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Airbnb is getting all fancy

CEO Brian Chesky announced several new Airbnb features at an event at San Francisco’s Masonic theater.

James Martin/CNET

Airbnb wants to have more than 1 billion people staying in its rentals by 2028. That’s one-seventh of the world’s population — or the populations of the US and Europe combined. To get there, the lodgings company is doing a major overhaul, which it unveiled at an event in San Francisco’s Masonic theater on Thursday.

Along with making its website more user friendly, it’s adding four new types of rentals, high-end tiers for wealthier travelers, and more rental categories to choose from. “Over the last 10 years a lot has changed,” Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky told the crowd at the Masonic. “Airbnb is still an alternative, but it’s still not for everyone … Today we will show you our road map: Airbnb for everyone.”

Now Playing: Watch this: Airbnb wants to be a place for ‘everyone’

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Airbnb has gone from a website for couch surfers to having a massive online presence in just under a decade.

It lists roughly 4.5 million homes for rent in more than 81,000 cities. But that growth has come with increasing scrutiny from city regulators. The company has battled local governments from San Francisco to New York to London.

Though it’s worked out deals with many of those regulators, it’s had to scale down its offerings and adjust to rules that require hosts to register with cities and that curb how many nights a year people can rent out a home. That means Airbnb has needed to rethink its business to stay competitive with hotels and similar sites like VRBO vacation rentals. Over the past couple of years, it’s expanded from offering homes for short-term rentals to letting travelers book day trips and restaurant reservations.

It’s also partnered with major landlords in California and Florida that allow for Airbnb rentals through their buildings. The company’s newest revamp includes several features. It’s specifying four new property types: vacation home, unique space, B&B and boutique hotel.

Unique spaces include things like tree houses, yurts and Airstream trailers, while boutique hotels would be nonchain hotels. Airbnb said it’s differentiating these listings so people will be able to more easily choose the best match for their preferences.

Airbnb Plus is one of the company’s new high-end types of rentals.

James Martin/CNET

The company is also adding two new high-end tiers: Airbnb Plus and “Beyond by Airbnb.” Chesky said Plus is for guests “looking for beautiful homes” that have “exceptional hosts.” All of these listings are verified by the company. “Beyond by Airbnb” goes one level higher, with full-on luxury stays that include “some of the world’s nicest homes,” Chesky said.

These include everything from villas in Tuscany to ski-in, ski-out lodges in Aspen. Jennifer King, who was in the audience at Thursday’s event, said she listed her two high-end homes in San Francisco and Maine on Airbnb Plus. She said that when Airbnb verified her homes, “they came and literally opened every drawer.” They made sure she had the right pots and pans and carbon monoxide detectors.

“It was to the nth degree,” she said. “For the creme de la creme.” Finally, Airbnb announced at its event that it’s redesigning its website to include more personalized collections for travelers to choose from. Currently people need to scroll through listings to find what’s right for them, but with more collections they’ll be able to choose from categories like weddings, travel for work, group getaways and dinner parties.

“We think we finally do have a home for everyone,” Chesky said. “I’m really excited to see what the next 10 years look like.” First published Feb.

22, 9:31 a.m. PT. Update, 2:31 p.m.

PT: Adds more details about the event and background information.

CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET’s newsstand edition. Life, disrupted: In Europe, millions of refugees are still searching for a safe place to settle. Tech should be part of the solution.

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Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross arrives in the US with $23,295 price tag

If you’re not one of the folks yelling at Mitsubishi for using the Eclipse name to pimp another crossover, you’re probably wondering what the new Eclipse Cross SUV is all about. Well, wonder no longer, because it’s heading to dealerships as this is being typed out. Mitsubishi announced today that the first batch of 2018 Eclipse Cross SUVs is being taken off the boat at Port Hueneme, California.

The vehicles will then make their way to dealers, where they’ll officially go on sale in early March.

It’s on a boat! Or, at least, it was.

Mitsubishi

Under the hood of every Eclispe Cross is a 154-horsepower, 184-pound-foot, four-cylinder gas engine mated to a CVT. Front-wheel drive is standard on the base ES, but every other trim gets all-wheel drive.

A base Eclipse Cross ES FWD will set you back £23,295, with all-wheel drive adding just £600 to the price. Standard equipment includes a backup camera, automatic climate controls and LED running lights. Move up to the £24,895 LE and you get a 7-inch touchscreen with a touchpad controller, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, dual SB© USB ports and larger wheels.

The £26,395 SE trim adds blind-spot monitoring, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and Mitsubishi’s telematics system. At the tippy-top of the lineup is the £27,895 Eclipse Cross SEL. This trim adds a bird’s-eye-view camera system, LED headlights, leather seats and a head-up display.

It’s also the only trim where you can option forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control.

