Teens are increasingly struggling with their emotions — and talking about it online

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Teens and young adults often put a stark spotlight on their struggles by writing candidly about them on social media.

Though plenty of critics respond to this behavior with a dramatic eye roll and accusations of narcissism, there’s something much more complex happening beyond a dashed-off post about feeling sad, disappointed, or anxious. 

New research suggests that more teens and young adults are dealing with emotional and mental health distress than ever before. They’re also being asked by mental health advocates and celebrities to open up about their pain. The hope is that such honesty will reduce stigma and connect vulnerable young people with support and professional help.  

You can see that dynamic in action on Tumblr, where more than half of users are between the ages of 13 and 34. Between 2013 and 2016, overall conversations about mental health, including re-blogs and original posts, increased by 248 percent, according to the company. 

Two years ago, the company started an annual mental health awareness campaign called Post It Forward, which encourages people to talk openly about their struggles and learn about “caring communities right on the other side of their screen.” When the newest iteration of that initiative launched Monday, it quickly became the site’s number one trend. 

“So much of the mission of the project is to share your story because it will help someone else,” said Leah Linder, senior communications manager for Tumblr. 

An invitation like that also hints at an important cultural shift. Not only are more of today’s youth experiencing mental health issues, they’re being asked to publicly talk about their feelings in ways that older millennials and Gen Xers could have never imagined. 

That behavior isn’t without risks, including unexpected ones. How much young people share online became a major concern this week when news broke that marketers in Australia and New Zealand were studying how to target Facebook users as young as 14 based on posts about their raw, negative emotions. 

But much of the criticism about confessional posts is rooted in a traditional belief that people aren’t supposed to talk about their messy, tender emotions, much less mental illness. Those critics, however, might try listening to mental health advocates who are frankly alarmed by the trends they’re seeing. 

In December, a study in the journal Pediatrics found that more teens and young adults are experiencing depression. The rate increased for 12- to 20-year-olds by 37 percent between 2005 and 2014, a finding that the researchers couldn’t really explain.

Neither socioeconomic or household factors previously associated with mental health issues in adolescents, like income and single-parent families, could account for the spike, nor did changes in the rate of substance abuse. The study authors speculated that girls, who experienced higher rates of depression, may have been exposed to more risk factors, including cyber-bullying and obsessive cell phone use. 

The American Freshman Survey, which has collected data on incoming college students for more than 50 years, just published some worrisome results from its fall 2016 questionnaire. Twelve percent of the 137,000 respondents — a record high — said they frequently felt depressed in the past year. In the first-ever question about anxiety, a third of students said they’d often felt anxious over the same time frame. 

Anne L. Glowinski, associate director of the William Greenleaf Elliot Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine, sees evidence of these trends in the patients she treats. Glowinski, who wrote an op-ed in response to the Pediatrics study, says the growing awareness of mental health issues has brought important attention to the increasing challenges that young people face, but that hasn’t led to increased screening or treatment. 

Glowinski’s patients often feel perfectly comfortable talking about their experiences online — which frequently panics their parents — or they feel so ashamed of their diagnosis that they stop treatment. 

“Tackling stigma is a huge priority,” she says. “The way you tackle stigma is that you use narrative and self-disclosure from people who are reasonable role models.” 

Hence the proliferation of campaigns like #PostItForward, which launched in 2015 with a video of Pete Wentz. The Be Vocal campaign, which counts the singer Demi Lovato as a key spokesperson and partner, encourages people to find ways to talk about their mental health. Half of Us, a decade-old partnership between The Jed Foundation and mtvU, has enlisted celebrities like Brittany Snow, Macklemore, and Mary J. Blige to share their own stories. All of these initiatives invite people to do the same online, so it shouldn’t be that surprising when we see teens publish a post about their feelings. 

Beyond stigma-busting campaigns, there are bigger cultural forces at work shaping how young people communicate about mental health. 

“Whatever you’re feeling doesn’t need to be as hidden.” 

Jean Twenge, a psychologist and author of the forthcoming book iGen: The 10 Trends Shaping Today’s Young People — and the Nation, says the shifting norms around mental illness combined with the self-expression offered by social media has changed how teens view and talk about their emotional struggles. 

As Americans have moved from prizing social rules to individualism in recent decades, she says, honest self-expression has become normal. Social media is a natural avenue for that because it connects you with friends and family — and many people under the age of 18 feel fine sharing their lives on the internet as they do in real life. 

“Whatever you’re feeling doesn’t need to be as hidden,” says Twenge. “If there’s a higher percentage of people [experiencing mental health issues], that’s probably going to change norms of how that’s expressed, and make it more common and accepted to write about your depression or anxiety.” 

