Category Archives: Everything Mobile

News, Analysis and Reviews of Mobile Phones and Tablets including smart watches

It looks like Apple is resurrecting its Venmo competitor

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Apple began considering its own peer-to-peer payment system back in 2015. Since then, however, nothing seems to have come of it. Today, however, Recode reports that Apple is again in negotiations to launch its own money-transfer system to rival competing services like PayPal’s wildly popular Venmo. Apple’s new service, likely a feature for Apple Pay, could enable you to send money to a friend’s iPhone from your own.

Apple Pay is doing well for the tech giant, but extending its influence into the peer-to-peer space could encourage more consumers to actually use it. Mobile payments between peers are hot right now, with companies like PayPal, Square, and even Facebook getting into the act. While businesses like Square aren’t making much from peer-to-peer payment systems, the ease of sending money to friends and local service providers is bound to become more ubiquitous as more people try it out. Venmo itself continues to grow rapidly, with a reported $6.8 billion in transactions through its app. US banks have also launched their own competing service, Zelle, thereby cutting out third-party middlemen.

While one source told Recode that Apple may announce its new payment service this year, another noted that the launch date and announcement may not be set as of yet. Whatever the timeline for the new Apple service, having the ability to pay rent or split a dinner bill with just your iPhone could be just the thing to convince many of us to use it.

 

 

The Navy built rechargeable batteries that won't explode on you

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Aleksandr Ugorenkov via Getty Images

The Navy, the airline industry and Samsung all have a major problem with lithium-ion batteries. Specifically, they tend to catch fire more than most people would like. But that could change soon thanks to a new breakthrough from the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) that allows for safe, rechargeable nickel-zinc batteries with a similar performance to Li-ion cells, but without all the flames.

Zinc is commonly used in single-use batteries, but it hasn’t been a very good option for rechargeable cells in the past because the materials can form conductive dendrites over time and cause equipment to short circuit. The NRL’s method, which is detailed in a new paper published in the journal Science, uses a specially designed “3D sponge” on the Zinc anode to distribute currents more uniformly and prevent dendrites from forming in the first place. In addition to extending the lifetime of single use batteries, the NRL found that their new Ni-3D Zn cells were competitive with lithium-ion batteries over more than 100 recharge cycles. The batteries also performed comparably to lithium batteries when run through more than 50,000 “short duty” cycles interspersed with short power bursts to simulate hybrid vehicle applications. Because they have a lower weight than lithium cells of comparable capacity, the Ni-3D Zn cells could even help hybrid or electric vehicles stretch their range.

The NRL says their research is complete and the 3D zinc sponge technology is “ready to be deployed within the entire family of Zn-based alkaline batteries” in both military and civilian applications. San Francisco-based battery company EnZinc, which worked with the NRL on the paper, estimates the first batteries using this technology will be on the market by the end of 2019.

“We can now offer an energy-relevant alternative, from drop-in replacements for lithium-ion to new opportunities in portable and wearable power, and manned and unmanned electric vehicles,” the NRL’s Dr. Jeffrey Long said, “while reducing safety hazards, easing transportation restrictions, and using earth-abundant materials.”

Update: This post has been edited to add a time-to-market estimate from EnZinc.

 

 

LG's smartphones are no longer hurting the company

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Chris Velazco / Aol.

It’s a testament to how topsy-turvy the mobile world is that a company can make its seventh successive quarterly loss and still feel good. That’s because LG’s mobile division, which managed to burn almost 500 billion Korean won in the last three months of 2016, has managed to stem the flow of blood from its neck. In fact, in the first quarter of 2017, the division managed to lose just 200 million Korean won, or $176,206.

The fact that LG’s smartphone division now almost breaks even is a huge deal, considering how much money it’s been losing of late. In the fourth quarter of 2016, mobile losses were so steep it actually wiped out all of the profit that the other parts of the business made. Thankfully, LG has bounced back, and is reporting overall revenues of 14.66 trillion KRW (around $12.7 billion) and net profits of just over $736 million.

As for the rest of LG, the company is doing well in the home appliance, air conditioner and home entertainment markets. The nascent vehicle components arm still remains a loss maker, but executives believe that R&D spending now will be offset with profits later. Not to mention that the company still has a successful partnership with Chevy producing components for the Bolt.

LG believes that the cost cutting measures it took in its mobile division last year, and the recently-released G6, will help it avoid hefty losses in the future. That said, the company also concedes that devices from other players — hint: Samsung and China — will continue to be obstacles in its way to future profitability. We’ve often asked if LG needs to cut its losses and get out of the mobile business, although if losses remain this small, the answer is probably ‘no.’

 

 

BlackBerry KEYone reaches the US on May 31st

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AOL

To say that the launch of the BlackBerry KEYone has been protracted would be an understatement. BlackBerry and TCL teased the high-profile phone in January, dished out proper details in February, and has left people wondering about a specific US release date ever since. At last, you can relax: BlackBerry and TCL have revealed that the keyboard-equipped Android phone will reach both the US and Canada on May 31st. Americans will be limited to buying the $549 unlocked CDMA or GSM versions at first, but take heart — there will be carrier deals, including a Sprint launch sometime in the summer. If you thought the up front price was too much to swallow, you’ll have a way of softening the blow.

In Canada, the handset will be available through Bell, Rogers, SaskTel and Telus for $199 CAD on a 2-year contract. For context, a Galaxy S8 is typically $250 CAD on similar terms. That might give you a hint as to what you could expect for American carrier pricing — it’ll be considered high end, but might not be as expensive as certain flagships.

The US carrier deal is important. BlackBerry’s previous Android phones, the DTEK series, were virtually non-existent in the States for anyone besides business customers and dedicated fans. A carrier deal not only makes the KEYone more palatable to price-conscious buyers, it puts the phone on the map for shoppers who won’t even consider a phone if don’t see it in a local provider’s store. While the KEYone is unlikely to be a runaway hit, that exposure might help BlackBerry regain some of its long-lost reputation.

 

 

The Morning After: Thursday, April 27th 2017

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The Simpsons, Fox

TV dinners for foodies? The beginning of the end for net neutrality? Someone beating up a poor robot? Must be a Thursday. We also hear more on the next Call Of Duty title and Amazon’s new fashion camera. Really.


