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What's Tech?

Enjoy the archives of this retired, award-winning series from Christopher Thomas Plante and The Verge that explained technology bit by bit. The series finale aired December 6th, 2016, shortly before Chris re-joined Polygon as its executive editor. For more on what’s happening now (and next) in technology and gadgets, listen and subscribe to The Vergecast.

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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Why bots are the new big thing, and what that means for ordering pizza

2016 is shaping up to be the year of the bot. Late last month, Microsoft made a big bet on tools that will help developers create artificial intelligence software meant to improve the lives of humans by completing small tasks, and last week Facebook launched an entire bot platform for its communication tool, Messenger.I invited my buddy and colleague Casey Newton — who wrote one of my favorite features on bots — to explain the technology. Newton has some predictions for the applications of bots that I think you'll find interesting. But in the meantime, the most useful bots may be the ones that just order a pizza. The episode pairs well with our recent episode on artificial intelligence, so be sure to give that a listen, too!Subscribe to What's Tech? on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech? stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

32mins

19 Apr 2016

Rank #1

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What you should know about torrenting

I was a teenager in the days of Napster and LimeWire, when illegal files flowed through the internet like free hamburgers through a freshman dormitory orientation session. I didn't understand the legality of file sharing, let alone the technical explanation of how it worked. Peer-to-peer file distribution has changed over the years. Though I feel more savvy to the legal issues, I am no less dumbfounded by how it all works.That’s why I invited my colleague Ashley Carman onto this week’s show. She provides a brief history of file sharing, then explains how torrenting works in the present. Is it legal? Who does it hurt? Why do people use it? We have answers to all that and more.Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud or Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

16mins

14 Jun 2016

Rank #2

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Why smartphone batteries explode, and why they may get worse

Samsung has officially recalled the Galaxy Note 7 worldwide, after more than 90 of the large smartphones in the US overheated due to defective batteries. Overheating is, in this case, an understatement, as some owners have claimed their smartphones outright exploded. Exploding lithium-ion batteries actually aren’t so uncommon. As my colleagues Angela Chen and Lauren Goode noted earlier this month, there are many ways for a lithium-ion battery to become dangerous, and they aren’t limited to any one smartphone or electronic device.“An exploding phone seems like a freak accident,” write Chen and Goode, “but the same chemical properties that make batteries work also make them likely to catch fire.”To learn more about the lithium-ion batteries, I invited The Verge’s science reporter Angela Chen to the show. We talk about how manufacturers are pushing the battery to its limit, and what alternatives we may see in the future.Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

16mins

20 Sep 2016

Rank #3

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What you need to know about doxxing, the average internet user’s nightmare

My entire body clenches when I hear the word doxxing. Each time I write something that, for whatever reason, upsets a corner of the internet, I wonder if my personal information — phone numbers, address, social security number, credit card information — will be made public, or doxxed. And if it is made public, then how will it be used?Even though our identities on the internet are more public than ever, we are still individually afforded a certain amount of privacy. Our passwords, our forum names, our Google habits: these are, for most of us, secret. And because they are secret, people on the internet can threaten their reveal as a form of harassment. That’s the sticky core of doxxing; the erasure of one’s sense of privacy, and with it, safety.This method of publishing personal information has become more mainstream, alongside the ubiquity of the internet. So, to spread awareness, I invited my colleague and security expert Russell Brandom to discuss the origins of doxxing, how it has evolved, and why people use doxxing today.Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud or Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

30mins

21 Jun 2016

Rank #4

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Everything you need to know about the Hyperloop, a potential transportation game-changer

In 2013, billionaire eccentric inventor Elon Musk announced an idea called the Hyperloop: a super-fast, low-friction transportation system that looked like the prom photo for a subway tunnel and a bullet-train. Musk made the Hyperloop an open-sourced project, inviting thinkers, scientists, and fellow inventors — no matter their age — to help make the potentially revolutionary concept into a reality.This year, we're seeing some of the early steps from the theoretical sketch room to a real world groundbreaking ceremony. In January, students participated in a design contest for the pods that would travel inside the Hyperloop's tube, and later this year, a piece of test track will be constructed by global construction firm Aecom. For many folks, though, the specifics behind the Hyperloop remain vague. So naturally, I've invited my friend and colleague Andy Hawkins to explain. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

