Amazon aims to expand the universe of its Alexa voice assistant with a pair of smart glasses, the internet retailer’s first wearable device, The Financial Times reported late Tuesday.
The smartphone-tethered device would resemble a regular pair of spectacles and use a bone-conduction system that would allow the wearer to hear Alexa without the need for headphones, people described as familiar with Amazon’s plans told the newspaper.
The internet retailer also plans to beef up its smart home hardware lineup with a new internet-connected home security camera system, the sources reportedly said. When connected with Amazon’s Echo products, people could view a live video feed on the Echo Show, the internet retailer’s first smart speaker with a built-in touchscreen.
Amazon has also placed a huge bet on its suite of Echo devices, hoping to use them to dominate the growing smart-home market and gain even more loyal retail customers. So far, that strategy has been working pretty well for the company, with 71 percent of smart speaker customers in the US buying Echo devices, according to eMarketer. The newer Google Home speaker has 24 percent of the market.
Amazon declined to comment on the report.
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Facebook representatives are expected to be called to testify at a Senate hearing examining Russia’s use of social media to influence last year’s US election.
It wasn’t immediately clear who would be invited to testify or what issues will be discussed, Richard Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters in Washington on Tuesday. Twitter and other social media companies may also be invited, Burr said according to Bloomberg.
“We’re in agreement on a Facebook public hearing,” the North Carolina Republican said. “It’s just a question of when and potentially the scope.”
Facebook has also reportedly sent special counsel Robert Mueller records about Russian-linked ads placed on its service during the 2016 election campaign. Mueller and a team of investigators are conducting the high-profile Russia investigation, which has raised issues concerning President Donald Trump’s election last year, the involvement of his children and the actions of his staff.
Less than a week ago, Facebook revealed it had sold $100,000 worth of ads to inauthentic accounts likely linked to Russia during the US presidential election. Russian operatives also reportedly used Facebook Events to remotely organize political protests in the US, including a 2016 anti-immigration rally in Idaho.
Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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As Scientific American explains, climate science deniers have regularly tried to use Mars’ changes as an explanation for patterns here on Earth. Mars saw a dramatic shift through strictly natural causes, so humanity can’t be responsible for what’s happening back home, can it? The problem, of course, is that Mars’ changes likely occurred over billions of years. The increase in carbon emissions on Earth (and the resulting increase in temperature) on Earth has taken mere decades, aligning roughly with the rise of industry and fossil fuels. Bridenstine’s willingness to study Mars’ climate, but reluctance to study Earth’s, suggests that he might be looking to other planets as justification for inaction on climate issues.
That’s not helped by Bridenstine’s own history. When he was a new politician, he asked President Obama to apologize for allegedly wasting money on climate research. He blamed the Sun for climate shifts and falsely claimed that temperatures had stopped rising. As recently as the start of 2017, Bridenstine had floated the idea of removing Earth science from NASA’s scope and assigning it to another agency — as if Earth science isn’t inherently connected to NASA’s studies.
There are signs that he may be changing his mind, if slightly. He writes in the questionnaire that NASA should still “advance both Earth science and planetary science,” and that it’s not right when these camps have to battle each other to get funding. The question is whether or not Bridenstine will let NASA study the full range of Earth science if he’s approved in the coming weeks. Given his past and a White House that bristles at the mere mention of climate change, it won’t be surprising if he’s hesitant to support any science that contradicts the administration’s agenda.
You see, just as Cook explained last week, Apple doesn’t just make products for the rich. It makes products that are keenly priced relative to their exciting technology.
Still, who’s going to pay full whack, anyway?
“As it turns out, most people are paying for phones over long periods of time,” said Cook. “And so, very few people will pay the full price of the phone initially. Also, most people actually trade in their current phone, and some carriers throw in subsidies and discounts.”
Well, there you have it. Cheap as chips, as the Brits would say. But Apple’s chips are very sophisticated, simply to make you happier.