Twenge isn’t convinced that social media is the best place to seek support, but thinks young people are probably looking for the same thing as they would in real life: a chance to express their feelings and know that people love them. The risk, of course, is that they might make themselves vulnerable and feel hurt that no one responded, or worse yet, find that someone exploited their emotions or bullied them as a result. 

Whether social media helps teens find support, reduces the stigma of mental health issues, or even leads to bullying or rejection, the more urgent question is why more of them are in emotional pain. Social media itself can’t stop that trend, but research, awareness, and treatment have the power to make a life-saving difference. 

If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Here is a list of international resources. 

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The 8 Best Games For The Nintendo Switch

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You just bought a new Nintendo Switch. First of all, good job! They’re kind of hard to find. Now it’s time to figure out what games you want to play. We’ve got you covered.

The Switch is only a few months old, and like any new console, it doesn’t have a ton of games. However, it has a solid ratio of good games, and a few are legit greats.

As with all of our Bests lists, we’ll be updating this one over the months and years to come, eventually capping it at 12 games. It may be a humble list now, but expect it to expand and improve, hopefully at a brisk clip.

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For now, here are the eight best games you can get for the Nintendo Switch.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a monumental artistic achievement, a video game so creative and full of surprises that we’ll be talking about it for years to come. It’s also unlike any Zelda game before it. For years, Zelda games were defined by “no.” You can’t reach this place until later; you can’t solve this puzzle until you get the right item. Breath of the Wild is the best Zelda game to date, and it accomplishes that simply by saying yes.

A Good Match For: Anyone who likes games that let you explore and make your own fun; horse lovers.

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Not A Good Match For: Anyone who preferred the strict structure of other recent Zelda games.

Read our review.

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Study our tips for the game.

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Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | Gamestop

Shovel Knight is a brilliant reminder of what we loved about the best classic NES-era platformers. It combines tight controls, bouncy game feel, an extremely good soundtrack, and a charming cast of characters into a game that feels like a classic, even if it comes with many of the conveniences we associate with newer games. The Treasure Trove includes two expansions, with a third free one on the way. The first two let you play as Plague Knight and Specter Knight, and while the latter campaign is more fun than the former, both expand on an already fun game. It all looks and plays great on the Switch, and is a natural fit for on-the-go gaming.

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A Good Match For: Fans of old-school platformers, people who like a little challenge—and a lot of good music—in their games.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone looking for something with modern graphics, or who doesn’t like challenging 2D platformers.

Read our review of the original, and the new Specter Knight campaign.

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Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Available on the Nintendo eShop

In Snipperclips: Cut It Out Together!, you and a friend take control of a pair of goofy little paper characters. You have to cut one another into weird shapes in order to solve a series of ever more complicated physics puzzles. This leads to all sorts of funny failed experiments and, hopefully, some satisfying victories. You’ll need to think collaboratively, but you can take your time and experiment. Like the best co-op puzzle games, even your mistakes are fun.

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A Good Match For: People who like playing games with their friends, puzzle fanatics.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone looking for a beefy single-player game.

Watch us play the game on Facebook.

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Purchase From: Available on the Nintendo eShop

Originally released in 2016, Tokyo RPG Factory’s first outing I Am Setsuna is a sweet, sorrowful game with a beautiful soundtrack, splendid art, and characters with real personality. It borrows narrative elements from Final Fantasy X and a combat system from Chrono Trigger, combining those raw ingredients into a modernized RPG that would still feel at home in the SNES era. We mean that in a good way.

A Good Match For: Fans of classic JRPGs, fans of piano music.

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Not A Good Match For: People who hate snow. Setsuna has a mournful, icy vibe that doesn’t really let up from start to finish.

Read our review of the PS4 version.

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Purchase From: Available on the Nintendo eShop

Why have one good thing when you can have two? Good question. In the case of Puyo Puyo Tetris, those two good things are… Tetris and Puyo Puyo, a pair of place-the-dropping-shapes games that are equally beloved, if not equally well-known, all around the world. In single-player, online or splitscreen multiplayer, you and up to three friends can compete in hectic matches that flip and flop from Tetris to Puyo Puyo and back again. It’s a chaotic good time.

A Good Match For: Fans of Tetris and fans of Puyo Puyo, obviously. Also, anyone looking for a fun competitive puzzle game to play with friends.

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Not A Good Match For: Those looking for a fleshed-out singleplayer game, anyone who prefers to solve puzzles without a time limitation.

Read our impressions of the game.