Profits are up, and ‘Pokemon’ is pretty much a license to print money.
Nintendo Switch could outsell the Wii U in its first year

Nintendo’s profits are up. It’s claimed an operating profit of $1.6 billion (178 billion yen) for the last quarter, which is almost a billion dollars more than the same quarter in 2016. It’s the company’s first financial results after its Switch console went on sale, and since March 3rd, it’s sold 2.74 million units. The company believes sales will stay strong, forecasting 10 million more Switch consoles sold by this time next year. That prediction, shy of 13 million, would put it toe to toe with the total sales of its predecessor, the Wii U, over its entire lifetime.


Ajit Pai wants to do away with rules preventing throttling, blocking and paid prioritization.
FCC Chairman outlines his plan to gut net neutrality

The future of net neutrality has been uncertain since the November election of Donald Trump. His FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, has made it clear he intends to scale back some of the regulations surrounding ISPs, but details have been scarce. Now we have an idea of the framework the commission will be pursuing, and it begins with revoking the classification of ISPs as a “common carrier” service under Title II, which has essentially treated the internet as a public utility for the last two years.


Drunkenly attacking a connected bot with cameras wasn’t smart.
Man arrested after knocking over a 300-pound security robot

The Knightscope’s K5 may not be the cutest robot, but that doesn’t mean drunks get to knock it over.


Return of the webcam?
Amazon Echo Look is a voice-controlled camera for fashion tips

Meet Echo Look, an Alexa-powered camera designed around taking your own fashion photos and videos. If you want to show off your daily wardrobe, you just have to ask the Look to take a snapshot — you don’t have to take a selfie in front of a mirror to get a full-length picture. And since it includes a depth-sensing camera, it can blur the background to make shots pop. The real party tricks come when you’re not sure about your outfit, however. The Look’s Style Check service blends AI algorithms with fashion specialist advice to provide a second opinion — and hopefully get you buying more outfits, you clothes horse.


It’s a step back in time for the franchise for a few reasons.
‘Call of Duty: WWII’ takes you back to Omaha Beach November 3rd

Call of Duty: WWII will launch November 3rd on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. As you might expect, the game takes place largely in Europe between 1944 and 1945, ultimately pushing toward Germany after fighting through Nazi reinforcements on Normandy Beach and through the grimy streets of France and Belgium. As for the story, there’s a big focus on the brotherhood of your squad — something captured in HBO’s Band of Brothers and Steven Spielberg’s epic Saving Private Ryan.


Mobile earnings dropped off in Q1, but it expects the Galaxy S8 will turn things around.
Samsung’s chip business kept things looking up to start 2017

Samsung’s quarterly earnings are in, showing the company’s highest quarterly profit since Q3 2013. That’s despite the Galaxy Note 7 recall, and a markdown in the price of its Galaxy Note 7, apparently because the company’s chip business (making memory, processors and camera sensors for phones) is booming. As a company, it brought home the $8.75 billion in operating profit expected, and looks forward to better results next quarter, since it will include sales of the new Galaxy S8 phones.

But wait, there’s more…

 

 

Samsung's chip business kept things looking up to start 2017

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Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

Samsung’s Q1 2017 earnings are in, showing the company’s highest quarterly profit since Q3 2013. That’s despite the Galaxy Note 7 recall, and a markdown in the price of its Galaxy Note 7, apparently because the company’s chip business (making memory, processors and camera sensors for phones) is booming. As a company, it brought home the $8.75 billion in operating profit expected, and looks forward to better results next quarter, since it will include sales of the new Galaxy S8 phones.

On a call with reporters, execs reaffirmed that reports of a reddish tint on some S8s are a “natural difference” in the OLED technology that it will let users tweak after a software update. Samsung also mentioned “the launch of a new flagship smartphone in the second half,” but didn’t tag the Galaxy Note name to whatever that presumably large-screened device will be. It also did not play into any expectations for an OLED iPhone that it could supply screens for, simply saying that “YoY revenue growth in the OLED business is forecast on the back of increased flexible panel shipments in the second half.”

 

 

Samsung's auto-reply app fights distracted driving

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Samsung

Let’s be honest: too many of us are using our phones while driving. It’s a problem and it’s dangerous, but we do it anyway. Samsung knows this and has come up with a new app cleverly named In-Traffic Reply to help. The app, currently in beta, aims to keep you safe while allowing you to answer messages you get while you’re behind the wheel.

In-Traffic Reply will use your smartphone’s sensors to detect when you’re in a car (or on a bike). It will then send an automatic response to calls and texts. You can choose the message sent out, too, from three options: the default “I’m driving, so I cannot answer at the moment,” a “fun, animated response,” or a custom reply of your own making.

If you’re looking to block texts in the car now, you can check out T-Mobile’s subscription-based DriveSmart Plus service and AT&T’s free DriveMode. Auto maker Mitsubishi and wireless provider Sprint (way back in 2011) have also explored solutions to the problem. Apple has provided custom replies for a while, but they still require you to look at your phone.

The final version of Samsung’s anti-distracted driving app should arrive mid-May in the Google Play Store. Here’s hoping it prevents more car crashes due to texting while driving.

 

 

A Fitbit Flex 2 reportedly exploded on woman's arm

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Fitbit

Dina Mitchell was reading a book on Tuesday in her Wisconsin home when the Fitbit Flex 2 on her wrist exploded, causing second-degree burns, she told ABC News. Mitchell reportedly tore the device off of her arm as it was still on fire, and doctors had to remove melted plastic and rubber from the wound. She said she had worn the Flex 2 for about two weeks before the explosion.

There haven’t been any other reports of malfunctioning Flex 2s in the wild, a Fitbit spokesperson tells Engadget. The company’s full statement reads as follows:

“We are extremely concerned about Ms. Mitchell’s report regarding her Flex 2 and take it very seriously, as the health and safety of our customers is our top priority. Fitbit products are designed and produced in accordance with strict standards and undergo extensive internal and external testing to ensure the safety of our users.

We have spoken with Ms. Mitchell and are actively investigating this issue. We are not aware of any other complaints of this nature and see no reason for people to stop wearing their Flex 2. We will share additional information as we are able.”

Reports of exploding devices have skyrocketed over the past few years, as smartphones and wearables become more compact and powerful (as do their lithium-ion batteries). In 2016, Samsung notoriously recalled every Galaxy Note 7 smartphone it sold worldwide after numerous reports of devices overheating and exploding. In the wearable world, last year the Basis Peak was recalled after burning its owners.

Fitbit is investigating the report of a Flex 2 explosion, but for now it seems like an isolated incident. Still, Flex 2 owners may want to take some advice from Mitchell and log a few extra minutes of exercise today. Just in case.

