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Engadget Podcast: Diving into Amazon’s latest gadgets and the Apple Watch Ultra

This week, Cherlynn and Devindra dive into the massive amounts of news from Amazon’s recent event. There’s a Kindle you can write on! And Amazon also wants to track your sleep on bed. We discuss what’s interesting about all of this gear, as well as why we still don’t trust Amazon with some of our data. Also, Cherlynn tells us what she likes (and doesn’t) about the Apple Watch Ultra, and Devindra explains why the Sonos Sub Mini is a pretty great value.

Stay tuned to the end for our chat with Josh Newman, VP of Mobile Innovation at Intel. He discusses Unison, Intel’s new app for sending texts and taking calls on your PC via your iPhone or Android phone. It’s something PC users have been waiting for, and it sounds like Intel is serious about making it work smoothly.

Listen above, or subscribe on your podcast app of choice. If you've got suggestions or topics you'd like covered on the show, be sure to email us or drop a note in the comments! And be sure to check out our other podcasts, the Morning After and Engadget News!


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  • Amazon hardware event unveils a writable Kindle, QLED Fire TV, and Alexa improvements – 1:19

  • Google’s Search On event details new features for search and maps – 26:29

  • Apple Watch Ultra, Fitbit Sense 2, and Sonos Sub reviews – 39:54

  • Intel and Samsung debut a PC with a slidable screen – 58:37

  • Intel’s 13th gen CPUs look impressive – 59:54

  • NASA’s Dart mission might have smacked an astroid out of orbit – 1:05:32

  • Oura releases 3rd generation smart ring – 1:06:42

  • Working on – 1:07:34

  • Pop culture picks – 1:08:24

  • Intel Unison interview – 1:15:26


Hosts: Cherlynn Low and Devindra Hardawar
Producer: Ben Ellman
Music: Dale North and Terrence O'Brien
Livestream producers: Julio Barrientos
Graphic artists: Luke Brooks and Brian Oh

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/engadget-podcast-amazon-apple-watch-ultra-123058978.html?src=rss

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How Sony unintentionally defined the skate video

In 2022, Tony Hawk is a household name, skateboarding is an olympic sport and it’s possible to master digital laser flips in any number of video games on TV. It wasn’t always like this, though. Early skate screen media consisted mostly of skeptical documentaries or whimsical California dreaming-style chronicles. Things changed when, in 1983, Stacy Peralta – who managed the ragtag team of skaters that Tony Hawk was a member of – effectively invented the modern skate video. Thanks to its performative nature, skateboarding would soon form a symbiotic relationship with the technology that showcased it.

The VHS invasion

Peralta claims he hoped a few hundred copies of his first video might find their way into the new VHS players that were taking the US by storm. “From the get go, videos were more lucrative than they thought they were going to be: It's this sort of famous thing that Stacy [Peralta] says that the first Bones Brigade video, they thought they were just gonna write the costs off as a marketing cost, but actually they made a load of money on it.” Author, professor and skateboarder Iain Borden told Engadget. The success of The Bone Brigade Video Show, and the titles that followed, exposed skateboarding to many more new eyes along with an all new revenue stream for the struggling “sport”.

In the ‘80s Peralta and his Bones Brigade team dominated on-screen skateboarding, typically on vert ramps, including several movie cameos. But Peralta’s polished style and squeaky-clean team wasn’t for everyone. Right at the end of the ‘80s, H-Street – a more grassroots skateboarding outfit – released Shackle Me Not and Hokus Pokus with a focus on street skating. Not everyone had access to a ramp, but everyone lived on a street, meaning this new style was much more accessible with the videos almost serving as a how-to manual.

According to Borden, H-Street put cameras in skaters’ hands to film each other and the change of pace and dynamic in videos shifted away from Peralta’s more conventional approach. This new format – skaters shooting skaters – complete with slams, skits, music and pissed-off security guards would become the template for the next decade. Not least thanks to another new technology that was about to land.

The VX1000

In 1995, Sony released a camera that would define how the skate video looks (and sounds) right to this day. At around $3,000; the DCR-VX1000, was the first digital camcorder in Sony’s consumer lineup. The relatively affordable price, coupled with its small form-factor and new, digital tapes – MiniDV – made it the perfect camera for gonzo filmmakers seeking professional results. The fact that footage could be easily transferred to a PC with a nascent technology called i.Link (which you might know as “FireWire”) meant anyone with a computer could now make videos entirely at home.

The VX1000 only really solidified its legendary status among skaters once it was coupled with the Century Optics fish-eye lens. “The fisheye was amazing. The audio was incredible. The colors look great. It had a handle built into it so you can follow somebody while riding a skateboard,” videographer Chris Ray told Engadget. “There hasn't been another impactful camera in skateboarding like that. I don't think there ever will be.”

Ray says he still uses audio from the VX1000 on his modern productions. “I pull a library of VX audio and I add those to the snaps, the lands, the grinds, things like that into my skate films because nobody has made a camera that has audio that's even close to as good.” Ray clearly isn’t the only one to think so, as this $300 modern replica VX1000 mic just for skateboarding attests.

