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Sharp’s latest RoBoHon robot can’t walk, but hey it’s only $715

The robot's smartphone core allows it to carry out a range of tasks, from snapping and sharing images to (soon) controlling smart home appliances like Sharp's Aquos Android TVs and air conditioners. The company also encourages users, including children, to program its speech and movements using the on-board apps, of which there are currently 30 (with room for up to 46 apps in the future). Overall, Sharp boasts improved reactions and response times.

For businesses, the company is promising a feature that allows RoBoHon to offer guidance about products and exhibits in stores, showrooms, and museums. Another app will transform it into a receptionist with multi-lingual skills including Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean, according to The Japan Times.

Specs-wise, the smartphone part is still nothing to shout about, even though it's been bumped up from Android 5.0 to Android 8.1 and now packs a slightly larger 2.6-inch display (up from 2-inches on the original). It also benefits from a Snapdragon 430 chipset, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, and an 8-megapixel camera. The pico projector, however, has been axed.

The RoBoHon LTE model costs 180,000 yen minus tax (roughly $1,628) while the Wi-Fi model will set you back 120,000 yen excluding tax ($1,085). Add to that the 980 yen (around $9) monthly subscription fee Sharp is demanding and it's far from a cheap buy. But if you've got cash to burn, all three bots are available to pre-order today and will be released on February 27th.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/02/18/sharp-robohon-robot-lite/

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What we’re listening to in February

Kacey Musgraves Golden Hour

Billy Steele
Senior News Editor

Most country music these days is terrible. I make this statement as someone who grew up on a steady diet of country and bluegrass. I have autographed pictures of Garth Brooks and Billy Ray Cyrus from when I was a kid. "Dust on the Bottle" is still a great song. However, I can easily avoid country radio these days because it's just... not good.

Kacey Musgraves is one of the few exceptions. My introduction to her soothing voice was 2015's Pageant Material (which is also a great album) so when singles for Golden Hour started to debut, I was already hooked.

Golden Hour is definitely a country album, but you won't hear a lot of driving banjo, fiddle or pedal steel. Instead, you get what Musgraves calls "galactic country." There's texture and airy openness to these songs that obviously know their roots, but also bring in elements of pop, jazz and more. Spin described Golden Hour this way: "At times it recalls the aquatic haze of Madonna's Ray of Light, and at others the open-highway rumbling of the War on Drugs," Jordan Sargent wrote back in March 2018.

I call it a breath of fresh air at a time when country music badly needs one.

Standout tracks for me include "Slow Burn," "Oh, What a World" and "Space Cowboy," but Golden Hour is truly a complete record. It's an enjoyable listen from start to finish. The album ends with "Rainbow," the song Musgraves performed at the Grammys. It's an uplifting ballad of hope, and a song that resonates with me in the uncertainty of 2019. Some may think it's odd to end a record with such a slow, low-key song, but I disagree. After a dozen songs about love, break-ups and self-doubt, "Rainbow" is like a parting wish -- right down to the last line: "It will all be alright." There's a soothing optimism there I think we can all use a little of these days.

Punch Up the Jam

Terrence O'Brien
Managing Editor

Frankly, there was nothing about Punch Up the Jam to suggest I'd love it as much as I do.

Sure I like comedy and over analyzing pop songs (who doesn't?), but each episode culminates in a musical parody. And, let's be honest with ourselves, spoof songs are hard to pull off -- there can only be one Weird Al. It's not like I was super familiar with the hosts either. Demi Adejuyigbe is a comedy writer best known as one of the hosts of The Gilmore Guys podcast (and I loathe the Gilmore Girls with every fiber of my being) and Miel Bredouw made a name for herself as a comedian on Vine before transitioning to YouTube.

But, I've been on a bit of a music analysis kick recently and decided to give it a shot, hoping that it would be satisfy a similar itch as Dissect and Switched On Pop, but maybe make me laugh along the way. The first few episodes were a little rough, but I'm glad I stuck it out, because it's currently one of my favorite podcasts. The episode about "Jesse's Girl" is an early highlight, but the show really hits its stride with Ludacris' "What's Your Fantasy."

In each episode the duo, and more often than not a guest, break down a popular song, pointing out its most ridiculous elements and shortcomings. (Trust me, you'll never heard "Friday I'm in Love" the same way after you've heard the isolated vocal.) They spend about an hour pouring over every tiny detail from the lyrics and melody to the production choices until there's nothing left to dissect. Then they debut a punch of the song which is ostensibly an improved version, but is really just a gag. For example, after realizing that "What's Your Fantasy" is really just a list of places Luda would like have sex, the song becomes an ode to exhibitionism. And "Jesse's Girl" is all about what a weird obsessive creep Rick Springfield is.