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Something is wrong with Isaac’s mom: She thinks that she can hear God. And God, disturbingly enough, has instructed her to kill Isaac. The only way Isaac can get out of that hellish situation is by jumping into his basement—which happens to be endless, and full of terrors. Thankfully, these demons can be defeated by directing Isaac’s tears, twin-stick shooter style, across Zelda-like dungeons. Well… if Zelda dungeons were full of horrifying hellspawn, poop, and tons of mysterious items that you don’t know how to use. The Binding of Isaac has gotten several iterations over the years, and Afterbirth+ is the biggest expansion yet.

A Good Match For: Players who like a challenge, especially of the roguelike variety. A lot of the appeal with the Binding of Isaac is how constantly it will surprise you with challenges you’ve never encountered before.

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Not A Good Match For: Players who are sensitive to gross stuff or jokes about religion, or people who are just looking to relax while playing a game.

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You remember that scene in the second X-Men movie where Nightcrawler assaults the Oval Office? Of course you do, because it was awesome. Mr. Shifty is basically that scene made into a video game, and it’s as cool as that sounds. You play as a teleporting vigilante, hell-bent on reaching the top of a crime boss’s skyscraper base. You don’t have a gun, but you can move quickly, teleport through walls, and knock out most bad guys with a couple punches. Get hit by a single bullet, though, and it’s game over. The result is a breakneck mixture of Hotline Miami and Smash TV, which, yes, that is a very good combination.

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A Good Match For: People looking for a fast-paced action game.

Not A Good Match For: Those looking for something relaxing or forgiving, along with anyone who likes their games to perform flawlessly. Mr. Shifty is plenty of fun on Switch, but we ran into some performance issues in later levels. The developers have promised a patch is inbound.

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Read our review.

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Purchase From: Available on the Nintendo eShop

Ah, the blue shell. There may be no better metaphor for the bleakness of life. One minute you’re cruising along, on top of the world, and then… BAM, you’re totally hosed. Just when you thought you had it in the bag, life throws a blue shell.

Mario Kart 8 isn’t really all that philosophical, of course. It’s the same Mario Kart formula re-tuned and polished to an absurd degree, easily one of the most fun party games you can play on the Switch or any other console. Best of all, the Deluxe version on Switch includes all the DLC maps and characters from the Wii U game and also completely overhauls that version’s woebegone battle mode. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the definitive version of an already great game.

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A Good Match For: People who like moving really fast, people who like seeing Luigi look really mean.

Not a Good Match For: People who don’t like Mario Kart? Do those people exist?

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Read our review of the Wii U version, and of the Deluxe Switch version.

Watch a tournament that we staged at company HQ. 

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Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | Gamestop

How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:

5/3/2017: And lo, the Switch Bests list was created! No updates yet. Expect more in the near future as we add more games, eventually capping the list at 12.

Want more of the best games on each system? Check out our complete directory:

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The Best PC GamesThe Best PS4 GamesThe Best Xbox One GamesThe Best Wii U GamesThe Best PC Virtual Reality GamesThe Best 3DS GamesThe Best PS Vita GamesThe Best Xbox 360 GamesThe Best PS3 GamesThe Best Wii GamesThe Best iPhone GamesThe Best iPad GamesThe Best Android GamesThe Best PSP GamesThe Best Facebook GamesThe Best DS GamesThe Best Mac GamesThe Best Browser GamesThe Best PC Mods

Note: If you buy any of these games through the retail links in this post, our parent company may get a small share of the sale through the retailers’ affiliates program.

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A neuroscientist reveals why you’re so bad at remembering names

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We’ve all been there, you’re having a nice conversation with someone you just met and suddenly you realize you’ve forgotten their name.

It’s embarrassing, but the good news is there’s actually an evolutionary reason behind it. Dr. Dean Buonomano, professor of neurobiology at UCLA, explains why people’s names aren’t easy to remember. 

Following is a transcript of the video:

The human brain is the most complex device in the known universe. The brain also has many bugs, or limitations, or glitches. 

We have trouble remembering certain types of information. So remembering long lists of numbers and remembering people’s names are good examples.

So, human beings did not evolve to remember people’s names. Indeed the act or the custom of giving each other names is probably relatively recent in evolutionary history.

The result of this is because of the architecture of the brain and how the brain stores memories. And because we’re not very good at memorizing pieces of information that are not linked to other pieces of information.

We have a phenomenon called the Baker/Baker paradox.

If you’re sitting on the plane with somebody and they told you they are a Baker and they go on to have a interesting conversation then you might later on remember that day and say, “Oh I had this interesting conversation with this gentleman that was a baker.”