Cook was also passionate to insist that Face ID, the means by which you unlock your iPhone X just by looking at it, is perfectly private.
“Once you place your face in the phone, it’s in the phone, Apple doesn’t have it,” he said.
But, of course, some worry that nefarious beings or even law enforcement, will make you stare at your phone so that they can see what’s on it and in it. (Apple suggests you squeeze the phone to disable Face ID before you hand it to someone else.)
Cook also talked up the introduction on Tuesday of iOS 11, which will allow some people to use augmented reality for the very first time. He called it “a profound day.”
Well, it depends on your depth perception, I suppose. Being able to virtually rearrange your furniture is profound to some and a touch mundane to others.
My time with the iPhone X was brief. In a crowded demo room at the Steve Jobs Theater back on Sept. 12, I tried to use it as long as I could. And I can’t wait to take it for another spin.
Just a week later, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are now known quantities. (Check our iPhone 8 review and iPhone 8 Plus review.) They’ll be widely available on Friday. But if not for their glass backs, they have a look and feel that’s familiar to iPhone owners for the past few years. The iPhone X (pronounced “ten,” not “ex”) remains the big unknown in the equation, however.
If you’re considering buying an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus this week, know that the X looms. Coming out Nov. 3, it could be the best iPhone ever made. (That’s certainly the intention.)
Or maybe not. It’s still a riddle wrapped in an enigma. We don’t know enough yet. These are my biggest unanswered questions — and the reasons why I’m advising anyone interested a new phone to wait until we have the answers.
1. Is Face ID the same, better or worse than Touch ID?
Apple is giving up Touch ID on the iPhone X, going only with Face ID as a password alternative and for payments. I saw Face ID demoed by Apple employees but never got to use it myself.
Will Face ID work reliably in all everyday instances? What about lighting conditions, or what I choose to wear, or how my face looks? Even if facial recognition is flawless, will it be more annoying to hold the phone in position for facial scanning than to use my finger for a simple home button click? Touch ID isn’t flawless, but it works really well. Will Face ID feel so seamless and instant that Touch ID feels old-fashioned?
2. How does iPhone X screen size compare to earlier phones?
The iPhone X has a larger 5.8-inch display than the previous 4.7- and 5.5-inch phones. But it’s not exactly that simple. The X has a longer display, more like Samsung’s 2017 phones. It’s not as wide as Plus phones, so it may feel cramped if you’re used to those. Likewise, the iPhone 8 Plus’ wider display might suit some documents and PDFs a bit better.
Also, there’s that notch where the front-facing camera is. If apps use the screen around the notch, as some demo videos seemed to, will it seem bizarre? If apps don’t use that extra space, will the screen size feel less impressive?
3. How difficult will it be to relearn swipe and button shortcuts?
The X mixes up the iOS 11 interface: Instead of swiping up for Control Center and down for notifications, it’s down for Control Center and up to go home — or, up and hold to switch between apps. For Siri, you’ll now hold down the long side button, like on the Apple Watch, instead of pressing the home button (because there is no home button). Will it feel intuitive or annoying? Will it just take getting used to? It wasn’t bad in my demo time, but I didn’t use it for long.
4. How durable will the first all-screen iPhone be?
According to Apple, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are made with stronger glass than previous iPhones, along with a stronger aluminum frame with steel underneath. The iPhone X uses the same materials, but its nearly edge-to-edge screen is obviously differently engineered. We still don’t know much more durable the new 8 models will be in the long term, and we definitely don’t know about the iPhone X.
5. How much better is the X camera vs. 8 Plus?
While the X and 8 Plus have the same wide-angle rear camera and same video recording upgrades. But the X’s rear second telephoto camera has a better aperture (f/2.4) and optical image stabilization, which should mean better low-light photos and less blur. Then there’s a matter of the front cameras: The iPhone X has a 7-megapixel camera like the 8 Plus, but it adds depth sensing for front Portrait Mode photo effects. This all sounds promising, but will it result in subtle or large photo differences?