“I was literally just sitting and reading when my Fitbit exploded,” Mitchell told ABC News. “It was either defective or really mad I was sitting still so long. …Either way, It burned the heck out of my arm.”

 

 

'The Protectors' shows how VR can help save African elephants

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At first, the elephant looks like it’s asleep. But then you notice it has stumps where there should be feet. Its tusks have been sawed off. And there are countless maggots crawling along a gaping hole in its face. It’s a horrifying image as I describe it — but when viewed as a 360-degree video in a VR headset, it’s even more so. You can’t easily look away without shutting your eyes. And the three-dimensional sound makes you feel as if you’re actually there.

This is the most powerful scene in The Protectors: Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes, a VR documentary co-directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker) and Imraan Ismail (The Displaced). The film, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival this week, gives us a rare glimpse at the lives of rangers working in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Garamba National Park. They risk their lives to stop poachers from killing elephants for their ivory tusks, despite the seemingly insurmountable odds against them. They’re vastly outnumbered by poachers, who are better paid and better equipped and can easily hide in the park’s vast landscape. And then, of course, there are all the natural dangers they face on patrol.

But when you’re confronted with the image of that cruelly mutilated elephant corpse, you understand exactly why they risk their lives. As one ranger says during the film, seeing a dead elephant almost makes them feel like they’ve lost a child. That particular shot could be considered manipulative, but it gets to the heart of what makes VR documentaries powerful. You’re not only watching something being projected onto a screen but are also effectively placed in the middle of the action.

“When you’re doing a normal [traditionally filmed] documentary … you kind of just hang back, or you’re off to the side,” Ismail said in an interview with Engadget. “You’d use a longer lens and steal shots — kind of shine a spotlight. But in VR it’s almost as if you have a certain number of flares to light a situation, so you have to be kind of right in the middle of it. … It’s very different. You have to be almost embedded, right in the middle of everything.”

That sense of immediacy is evident throughout The Protectors. At one point, you’re slowly walking through a tall field of grass, unable to see a few feet ahead of you. It’s a sequence that’s both beautiful and terrifying, since practically anything could be on the other side of the grass. And it’s more than a suspense gimmick — it’s a way to communicate something that the Garamba Park rangers face every day. You could shoot a similar scene with traditional cameras easily, but you wouldn’t have the effect of looking all around you and being surrounded by tall grass, with the threat of danger lurking everywhere.

It’s worth pointing out that I didn’t see the film in a typical setting. I was sitting in the middle of an audience of dozens of other people wearing Gear VR headsets. They were going through the experience at the same time as me, and it was unique to hear everyone react to the shot of the elephant corpse in unison. In a way, this was the closest a VR experience has come to a traditional film for me. I’m used to the shared experience of watching a film on a big screen, and VR is often accused of being a much more isolating experience.

When it came to capturing that elephant-corpse image — which is something I’ll honestly have trouble getting out of my head — Ismail said he wanted the audience to experience exactly what he was feeling at that moment. “You can imagine just how horrifying and soul destroying it really is, as a person [to confront that elephant body],” he said. “And it then became very easy to say, ‘Let’s communicate that.’ And then, to add to it, for the rangers that’s their perspective as well. It’s also a defeat.”

While the film is just eight minutes long, we still get a sense of how the rangers approach their duty. Thanks to their employment by the nonprofit African Parks, which manages Garamba and nine other parks throughout the continent, they have access to health care and education for themselves and their families. But it’s also worth noting that the rangers stick with their conservation work even when they could easily make more money by siding with the poachers. For them, it’s more of a mission than a job. That’s also why it’s all the more heartbreaking to see them relying on aging equipment and weapons.

Ismail shot The Protectors over three weeks with a crew of just three other people. Since they had to brave the dangers of Garamba as well, they couldn’t take much equipment. They relied on a portable camera rig from the VR production company Here Be Dragons, which was basically made up of eight GoPro cameras. Before and after the shoot, he also worked with Bigelow, who’s been advocating to save African elephants for years. Her 2014 short film Last Days lays out the problem we’re facing if we want to save the elephants from extinction.

Perhaps because we were screening The Protectors on Earth Day, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a surprise appearance at the premiere. She discussed being introduced to the plight of the elephants during her tenure in the Obama administration. “It became clear to everyone that this was not just a terrible crisis when it came to the elephant population,” she said. “It was a trade — trafficking that was funding a lot of bad folks, a lot of bad actors. It was being used to take ivory and sell it in order to buy more weapons and support the kind of terrorist activity that these and other groups were engaged in.”

Ismail hopes that The Protectors will make more people aware of the ranger’s work to end elephant poaching (you can support them with donations here). This is still a critical time, after all, since more elephants are being killed than are being born. At this rate, we could lose African elephants entirely within 10 years, according to African Parks’ chief marketing officer, Andrea Heydlauff.

Gear VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive owners will be able to check out The Protectors on May 1st on the Within app. It might sound like a rough experience, but it’s one worth watching to gain a full understanding of what the Garamba Park rangers put on the line every day.

Follow along with all of our Tribeca 2017 coverage here.

 

 

Windows 10: The big changes headed your way in 2017

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windows10placeholder.png

Microsoft showed off the forthcoming return of OneDrive placeholders to Windows 10 at its Ignite conference earlier this year.

Microsoft has made many promises about what Windows 10 will do, and while some have materialized, others are still just ambitions.

As a perpetual work in progress, Windows 10 continues to accrue new features, as Windows catches up with Microsoft’s vision of it being an OS that runs anywhere, syncs with the cloud, and has an intelligent assistant at its core.

During 2017 the OS will undergo significant changes and will appear on a variety of new hardware. Here’s what to look out for.

The article is also available as a gallery.

1. Windows 10 phones edge closer to replacing desktop PCs

Microsoft has long pushed the idea that Windows 10 on phones will be so powerful, it’ll be akin to carrying a full PC in your pocket, courtesy of the OS’ Continuum feature.

But while select Windows 10 phones, such as the Lumia 950, can be hooked up to a mouse, keyboard and monitor and used as a Windows desktop, there are significant limitations.

However, in addition to the possibility of legacy apps running on smartphones, see below, various improvements to Continuum are due to land in 2017.

These include support for more PC features, such as running multiple Windows side by side on the desktop, pinning apps to the Taskbar and hitting the Windows button to bring up the search box. Other improvements include the ability to keep your phone in your pocket and have it connect wirelessly to a docking station and to independently customize the Windows Start screen on the phone display and on a PC monitor.

