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31Jul/190

Facebook is inching closer to a think-to-type computer system

Brain-computer interface systems already exist, but require users to mentally select a letter at a time on a virtual keyboard, a process that tends to be very slow. The UCSF researchers, however, tried to use context to help the machines translate entire words and phrases.

Researchers implanted electrical arrays on the surfaces of the brains of volunteer epilepsy patients. They were placed in regions of the brain associated with both speech and comprehension.

Subjects responded out loud to multiple choice questions, like "From zero to 10, how comfortable are you?" or "How is your room currently?" Using brain electrical activity only, the system would then guess when a question was being asked and what it was, and from that, determine the subject's answer.

If it first figured out which question was being asked, it could winnow down the possible set of responses. As a result, it produced results that were 61 to 76 percent accurate, compared to 7 to 20 percent expected by guessing.

"Here we show the value of decoding both sides of a conversation -- both the questions someone hears and what they say in response," lead author Prof. Edward Chang said in a statement.

The experiment produced positive results, but showed the current limitations of the tech. The electrical arrays, while less intrusive than probes used for other brain-interface experiments, still needed to be implanted in subjects who were about to undergo epilepsy surgery. And rather than merely thinking the responses, they were saying them out loud.

To top it off, the range of nine question and 24 responses was very limited. All of that is a far cry from Facebook's stated goal of 100 word-per-minute random speech translation using passive wearable devices.

Facebook believes that even the limited capacity could be powerful, though. "Being able to decode even just a handful of imagined words -- like 'select' or 'delete' -- would provide entirely new ways of interacting with today's VR systems and tomorrow's AR glasses," said the company in a post.

Naturally, folks might be concerned about giving Facebook (of all companies) direct access to our brains. However, Reality Labs Rearcher Director Mark Chevillet tried to address such concerns in Facebook's post on the subject.

"We can't anticipate or solve all of the ethical issues associated with this technology on our own," he said in a statement. "Neuroethical design is one of our program's key pillars -- we want to be transparent about what we're working on so that people can tell us their concerns about this technology." I'm sure you will, in the comments below.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/31/facebook-brain-interface-research-progress/

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31Jul/190

Spotify adds 8 million paying customers in three months

Spotify says that the growth in both free and paying customers is down to a number of initiatives, including "long-term retention" of users. In addition, new products, like the stripped-down Spotify Lite, designed for countries where data is at a premium, launched in 36 territories during the quarter. Spotify Stations, its Pandora-like experience, is also being tested in the US, and other experiments are apparently forthcoming.

108 million Premium users is nothing to sniff at, but Spotify is concerned that it's not quite close enough to its planned target of 110 million. The company says that its "winback" campaigns -- when people who don't continue paying for the product get offered a further three months at discount, are working. If there's a weak spot, it's the student plans, although Spotify says it was a failure of "execution," rather than of business.

The Swedish company pulled in $1.8 billion in revenue, of which $1.6 billion was premium subs, with the other $200 million coming from advertising. Spotify believes that its increased investment in podcasts and podcasting -- with the purchases of several studios -- is fostering a boom in podcast advertising. And the expectation is that podcast ads will become a bigger part of Spotify's overall product by the end of 2020.

Podcasts are clearly the biggest driver of growth for Spotify, and in three months, the company saw listener figures increase by more than 50 percent. And those figures can increase further after Spotify said it would team up with the Obamas' production company, Higher Ground, for exclusive audio content.

The company's net loss this quarter came to $84.7 million, close to half the loss it made in the previous period. Spotify has, once again, opted to throw its employees under the bus, attributing the losses to "social costs." That boils down to that, because Spotify's stock price rose, and its employees receive stock-related compensation, the company had to pay more tax to the Swedish government.

Spotify expects to see user numbers hit up to 245 million by the end of the next quarter, and 265 million by the end of the year. And, by the end of Q4, the company is hoping to have 125 million paying customers, although that still wouldn't see it making a decent profit. On the upside, Spotify has already reached a deal with two of the four major labels to keep their content on the platform, at least for the near future.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/31/spotify-q2-2019/

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31Jul/190

The Morning After: Google delivers a new look for Android Auto


The idea is to make it safer to launch and use apps in the car.Google's refreshed look for Android Auto is rolling out now

Now whenever you are in Android Auto and following a route, the information is shown along the lower portion of a car's display -- no more launching Spotify and wondering if you're about to miss a turn while choosing a playlist. The weird, notification-style layout of the home screen is gone. Instead, Android Auto's home screen now resembles a tablet with all your apps in one place.