6. Will anyone care about Animoji?
I turned myself into a talking poop emoji. I became a chatty unicorn. The depth-sensing TrueDepth camera can do some more advanced 3D scanning, and Apple’s first application beyond Face ID to show its potential is a novelty animated-emoji tool for Messages. Much like Stickers, all those lasers and balloons in the Message app, and the Clips app, Apple’s trying for some fun with Animoji, and only iPhone X users will be able to send them. Will it be beloved or forgotten?
7. Will you even be able to get one?
AirPods were backordered for weeks. The iPhone X is expected to be in even shorter supply. In fact, it may be a toss-up between the iPhone X and the SNES Classic as to which product is more impossible to obtain this year. The later-in-the-year sale date could mean some people won’t end up with new iPhones until 2018. If that wait stretches on into February or March, will those potential customers choose to opt for an iPhone 8 Plus, a Galaxy S9 — or just wait it out until next September?
By all appearances, Virchybike Lite looks like a normal indoor bike. But look a little closer and you’ll notice a few differences. Instead of just adjusting the seat’s height, you can also move the seat forward and backward, and the handlebars can be moved horizontally and vertically as well. If you don’t quite know where to align everything, Virchybike’s app will guide you through the bike fitting proces when you first get it. Like a lot of other indoor bikes, you can also adjust the resistance levels (the app also has programs that auto-adjusts the resistance for you) and there’s a heart-rate monitor as well.
Speaking of the app, that’s really at the heart of what makes the Virchybike Lite proposition a compelling one (the app is Android only for now, though Virchybike says an iOS version will be out next year). You can either select a mode where you’re cycling through real-world courses, or play it safe with a Studio setting that mimics the feel of a spin class. There’s also an interesting VR mode, where you can use an app called “rora”, slap the phone in a VR headset like the Gear, and cycle through virtual worlds like you can on something like the VirZoom.
No matter which mode you pick, Virchybike says that the app will monitor your progress and heart rate, and will suggest modes that will cater to your particular fitness level. Oh, and you can also enable “Multiriding” and race along with family and friends if they happen to have Virchybikes too.
Perhaps the most interesting bike mode is the one that has you riding through 70-plus different real-life courses around the world. As you’re cycling through the course, you’re not just watching the road; the topography of the map actually matches the incline of your bike as you cycle along. Plus, the faster you cycle, the faster you move through the map. You also have the option changing your “gears” as you race.
And if you decide to pay a little extra, Virchybike is also going to throw in an accessory called the VR Fan. Connect it to the app, position the fan towards you and it’ll attempt to simulate the wind blowing in your face as you breeze through the Tour De France.
I saw a demo of the Virchybike Lite at a booth at TechCrunch Disrupt, and it looks like a pretty well-made bike. The seats adjusted well, and the app looks pretty polished as well. It showed me data like the cyclist’s heart rate as well as the speeds and inclines of the entire course. It doesn’t look as cool as the Virchybike Pro, which was also there for demonstration, and it definitely doesn’t have the same tilting frame. A spokesperson said that the Pro is more for professionals and gyms, while the Lite is more for home use. Unfortunately, there was no VR fan in sight, as the Virchybike folks are still looking for manufacturing partners for it.
Virchybike was created four years ago by Jaehyun Shin, a self-professed sports lover who wanted fitness to be more accessible to the masses. Specifically, he wanted to alleviate the boredom and tediousness so often associated with exercise. The first bike Shin and his team created was the RX Cycle in 2015, which then evolved to the Virchybike Pro in early 2017. But as that was a little too expensive — over $1,000 — Shin decided to make a Lite version for what he calls “family use.”
The Virchybike Lite went on Kickstarter today with a $15,000 goal, and at the time of this writing, is already almost 80 percent funded. Virchybike hopes to deliver the bikes (and the VR fans) to backers by February of next year.