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Essential Phone joins the portrait mode photo party

The Essential Phone's camera was one of its bigger weak spots at launch. A few months (and a handful of updates) later and things have gotten better. The latest patch adds a portrait mode along with an exposure compensation control. As Android Police notes, the patch also includes a tweak to the device's JPEG compression algorithm that'll hopefully boost image quality, along with the usual stability fixes.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/11/30/essential-phone-portrait-mode/

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Stanford begins irregular heartbeat research using Apple Watch data

AFib is currently the leading cause of strokes; it leads to 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations every year just in the US. The app uses the heart rate sensor of the Apple Watch in order to specifically identify irregular heart rhythms. The Apple Watch's heart rate sensor works by using a green LED that flashes very quickly in order to gather data on how much blood is flowing through your wrist at any given point in time.

To participate in the study, you can download the Apple Heart Study app. You must be 22 years or older and have an Apple Watch. If an AFib is detected, users will receive a push notification, as well as a free consultation with a doctor that's a part of the study and an electrocardiogram patch for further monitoring of the condition.

Apple has discussed wanting to improve the health features of the Apple Watch, and this new study makes it clear how serious the company is. With the release of both HealthKit and ResearchKit, and now this study, Apple is positioning the Apple Watch as a true health monitoring device that can be crucial for preventative care. Jeff Williams, Apple's COO, said, "Working alongside the medical community, not only can we inform people of certain health conditions, we also hope to advance discoveries in heart science."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/11/30/stanford-apple-watch-heart-study-app/

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David Fincher’s ‘Mindhunter’ will return for season 2 on Netflix

As Deadline notes, Netflix has generally had good luck with new shows in 2017: 13 out of 18 have landed renewal deals to date, and only two haven't made the cut. Three more are still in limbo but likely to receive the go-ahead. And that kind of success is important -- when Netflix can't count on getting many big-name movies and TV shows in the future, it needs as many stand-out originals as possible.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/11/30/david-fincher-mindhunter-renewed-at-netflix/

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Best Buy claims Google Home Max will be on sale December 11th

The 11th feels like an odd placeholder date, though. Usually retailers will list for December 31st for items that have an ambiguous release window, so maybe there's something to this. Speaking of ambiguity, Apple delayed its own smart speaker, the HomePod, until sometime early next year. If the Best Buy listing is accurate, that'd give Google a pretty big leg up this holiday season. We've reached out to Google for more information and will update this post should it arrive.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/11/30/google-home-max-release-date-best-buy/

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Marriott wants guests to save and share their shower door doodles

Guests at the Marriott in Irvine, California can stay in a 'Splash of Brilliance' room equipped with the device. It's not terribly fancy: Like any glass door, it gets foggy during a hot shower and becomes a makeshift canvas to doodle on. Guests can save whatever they sketch out to a file in a paired tablet, whether it's casual notes or serious architectural plans.

To its credit, this lo-fi solution is likely a lot cheaper and simpler than sticking a waterproof tablet setup in every shower. The pilot program will last for the next two months, and may be rolled out further depending on feedback.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/11/30/marriott-wants-guests-to-save-and-share-their-shower-door-doodle/

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Google caters to the DIY crowd with an AI camera kit for Raspberry Pi

The camera kit comes with a cardboard shell, an AI-capable circuit board, a light-up arcade button, a tiny speaker, a lens kit with both macro and wide settings and various connection components, including a tripod mounting nut. You'll need to supply your own Raspberry Pi Zero W, Raspberry Pi Camera, an SD card and a power supply. The VisionBonnet circuit board has an Intel Movidius MA2450 low-power vision processing unit, which can run neural network models right on the device. You'll get software, too, which has three TensorFlow-based neural network models: one to recognize a thousand common objects, another that can recognize faces and expressions and a third that can detect people, cats and dogs. There's also a Python API that can adjust the arcade button colors and speaker sounds.

With this Raspberry Pi-based camera, Google says you can create a device that can identify different plant and animal species, be notified when your dog shows up at the back door, see if you left your car in the driveway, watch your holiday guests react to your decorations or even trip an alarm when your little brother enters your room. Of course, these are just examples. Developers and hackers will surely find even more exciting things to do with this device.