Full pricing information is below.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Pricing

Trim

MSRP Eclipse Cross ES FWD

£23,295 Eclipse Cross ES AWD

£23,895 Eclipse Cross LE AWD

£24,895 Eclipse Cross SE AWD

£26,395 Eclipse Cross SEL AWD

£27,895

Here is everything we know so far about ‘Westworld’ season 2

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With Westworld heading into season 2, HBO is building hype for the show’s already much-anticipated return. We’re stuck in a waiting period until April, but in the meantime, the network is making it possible for a number of lucky fans to hunt for clues during an immersive experience, as discussed below. The second season will continue the often-twisted, always-intriguing story inspired by novelist Michael Crichton’s 1973 film of the same name.

Season 2 will return viewers to the complex fantasy sci-fi world that features artificially intelligent robots who, as it turns out, don’t always do their job of letting the human guests fulfill their fantasies. Read on for everything we know so far about Westworld season 2, and be prepared: Spoilers lie ahead.

A Westworld experience

HBO has quite the plan to celebrate Westworld at the South by Southwest Conference and Festivals in Austin, Texas, in March. The network announced February 21 that it is building an actual park based on the show that will be open to visitors from March 9 to March 11.

The park is more than two acres in size, and it will feature locations like the Coronado hotel and the Mariposa Saloon. There will even be actors playing “hosts” that visitors can interact with throughout their visit.

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Perhaps the most exciting part of the entire experience is the fact that it offers season 2 clues. Visitors will be able to look for them as they go through the different parts of the park, and they will be able to try to uncover others in their conversations with hosts.

Let’s hope they share whatever they discover. The experience lasts about two hours, and keeping with the theme, visitors will be taken to and from the site in a Delos shuttle. There is, unfortunately, a limited number of slots available.

HBO made half of them available online at the website DiscoverWestworld.com, and they filled up quickly. However, more will open up during SXSW.

A secret website and new parks

The Westworld Super Bowl trailer was more than just a good ad; it contained at least one huge clue for the truly observant and clever. At the 33-second-mark, there are white bars above one of the android bulls, and as Redditor Askin1 discovered, you can read it in binary code and translate it to 52.89.126.34.

When you enter that in a browser bar, you’ll find yourself at the website DelosDestinations.com. The secret website is for the fictional company that owns Westworld — and five other parks.

A total of six parks is more than we expected, but we did know there would be more. The existence of at least one other park, Samurai World, came up in Season 1, and in the movie Westworld, there were two others, Roman World and Medieval World.

In fact, when asked about them, the series’ creators hinted that we could see them in Season 2 (we discuss that further below). With the website revealing six parks, it looks like the scale of the series could be even bigger than we imagined, which is exciting. New worlds would open up all kinds of possibilities, giving the show room to grow, not to mention run for numerous seasons.

So far, information about these other parks is sparse. The Delos Destinations website has plenty of information about Westworld, but Park 2 (presumably Samurai World) features a blurry image and Parks 3-6 say that reservations are “closed to the public.” Still, its worth poking around the site. Who knows what other clues are hiding?

A super trailer and premiere date

HBO made a big event even bigger when it debuted a new trailer for season 2 of Westworld during Super Bowl 2018.

It also revealed the premiere date for the much-anticipated season. Fans of the series will want to mark their calendars: The dark sci-fi series returns to HBO with a new season at 9 p.m. ET Sunday, April 22.

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The Super Bowl trailer for Westworld was directed by series co-creator Jonathan Nolan and is set to a cover of Kanye West’s Runaway performed by series composer Ramin Djawadi.

A blast from the past

Although Westworld star Jimmi Simpson previously confirmed that he will be in season 2, reprising his role as William, the young Man in Black, not everyone was in the know.

During the Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday, January 9, a reporter asked him if he would return, and he was surprised to hear the question. The confusion made him tight-lipped.

Jimmi Simpson as William “I thought it was already a thing,” he said, according to The Wrap. “But now that you’re asking me, I’m gonna shut up.”

He didn’t exactly shut up, though. Instead, he confirmed that yes, he will “pop in” to show us more of the Man in Black’s past. He then delved into areas of the character that he wishes Westworld would show.

“I wish there was exploration between the time when William’s heart is broken and we see the result. I’ll say that,” he said. “I want to know how much it takes and how hard he tried not to go there.” Ahem, Westworld writers, please take note, because that does sound interesting.

Production halted due to wildfires

Wildfires in Southern California have resulted in production of the latest season being halted, according to a statement from HBO. “Due to nearby wildfires,” notes the network, “Westworld stopped production earlier today and will resume filming as soon as it’s safe to do so.” Filming for the series’ second season takes place near Santa Clarita, where the Rye fire is currently situated.