Still $1,300.LG's updated UltraFine 5K display works with your iPad Pro

The UltraFine 5K Display by LG has returned to Apple's store after a months-long hiatus, with just one notable change. The updated version of the 27-inch monitor is compatible with the USB-C output from recent iPad Pros, making it a viable option if you need a large secondary screen for media previews or screen mirroring.


Wearables revenue grew by 50 percent.Apple's wearables and services made up for weak iPhone sales

Apple — which can't count on people splurging on pricey new iPhones the way they used to — is shifting to focus on its services business. It's not hard to see why, either: in the last two quarters, iPhone sales have dipped significantly year-over-year while Apple's service revenue continued to climb. Not coincidentally, CEO Tim Cook revealed that its Apple Card would launch in the US sometime in August.

Solid sales for Macs ($5.8 billion) and iPads ($5.02 billion) prove that diligent hardware upgrades do make a material impact on the bottom line. More importantly, Apple saw its wearables business -- which includes the Apple Watch, AirPods, Beats and more -- swell by nearly $2 billion since this time last year.


Q2 2019 profits dropped 56 percent from the same period last year.Samsung to fight falling profits with midrange phones, 'mainstream' 8K

So what does Samsung do when the money isn't rolling in quite like it used to? The electronics giant still showed an operating profit of $5.6 billion over the last three months, but that's less than half of its haul over the same period in 2018.

Besides the upcoming Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Note 10, Samsung said it's going to focus on midrange devices like its all-screen Galaxy A80. For larger screens, it's looking to make 8K 'mainstream' this fall.


Upgrade time.Back to School 2019: The best mobile devices

New school year, new gear. Maybe you're due for an upgrade, or maybe you broke your phone over summer break, or maybe you just want a new toy. Either way, you might be looking to refresh your slate of devices before heading to campus. For the mobile section of our back-to-school guide, we considered the best phones you can get on a student-friendly budget. We also threw in our favorite smartwatches for both Android and iOS users.


The trade war could have a direct impact on gamers.Sony warns trade war could lead to PlayStation price hikes

Following the company's financial results (almost 100 million PS4s sold!), Sony's financial chief Hiroki Totoki warned that US plans for expanded tariffs on Chinese products could force a price hike on PlayStation consoles. Passing higher costs to consumers could be the result. It's TBC whether or not widened tariffs will apply in the first place -- that depends on the US administration's negotiations with China.

The US raised tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods back in May, to 25 percent. A further tariff expansion would cover another $300 billion in products, including PlayStation systems -- and consoles are typically sold at slim profit margins in the first place. And the Playstation 5 isn't far away.


If it's not a problem, then why is it secret?Amazon's Ring service may already have 200 law enforcement agency partners

Amazon's Ring security service is working with as many as 200 law enforcement agencies, according to an email obtained by Motherboard. A few days ago, the publication learned that Ring forged partnerships with a number of law enforcement agencies.

Some of those partners are reportedly required to advertise Ring home security cameras in exchange for free units and access to an anonymized portal that allows them to request security footage from users. A Ring spokesperson denied that the program was supposed to be a deep, dark secret, but the company never disclosed the number of partnerships it maintains.

But wait, there's more...


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Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/31/the-morning-after/

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31Jul/190

‘Away Mission’ is a free-roaming ‘Star Trek’ VR experience

Up to six friends can take part in the 30-minute mission, which uses full-body motion capture technology to really immerse you in the Star Trek universe. As a team, you're tasked with investigating a distress signal from a lost spaceship, and along the way you'll use a tricorder, fire a phaser rifle, be transported to an alien planet and go to warp on the USS Discovery. "It's probably a lifelong dream come true for Star Trek fans," said game designer Michael Hampden, who directed the experience for Sandbox VR.

