Category Archives: Gadget News, Reviews, And Features

NASA’s inflatable greenhouse could feed astronauts on Mars

The support system will introduce the carbon dioxide astronauts exhale into the greenhouse and will release the oxygen plants produce into the human settlement. It will pump oxygenated water with the appropriate nutrients across the plants’ root zone, collecting and storing what’s left at the end. The idea is to use water humans bring from Earth. However, if they’re staying on the moon or on Mars forever, NASA has to find a water source in their new homes.

While plants here at home grow under the sun, the greenhouse will likely have to be buried underground to protect the plants from radiation. Early Martian or moon settlers can either use LED lights or capture solar light and beam it underground using fiber optic bundles. Both kinds successfully grew plants during the researchers’ test in an 18-x-8-foot prototype,

Eventually, the team could create greenhouses in various sizes for different plants, depending on what they decide astronauts should bring. For now, they’re planning to develop computer models to simulate future tests and to control the environment inside the greenhouses.

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Heineken just made the ad Pepsi wishes it had

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.

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Well, that’s an icebreaker.

Heineken/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Over the last couple of weeks, you’ve likely walked over to someone you dislike or fear and handed them a Pepsi.

As a joke, that is.

The now-infamous Pepsi ad in which Kendall Jenner creates world peace with her charm and a carbonated drink was ridiculed throughout social media.

Now along comes Heineken with a similar thought — about bringing people together, that is. The beer company, however, has executed that thought in a far more original and compelling way.

In this ad, pairs of people with very different social and political mindsets are brought together to perform certain tasks.

They don’t actually know each other, nor are they aware of each other’s political stances. (Though in one or two cases, it might not be so hard to guess.)

What transpires is a fascinating journey through prejudices and revelations. As for the beer, it only comes in at the end. And it isn’t rammed down anyone’s throat.

Of course, it’s an ad, so it’s always healthy to don skeptical sackcloth. I wonder, for example, how many of these pairs didn’t end up prepared to discuss their differences, cursed in coarse English and walked out. I also wonder how many realized the idea before the denouement was filmed.

A Heineken spokesman insisted that the people in the ad are real and not actors. (Actors can never be real people.) He told me that the company has been working for many months with a non-profit organization called the Human Library that tries to overcome stereotypes and prejudices by getting people of differing views to actually talk.

Many have clearly been absorbed by this ad. More than 2.7 million people have viewed it on YouTube. And a mere 649 have so far disapproved.

Heineken’s marketing director, Cindy Tervoort told the “Today Show” that making the ad was “life-affirming.”

A life-affirming beer ad is hard to swallow. Still, it does make the case for beer being a better way of bringing people together than sweet, sickly drinks.

And sweet, sickly ads, for that matter.

Tech Culture: From film and television to social media and games, here’s your place for the lighter side of tech.

Batteries Not Included: The CNET team shares experiences that remind us why tech stuff is cool.

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Amazon is ‘doubling down’ on the Echo ecosystem

Amazon debuted the Echo in 2014, bringing the voice-activated Alexa assistant into people’s homes. Since then, the company has released the $50 Echo Dot and opened up the Alexa software to developers.

Echo and Alexa are crucial areas of investment for Amazon right now. It makes sense, too: As more people adopt Alexa-enabled technologies, Amazon is able to steer those customers toward its own products and services.

“Some of the things that we’re investing the most in are, as you say, the Echo and Alexa devices,” the executive said. “We’re doubling down on that investment.”

Amazon isn’t stopping with Alexa, of course. The company is involved in a multitude of industries, including livestreaming, space, cloud computing, fashion, autonomous driving, drone delivery, bookstores, original programming, experimental grocers, and, of course, online shopping. Thankfully, it seems to be done with the smartphone market for now.

Another major focus for the company going forward is artificial intelligence and machine learning — building up the software that powers Alexa and Amazon Web Services, the popular cloud computing platform. In this sense, Amazon is on the same page as one of its most prominent Silicon Valley neighbors: Google today announced a nearly $1 billion jump in its “other services” sector, which includes AI and hardware endeavors.

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Apple’s competitor to Venmo could be on the way


Will this get folks onboard with mobile payments?

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Apple wants a piece of Venmo’s market.

The iPhone maker held talks recently with payments companies in hopes of introducing its own money-transfer service akin to PayPal’s Venmo, according to a report Thursday from Recode.

The new peer-to-peer payment service, which could be coming later this year, would reportedly allow iPhone owners to send cash digitally to other iPhone owners. Venmo and Square Cash, meanwhile, let both Apple and Google’s Android phone users move around money. The report also mentioned that Apple was considering its own prepaid card that would run on Visa’s debit network.

An Apple representative declined to comment on the report.

The new service, which was rumored two years ago, could help bolster Apple Pay, the company’s mobile payments service. Apple Pay gave mobile payments a jumpstart when it was unveiled in 2014, but most people so far haven’t adopted such services, including Samsung Pay and Android Pay, instead sticking with cash and plastic.

There’s a chance this peer-to-peer service could get more people involved in Apple Pay, but Apple would be competing against quite a few existing players, including millennial favorite Venmo, Square Cash and Zelle, a new service from a handful of banks that’s launching in mid-2017.

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Gboard on Android makes it easier to type and tweak your text

If selecting, cutting and copying text have never been an issue for you, you may find Gboard’s other new feature more useful. You’ll now be able to resize and reposition the keyboard for when you’re typing with one hand on a big phone or for any other scenario when it’s needed. Simply press G and then tap the triple-dot icon to see the option to choose one-handed mode. That’s where you can customize your keyboard.

In addition to these two changes, Google has added support for 22 Indic languages. The Gboard team even worked with native speakers across India to get enough samples for the more obscure languages of the lot to train its machine learning models. As a result, you can not only type in any of those languages in their native script, but also in the English alphabet. The keyboard has transliteration support for all of them that can convert what you type on the QWERTY keyboard to their native script.

[Image credit: Mariella Moon/Engadget]

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‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ has 2 finished sequel scripts already

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Fans haven’t seen the last of the Mad Max universe.

Warner Bros

Fans went mad for “Mad Max: Fury Road” back in 2015, and if director George Miller has his way, they’ll be mad for a long time to come.

In an interview with The Independent published on Wednesday, Miller talked about how he and co-writer Nico Lathouris have two completed scripts for further Mad Max stories.

“We dug down deep into the subtext, the backstory of all the characters, and indeed the world… and without really thinking about it, we wrote two other screenplays just as part of the bible of the stories,” Miller said. “Somewhere, if the planets align, there will be two other films.”

The first film is currently titled “Mad Max: The Wasteland,” and star Tom Hardy is committed to return, the Independent reports.

And another familiar character will be the Doof Warrior (played by Australian musician iOTA), the blind musician with the flamethrower guitar from “Fury Road.” “I know who his mother was,” Miller said. “I know how it was that a man who is mute and blind survived the apocalypse. I know his story very well! If we get to make another movie, the Doof Warrior will be there!”‘

Although Miller said in the interview he’ll make another movie before returning to Mad Max, the enthusiasm for the characters and setting is obvious.

“These characters and these worlds tend to swirl around in the back of your brain like imaginary friends,” he said. “It’s easy to go back to them.”


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

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