Several other fires are ongoing in the state as well, including the Thomas fire in Ventura County and Creek fire in nearby Sylmar. Production should resume once the fires have been put out, though the Santa Ana winds are making that difficult.

New season, new parks

The Man in Black (Ed Harris) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) If you thought the wild west park was Westworld’s only fantasy-fueled funhouse, think again.

In season 2, we expect to be introduced to three new worlds — but maybe more. In addition to Samurai World, hints of which were teased in the season 1 finale, the series’ showrunners, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, made comments in October teasing additional worlds. When asked specifically about why Roman World and Medieval World weren’t a part of season 1 at a panel, Nolan responded, “We had to save something for season 2.”

In the film, these parks are also owned by Westworld creator Delos and also enable people to live out their fantasies. They should make for interesting new backdrops for the story as it continues to unfold.

The (young) Man in Black is back

We didn’t get confirmation that William (Simpson), the young version of the Man in Black (Ed Harris), would be back when he appeared at San Diego Comic-Con 2017, but the actor finally made the news official on July 30. Responding to a fan on Twitter, he wrote, “Yessir, William will be black.

I mean back.”

Yessir, William will be black. I mean back. — Jimmi Simpson (@jimmisimpson) July 30, 2017

While internet forums had long speculated, it took until the season 1 finale for Westworld to reveal that William was indeed the park visitor who became the Man in Black.

However, fans were left with plenty of unanswered questions regarding his character’s evolution. With Simpson returning, it looks like we’ll start to get additional pieces of the puzzle. In fact, Simpson dropped hints along those lines during Comic-Con, indicating that Nolan and Joy plan to delve further into the intriguing character’s backstory, as reported by Westworld Watchers.

The bloodshed has already begun

HBO gave us a first look at Westworld season 2 during San Diego Comic-Con in July, teasing — yes, you guessed it — a lot of gore.

There is plenty of blood in the preview, from Maeve (Thandi Newton) and Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) finding corpses inside Delos to Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Teddy (James Marsden) gunning down guests on the open plains.

#ICYMI: Watch the first #Westworld Season 2 trailer returning in 2018. pic.twitter.com/KzOVeFB5zu — Westworld (@WestworldHBO) July 24, 2017

We all-but knew season 2 was going to usher in further brutality, but the preview confirmed the direction we are headed.

A host gets a bigger (and deadlier) role

It’s no surprise the death toll at Westworld is poised to grow, and after the bloody events of the season 1 finale, it sounds like we’ll see at least one lesser-known host get involved in the upcoming violence. That character is Angela, the host who has long greeted the park’s visitors.

The actress who portrays her, Talulah Riley, has been promoted to series regular for season 2, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Angela (Talulah Riley) As a source indicated, the “host whose beatific face welcomed guests to Westworld for decades,” will get a darker role in season 2: “Angela will prove to be one of the last faces many guests will ever see.” That sounds appropriately ominous.

An unsurprising renewal

The official confirmation for Westworld season 2 came in November after just seven episodes had aired, but the news was hardly surprising.

Not only had the show been drawing positive reviews from critics, viewership was extremely strong, ultimately topping even the debut season of HBO’s current ratings behemoth, Game of Thrones. The renewal did come with somewhat bad news, though, namely that Westworld fans would have to wait till 2018 for season 2. Although we’re still in for several months of waiting, it’ll all be worth it if the show’s second season can live up to its debut.

Updated February 22: We added information about the Westworld experience for SXSW.

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SpaceX Starlink satellite broadband gets off the ground

A pair of small satellites named for an adventurous Belgian cartoon character could serve as proof of concept for an ambitious global broadband service envisioned by Elon Musk. After days of delays, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the two small satellites, newly dubbed Tintin A and B by Musk (but known more formally as Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b), lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force base in California on Thursday morning. The recycled rocket’s main mission was to launch Spain’s larger Earth-imaging satellite, Paz.

It’s a fairly routine delivery for SpaceX these days.

But once again SpaceX CEO Musk has sparked the public’s imagination with plans to build something unprecedented. In this case, it’s two constellations of satellites, totaling over 11,000 orbiting craft in all, meant to deliver terrestrial-quality broadband to anywhere on the globe, be it an Arctic research station or an African village. The Federal Communications Commission last year granted permission for the operation of the Microsats, but Musk only publicly acknowledged the existence of the prototype satellites this week, saying on Twitter that the Starlink broadband service “will serve [the] least served.”

Today’s Falcon launch carries 2 SpaceX test satellites for global broadband.

If successful, Starlink constellation will serve least served.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 21, 2018

Paz and the pair of small satellites were successfully deployed about 11 minutes after the Falcon lifted off. Less than two hours later, Musk reported that the demonstration satellites had successfully deployed and begun communicating with Earth stations. He added that Tintin A and B “will attempt to beam ‘hello world’ in about 22 hours when they pass near [Los Angeles].” Also, the Wi-Fi password is “martians,” Musk joked.