On another trip maybe you’re going to sit beside somebody and says “My name is John Baker and I’m an accountant.” You might remember that conversation but you’re more likely to forget his name. So it’s the same piece of information.

The word “baker” in the context of a profession or the word “Baker" in context of somebody’s last name.

And studies show that indeed people are more likely to remember it in the context of the profession. One reason for that is because the brain has this associative architecture, we learn by making associations, by linking things that are observed or happen together.

And when you hear the word "baker" in the context of a profession, you naturally have context to embed that word in funny hats, bread, getting up early, whatever your experience is. Now when you hear a name, that’s not the case.

Names tend to be more isolated, so it’s because of the associative architecture of the brain that we have trouble memorizing names or long lists of random bits and pieces of information.

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Read The Clouds: 5 Signs A Storm Is Brewing

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Spring has sprung and so begins another season of severe summer weather. Here are some telltale signs a storm is brewing.

 

Predicting the weather is tricky. Even high-tech forecasting technology sometimes fails to spot impending rain, snow, or calm. But nature provides some signals that weather events are on the way, and many low-tech storm chasers make hobbies and careers out of reading those signs.

We caught up with one such chaser, Michael Sachweh, author of “Stormchasing: On the Hunt for Thunderstorms.” We asked for some basic clues anyone could spot that warn of inclement weather on the horizon. Below are five cloud conditions you can watch for before a storm breaks.

— Images courtesy Michael Sachweh —

Storm Sign 1: ‘Towering’ Clouds

cumulus cloud formation
Cumulus clouds take shape in Erick, Okla.

Cumulus clouds are often seen as fluffy, fair-weather cotton balls in the sky. But there are some nasty-weather cousins to these puffy clouds. Watch for vertical development, clouds that billow upward, as a storm can follow. If the atmospheric conditions are favorable, a towering cumulus cloud like this can develop into a powerful thunderstorm within an hour.

Storm Sign 2: Arcing ‘Shelf’ Clouds

storm cloud arcing
Arcing storm clouds in the western bank of Chiemsee, Bavaria

Many violent summer thunderstorms originate at the foot of the Alps and Rockies and intensify as they travel over the flat Alpine foreland. In this photo, an “arcus” cloud signals foul weather. Also known as “shelf” clouds, these wedge-shaped clouds are attached to parent clouds, resulting in a thunderstorm.

Storm Sign 3: Cloud Color

storm clouds with blue black color
Magnificent supercells develop over southwest Germany in the evening of a hot summer day in Westhausen

The cloud cover of an oncoming storm already envelops over a hayfield in the photo above. It does not take long until the torrential rain and severe gusts start, because the characteristic lowered cloud base with the threatening bluish-black underside (wall cloud) loom in the distance behind the mountain range.

Green clouds in particular typically point to severe weather. For clouds to appear green, they must be very deep (tall). Typically, as noted above, those tall clouds occur in thunderstorms.

Storm Sign 4: Cloud Location And Sun Rays

cumulus cloud locations and sun rays
A deceptively menacing weather pattern in Iola, Kans.

At first glance of this scene looks peaceful, with shafts of sunlight trickling through gaps in the clouds. But the atmosphere is sizzling. A large number of smaller cumulus clouds in the foreground are beginning to build upward and are unusually dark. Why? Because they are in the shadow of a large and high-altitude cumulus “congestus” cloud (“towering cumulus”). The huge cauliflower-like top stretches vertically behind the ragged, dark clouds in the foreground.

This “towering cumulus” isn’t the only harbinger of bad weather. The rays of sunshine also emphasize the turbulence in the atmosphere. They only look this striking when there is high atmospheric humidity, which usually precedes thunderstorms. This is commonly called “the sun drawing up water.”

Storm Sign 5: Cloud Movement

rotating wall cloud
This towering wall cloud in Stillwater, Okla., portended a swarm of tornadoes that touched down across the state on May 9, 2016

A rotating wall cloud with a lowered cloud base is characteristic of a severe thunderstorm (supercell). This is a very impressive example of such a wall cloud. It’s the most obvious sign of a severe storm: twisting, rotating, and unusually quick-moving clouds.


Stormchasing: On the Hunt for Thunderstorms by Michael Sachweh, published by Delius Klasing, is available now at bookstores and on Amazon.

The post Read The Clouds: 5 Signs A Storm Is Brewing appeared first on GearJunkie.

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Powerful gene-editing tool can eliminate HIV infection in mice

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Scientists have made an early but important development in the fight against HIV.