Sandbox VR -- one of a number of startups looking to get VR out of the home -- will launch Star Trek: Discovery Away Mission at its Hong Kong and San Francisco Bay area locations in the fall, with Los Angeles, New York, Austin, San Diego and Chicago to follow later in the year. A global rollout is expected by early 2020. It's not the first company to offer this kind of VR experience, but it is the first to offer a Trek-branded one, and given the success of Bridge Crew -- the at-home space exploration VR experience -- it'll have no issues recruiting willing crew members.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/31/away-mission-is-a-free-roaming-star-trek-vr-experience/

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31Jul/190

Vizio begins updating its TVs with AirPlay 2 and HomeKit

Apple device owners will be able to stream movies with 4K and Dolby Vision and play songs, or mirror photos, web pages, presentations and other content to Vizio SmartCast TVs. Thanks to AirPlay's multi-room powers, you'll be able to simultaneously stream to AirPlay 2 compatible speakers at the same time, in sync. That'll let you use a HomePod, for example, as a TV speaker, or listen to content in another room.

HomeKit support, meanwhile, lets you use an iPhone or iPad as a Vizio TV remote, or play movies, TV shows and music using Siri. A Vizio TV can also be used in "scenes" or automation programs just like any other HomeKit accessory. If Apple isn't your thing, Vizio TVs also support Google Assistant and Alexa via previous SmartCast 3.0 updates.

Vizio's SmartCast TVs range from $260 for a 40-inch V-series model to $3,500 for the 75-inch P-Series Quantum X. The update makes them a lot more useful to Apple owners, but Vizio said the update just started rolling out, so it might take a while to arrive to your neighborhood.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/31/vizio-homekit-airplay-2-update/

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31Jul/190

Amazon is turning indie superhero movie ‘Fast Color’ into a series

The women can telekinetically disintegrate and reassemble objects, as well as see moving colors. Ruth's, however, became destructive in her childhood, causing her seizures to trigger supernatural earthquakes. It's unclear if Mbatha-Raw will reprise her role, but Deadline says the series will follow her character's story. The show will also be headed by the film's original writers Jordan Horowitz and Julia Hart, who also served as its director.

Hart said in a statement:

"We couldn't be more excited about the opportunity to continue living in this world, with these women, and can't imagine better partners than Viola and Julius and Mickey [Liddell] and Pete [Shilaimon] and everyone at Amazon."

Amazon signed a first look feature production deal with Davis and Tennon's JuVee Productions in 2018 and landed Davis' adaptation of Octavia Butler's Wild Seed after that. Fast Color probably won't be their last collaboration if things go well between the two camps. We'll likely hear more about the series before it debuts. For now, you can watch the film's trailer below to get an idea of what to expect:

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/31/amazon-fast-color-series/

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31Jul/190

DJI reveals ultra-low-latency goggles for drone racers

Its specs could rival an analog system -- and even surpass it in some aspects -- with a low end-to-end latency of 28 milliseconds (DJI's previous highest spec was 50ms) and 720p footage at 120fps. The FPV system can record on both the FPV camera attached to the drone as well as to the FPV goggles using a micro SD card. Racers can capture video content on the FPV camera in 1080p at 60 fps or 720p at 120 fps, while the FPV goggles can record 720p at 60 fps, which can be instantly played back for quick review

The camera offers three modes -- racing, standard and LED (for low light) -- and can transmit to eight 5.8GHz feequency channels, allowing up to eight drones to fly simultaneously under one system. The kit is neatly packaged into a simple setup involving FPV goggles, an FPV air unit transmission module, an FPV remote controller and an FPV camera, and it's all ready to go out of the box. This is so far the only digital transmission tech on the market that performs at the same level as analog, so it definitely marks a new standard for drone FPV.

The DJI FPV System is available from today with two bundle options, the FPV Fly More Combo for $929 and the FPV Experience Combo for $819. The FPV Fly More Combo includes the FPV goggles, air unit, FPV camera, remote controller along with all the wires and antennas needed while the FPV Experience Combo includes the FPV goggles, two FPV camera and air units along with all the necessary wires and antennas.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/31/dji-reveals-ultra-low-latency-goggles-for-drone-racers/

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31Jul/190

GoPro adds Quik video editing features to its main app

It looks like most of the app's new features will live inside QuikStory, which GoPro launched as a simple way to create shareable videos from within the main app a couple of years ago. QuikStory's multi-clip workflow can now analyze your videos and identify meaningful moments to suggest for your story compilations. It can choose from any recently-shot GoPro videos, though you can also use any media saved on your phone.

The main app now also allows you to apply various filters within one multi-clip video, so you can put its 20 new filter options to good use. Further, GoPro has removed QuikStory's previous editing limitations. A QuikStory video will now remain in an always-editable format, making it much easier to go in and make changes. In addition to those improvements, GoPro has given its main app a visual refresh with a more modern UI and better navigation.

