Staff picks for the week of Nov. 9, 2015

Staff Picks GeneralTechnology is constantly changing the ways we create, consume, and experience life. This week we’re talking about reproductive pencils, circadian lightbulbs, and everything in between. Read on for these stories and more.

No really. This pencil grows into a tomato (Read by Camillia S.)

Startup Sprout World has found a way to repurpose everyday waste — specifically the billions of pencil stubs that are thrown away each year — and use it to start a garden. The company’s plantable pencils contain a tiny, biodegradable capsule stocked with seeds and peat where the eraser would normally be. All you need to do is plant the capsule in soil and add water, and you’re good to grow.

IBM Watson is going to change how you think about the weather (Read by Heidi B.)

For many businesses, unpredictable weather means more than being caught without an umbrella: Companies lose a collective $500 billion annually to weather unpredictability. But that’s about to change. IBM recently acquired a cloud-based platform from The Weather Company that contains data from 3 billion forecast reference points, 40 million mobile phones, and 50,000 daily flights. With the help of its supercomputer Watson, IBM plans to customize and deliver the data to organizations in weather-reliant industries, from retailers to airlines. It looks like the cloud is going to really get to know the clouds.

GE to launch connected lightbulbs that better echo your body’s circadian rhythms (Read by Heidi B.)

When people say they like to bring the outdoors in I usually imagine indoor plants, but GE has something else in mind. The company hopes to bring nature’s lighting cycles indoors with its two new lightbulbs, C-Life and C-Sleep. C-Life emits a standard midday orange tone and is intended for use throughout the entire home, while C-Sleep casts different hues to “support your body’s natural sleep cycle” and is best-suited for the bedroom. That’s not all: Each bulb is Bluetooth-enabled, allowing you to control its brightness from your mobile device. I think these bulbs could be especially useful during the dark winter when all we want are those few extra hours of daylight.

Virtual reality: A new way to tell stories (Read by Ed M.)

This was a big week for virtual reality (VR) fans, a group that will include virtually all of us in the very near future. In addition to Samsung’s investment in Interlude, a company developing VR video that responds to a person’s emotions and interests, and a new Facebook project to develop “teleporter” technology, The New York Times published “The Displaced,” a story that follows the journey of three refugee children fleeing war-ridden regions of Syria, Lebanon, and the Ukraine. Through a viewer that can be downloaded to your mobile phone, The Times’ audience is transformed from passive observers to active real-time editors with the ability to control which parts of the story are most interesting to them. Given the publication’s global reach and influence on other media outlets, VR will quickly become a game-changer in how news is reported and shared. If “print is dead,” the network anchor may be next.

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