22mins

15 Mar 2016

Rank #5

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A podcast explains the power of podcasts

For 72 episodes, What’s Tech has invited guests to explain technology and its cultural periphery — from drones and fan fiction to ASMR and biohacking. We were bound to make a podcast about podcasts eventually. This was inevitable.For this momentous occasion, our guest is Alex Goldman, co-host of one of my favorite podcasts, Reply All. After you listen, visit Reply All’s publisher Gimlet Media, which is responsible for a number of the best examples of the podcasting form.Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud or Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

16mins

26 Jul 2016

Rank #6

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The good and bad news of the Earth-sized planet Proxima Centauri b

Late last month, news broke of the exoplanet Proxima Centauri b. Orbiting the closest star to our Solar System, there’s a lot to love about Proxima b since it shares a few key traits with our own home planet. But before we start making intergalactic vacation plans, let’s pump the space-brakes: half the planet is locked in darkness, it’s pelted by radiation from close proximity to its sun, and the rock is 25 trillion miles away. Our current best option for sending a probe there involves a laser-propelled space-sail, which would reduce travel time from tens of thousands of years to 20. Which is to say, while potentially astonishing, even the best case scenario seems like a long-shot for our lifetime.To explain Proxima Centauri b, I invited my friend and colleague Loren Grush onto the show. This is, I think, the first episode in which we don’t talk about the Nic Cage film Knowing, so just keep that in mind.Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

20mins

8 Sep 2016

Rank #7

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Everything you wanted to know about Drake, but were too afraid to ask

Share on Facebook Tweet Share PinDrake is a former child actor, current pop star, and the secular god of memes — even if he denounces that last label. Born Aubrey Drake Graham, the Canadian celebrity has been inescapable, not just for fans of music, but enthusiasts of technology. That's because Drake is a meeting point of the two.To talk about Drake's give-take relationship with technology — specifically social media — I invited my friend and colleague Jamieson Cox onto this week's episode of What's Tech. Jamieson is one of my favorite music critics, and as an added bonus, shares the same hometown as Drake, and nearly the same birthday. None of this is relevant, but this is my post, gosh dang it, and I'll include what I want.Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud or Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

27mins

17 May 2016

Rank #8

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Why movie theaters should and shouldn't be afraid of VOD

A couple weeks ago, my friend and colleague Bryan Bishop visited Las Vegas for a flashy conference called CinemaCon, where movie studios and theater owners discuss the future of the film industry — a future that isn't as predictable as it used to be.Many theater owners worry that in the age of streaming, the cineplex will become less relevant. The message from studios, however, was clear: theater owners have nothing to fear, because studios still believe big, communal screens are the true home of movies. Of course, that's not entirely true.Over the past decade, more and more movies have been released directly to VOD, or video-on-demand. VOD is a large umbrella of a format, covering everything from online streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon, to the On Demand section on your cable box. The format has grown dramatically, over the years, in terms of users, but also in terms of reach and power. Movies transition from theaters to home viewing formats faster than ever. And Sean Parker, known for his involvement in Napster and Facebook, is pitching a service called the Screening Room that would allow people with a $150 set-top box to stream movies that are currently in theaters for a $50 flat fee.So, James Cameron may have been sincere when took the stage at this event to allay concerns about threats to the relevancy of the traditional movie theater. But studios are not so quietly trying to glean their best options from a murky future. To provide us some context and prediction, I invited Bryan onto this week's episode of What's Tech.Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories on the The Verge Dot Com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

28mins

10 May 2016

Rank #9

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Dota 2: an explainer for newcomers and the confused family of addicts

A $3 million vide game tournament is happening right now in Shanghai, China, pitting 16 of the best Dota 2 teams against each other. But what, pray tell, does any of that mean?Dota 2 is an immensely popular video game that mixes elements of many genres, from sports simulation to role-playing epics to twitch-reaction shooters, and yet is unique in its own right. To its millions of adherents, Dota is closer to a lifestyle than a pastime. Think about the dedication most people show to playing and watching football or baseball, and you're on your way there.Having accrued more than 3,000 hours in its mythical universe, I can say with assurance that I’ve been afflicted with the Dota 2 bug. I know all the professional players, all the fictional hero characters, all their magical abilities, and all the complex interplays among them.There’s as much to learn about this game as there is for Magic: The Gathering, a competitive card game familiar, at least in name, to anyone who passed through a high school cafeteria in the 1990s. But we won't overwhelm you with strategy and lore. For this latest episode of What’s Tech, we’ll introduce the basics behind Dota 2, and how it came to be an eSport with multimillion dollars purses. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