The company says it's planning to release more features to achieve a one-app experience in the future, including single-clip editing and new themes. You can give all the features that came out with this rollout a try, however, as soon as you update your GoPro app.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/31/gopro-quik-start-of-integration/

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31Jul/190

French hoverboard pilot will retry jet-powered flight to England

The Flyboard -- which can zoom through the air at speeds of up to 118mph -- can only carry enough fuel to fly for around 10 minutes at a time, so Zapata needs to stop on a boat halfway into his 20-minute journey to juice up. He came unstuck on his first attempt after he missed the platform by only a few centimetres. This time around, he's going to use a bigger boat.

The Frenchman already holds the world record for the longest hoverboard flight, which he set in 2016 following his 2,252 meter flight along the coast of France. And if this weekend's endeavour fails, it's unlikely he'll be giving up on it anytime soon. Despite losing two fingers during the Flyboard's maiden voyage -- when they got sucked into a turbine -- he has called it his "life's work."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/31/french-hoverboard-pilot-will-retry-jet-powered-flight-to-england/

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31Jul/190

Sony WF-1000XM3 review: Simply the best true wireless earbuds

The Headphones app will also allow you to change the Adaptive Sound Control settings, turn off that DSEE HX tech and change the function of the buttons on each earbud. However, your options are super limited there. You can choose between playback controls (play/pause and skipping tracks), Ambient Sound modes (on, off, noise-canceling) and Google Assistant. That's it. I found it best to have playback controls on one side with the Ambient Sound options on the other. And no, there's no option for onboard volume control. It's my main gripe with the WF-1000XM3. Every time you want to change the volume, you have to grab your phone or reach for your laptop. There is, however, a "quick attention mode" that's super handy. If you cover the left earbud with your hand, the music reduces to a low hum so you can hear what's going on around you. This is also available on Sony's XB900N headphones.

In addition to improved ANC and audio, Sony built a new Bluetooth chip for the WF-1000XM3. In addition to the usual connectivity improvements, sound is transmitted to both earbuds simultaneously, rather than beamed to one and then from that one to the other. Indeed, the Bluetooth is reliable, and I never experienced any dropouts. Ditto for video: not once did I encounter a time where the audio didn't sync up with the visuals.

Battery life is another area Sony bests much, if not all, of the competition. The company claims the WF-1000XM3 will last six hours on a charge with ANC turned on, or eight hours with noise-canceling off. I had no problems hitting that mark, and the included charging case helps keep the buds topped off. The case is larger than a lot of the ones I've seen, and it won't fit in your pocket most likely. Despite the added bulk, it does offer three additional charges or an extra 18 hours of total listening time. There's also a quick-charge feature that will give you 90 minutes of listening after 10 minutes. Handy if you drain them at the office and need to block out your commute with a podcast.

But it's worth noting, the design isn't for everyone. The buds stick out of your ear quite a bit, and they're larger than Sony's previous true-wireless models -- like the WF-SP700N. Unlike that sporty option, the company ditched the fin. Instead, there's a hump right under the tip that helps them stay in place. Despite the extra heft on the outside, the WF-1000XM3 stays put for the most part, once you find the perfect-sized tips for your ears. Still, these look like you're wearing two Bluetooth headsets -- like you're someone super important ... from 2006. If you're hoping to be discreet with your true-wireless earbud choice, these probably aren't the best option.

In terms of alternatives, Sennheiser is probably the closest sound-wise, but I found the Momentum True Wireless frustrating to use, especially the onboard controls. Plus, it costs $300. I also really like the sound of Master Dynamic's MW07, but they're still $299, and the battery life isn't great. Honestly, with Sony coming in at $70 or less than a lot of "flagship" true-wireless earbuds, it's hard to recommend any of the alternatives. But hey, they're out there if you need to shop around. Sony has a super compelling package, and it's better than the pricier options. The only reason to consider something else is if you want to take your buds to the gym. And in that case, the PowerBeats Pro are the best-sounding alternative that won't buckle when they get sweaty.

With the WF-1000XM3, Sony has brought its true-wireless earbuds up to the level of its best-in-class headphones. Powerful noise-cancellation, improved Ambient Sound mode and incredible sound quality make these the best option under $300. And really, they're probably your best bet at any price.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/31/sony-wf-1000xm3-review-true-wireless-earbuds/

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