For the first time, a team of researchers has shown that they can remove HIV type 1 (HIV-1) from infected mouse cells using a powerful gene-editing tool. By removing DNA of the deadly virus in rodents, they also stopped the virus from replicating.

While a permanent cure for HIV in humans remains a ways off, the new study is a major step toward achieving that goal, according to scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine.

The journal Molecular Therapy published the team’s findings on Wednesday.

“The next stage would be to repeat the study in primates,” Kamil Khalili, a co-author of the study who chairs Temple’s neuroscience department, said in a press release. “Our eventual goal is a clinical trial in human patients.”

For their study, researchers used CRISPR/Cas9, a tool that enables scientists to edit parts of the genome — our full genetic material — by removing, adding, or altering sections of the DNA sequence.

They did this by injecting live mice with a virus-bacteria combo that performed the gene editing within their tissues.

The new work builds on an earlier proof-of-concept study that involved genetically modified, or “transgenic,” mice and rats. After incorporating the DNA of HIV-1 into the genome of every tissue of the animals’ bodies, the team found it could delete targeted fragments of HIV-1 from the genome in most tissues.

“Our new study is more comprehensive,” Wenhui Hu, a co-author and associate professor of pathology at Temple, said in the news release. He noted the team has “improved the efficiency” of their approach this time by adding two mouse models.

In the first model, researchers again used transgenic mice to confirm their previous findings. The team genetically inactivated HIV-1 in the mice, thus reducing the RNA expression of viral genes by 60 to 95 percent. That means they stopped RNA, which act as a genetic messenger, from relaying the toxic information.

A scientist in China worker performs an HIV test at a lab in Shanghai.

A scientist in China worker performs an HIV test at a lab in Shanghai.

Image: china photos/Getty Images

For the two other models, scientists studied mice with actively replicating HIV infections and mice with latent infections that lie dormant within the cells.

Mice with active infections had EcoHIV, the mouse equivalent of human HIV-1. Using CRISPR/Cas9, researchers were able to block replication of the virus and show they could potentially prevent systemic infection — marking the first evidence that this method can eradicate the virus.

For the latent infections, the team studied “humanized” mice that had been engrafted with human immune cells, including T cells. (People with HIV/AIDS have a devastatingly low number of a particular type of T cell.) The mice were also infected with latent HIV-1.

After just one CRISPR/Cas9 treatment, researchers successfully removed viral fragments of the infected human cells embedded in mouse tissues and organs.

Human trials might take years to conduct, but Khalili said primates are an ideal next step after rodents. Primates are “a more suitable model where HIV infection induces disease, in order to further demonstrate elimination of HIV-1 DNA in latently infected T cells and other sanctuary sites for HIV-1, including brain cells,” he said.

They used the tool in three different animal models. First, in genetically modified “transgenic” mice, they inactivated the HIV-1 virus by reducing the RNA expression of viral genes. That means they stopped RNA — which act as messengers — from relaying the viral information.

 a more suitable animal model where HIV infection induces disease, in order to further demonstrate elimination of HIV-1 DNA in latently infected T cells and other sanctuary sites for HIV-1, including brain cells,” Dr. Khalili said. “Our eventual goal is a clinical trial in human patients.”

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147 teams will compete for $5 million in the IBM Watson AI XPrize

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The XPrize program is no stranger to moon shots. From capturing carbon to cleaning water — even literal trips to the moon and Star Trek-style tricorders — the contest seeks the boldest solutions to humanity’s greatest challenges. That tradition continues in the company’s latest competition, the IBM Watson AI XPrize, in which 147 teams from 22 countries will compete for a $5 million purse over the next four years.

The AI competition will be the first such XPrize that is "open" in that teams will be free to solve any issue they want. There will be a number of "domains" (read: themes) that they can choose from including Health and Wellness, Civil Society, Space and Exploration or Energy and Resources, but so long as the competitors solve their problems using AI, their projects can straddle any or all of these domains.

The 147 teams already submitted their testing and development plans back on March 1st, 2017. They now have until the start of September to provide evidence that their initial plans will actually work. From there an independent panel of experts will review each team’s proposals and announce which of them will be moving on to the next round in January 2018. Teams will be further thinned during additional rounds in 2018 and 2019 before the three finalists present their work at the TED 2020 conference and their projects are voted on by both the in-house audience and those following along online.

Whoever wins will go home with $3 million in prize money, the second place finisher gets a cool million and third place will have earned themselves $500,000. The rest of the $5 million purse will be doled out as $500k "Milestone" prizes for ten teams between 2018 and 2019.

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