26mins

4 Mar 2016

Rank #10

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Hate going to the grocery store? Maybe it's time to try food-delivery services

Imagine if grocery shopping was just another online subscription service, like Netflix or Spotify. You complete a survey, sharing your likes and dislikes, and the platform sends, week after week, precisely measured portions of proteins, veggies, fruits, oils, and spices required to make dinner and the necessary recipes to alchemize these ingredients into Food Network-level dinners.My friend and colleague Kaitlyn Tiffany lived this modern spin on the home cook life this past spring, after she volunteered to review the many "fresh box" food delivery programs currently available.Plated, PeachDish, Blue Apron, Purple Carrot, Hello Fresh: a neighbor has probably tried to convince you to adopt one of the platforms, claiming the over-packaged nourishment saves precious hours each week. But are the services all they cracked out to be? Or is the future life in our home pleasure prisons, never leaving, always waiting for deliveries?Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

17mins

17 Aug 2016

Rank #11

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How immersive haunted houses and participatory plays are making Halloween scarier

Here at The Verge, we love Halloween and everything about it. Horror movies, non-horror seasonal movies, seasonal beverages, seasonal bots, this Pumpkin Guy, horrifying makeup tutorials, poop-shaped candy — bring it on. In particular, we love to be scared. It gives us a sweet little adrenaline burst to get us across the daunting dark tundra of November to April.This Hallo-season, senior entertainment reporter Bryan Bishop has embarked on a journey to find the most immersive, creative, and high-tech scares in all of Los Angeles. In a new series called "The Future of Fear," he's taking us all where we're too East Coast or too chicken to go. These aren't your grandma's haunted houses (although Bryan and I will both stan for the original Haunted Mansion at Disney World, may it live forever).I love Halloween so much I, Kaitlyn Tiffany took over the seat usually warmed by your friendly neighborhood What's Tech host Chris Plante. You can't tell from the audio, but I wore a blazer to the recording because I take Halloween very seriously! Bryan told me about all the terrible things he's subjected himself to this fall, and it was delightful even while it shook me to my core. Basically, it's a haunted house of a podcast and don't listen to it before bed. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

24mins

6 Oct 2016

Rank #12

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A few simple tech tips for living in a dorm or a New York apartment

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22mins

30 Aug 2016

Rank #13

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Why artificial intelligence is more important than ever and how it will change our lives

For nearly 60 episodes, one question has persisted through What's Tech: what is happening in the ending of Steven Spielberg's 2001 sci-fi film A.I. Artificial Intelligence? To settle the question once and for all, I invited my friend and artificial intelligence expert, Sam Byford, to appear on the show.Sadly, as you will hear me learn, Sam Byford is in expert in actual artificial intelligence, not the film Artificial Intelligence. Truth is, he's never even seen the film. But that's okay. This is still one of my favorite episodes of What's Tech, as Byford shares what it was like to attend the recent match-up of human Go champion Lee Se-dol and artificial intelligence AlphaGo.As for the ending of A.I., I'm sure we'll have an answer in the next 60 episodes. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

29mins

12 Apr 2016

Rank #14

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What is Slack, why is everybody using it, and will it destroy my work-life balance?