Google isn't the only company offering AI tools for developers to create solutions with. Amazon also just announced its own image recognition camera, too. Google's more DIY-centric AIY Vision Kit is available for pre-order now via Micro Center for $45, and will be available for delivery and store pickup December 31st.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/11/30/google-diy-ai-camera-kit-raspberry-pi/

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Wirecutter’s best deals: Save $70 on a Dell 27-inch monitor

Skybell HD

Street price: $185; deal price: $130 w/ code SKYBELLCM17

Use code SKYBELLCM17 in the shopping cart to drop the price of our top smart doorbell cam to $130 -- $55 off the usual price of around $185. This is the first notable discount we've seen for the SkyBell and the code works for both colors. Pick one up while this lasts as they're likely to go fast.

The Skybell HD is our top pick in our guide to the best smart doorbell camera. Stacey Higginbotham wrote, "The SkyBell HD's built-in motion-detection sensor proved more reliable than others we tested, and SkyBell has tweaked the model's capabilities since our previous update to this guide—when motion is detected, the camera now saves a few seconds of video from before the motion occurred. This means that you can see more of the event that triggered the motion sensor, making it more useful than other doorbell cameras. (With some other cameras, it's fairly common to catch the backside of a person who has triggered the doorbell as he or she walks away.) The week's worth of free video storage means you can go on vacation and still have a record of what happened on your front porch—without having to pay for that record. Customizable LEDs, plus integration with popular connected-home products and ecosystems, such as Amazon Echo, SmartThings, Works with Nest, and IFTTT, means that SkyBell HD is more likely to work with other smart devices you may already have."

Bodum Chambord French Press

Street price: $35; deal price: $26

While it's a dollar more than we saw during Black Friday week, the Bodum Chambord is a nice value at $26 and is at one of the lower prices we've seen for it in the last few months. This french press, the 34-ounce size, rarely ever drops below $25, so if you're willing to pay the extra buck, it's still a good deal and a nice present for the coffee lover in your life.

The Bodum Chambord French Press is our runner-up pick in our guide to the best french press. Sabrina Imbler wrote, "Designed in the 1950s, the Bodum Chambord looks like the quintessential French press. It also brews good coffee, and its steel frame is more durable than the Bodum Brazil's plastic body. Otherwise, it has the exact same beaker, internal plunger, and filtering screens as our top pick, the Brazil. In our testing, this press produced the same brew as the Brazil, retaining most of the tasting notes of the coffee and little of the grit of the grounds. We also found this model easy and smooth to plunge.

Imbler continued, "The Chambord is not our top pick because it does the same job as the Brazil for a higher price (sometimes twice as much). And though the metal exterior feels sturdier than the Brazil's plastic, the Chambord's glass beaker is just as fragile as that of any other glass press. But if you prefer the aesthetics of the Chambord, it might be worth paying the extra cash."

Coway AirMega 300

Street price: $450; deal price: $367

At $367, this is the lowest price we've seen on our upgrade air purifier pick, perfect for bigger spaces or worse allergies. The street price of this purifier has dropped from a sky-high $550 down closer to $450 in the last year, but $367 is still a really nice price. Pick one up and be ready for spring allergies.

The Coway Airmega 300 is the upgrade pick in our guide to the best air purifier. Tim Heffernan and John Holecek wrote, "If you have severe allergies or other serious health issues related to airborne particles, or if you need to clean the air in a large space, we recommend the Coway Airmega 300. It's HEPA-rated and designed to clear spaces of about 500 square feet at five complete air changes per hour (about 1.5 times the coverage of the Coway and the Winix at that level of air movement), or 1,250 square feet at two complete air changes. In our tests, the Airmega 300 and a slightly more powerful version, the 400, have consistently been at or near the top in terms of particulate reduction. Their unique twin filters permit very high airflow, allowing them to run on lower settings when the air is relatively clean or to rapidly filter very large volumes of air on the highest setting, as you might when allergens or pollution are elevated. But they are expensive; the 300 series costs about $1,200 (including the purchase price, electricity, and replacement filters) over five years—about double the cost of our pick."

Dell U2715H 27-inch Monitor

Street price: $470; deal price: $400

Since the street price has been steadily climbing over the past few months since this monitor has been discontinued, we've seen few worthwhile deals. This deal drops the U2715H $300 below the street price it's been at for November, and a solid $70 drop from the normal average street price. It's hard to say how long this deal will last, but it probably won't stick around.

