All posts by John Skrhak

John Skrhak | Gadgets, Sports and Toys Fanatic | Read about them all here.

Acura’s Type S badge returns, brings turbo V6 to Detroit

People have been ready to write off Acura for years now. Its lineup has been among the least interesting in the industry, with its once great performance vehicles fading into memory. It turns out that we were all wrong about Honda’s fancy sibling — it was merely waiting until the time was right to strike. That time is now, here at the Detroit auto show, with the relaunch of the Type S badge and a brand new twin-turbo V6.

The last time we saw a Type S badge was way back in 2008 with the TL Type S. That car had a screaming naturally aspirated V6, a limited-slip differential and was available with a manual transmission. It was a genuine delight to drive. Since then, the only real performance Acura we’ve seen has been the new NSX, which retails for over $100,000. Acura is looking to make something more attainable.

2019 Acura RDX Prototype

“We have made a major commitment to Acura to bring each element of Precision Crafted Performance to life through a new generation of products,” said Toshiaki Mikoshiba, CEO of American Honda. “Acura will pursue a unique powertrain strategy that underscores the brand’s rightful place as the performance division of Honda.”

The heart of the plan for the Type S revival is a new turbo V6 of unknown displacement and output, which will snake its way through the Acura model lineup. Whether Honda will repurpose the Civic Type R’s monster of an engine for use in an ILX performance variant remains to be seen, but it would be awesome. Acura also remains mum on the availability of manual transmissions though their omission would be a serious misstep, given how good Honda manuals typically are.

Acura is also expanding its A-Spec trim level to encompass the entire model range, based on the success of the TLX and ILX A-Spec. The A-Spec package typically includes a few looks-fast aesthetic changes but no real performance add-ons. 

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AI beats humans in Stanford reading comprehension test


Yes, AI-based systems are becoming as smart as, if not smarter, than us.

STR/AFP/Getty Images

AI created by Chinese tech giant Alibaba and Microsoft have tied for first place on the Stanford Question Answering Dataset (SQuAD) this month, beating the human score for Exact Match (providing exact answers to questions). Alibaba and Microsoft announced the news separately on Monday.

According to the SQuAD website, it is a machine reading comprehension dataset comprising of questions pertaining to a set of Wikipedia articles. Answers to questions are usually a segment of text from a corresponding reading passage.

The leaderboard on SQuAD’s website shows Alibaba’s and Microsoft’s EM scores to be 82.44 and 82.65 respectively, which put both at first place. The scores are higher than a human’s, which is 82.304.

The results may not be surprising to some since AI-based systems have proven to be formidable, with Google’s AlphaGo defeating Ke Jie as the Go world champion last year. The systems are also expected to go into hospitals and act as our assistants, and Alibaba founder Jack Ma predicted AI-powered robots will head companies in 30 years.

But not everyone will agree on how intelligent AI-based systems really are yet. Just a little more than three months ago, Chinese researchers published a study saying AI-based systems are no smarter than a six year-old. A Chinese robot called AI-MATHS which did a version of a Maths paper at China’s college entrance exams was unable to beat the national average last year. The robot’s developers explained it was unable to comprehend certain words, causing marks to be lost.

Luo Si, Chief Scientist of Natural Language Processing (NLP) at Alibaba iDST commented:

“It is our great honor to witness the milestone where machines surpass humans in reading comprehension. That means objective questions such as ‘what causes rain’ can now be answered with high accuracy by machines. We are especially excited because we believe the technology underneath can be gradually applied to numerous applications such as customer service, museum tutorials and online responses to medical inquiries from patients, decreasing the need for human input in an unprecedented way.”

“We are thrilled to see NLP research has achieved significant progress over the year. We look forward to sharing our model-building methodology with the wider community and exporting the technology to our clients in the near future,” Si added.

CNET has reached out to Microsoft for a comment.

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TAG Heuer covered its smartwatch in real diamonds

If you like your tech on the bling side, we’ve got good news for you. Watchmaker TAG Heuer has revamped its 18K white gold Connected Modular 45 smartwatch with no less than 589 baguette-sized diamonds — 23.35 carats’ worth in fact — and it can be yours for a mere $197,000 (£143,000). The watch, which takes the title of most expensive smartwatch in the world, is basically just last year’s $1,600 Connected Modular 45 with a makeover. Underneath all the ice is the same Android 2.0 device with the same tech. And while there was surprising demand for the original when it first came out, something tells us that the Full Diamond model won’t see quite the same level of sales.

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2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt projects effortless retro cool

The Bullitt’s interior is available with the Bullitt interior package which features navigation, memory settings for the seats and mirrors, upgraded audio system and Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert.

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SpaceX to fire up Falcon Heavy’s 27 engines this week


SpaceX shows off the Falcon Heavy rocket on the launchpad.


The first demonstration launch of the new biggest rocket in the world could still be weeks away, but first SpaceX is planning to test fire Falcon Heavy‘s 27 engines on launch pad 39-A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as soon as Tuesday.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said Falcon Heavy, which is basically three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together and attached to a single upper stage, will be the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V beast that took Apollo astronauts to the moon. It will also pack more than twice the punch of the next largest rocket system currently in use today.

Heavy has been in place at KSC for several days, undergoing preparations for the planned demo that will lift Musk’s cherry red Tesla Roadster out of Earth’s gravity well, and on to a symbolic journey toward Mars. That is, if it doesn’t explode first, as Musk has warned it might

Before launch, though, a number of tests have to be completed. Perhaps the most dramatic is the static fire test in which Falcon Heavy is clamped in place and all 27 of its Merlin engines are fired. It’s kind of like putting a muscle car in neutral with the parking brake on and revving the engine up to the red line. 

SpaceX had hoped to conduct a static fire test last week, but the date has been slipping for unspecified reasons. Company President Gwynne Shotwell has said the recent mysterious loss of a top secret spacecraft that was launched aboard a Falcon 9 will not affect plans for Falcon Heavy.

Currently, the fire is set to fly from beneath Falcon Heavy on Tuesday, sometime after 1 p.m. PT. SpaceX will not be livestreaming the test firing, but it’ll possible to watch via Spaceflight Now’s subscription webcam.

We’ll also be watching and will let you know how the test goes or update this post if the date slips again. 


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Chinese booster rocket nearly smashes into a small town

While there were no known casualties or property damage, this doesn’t mean it was safe. For one thing, China normally plans booster drop zones carefully and alerts (or in some cases, evacuates) areas to make sure no one gets hurt. This didn’t entirely go according to plan. Moreover, the highly toxic rocket fuel and secondary explosions posed risks to curious onlookers.

Not that China has much choice in the matter. As the Atlantic explained, three of China’s launch facilities were opened during the Cold War, when concerns about attacks took precedence over absolute safety. That meant setting up shop as far away from international borders as possible, guaranteeing that some launches would pose a risk to populated areas. A 1996 disaster even sent a rocket directly into the town of Xichang, killing at least six and injuring dozens more. China is building in safer areas (such as on the island of Hainan), but it could be a while before these sorts of incidents are a thing of the past.

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