Demi and Miel have incredible chemistry, which is one of the most important requirements for a successful podcast. But they're also incredibly funny and have already developed a community rife with in-jokes and references. And most impressively they've done it all in under a year. And as the show has steadily gained traction the guests have gotten bigger (Eliot Glazer, Jon Gabrus and Paul F. Tompkins have all be on the show) and the production value of the "punch ups" has improved.

But more importantly, the punch ups just keep getting funnier and funnier as both Demi and Miel have found their voices. They're easily the closest thing we have to a new Weird Al.


Amber Bouman
Community Content Editor

A company town in rural Tennessee. A vague biomedical goal to "gain a full understanding of the human brain." And a catastrophic event that resulted in the disappearance of 327 men, women and children. This is the mystery at the center of Limetown, a fictional podcast that follows APR investigative journalist Lia Haddock as she attempts to uncover the facts about what happened during "the Panic" ten years before.

Limetown uses many of the same techniques employed by non-fiction podcasts to provide the listener with background information: fuzzy 911 calls, clips of international newscasters reporting on the event, recorded phone calls and interviews with locals and law enforcement. But this also lends an air of credibility to the story that makes it feel a bit more real than say, the ghost stories of the Moonlit Road Podcast. As Haddock gives descriptions of her surroundings and environment, and the characters she interviews, she sounds much like the narrators of non-fiction podcasts like S-Town or Serial.

However, Limetown also excels in using background noises and scores to keep the listener in a heightened feeling of suspense. Eerie music you'd expect to hear on a Halloween CD lurks in the background, causing even typical folly sounds like footsteps or doors shutting to make you feel vaguely uneasy. Many of the episodes end with cliffhangers, which helps keep a steady amount of anticipation in the listener.

I, admittedly, consume a pretty steady diet of creepy media from true crime podcasts and horror movies to dark graphic novels and conspiracy websites but Limetown was one of the first podcasts to make me reconsider listening to it in the dark. On my walk home. Alone. Some of the events that Haddock experiences in the course of investigating Limetown put chills down my spine and had me jumping at small noises. But I'm also really impressed by the way the podcast pulls me into the story, teasing out details in each episode and giving just enough information to keep me (rather desperately) wondering what in the hell actually happened. What can I say, a mystery wrapped up in a conspiracy that involves creepy experiments? That is all kinds of in my wheelhouse.

I'm not alone in this either -- two months after its July 2015 release, season one of Limetown was the number one US podcast on iTunes. Season two was released in late 2018, around the same time that Facebook announced a 10-episode series starring Jessica Biel and roughly the same time that Simon Schuster released a prequel book. There's also a Reddit fan page that I'm currently avoiding to prevent spoilers for season two, but it apparently contains some theories that are just as spooky as the podcast itself. With only 11 full episodes (and 8 teaser episodes of roughly 1-9 minutes), it's easy to tear through both seasons. Just maybe leave a light on.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/02/18/what-were-listening-to-in-february/

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Audi helps you avoid red lights by suggesting speeds

Speed suggestions and TLI are available as part of an Audi Connect Prime feature on 2017 and newer models outside of the A3 and TT. You're still limited to using them in certain areas, however. TLI is currently available in 13 urban regions, including Dallas, Denver, Gainesville, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York (White Plains), Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area (Palo Alto and Walnut Creek) and Washington, DC.

The technology could become more useful in the future, though. Future TLI upgrades might use a car's automatic stop/start system to restart the engine when a red light is turning green, and a navigation tie-in could plan routes that minimize stops. Think of this as another small step toward autonomous cars. You might still have to take the wheel, but computers are minimizing many of the little annoyances.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/02/18/audi-helps-avoid-red-lights/

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Amazon’s Echo Wall Clock is back on sale after connectivity fix

The Echo Wall Clock was first announced by Amazon in September and started shipping just before the holidays in December. Just over a month after the clock was first made available to buy, Amazon decided to pull it because of problems with Bluetooth connectivity. That feature is essential to the device's function, as it needs to connect to another Echo device in order to operate with voice controls. With the fix, users will once again be able to set alarms and timers via Alexa that will be displayed on the 60 LED lights around the edge of the clock's face.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/02/18/amazon-echo-wall-clock-connectivity-software-update/

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Amazon’s new movie strategy includes 30 releases per year

Those movies that do reach big screens might not stay for as long as you're used to, for that matter. Salke informed Variety that Amazon was looking at a "variety of windows," clarifying in Hollywood Reporter that you'd see "less of the three month window" common to theatrical appearances. The internet giant might sometimes want to get movies to Prime video relatively quickly, sometimes as short as two weeks, while others might take their sweet time reaching home audiences.