2. Running classic Windows software on your phone

This year, Microsoft should be updating Windows to allow traditional desktops apps to run on mobile phone hardware, and not just a limited subset of Windows Store apps, as was the case with the failed ARM-based Surface tablets running Windows RT.

One of the supported smartphone chipsets will be the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, the same chip found in the US version of the Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone. Devices based on the Snapdragon 835 will run Win32 apps using emulation, necessary to run this x86 software on its ARM-based hardware. While emulation has a performance overhead, Microsoft has demoed Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Word and the game World of Tanks Blitz running smoothly on the emulator.

If Windows 10 phones were to support legacy line-of-business and other desktop Win32 applications used by many firms, the ability of Windows 10 handsets to run as a lightweight desktop PC would suddenly become a lot more useful.

3. Low-cost Windows 10 PCs with all-day battery life

The ability to run a full Windows 10 desktop on smartphone hardware should lead to more affordable Windows PCs that enjoy better battery life.

Windows 10 PCs based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset will be out this year. The chip consumes 25 percent less power than its predecessor, and offers a fast-charging technology called Quick Charge 4.0.

4. Return of OneDrive placeholders

Since the launch of Windows 10, many users have been petitioning Microsoft to reintroduce placeholders to the OS’ built-in OneDrive cloud storage service.

In Windows 8.1, placeholders, also called smart files, let users see all their files stored on OneDrive, whether those files were stored on the device or not.

This feature was removed from Windows 10 but is now due to be bought back in Windows 10 File Explorer when browsing OneDrive. The returning feature will work in a similar fashion to Windows 8.1’s placeholders, showing users files stored both locally and on OneDrive, allowing them to download files and folders to the device and keep them in sync with OneDrive.

5. Windows 10 Cloud

With the Chromebook challenging Windows in the education market, Microsoft is reportedly poised to release Windows 10 Cloud, a stripped-back, easier-to-use version of Windows, which would emulate the simplicity of Chrome OS.

The OS will supposedly also only be able to run apps from the Windows Store, an option already available in the base version of Windows 10 by the Creators Update.

6. Windows 10 Cloudbook

Windows 10 Cloud is expected to run on a new range of low-cost PCs with minimal storage, similar to the Chromebook.

According to leaked information, these PCs would have a minimum of a quad-core Intel Celeron processor and 4GB of RAM and target 10-plus hours of battery life and a 20-second boot time.

7. Longer battery life

Microsoft is also attempting to extend the battery life of laptops and tablets not built around power-efficient smartphone tech.

The Power Throttling feature, due to roll out to most Windows 10 users in September this year, limits the performance of non-essential software to prevent it burning through the battery in new Intel-powered PCs.

8. Capture 3D scanning

Windows 10’s Capture 3D Experience feature has been shown making it almost as simple to capture 3D scans of real-world objects as it is to take a photo. In a demo last year, a Microsoft employee used the feature running on a HP X3 handset to create a full-color, 3D scan of a real-world sandcastle, simply by pointing the camera at the castle and walking around it. Originally due out in spring, it is now expected to be released in September this year.

9. Project Neon

This September, Windows 10 is expected to get something of a facelift. The new-look design language, known as Project Neon, has only been glimpsed here and there, such as in this slide captured by Windows Central.

New animations, transparencies and other effects that echo those used in the Aero Glass design found in Windows Vista and Windows 7 are expected, alongside the Acrylic feature, which will blur the background, sidebar or nav for apps, depending on how a Universal Windows App is being used.

10. CShell

Microsoft is rumored to be doubling down on the technology that will allow Windows to automatically adapt and scale how it looks to suit the device it’s running on, whether that’s a phone, PC or augmented-reality headset like HoloLens.

This technology underlying this is dubbed CShell or Composable Shell, and said to go beyond the limited adaptive interface offered by Windows 10’s Continuum feature today and be on the cards for a bigger reveal in 2017/18.

11. Tabbed Shell

Fans of how tabs simplify browsing the web will be pleased to hear that Microsoft is reported to be adding support for tabs to File Explorer and many more Windows apps. In the meantime, Windows users have to use third-party tools such as Clover 3, seen above.

12. New Windows 10 wearables — but for biz

The fitness-oriented Microsoft Band may be on hiatus, but there is a Windows 10-powered wearable on the way.

Trekstor is building a Windows 10 IoT Core-based smartwatch aimed at businesses, specifically industries such as retail, hospitality, manufacturing, and healthcare.

13. New augmented- and virtual-reality headsets

Low-cost, priced from $299, headsets from Acer, Lenovo and other computer makers running on the Windows Mixed Reality platform are expected to be released to consumers this year.

Mixed reality is Microsoft’s name for headsets that can believably project digital objects into the wearer’s view of the real world, for example, placing a 3D-rendered chessboard on a real-world table, as well as dropping users into a full 3D virtual environment.

One possible use for the headsets is enhancing online shopping, with a Microsoft demo showing a user dropping actual-sized 3D models of stools from the furniture site Houzz around the room, to see what they look like in real life.

14. Decent offline web apps come to Edge

Windows 10’s Edge browser might still be lagging behind competitors when it comes to extensions, but Microsoft continues to add new features.

This year, Edge should catch up with Chrome when it comes to running web apps that work well offline, minimizing frustrations related to lost data or endless loading when a connection drops, thanks to forthcoming support for Service Workers and Cache API in Edge.

15. Desktop apps come to the web

In the near future, expect the sophistication of apps running in the Edge browser to approach that of those on your computer.

Edge will soon support WebAssembly, a low-level, assembly-like language designed to run alongside JavaScript. WebAssembly enables applications that have historically been too complex to run in browsers — like 3D video games, computer-aided design, video and image editing, and scientific visualization — to run as web apps, thanks to the language’s near-native performance.

WebAssembly is already supported as an experimental feature in Edge, as well as in Chrome and Firefox.

16. Easy communication with friends and family

The major Redstone 3 update to Windows 10 in September will boost the OS’ social credentials, with a series of changes to make it simpler to stay in touch and share content with friends and family.

The Windows MyPeople feature will allow users to pin their favorite contacts to the right-hand side of the Windows taskbar. Clicking on a pinned contact’s face brings up email or Skype messages from only that person and files can be dragged to that person’s face for quick sharing.

Informal check-ins also become easier, with the Shoulder Taps feature allowing pinned contacts to send friends animated emojis and other clipart, which pop up above that contact’s face on the taskbar.

