FRANCISCO — Is former Stanford University scholar Rahinah Ibrahim connected to Malaysian jihadists, as the FBI once suggested, or is she the victim of misguided U.S. bureaucrats who erroneously placed her on a U.S. terror watchlist? Is she even on a watchlist at all?

Those are the lingering unanswered questions in the first-of-its kind federal trial challenging a traveler’s alleged placement on America’s notorious no-fly list. The 48-year-old Malaysian woman’s case against the U.S. government — in which she seeks solely to clear her name — is awaiting a judge’s verdict after a week of testimony, the bulk of it classified and given behind closed doors here in a San Francisco federal courtroom.

But underscoring the Kafkaesque flavor of the trial, there’s a real possibility the verdict itself will be kept a secret, even from Ibrahim.

“It is conceivable? If the government continues to keep this information secret from her and the public, and the judge sustains that objection, it is possible we can have a ruling in this case and she would not know the result,” Elizabeth Marie Pipkin, Ibrahim’s pro-bono attorney, said in a telephone interview.

Rahinah Ibrahim: Photo: University Putra Malaysia

It’s one of those strange moments in the U.S. legal system, when national security secrecy is allowed to trump transparency.

Ibrahim’s saga began in 2005 when she was a visiting doctoral student in architecture and design. On her way to Kona, Hawaii to present a paper on affordable housing,  Ibrahim was told she was on a watchlist, detained, handcuffed and questioned for two hours at San Francisco International Airport. She was wearing traditional Muslim clothes, including a head covering.

The month before, the FBI had visited the woman at her Stanford apartment, inquiring whether she had any connections to the Malaysian terror group, Jemaah Islamiyah, according to the woman’s videotaped disposition played in open court.

Now, nearly nine years after the detainment, the San Francisco judge presiding over the non-jury trial is expected to issue a verdict within weeks. But in a case that has been shrouded in extraordinary secrecy — with closed court hearings and non-public classified exhibits — it’s possible that the verdict itself will remain a mystery.

The obvious absurdity here rivals a different trial — which was also in a San Francisco federal courtroom — of two American attorneys who sued the U.S. government for intercepting their phone calls without warrants.

In 2006, federal officials accidentally sent those attorneys for the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation documents about the eavesdropping. The documents were removed from the case based on the government declaring them a state secret. Yet the case proceeded anyway, against the government’s objections, with both the lawyers and the government pretending they did not exist and being barred from citing them.

A federal judge eventually awarded the aggrieved lawyers $20,000 each in damages and their lawyers $2.5 million in legal fees after a tortured legal battle where they proved they were spied on without warrants, even as the pertinent documents were excluded as evidence.

That legal fight, however, was all for nothing.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the verdict last year, ruling Congress did not allow for aggrieved Americans to sue over the government breaching its own wiretapping laws.

Ibrahim, meanwhile, isn’t seeking any monetary damages. She wants to be removed from a U.S. no-fly watch list — that is if she’s on one, and told why she was placed on one if indeed she was blacklisted.

“We want her completely out of the system,” Pipkin said in her opening remarks two weeks ago. She emphatically maintains her client has no terror ties.

But even if she’s in the watchlist system, that’s “Sensitive Security Information,” which forbids disclosing that to Ibrahim, the government maintains. In court papers, the government asserted that U.S. District Judge William Alsup is powerless to publicly state whether Ibrahim is, or is not, one of 875,000 names lodged in one of the government’s vast, secret watchlist database.

“Only certain government agencies, including TSA, may determine whether information is SSI. TSA’s determination is reviewable by the judiciary, but Congress has expressly specified that the review must occur in a court of appeals,” wrote Paul G. Freeborne, a Justice Department senior trial counsel in court documents.

Freeborne added that, even if the woman is on the list, and Alsup believes Ibrahim was put on it wrongly, the judge’s hands are still tied in overruling the SSI determination.

“District courts,” Freeborne wrote, “simply cannot review TSA’s determination that certain information is SSI, (.pdf) even if they disagree with TSA’s determination; believe that TSA has insufficiently explained the rationale for its determination; or do not believe that TSA properly interpreted its regulations in making its determination.”

The woman, who is now a Malaysian professor, was later cleared to leave the United States but has been denied a return visit, even to her own civil trial. Her travel visa was denied.

“We have evidence with her status with respect to the federal watchlist is causing her visa problem,” Pipkin said.

The government on Friday, Pipkin said, was to have lodged under seal documents protected by the state secrets privilege demanding that the judge dismiss the case outright.

“It’s quite possible,” Pipkin said, “the government could succeed in their state secret assertions without the plaintiff or public ever knowing what happened here.”

The woman’s daughter, who is an American citizen and who was with her mother when she was detained at the San Francisco airport nearly nine years ago, was barred by the U.S. government to fly from Malaysia to San Francisco to testify at the mother’s trial.

Judge Alsup had held an evidentiary hearing on the daughter’s matter, some of it in closed court. The outcome has not been made public.

And if any of this couldn’t get stranger, Ibrahim’s attorney actually does know whether her client is on the list. She was given a security clearance by the government so she could represent her client.

But Pipkin, too, is forbidden from disclosing this information to her client.

“It is very strange. No one is more affected than Dr. Ibrahim, yet she is in the dark,” Pipkin said. “The lack of transparency is appalling. So much for the right to face your accuser.”

Photo: Jorge Lascar/Flickr

Photo: Jorge Lascar/Flickr

Another report has come out in support of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), an innovative way to provide public transit at a low cost with dedicated bus lanes, stops, and schedules.

The study (PDF), from pro-transit group Embarq, found that BRT drastically reduced commute times, improved air quality, and cut road fatalities in congested cities like Bogota, Istanbul, Johannesburg, and Mexico City. And we already know that BRT is one of the most cost-effective public transit investments a municipality can make.

The catch? In most cities examined in the report, those benefits only extend to low- and middle-class residents. (In Johannesburg, the poorest residents did not use BRT).

“Since the dominant benefit is travel time savings,” the study’s authors wrote, “the majority of benefits tend to accrue to the strata most represented by BRT users — typically lower- and middle-income.”

While it’s great to have a system that improves transportation access for the majority of a city’s population, BRT’s mass appeal could — ironically — be a political concern that prevents its adoption, at least in the U.S. As Alex Pareene wrote in Salon, public transit often suffers because politicians and donors rarely rely on it. The results show in the states, whose existing BRT systems lag behind those in cities around the world.

Even in densely populated and traditionally liberal cities like New York and Minneapolis, politicians neglect transit. And “because they don’t know or interact with or receive checks from people who rely on it every day, there’s almost no hope for cheap, efficient mass transit options anywhere,” Pareene wrote.

Indeed, the Embarq report echoes the public transit wealth gap, and cites that most BRT systems are often paid for by tax revenue collected from those who may never ride it. Bogota’s famed TransMilenio was financed by increased gasoline taxes, and all the systems required both substantial investment and support from municipalities.

But the Embarq report also showed that BRTs benefited cities with environmental and productivity gains more than they strained financial resources. For example, the average commuter in Istanbul now gets to and from work about an hour faster thanks to the Metrobüs, and Mexico City’s BRT system reduced air pollution enough to save 6,000 sick days a year.

As cities continue to grow and congestion increases, the benefits of BRT may become impossible to ignore — even to the rich and powerful folks who are stuck in traffic.