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Technology Now
The business and culture of our digital lives
Yelp adds hotel and winery bookings with new partnerships

Travelers often turn to Yelp to check out consumer reviews of hotels before they go on vacation, and now they can book a room directly through its site and app thanks to a partnership with start-up Hipmunk.

Yelp made the announcement on its official blog and also said it had partnered with CellarPass to offer winery reservations.

The moves are part of Yelp Platform, which encompasses a growing number of partner companies that offer their services directly on Yelp, including food delivery and spa bookings.

Yelp said that about 28,000 businesses in all major U.S. markets are available for booking on Yelp Platform; the San Francisco company said it would continue to expand in the coming months. It said it wanted to add new partners and categories of businesses as well. 

Roughly 250,000 transactions happened through the Yelp Platform in the third quarter, with more than 50% of them coming from mobile devices, Yelp said.

"It’s clear Yelpers love the convenience of booking and purchase...

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Pandora holds out olive branch of data to musicians

Pandora Media, the king of personalized online radio services, pays recording artists, songwriters, record labels and music publishers close to $300 million a year in royalties. That's not nearly enough to satisfy the company's critics in the music industry, who resent how little Pandora pays each time a user plays a track.

On Wednesday, the company plans to start offering artists more than just royalties. It's opening a new Artists Marketing Platform that provides detailed analytics for bands and their managers about their songs and their fans. Pandora AMP will be available free to any artist whose music is available on the service.

Among other things, artists will be able to see which cities are home to the greatest clusters of their fans, the number of thumbs up (the Pandora equivalent of a Facebook "like") each of their tracks have received from listeners, and some basic demographic information on the users who have created playlists based on their music.

Consider Pandora AMP a...

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California tech company attempts floating skateboard Hoverboard

Whoa, that’s heavy, doc.

A California couple is trying to make the hoverboard, a floating skateboard made popular in the “Back to the Future” films, a reality. Science might not necessarily be on their side, though.

On Tuesday, Greg and Jill Henderson, founders of Arx Pax, began a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of the final market version of the Hendo hoverboard, which can be purchased for a $10,000 donation. It uses magnet engines, dubbed magnetic field architecture, to create a working prototype.

But can these dual magnetic fields work to make an object fly for more than a few seconds and keep it stable? That has yet to be proved.

So far, their campaign has raised a little more than $120,000. 

“The underlying technology is totally scalable; we can make it really small or really big,” Greg Henderson said on the Kickstarter video.

Meaning, magnetic field architecture could be used for objects as big as buildings, which would be advantageous when earthquakes hit, according to...

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Universal Pictures says millions viewed first Snapchat ad, a success

A 20-second trailer for the movie "Ouija" that ended with a terrifying shriek was viewed by millions of people on Snapchat last weekend in what a Universal Pictures executive called a satisfying first run at advertising on the messaging app.

The sponsored video was the first time Snapchat had been paid to show content to its users, the Los Angeles start-up said last week. Snapchat declined to comment on how the experiment performed.

Universal had long expressed interest in advertising on Snapchat, said Doug Neil, the studio's executive vice president of digital marketing. It was serendipitous that Snapchat's internal timetable for launching ads worked out to give Universal a chance to be the first mover. He said the ad was "competitively priced" compared to "video opportunities in general."

"We believed that the Snapchat user is in our core target user for the 'Ouija' movie opening Friday," Neil said. "If it hadn’t been a movie tied to a teen audience, we probably wouldn’t have taken...

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Hollywood, Silicon Valley make $542-million bet on curious Magic Leap

Virtual-reality headsets block out the real world and transport them into a digitally created one. But what if the digital stuff could simply pop into people's normal view of the reality? 

That's the goal of a Florida company that said Tuesday it has raised $542 million in investment because of Hollywood's -- and the tech industry's -- fascination with virtual-reality technology.

The amount is stunning for a company that hasn't tested its product publicly or released details about it, but Magic Leap Inc. has been more forthcoming to industry leaders. Investors in Magic Leap, which has an office in Los Angeles, include film producer Legendary Entertainment, its Chief Executive Thomas Tull, Google Inc., Qualcomm Ventures, KKR, Vulcan Capital and Obvious Ventures, a firm founded by Twitter's cofounders. Silicon Valley venture capital giants Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers were also involved.

"Magic Leap is going beyond the current perception of mobile computing,...

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L.A.'s tech scene gets first Google-like luxury bus

Bay Area tech companies are known for offering their employees luxury bus rides to work.

But in a new coming-of-age sign for the Los Angeles-area technology industry, YP, formerly branded as Yellow Pages, has been shuttling about 25 workers each day from their homes on the west side of the county to the company’s office in Glendale.

The service, operated by San Francisco start-up RidePal, has been operating for five weeks, but the companies officially unveiled Tuesday the first RidePal partnership in the L.A. area.

For the past decade, technology companies in Silicon Valley have provided luxurious, Wi-Fi-equipped buses to their workers as a mode of commute.

Local search giant YP reached out to RidePal to bring the perk south because the competition for technologists in Los Angeles has become “more fierce” in the last two years than any stretch during the past two decades, said Darren Clark, YP’s chief technology officer.

The Glendale office is the technology headquarters for the Tucker...

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