The Dell U2715H is our previous pick in our guide to the best 27-inch monitor. David Murphy and John Higgins wrote, "Our previous pick, the Dell UltraSharp U2715H, is very close in quality and features to our pick and runner-up. It has two HDMI inputs as opposed to one and the USB ports are all on the back like on our pick, but its contrast ratio is a little worse than the U2717D. If you can find it for less than either of our picks, it's still a good monitor, but it's been discontinued, so it's unclear how long you'll be able to find one."

Because great deals don't just happen on Thursday, sign up for our daily deals email and we'll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go to thewirecutter.com.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/11/30/wirecutters-best-deals-save-70-on-a-dell-27-inch-monitor/

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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch has been pushed to next year

In an email to Aviation Week, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said, "We wanted to fly Heavy this year. We should be able to static fire this year and fly a couple of weeks right after that." The static fire test will be the first time that all of Heavy's 27 Merlin engines will be fired at once. And if all goes well there, Falcon Heavy should be ready for launch within the first few weeks of 2018.

There have been multiple launch delays with Heavy, which Elon Musk has attributed to the development of such a large and powerful rocket being "way, way more difficult" than SpaceX expected. "Falcon Heavy requires the simultaneous ignition of 27 orbit-class engines," Musk said at the ISS RD conference in July. "There's a lot that can go wrong there." And because of that, Musk has been very clear about where everyone's expectations should be going into Falcon Heavy's first launch. "There's a real good chance that it does not make it to orbit. I hope it gets far enough away from the launch pad that it does not cause pad damage – I would consider that a win," he said.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/11/30/spacex-falcon-heavy-launch-delayed-2018/

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Project Redspace imagines an office-car for megacity traffic

Project Redspace's REDS is an EV commuter vehicle that doubles as an office. The company says that a car spends 90 percent of its time sitting idle. So why not make it your mobile workspace? It achieves this with a chair that swivels 180-degrees and a fold down desk. If it also served Starbucks coffee, it would be the perfect workspace for travelers.

That car also has a modular offset seating solution with the chairs not directly behind each other for more leg room and those seats can be moved about the cabin. The doors slide like a minivan instead swinging out like a traditional car. Helpful for tight parking spaces. Meanwhile, the roof is a giant solar panel to help keep the EV charged up. It will also support wireless charging sort of like the BMW 530e.

While the idea is intriguing, the workspace/car will be far more intriguing once cars get to level 4 autonomy. But, it's good to see new automakers thinking about how to evolve the interior of the vehicle before self-driving eventually becomes a reality.

According to the automaker, it will have these vehicles on the road in China in two years. It calls the car it's showing off at the LA Auto Show an "alpha prototype." So the final vehicle might not look as striking as the one on display in the convention center. As for US shores, there are no plans to bring it to our less-than-mega cities. Which kind of sucks if you really like boxes.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/11/30/project-redspace-reds-concept-car/

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Homeland Security claims DJI drones are spying for China

Part of the memo focuses on targets that the LA ICE office believes to be of interest to DJI. "DJI's criteria for selecting accounts to target appears to focus on the account holder's ability to disrupt critical infrastructure," it said. The memo goes on to say that DJI is particularly interested in infrastructure like railroads and utilities, companies that provide drinking water as well as weapon storage facilities. The LA ICE office concludes that it, "assesses with high confidence the critical infrastructure and law enforcement entities using DJI systems are collecting sensitive intelligence that the Chinese government could use to conduct physical or cyber attacks against the United States and its population."

The accusation that DJI is using its drones to spy on the US and scope out particular facilities for the Chinese government seems pretty wacky and the company itself told the New York Times that the memo was "based on clearly false and misleading claims."

But this isn't the first time that the US government has butted heads with DJI. In August, a US Army memo directed its members to immediately stop using all DJI products due to cybersecurity concerns -- something that the Australian Defense Force also did temporarily. Shortly thereafter, DJI released its Local Data Mode, which allows users to cut off drones from all internet activity. And there have been some legitimate security vulnerabilities brought up in regards to DJI's systems. But the idea that one of DJI's main goals is to spy on the US seems pretty absurd.

In a statement to the New York Times regarding the ICE memo, DJI said, "The allegations in the bulletin are so profoundly wrong as a factual matter that ICE should consider withdrawing it, or at least correcting its unsupportable assertions."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/11/30/homeland-security-claims-dji-drones-spying-china/

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