The launch had been delayed three times from its initially scheduled date of Saturday, first to provide extra time to check out launch systems and an upgraded fairing, then because of high-altitude winds. The Falcon 9 booster used to deliver the three satellites to orbit was not recovered. It was previously flown on a mission in August and recovered to be reused for this launch.

SpaceX did try to use a new giant-net-on-a-boat setup that Musk announced after the launch of the Falcon Heavy earlier this month. It attempted to catch the fairing, which is the nose cone that protects the payload during ascent, but Musk reported that it missed its target by a few hundred meters, splashing down intact in the Pacific instead.

Tintin A and B are designed to communicate with each other through optical laser links and with ground stations on Earth. If all goes well and SpaceX receives approval from the FCC to begin launching its first full satellite constellation, we could see hundreds and then thousands of other small satellites being launched to a low Earth orbit to begin spinning up the broadband service.

Most satellite internet customers are currently served by a handful of satellites in high geostationary orbit, but Starlink’s lower-altitude constellations would instead use a swarm of satellites to provide low-latency connectivity that feels more like a cable or fiber-optic connection. All of this is likely several years and many more rocket launches down the road. Musk has said he hopes to see Starlink operational in the mid-2020s.

First published Feb.

22 at 6:58 a.m. PT.Updated at 8:36 a.m. PT: Added details on the deployment and activation of the satellites and the result of the attempt to catch the fairing.

Crowd Control: A crowdsourced science fiction novel written by CNET readers.

Solving for XX: The tech industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about “women in tech.”

SpaceX Starlink satellite broadband gets off the ground

A pair of small satellites named for an adventurous Belgian cartoon character could serve as proof of concept for an ambitious global broadband service envisioned by Elon Musk. After days of delays, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the two small satellites, newly dubbed Tintin A and B by Musk (but known more formally as Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b), lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force base in California on Thursday morning. The recycled rocket’s main mission was to launch Spain’s larger Earth-imaging satellite, Paz.

It’s a fairly routine delivery for SpaceX these days.

But once again SpaceX CEO Musk has sparked the public’s imagination with plans to build something unprecedented. In this case, it’s two constellations of satellites, totaling over 11,000 orbiting craft in all, meant to deliver terrestrial-quality broadband to anywhere on the globe, be it an Arctic research station or an African village. The Federal Communications Commission last year granted permission for the operation of the Microsats, but Musk only publicly acknowledged the existence of the prototype satellites this week, saying on Twitter that the Starlink broadband service “will serve [the] least served.”

Today’s Falcon launch carries 2 SpaceX test satellites for global broadband.

If successful, Starlink constellation will serve least served.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 21, 2018

Paz and the pair of small satellites were successfully deployed about 11 minutes after the Falcon lifted off. Less than two hours later, Musk reported that the demonstration satellites had successfully deployed and begun communicating with Earth stations. He added that Tintin A and B “will attempt to beam ‘hello world’ in about 22 hours when they pass near [Los Angeles].” Also, the Wi-Fi password is “martians,” Musk joked.

The launch had been delayed three times from its initially scheduled date of Saturday, first to provide extra time to check out launch systems and an upgraded fairing, then because of high-altitude winds. The Falcon 9 booster used to deliver the three satellites to orbit was not recovered. It was previously flown on a mission in August and recovered to be reused for this launch.

SpaceX did try to use a new giant-net-on-a-boat setup that Musk announced after the launch of the Falcon Heavy earlier this month. It attempted to catch the fairing, which is the nose cone that protects the payload during ascent, but Musk reported that it missed its target by a few hundred meters, splashing down intact in the Pacific instead.

Tintin A and B are designed to communicate with each other through optical laser links and with ground stations on Earth. If all goes well and SpaceX receives approval from the FCC to begin launching its first full satellite constellation, we could see hundreds and then thousands of other small satellites being launched to a low Earth orbit to begin spinning up the broadband service.

Most satellite internet customers are currently served by a handful of satellites in high geostationary orbit, but Starlink’s lower-altitude constellations would instead use a swarm of satellites to provide low-latency connectivity that feels more like a cable or fiber-optic connection. All of this is likely several years and many more rocket launches down the road. Musk has said he hopes to see Starlink operational in the mid-2020s.

First published Feb.

22 at 6:58 a.m. PT.Updated at 8:36 a.m. PT: Added details on the deployment and activation of the satellites and the result of the attempt to catch the fairing.

Crowd Control: A crowdsourced science fiction novel written by CNET readers.

Solving for XX: The tech industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about “women in tech.”

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