17. Better Gmail support

Gmail users running Windows 10 miss out on some of the more advanced features in the OS’ Mail and Calendar apps.

However, Microsoft says Gmail users will soon no longer be second-class citizens, with plans to add support for syncing to Google email, calendar and contacts. The support, already available to those testing Windows 10 under the Insider program, will allow Gmail users to access Microsoft’s Focused Inbox smart filter, provide the ability to track travel dates and shipping deliveries, Twitter-style @mentions to grab someone’s attention in an email, and themed calendars to keep track of sporting events.

18. Home Hub

In an effort to broaden the ways users can interact with Windows, it seems as if Microsoft is working on transforming Windows 10 into what it calls a Home Hub.

Sources told Windows Central that Home Hub will turn Windows into a shared computing environment for the home, allowing family members to more easily share calendars, apps and services.

A future-gazing Microsoft video from 2013, dug out by ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, shows how this system might eventually work. In it, family members share access to photos, apps and calendars on a screen attached to a wall and interact with computers around the home, for example scanning carrots to find appropriate recipes. Adding credence to the Home Hub rumor are references to Home Hub being a shared family account in Windows 10, as discovered by Twitter user WalkingCat.

ZDNet’s Foley also references a recent Microsoft job posting for a software engineer in the Windows and Devices Group, which is seeking someone to expand Windows’ “family” credentials.

19. Cortana challenges Amazon Echo

To support this vision of Windows being at the heart of the home, Microsoft is preparing Windows 10’s virtual assistant to challenge the Amazon Echo smart speaker, with harman/kardon planning to release a Cortana-powered smart speaker in 2017.

20. Less troublesome virtual machines

The new Revert VM feature in Windows 10 will create automatic checkpoints when using virtual machines, allowing users to more easily roll systems running in VMs back.

[This article has been updated, expanded and republished. Latest update: April 26, 2017.]

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Google Home has 5 million recipe options for your next night in

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Engadget/AOL

Google has been rapidly adding new features to its Home connected speaker recently, and the latest will be handy for chefs. Google Home can now read out recipes step-by-step — but it sounds like you’ll need to kick off the process using your smartphone. According to a blog post that went up today, Home will be able to read back more than 5 million recipes from sites like All Recipes, Food Network, Bon Appetit, the New York Times and more. First, though, you’ll need to find the recipe you want on your phone using either the Google Assistant on Android or Google search on your iPhone.

From there, you’ll find a new “send to Google Home” button, provided you have one set up of course. Once you’ve done that, the recipe will be loaded up and ready for you — saying “OK Google, start cooking” will prompt Home to read you the first line. You can ask Home to repeat a direction or go to a specific step at any time; otherwise saying “OK Google, next step” will move you forward. You can keep using Google Home to play music, answer questions and basically do whatever else you might want without interrupting the recipe. It’ll know you’re cooking and move forward with the recipe regardless of whatever else you ask it between steps.

It’s a natural extension of Google Home, particularly considering how nice it is to go hands-free when you’re working in the kitchen. And, as with many features Google Home has gained recently, it’s something that Amazon’s Echo can already do. However, Google’s implementation has a few advantages — rather than building specific “skills” for each recipe source, Google Home works with a whopping 5 million recipes from multiple sites right away. The first recipe skill for Echo came from All Recipes, and it now works with Food Network as well. Echo has a few advantages over Google’s recipe feature, as well — you can tell Echo what you have in your fridge or pantry and it’ll suggest options for you.

If you want to try cooking with Google Home, the new feature is rolling out this week.

 

 

Here's the master list of Chromebooks that will get Android apps, straight from Google itself

This post was originally published on this site

chromebook-pixel-2015.png

Image: CNET

One of the most exciting advances in the Chromebook world was Google’s announcement that certain Chrome OS devices would support Android apps. Google first started experimenting with Android apps on Chromebooks in 2014, but fully brought the Google Play Store to certain models in summer 2016.

At the time, Google released a master list of Chrome devices that would eventually get crossover support. However, as reported by SlashGear, Google has since updated the list of Chrome OS devices that will be eligible to support the Google Play Store, adding the current status for each device.

SEE: Chromebooks: The smart person’s guide

Here is the updated master list of Chromebook set to receive Play Store support, separated by status.

Stable channel

  • Acer Chromebook R11 (CB5-132T, C738T)
  • AOpen Chromebox Mini
  • AOpen Chromebase Mini
  • Asus Chromebook Flip C100PA
  • Google Chromebook Pixel (2015)
  • Samsung Chromebook Plus

Beta channel

  • Acer Chromebook R13 (CB5-312T)
  • Asus Chromebook Flip C302

Planned

  • Acer Chromebook 11 (C740)
  • Acer Chromebook 11 (C730 / CB3-111 / C730E / CB3-131)
  • Acer Chromebook 14 (CB3-431)
  • Acer Chromebook 14 for Work (CB5-471)
  • Acer Chromebook 15 (CB5-571 / C910)
  • Acer Chromebook 15 (CB3-531)
  • Acer Chromebook 15 (CB3-532)
  • Acer Chromebook Spin 11 (R751T)
  • Acer Chromebox CXI2
  • Acer Chromebase 24
  • AOpen Chromebox CommercialAOpen Chromebase Commercial
  • Asus Chromebit CS10
  • Asus Chromebook C200
  • Asus Chromebook C201PA
  • Asus Chromebook C202SA
  • Asus Chromebook C300
  • Asus Chromebook C300SA / C301SA
  • Asus Chromebook Flip C213
  • Asus Chromebox CN62
  • Bobicus Chromebook 11
  • CTL J2 / J4 Chromebook
  • CTL N6 Education Chromebook
  • CTL J5 Convertible Chromebook
  • CTL NL61 Chromebook
  • Dell Chromebook 11 (3120)
  • Dell Chromebook 11 (3180)
  • Dell Chromebook 11 Convertible (3189)
  • Dell Chromebook 13 (7310)
  • Dell Chromebook 13 (3380)
  • eduGear Chromebook R Series
  • eduGear Chromebook K Series
  • eduGear Chromebook M Series
  • eduGear CMT Chromebook
  • Edxis Chromebook
  • Edxis Education Chromebook
  • Haier Chromebook 11
  • Haier Chromebook 11e
  • Haier Chromebook 11 G2
  • Haier Chromebook 11 C
  • Hexa Chromebook Pi
  • HiSense Chromebook 11
  • Lava Xolo Chromebook
  • HP Chromebook 11 G3
  • HP Chromebook 11 G4 / G4 EE
  • HP Chromebook 11 G5
  • HP Chromebook 11 G5 EE
  • HP Chromebook 14 G4
  • HP Chromebook 13 G1
  • HP Chromebook x360 11 G1 EE
  • Lenovo 100S Chromebook
  • Lenovo N20 / N20P Chromebook
  • Lenovo N21 Chromebook
  • Lenovo N22 Chromebook
  • Lenovo N23 Chromebook
  • Lenovo N23 Yoga Chromebook
  • Lenovo N42 Chromebook
  • Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Chromebook
  • Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Yoga Chromebook
  • Lenovo Thinkpad 11e Chromebook (Gen 3)
  • Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Yoga Chromebook (Gen 3)
  • Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Chromebook (Gen 4)
  • Lenovo Thinkpad 11e Yoga Chromebook (Gen 4)
  • Lenovo Thinkpad 13 Chromebook
  • Lenovo ThinkCentre Chromebox
  • Medion Chromebook Akoya S2013
  • Medion Chromebook S2015
  • M&A Chromebook
  • NComputing Chromebook CX100
  • Nexian Chromebook 11.6″
  • PCMerge Chromebook PCM-116E
  • PCMerge Chromebook PCM-116T-432B
  • Poin2 Chromebook 11
  • Samsung Chromebook Pro
  • Samsung Chromebook 2 11″ – XE500C12
  • Samsung Chromebook 3
  • Sector 5 E1 Rugged Chromebook
  • Senkatel C1101 Chromebook
  • Toshiba Chromebook 2
  • Toshiba Chromebook 2 (2015)
  • True IDC Chromebook 11
  • Viglen Chromebook 11
  • Viglen Chromebook 360