Salke stressed that Amazon was still focused on snapping up movies that would "great for the service," and that it wanted to avoid the impression that these movies were "in a factory." It wants titles to stand out. Nonetheless, it's apparent that Amazon wants to blitz its rivals and acquire movies before they do. It went on a spending spree at Sundance, buying multiple promising titles and leaving competition like Netflix with more modest deals. While you might not see that pattern repeat itself every year, Amazon will clearly be prepared to open its wallet.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/02/18/amazon-jennifer-salke-movie-strategy/

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Scrapped ‘Final Fantasy XV’ DLC will live on as a novel

There are plans to release the novel worldwide, although it's likely to arrive considerably later. In Japan, at least, The Dawn of the Future will also be part of a larger Celebration Box that includes a Blu-ray animated short and an art booklet.

As with Andromeda, this is a consolation prize that won't completely satisfy fans who wanted more gameplay. Square Enix is tying up loose ends in a relatively low-cost way that frees up the development team for other projects. It beats having to wonder what happened next, though, and that's a feeling some gamers know all too well.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/02/18/final-fantasy-xv-dlc-revived-as-novel/

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Android Q’s revamped gestures might ditch the back button

The same build also suggests that Google could drop an option to revert to the legacy three-button navigation method and its accompanying recent apps view. If you're not a fan of Pie's approach, you might just have to grin and bear it when using Google's stock experience.

Whether or not that's what you get is another story. You currently have to access these changes through an experimental toggle, and the polished Android Q is likely several months away. Google could axe these changes if it's not satisfied with the results. With that in mind, it would make sense to shake things up given both the reaction to Pie and the shift toward all-screen phones with minimal interfaces.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/02/18/android-q-might-drop-back-button/

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What’s on TV: ‘Desus & Mero,’ ‘Anthem,’ and Academy Awards

While some are playing through a convoluted early access setup, EA's next big game, Anthem, finally becomes generally available later this week. Just before that, Desus Mero will return to late night TV with the premiere of their new show on Showtime, and on HBO the latest season of True Detective is wrapping up. Look after the break to check out each day's highlights, including trailers and let us know what you think (or what we missed).

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/02/18/whats-on-tv-desus-and-mero-anthem-and-academy-awards/

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Xiaomi’s fake-transparent Mi 9 isn’t hiding anything

As Android Police noted, the company has taken a different approach this time. Instead of insisting that the circuit board visible to the eye is the real deal like the company did with the Mi 8, Jun has laid out how Xiaomi etched a stark design on a 0.3mm aluminum sheet. He explained that the phonemaker will carve out the design on the sheet with a CNC machine using a tiny cutter to create all its tiny details.

In addition to explaining the process, Jun has also revealed that the phone will be equipped with a 7-piece lens, 48-megapixel rear AI-powered camera that features an f/1.47 aperture and 12GB of RAM. Like the Mi 8 Explorer Edition, the fake board comes with a prominent shoutout to Qualcomm, though it does have other written elements, including "Battle Angel," "Mi Fans" and "Super Mi." Jun said the aluminum sheet also acts as a heat sink, so it's not purely a visual element.

Unfortunately, it's not clear if the Explorer Edition will be released at the same time as the basic Mi 9 later this month. Xiaomi started selling the transparent version of the Mi 8 a couple of months after the device's launch date, though, so you might have to wait for this one, as well.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/02/18/xiaomi-mi-9-explorer-edition/

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John Romero’s ‘Doom’ level pack gets pushed back to April

Late last year, Doom co-creator John Romero announced plans to release a new pack of levels for the game more than 25 years after its debut. Sigil is a "spiritual successor" to the game's fourth episode containing nine multiplayer levels and nine single-player levels. While it will be released for free to everyone with a licensed copy of the original, Romero is selling two limited edition box versions, and now he confirmed that a delay in production has caused the release date to slip until April.

The downloads won't be available until after people who pre-ordered can get their Beast Box packages with artwork, custom USB sticks, t-shirt and other tidbits, so everyone has to wait. Hopefully after 25 years, a few more weeks won't be too much, although given Doom's accessibility for modding and the tools available, players can always use the time to play previously-released .WADs or work on a few levels of their own like its 1993 all over again.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/02/19/doom-sigil-delay/

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