I love Slack, the mega-popular corporate-friendly chat client. I love it so much that I desperately want to delete it from my phone, because I can't help but check its messages every hour of every day. Yesterday night, I responded to a message at 3AM. Lol, I have no self-control and this is a cry for help!Anywho, Slack is still so new that it's possible you haven't heard of, let alone used, the service, which I describe to newcomers as something between text messaging, AOL chatrooms, and AIM — it's no less addicting than a combination of the three. I invited my buddy, colleague, and Slack expert Casey Newton to tell me more about the app, and more importantly, guide me onto a road of self-improvement.Subscribe to What's Tech? on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech? stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

21mins

5 Apr 2016

Rank #15

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How Snapchat’s goofy faces made everyone comfortable with selfies

I didn’t take many selfies until I downloaded Snapchat. But like so many people I’ve fallen in love with lenses, the optional tools that make my face look like a dog or an emoji or an advertisement for junk food. Now, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t mug into my front-facing camera.The magic of lenses is how they erase the perception of the selfie as an act of narcissism — an insipid criticism that comes from a certain clump of people who feel the need to bash people for showing a fleck of confidence. Why didn’t I take selfies? I was too embarrassed. Anyway! I digress! I’m clearly fascinated by the popularity and power of lenses, so I invited my friend and colleague Ashley Carman to the show. We talk about the potential of the lens, and the possible future of a would-be gimmick that has birthed a broader pop culture trend.Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

13mins

13 Sep 2016

Rank #16

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How The Bachelor became social media’s favorite sporting event

"Is The Bachelor tech?" You might ask this question while listening to this week’s episode of What’s Tech, a podcast that provides introductory explainers into the many pockets of technology and the culture around them. I believe the answer is yes.The Bachelor series has aired for over 14 years and spun-off numerous programs, totaling over 35 seasons, but its most recent surge of critical significance stems from the rise of social media. Who watches The Bachelor and how they watch it have changed dramatically since the first episode has aired. Credit belongs to an expanding ecosystem of critics, fans, and former participants that meet any given Monday.To explain, I invited my colleague Kaitlyn Tiffany to the show.Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud or Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

25mins

28 Jun 2016

Rank #17

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What is a gadget blog, anyway?

This week, The Verge launched a gadget blog. It's called Circuit Breaker, and you can read about its origin and purpose in The New York Times. Paul Miller, the editor of Circuit Breaker, has spoken a lot this week about the broader hopes and ambitions for the new site. But ever the dullard, I wanted to learn the basics: what is a gadget blog, anyway?I invited Miller onto the show to get an answer. Miller co-launched The Verge years ago, and before that he worked for Engadget, one of the original gadget blogs. In today's episode we talk about how that site and other former gadget blogs evolved and expanded over the past decade, and why Miller and his crew are returning to the looser, faster, scrappier format.After you give the show a listen, be sure to visit Circuit Breaker on its two homes: The Verge and Facebook.Subscribe to What's Tech? on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech? stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

19mins

28 Apr 2016

Rank #18

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A simple explanation of No Man’s Sky and its internet-fueled controversy

The first trailer for No Man’s Sky, published in December 2013, promised a universe with enough planets, creatures, and vegetation that it could not be fully explored by one player in a lifetime. The hype was immediate, and it only continued to build with each month between the game’s announcement and its release this summer. This, some fans speculate, could be a game that lasts forever.My buddy Austin Walker concisely dismantled that logic at Vice before the game’s release, but No Man’s Sky has nonetheless attracted a good deal of controversy. To explain the game, and the community’s reaction, I invited my colleague Andrew Webster to the show. Andrew wrote a great series on his time in the game that I encourage you to enjoy along with the podcast.Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

16mins

25 Aug 2016

Rank #19

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Why Sony and Microsoft are already announcing and releasing new consoles

A new round of video game consoles has began last week with the release of Microsoft’s One S. The slim, white hardware is a minor upgrade to the original Xbox One, and the predecessor to next year’s flashier upgrade, codenamed Project Scorpio. Next month, Sony is expected to announce its own update for the PlayStation 4, codenamed Neo. If it feels a little early in a generation of consoles to be talking about dropping cash on the next great thing, you’re right.But these consoles don’t follow the traditional cycle of new video game hardware, which last around seven years. They’re more iterative. Microsoft’s hardware is built around backwards compatibility with Xbox One, and its expected that PlayStation Neo will play PlayStation 4 games. The new era of game consoles is closer to smartphones: a variety of annually updated hardware with a variety of features that shares same large, ongoing collection of apps.To talk about the ways these new game consoles are similar and different from the hardware of the past, I invited my friend and colleague Megan Farokhamnesh to the show. Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listenon Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

16mins

10 Aug 2016

Rank #20