Note: Just because certain devices are listed in the beta channel, their support for the feature isn’t necessarily imminent. As written on Google’s post under the list, “If a device status is marked as available on the Beta channel this does not mean that it will be available in the Stable channel on the next release of Chrome OS.”

While the crossover support for Android apps has gained some buzz among Chrome fans, others aren’t sold. As TechRepublic contributing writer Jack Wallen posited, the addition of Android apps adds little to the productivity capabilities of Chromebooks, and could make the platform less efficient.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Google has updated the list of Chromebooks that will receive Android apps with new models and a status indicator for each device.
  2. However, just because some devices are listed in the beta channel doesn’t mean they will be getting support soon.
  3. Despite the crossover potential of Android and Chrome OS, the additional apps could make the Chrome platform less efficient for professionals, some have argued.

Also see

Celebrating AnandTech’s 20th Anniversary: 1997 – 2017

This post was originally published on this site

This morning we’re celebrating a rather special occasion over here at AnandTech: our 20th anniversary. Though in a lot of ways it seems like the years have gone by in a flash, the calendar doesn’t lie: it means we’ve now been doing this for two decades, starting from a quaint CPU review in 1997 and branching out to oh so much more by 2017.

I’ve admittedly never been one for public sentimentality, but as the second Editor-in-chief of AnandTech and a reader for most of its history, it’s a milestone that makes me very proud. When Anand created the site in 1997 it may have just been a hobby, but by taking it seriously and defining a core set of principles that we still work by today, AnandTech has grown to leave its mark on technology journalism and the products around it, and I intend to continue leaving our mark and helping to shape the technology ecosystem in our own nerdy way.

For the start of AnandTech’s 21st year in the technology news business, I’d like to commemorate the occasion with a look back at what we’ve done, a brief look forward at where we’re going next, and finally, thank the many readers and groups out there who have made it possible. The latter point is especially important to me; while a commemoration is all about the entity or event being remembered, none of this would be possible without everyone who has supported us over the years. So in a way, I consider this an event for you guys as well as it is for us, because you have absolutely had a part in shaping how we go about writing articles and how we interact with hardware vendors.

For that reason, I’m also happy to announce that we’re launching our largest hardware giveaway ever. Over the next 20 days we’ll be giving away piles of hardware as a thank you to our readers who have made this all possible. Even that, I feel, isn’t a big enough thank you for what you guys mean to us. But it’s a start, and it means we can do something fun for you guys on our anniversary.

But first, let’s do a little commemorating.

A Bit of History

AnandTech was founded in 1997 by a then 14 year old Anand Shimpi during his freshman year of high school. At the time the Web was still relatively young, and Anand’s Hardware Tech Page as it was then named didn’t even have its own domain name. Instead, like many other hobby websites, it was hosted on the now long-defunct GeoCities.

In true AnandTech tradition right from the start, the first AnandTech article was the AMD K6 Review. That review is admittedly a mess by modern standards – none of us came into tech writing knowing a fraction of what we do now – but it marked the start of something greater. It reflected Anand’s desire to learn more and to share what he learned with the world, a core mantra that has driven AnandTech all of these years, and still drives us today.

In the intervening 20 years, far too much has happened to even begin to recap it all. AnandTech became a business, and a successful business at that. The Web transformed how technology journalism worked; no longer were articles bound to the rules of print, a month out of date and limited in length to what would fit. Instead articles could go as deep as they needed, and be posted to the wider world as soon as they were ready. Tech news became rapid-fire, and, outside of dedicated technology journals, writers could do more than ever before.

A lot of other organizations had the same idea and covered the PC hardware space as well. Some of those sites are still with us today; many more are not. Between the Dot-com bubble popping and the Great Recession, conditions have winnowed the number of tech sites significantly. AnandTech’s surviving and thriving these events is a combination of hard work and careful planning, to do what needed to be done to survive. But more than that, it’s thanks to you, the readers, who have supported us over all of these years and continue to support us today.


Guess The Interfaces

Meanwhile the technology landscape has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. The PC market was once the growth market for hardware, and over the years we’ve reaped the benefits of improved engineering, improved manufacturing, and improved economy of scale. The $1000 PC I bought in 1997 was, even by the standards of the time, a piece of junk, pairing a Pentium MMX 200 with what ended up being a rather dodgy Socket 7 motherboard. Now one can buy a half-decent laptop for a fraction of the price, and the inflation-adjusted $1500 will buy you an awesome computer, likely with money to spare. The PC industry is still alive and well these days – and we continue to labor hard to cover it – but it’s now a stable, mature industry that doesn’t move at the pace it once did.

A number of hardware companies have folded or been acquired in the intervening years. 3dfx, Cyrix, Abit, BFG. Others have continued to burn brightly the whole time – Intel is still as powerful as they ever have been – and others still have skirted with death only to stage a dramatic comeback. We’ve watched AMD rise, fall, and then Ryzen (again), as the perpetual plucky underdog has always kept the rest of the PC industry off-balance.

The story for the second decade of AnandTech’s existence has been the mobile industry, which for most of that decade has burnt with same fire that forged AnandTech in the beginning. The rapid evolution of smartphones and tablets is nothing short of remarkable, and it has forever changed the face of computing, even for us PC enthusiasts. Mobile devices are a product of the extreme integration we’ve seen over the years, and I would be lying if I said the lack of end-user customization didn’t bother me on some level, but at the same time they’ve expanded our horizons as tech writers and significantly changed how we look at the development of new technology.

1997 was also the year of Microsoft’s famous $150 million investment into Apple, which perpetuated their rise to becoming the most valuable company in the world. The company, whose computers were based around the odd-man-out PowerPC architecture at the time, switched over to x86 in 2005 and has made a significant mark on laptop design, all the while pioneering the modern smartphone and tablet.

(As an aside, at some point early in the previous decade, I talked Anand into trying out a Mac as his desktop workstation. This didn’t go quite as planned, as Anand ended up liking it perhaps a bit too much. Sorry about that.)

A Bit of the Future

Now the technology industry is at a new set of crossroads. Like the PC market before it, the mobile market is maturing and reaching saturation. Meanwhile Moore’s Law, while still alive, is definitely reaching its end-game for traditional silicon. The technology industry has always been remarkable for its continued and sustained growth, and while I’m optimistic that it will continue, no one knows quite what that future will look like.

What I do know is that no matter what, AnandTech will be there to cover it, with the depth our readers deserve and crave. One of Anand’s criticisms of technology journalism – and what’s now one of our core principles – is avoiding the cable TV-ificaition of the Web: the focus on traffic and business over the needs of the readers, leading to shallow, 10 o’clock news-style technology reporting. I will make no effort to hide or downplay the fact that AnandTech is part of a larger business (Purch), but my vision for the site and the focus of the editors of AnandTech remains unchanged. As much as we can, we have to do right by you, the reader, by continuing to learn more about technology and sharing what we learn with you in a deep-but-accessible manner.

While I don’t have any grand plans to announce, over the coming months you’ll be seeing some new faces around AnandTech as we continue to expand and diversify. I am happy with our depth but I feel like we aren’t doing enough in total; we need more reviews, more news, and more articles discussing how things work and how the future will be shaped. So that is my goal for the mid-term, to bring you guys more of what you come to AnandTech for.

We also have some other plans on the drawing board. The site is due for an overhaul, and Ian Cutress might kill me if I don’t let him improve Bench even more. HTTPS is also everywhere, and real soon now we will be enabling it across the site. I don’t have anything specific to announce here, but we aren’t standing by idly. If nothing else, a more regular podcast would be fun to do.

Thank Yous

Making it to 20 years could not have happened without the help of many people over the years, some who are quite public and others who like to blend in and do what they do in quiet.

The biggest thank you goes of course to Anand. While he’s off doing goodness-knows-what at Apple (I don’t know guys, seriously!), the site he founded and the principles he laid out has enabled us to do everything we’ve done for the past 20 years. It’s allowed us to focus on quality and depth, and perhaps more simply than that, make a living out of learning.

But the second biggest thank you goes to the many writers AnandTech has had over the years, Anand’s early collaborators and later hires alike. It’s only by having writers specialize in their fields and become masters that we’ve been able to dive as deep as we have, and while many of those writers have moved on to other jobs, they’ve left their mark on AnandTech. Over the years AnandTech’s writers have endured a number of sleepless nights, working holidays, canceled social engagements, and uncomfortable flights, all in the name of bringing more information to you. Their efforts are what have allowed AnandTech to thrive over the years.

A thank you also goes to the hardware vendors out there, many of whom have been putting up with us for the last 20 years. We’ve killed hardware, we’ve asked uncomfortable questions, and we’ve pushed vendors to reveal more than they’d necessarily like to share. Practically speaking, hardware vendors could lock us out, but I think that we’ve found a much better path in working together. The amount of access we get to engineers to ask questions and bring these stories to life has only happened because hardware vendors see the value in the AnandTech mission. And that has been to the benefit of everyone.

AnandTech’s publisher, Purch, also deserves a thank you. And I know what you’re thinking here, but Purch has genuinely earned this. Purch has taken a largely hands-off approach and allowed AnandTech to continue to do what we need to do, even if it doesn’t necessarily make business sense at the time. As a result we’ve continued to be able to innovate and stumble at our own pace, operating with the agility that’s required to remain at the cutting edge of technology.

Finally, none of this would be possible without you, the readers. You’re our support, the reason we suffer through sleepless nights to get a 20 page article up for a 9am Eastern embargo. You’re our critics, letting us know when we’ve let you down or could do better. You’re our customers, helping to pay the bills over the years accepting our advertising and buying products through our affiliates. But most of all you’re our peers, the people we strive to share our knowledge with so that all of us can know a little more and be a little smarter.

Thank you to everyone for the last 20 years, and here’s to what I hope to be the next 20 years.

Now that the commemorating is done, let’s get to the fun part of our 20th anniversary: the giveaway.

For some of our past anniversaries we’ve done hardware giveaways, and for our 20th anniversary I wanted to do the best giveaway yet. It only seemed fitting that as a thank you to the readers that have supported us over the last two decades, that we try to give something back to you.

I set out with a goal to do 20 days of giveaways, one for each year of AnandTech’s existence. To do so, myself, the other editors, and the sales team reached out to our friends at hardware vendors across the globe to line up hardware for our greatest giveaway ever. The results exceeded even my wildest expectations.

31 vendors have donated hardware for the AnandTech 20th anniversary giveaway, smashing even my most optimistic goals. We still haven’t finished adding up the value of all of the prizes, but it’s tens of thousands of dollars. It’s honestly almost more than we could handle, if not for the hard work of the Purch community team in helping out to organize all of this.

So a big thank you goes out to our friends at Intel, AMD, HTC, NVIDIA, Seasonic, ARM, Asus, and more, for providing us with so many prizes to give out to you guys. I knew we had a lot of friends, but it’s only after you ask for free hardware to give to random readers that you realize just how many friends you have. And similarly, how these companies are eager to make a good impression with you.

Starting today and running through May 23rd, we’re doing 20 days of giveaways. We have CPUs, motherboards, phones, tablets, video cards, cases, power supplies, laptops, and even some bona fide swag to give away. Each giveaway is only open for 48 hours, so you’re going to want to check in each and every weekday to enter that day’s giveaway(s). Many will enter, not as many will win, but with the number of prizes we have available the odds may be more in your favor than you think.

However for our many international readers, I need to apologize. We’ve not been able to do international giveaways, and the 20th anniversary giveaway is no different. AnandTech/Purch is too big to do a clandestine giveaway, and that means we need to follow all of the relevant local laws on giveaways. And, as it turns out, there are a lot of countries out there who either dislike giveaways or require that someone in their country wins a giveaway in order for it to be offered there. As a result, we’re only able to open these giveaways to residents of the United States. I’m genuinely sorry we can’t offer anything outside of the United States, but I hope you can understand.

Anyhow, for our first giveaway I thought it was only appropriate that we go full-circle and start back where AnandTech itself started: AMD. So please check out our AT20 Day 1 AMD giveaway for your chance to win a Ryzen 7 1800X, a Ryzen 5 1600X, or one of four Radeon RX 570 video cards. And then check back in tomorrow and the day after that (and the day after that) for future giveaways.

The Morning After: Wednesday, April 26th 2017

This post was originally published on this site
NBA/ Twitter

In case you missed it yesterday, one Google cofounder is making a flying (kinda) car, while the other has a secret blimp, Uber is having a pretty awful year (already), and there’s a for-real tricorder. The makers of it reckon it’s better than the Star Trek one. Bold claims.


It’s not even May.
Uber’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad 2017

Uber could be the world’s most valuable startup, with estimates pegging the company as being worth around $70 billion. Its business, and its CEO, have always garnered controversy, but Uber has been able to survive whatever slings and arrows were thrown its way. So far. This year, however, has been, well, tough.


Wouldn’t you?
Of course Sergey Brin has a secret zeppelin

Since his Google co-founder Larry Page is working on a “flying car,” it only makes sense that Sergey Brin has an aerial hobby project too. In this case, Bloomberg reports that the mission is a dirigible, with an ex-NASA director leading the project. Even if it flies, however, the biggest hurdle could be explaining the difference between helium and hydrogen.


The X keeps it fresh
LG has OLED, Samsung has QLED and so Vizio has XLED

Vizio has finally unveiled its new for 2017 4K sets, and like Samsung, it’s rebranding LCDs to compete with OLED. Whatever you call it, the new P- and M- series televisions should bring high picture quality at value prices, but without that tracking scheme the FTC fined it for.


The XPrize Tricorder winner is half real medical device, half Dr. McCoy.
XPrize winner says its Tricorder is better than ‘Star Trek’

The Tricorder XPrize finally has a winner. The Final Frontier Medical Devices’ DxtER isn’t so much an all-in-one scanner as collection of noninvasive medical-diagnosis gadgets. Even so, its creators claim the DxtER package is better than Star Trek’s fictional tricorder. Unlike the fictional tricorder, the winning XPrize entry is actually a small collection of specialized and smart medical devices that interact with the user’s tablet. This includes a compact spirometer that can measure the strength of a patient’s lungs, a Mono test kit, medical-grade heart-rate and respiration monitors, and devices like the DxtER Orb, which doubles as a thermometer and stethoscope. Perhaps most importantly, it’s designed for patients to use themselves.


Fight as Rocket Racoon, Chun Li, Hulk and more this September.
The Avengers take on gaming icons in ‘Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite’

After a year of silence, Capcom has announced eight new characters for its crossover fighter — Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. Doubling down on Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, Ultron and Rocket Racoon join the playable roster. On the Capcom side, you’ll be able to duke it out as Street Fighter’s Chun Li, Resident Evil’s Chris Redfield, and Strider’s Strider Hiryu. It launches on PS4, Xbox One and PC on September 19th for $59.99.


An artificial womb could transform care for extremely premature infants.
Scientists successfully grew fetal lambs inside ‘uterus-like’ bags

Doctors at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have developed a new artificial womb that could benefit the tens of thousands of critically preterm (younger than 26 weeks) births in the US each year. According to a new paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the research physicians successfully kept fetal lambs alive inside a “uterus-like” plastic sack for up to four weeks — longer than any similar device before it.


It didn’t take long for the supercomputer to figure out how anxious I am.
IBM’s Watson looked into my soul and ‘drew’ my portrait

IBM’s “Art with Watson: Hidden Portraits,” is an exhibit featuring portraits of historic personalities like Marie Curie and Nikola Tesla, which Watson helped artists create by feeding them data collected using its natural language and personality insights APIs. IBM also had a Watson cognitive photo booth, where the supercomputer made portraits of visitors based on five different aspects of their personality: anxiousness, openness, agreeableness, extraversion and conscientiousness. Watson asks a set of personality trait questions, then draws a cognitive portrait represented by tiny icons of each of those aforementioned traits.


Come spend some time in the Genius Grove.Apple sees its redesigned retail stores as community spaces

Apple is banking on the (vaguely) social aspect of its stores. It’s both redesigning its 100 largest stores and launching new workshops to turn its stores into community spaces of sorts. The shops are still very much geared toward sales, but you’ll have more reasons to swing by on a frequent basis. The workshops revolve around new in-store Creative Pros who host free sessions based around Apple tools and Apple-friendly devices.

But wait, there’s more…

 

 

AT&T's faux 5G network launches in Austin

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Getty Images/iStockphoto

At last, 5G wireless is here… sort of. As promised, AT&T has launched its pre-standard 5G network, starting with certain parts of Austin. So long as you have a Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus, you can get speeds that should leave LTE in the dust. Expect downloads about twice as fast on average, the carrier says. Indianapolis is due for the next rollout in the summer, and there will be 20 total areas covered (including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville and San Francisco) by the end of 2017. And if you’re not inclined to Samsung hardware, you should see “numerous other devices” this year that take advantage of the new network.

The launch will certainly give you some bragging rights if you’re an early smartphone adopter, but we wouldn’t quite call it the dawn of the 5G era. As we hinted earlier, the wireless industry is still hashing out the details of 5G. You won’t get “real” 5G until there’s a standard, and that could change both the performance you expect as well as compatibility with early pseudo-5G devices. This doesn’t mean your S8 will lose 5G-like speeds the moment there is a standard, but we wouldn’t count on full support. Arguably, AT&T is launching its 5G network to shout “first!” — it wants to one-up Verizon’s 5G plans and show that it’s ahead of the game, even if it’s only by a matter of a few months at most.