To complement the sound, the colors the VX1000 put out would also become something of a hallmark of a good skate video. The bright, punchy hues the camera produced were the perfect match for the blue Californian sky contrasted against the beige and asphalt found in strip mall parking lots and other urban, skate-friendly locations. Before long, footage shot with anything else felt passé. “People were still making skateboard videos on other cameras,” Ray said, “but this was, like, the one you were taking a lot more seriously.”

Ask any skater what the golden era of skate videos is and you’ll get a different answer, but objectively the year 2000 ushered in a period of where some of the most impactful, high budget skateboarding movies ever were made, and most of them were shot with the trusty VX1000.

Menikmati, from shoe company éS and Modus Operandi by Transworld set the tone. Both came out in 2000 and heavily showcased the VX1000’s distinctive look and sound. Both are also very high profile releases in the skate scene, which only serves to fully solidify the camera’s status as the de facto tool of choice. Not to mention a badge of cool in its own right. “I mean, it's on skateboards. I've got skateboards on my wall with the camera on it. People make keychains, there's tattoos.” Ray said. “It's still iconic to this day.’

Redefining the standard

Of course, there’s a problem looming over the horizon. A 16:9, High-Definition problem to be precise.

For all the VX’s strengths, the whole TV industry was undergoing its biggest change in standards, perhaps ever. Widescreen TVs had been steadily replacing 4:3 CRTs and the new “HD” resolutions were making SD content look horribly outdated. Not everyone was a fan of the new aspect ratio, either. “I couldn't get myself to fully go HD because it was a lot harder. You're talking about a 16:9 image. You don't want to cut the wheels off and you don't want to cut their head off when you're filming skateboarding.” Ray said.

Worse, in 1999 Sony did release a follow-up to the much-loved camera, the VX2000, but it was a flop with skateboarders. Not only was the new aspect ratio harder to work with, the VX2000 had an inferior mic and, crucially, wasn’t compatible with the Century Optics fisheye (or specifically the “Mk1” of that lens that everyone wanted). Skateboard filmers needed to find a new sweetheart.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/sony-vx1000-defined-the-skate-video-130032368.html?src=rss

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NASA and SpaceX will study the possibility of using a Dragon capsule to boost Hubble’s orbit

NASA and SpaceX have signed an agreement to study the possibility of using a Dragon spacecraft to lift the Hubble telescope to a higher orbit. The Hubble telescope's orbit decays over time due to atmospheric drag, and reboosting it to a more stable one could add more years to its life. SpaceX proposed the idea several months ago in partnership with the Polaris Program, the human spaceflight initiative organized by billionaire businessman, Jared Isaacman. If you'll recall, Isaacman funded Inspiration4, the first mission to launch an all-civilian crew to orbit back in 2021. 

The space agency said it's not going to spend any money for the study and there are no plans to fund a mission to reboost the Hubble with a Dragon spacecraft at the moment. According to The New York Times, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science, said during a news conference: "I want to be absolutely clear. We're not making an announcement today that we definitely will go forward with a plan like this." NASA and SpaceX didn't even enter an exclusive agreement, which means other companies can propose studies with their spacecraft as the model. At this point, this partnership is all about looking at the possibilities. 

The teams will spend six months collecting technical data from both Hubble and the Dragon spacecraft. They'll then use that information to determine whether it's safe for the capsule to rendezvous and dock with the telescope, as well as to figure out how it can physically raise Hubble to a higher altitude. At the same conference, SpaceX VP of customer operations Jessica Jensen explained: "What we want to do is expand the boundaries of current technology. We want to show how we use commercial partnerships as well as the public-private partnerships to creatively solve challenging and complex problem missions such as servicing Hubble." In addition to potentially adding years to the 32-year-old telescope's life, the servicing solutions the study finds could also be applied to other spacecraft in near-Earth orbit.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/nasa-spacex-dragon-capsule-boost-hubble-orbit-133037538.html?src=rss

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Fixing inefficient oil field flaring could drastically reduce methane emissions

Oil and gas companies regularly use flaring (that is, burning unwanted methane) to limit the amount of natural gas escaping into the atmosphere, but the practice might not be as kind to the planet as previously thought. Scientists at the University of Michigan, Stanford and elsewhere have discovered that flaring is much less effective than the industry assumes, and puts out five times more methane (a strong greenhouse gas) than predicted.

Companies and governments act on the belief flares are always lit and burn off 98 percent of methane. However, aerial surveys of three US basins (where 80 percent of American flaring takes place) have revealed that the flares aren't lit up to 5 percent of the time, and operate inefficiently when they're active. In practice, the flaring efficiency is just 91 percent. That may not sound like a big dip, but it signifies that there's a large volume of unaccounted-for methane contributing to climate change.

There is an upside to the findings. Flaring's problems are "quite addressable" with better management, lead researcher Genevieve Plant said, and a solution would offer an equivalent emissions reduction to removing 3 million cars. To put it another way, this could be one of the easiest ways to keep methane in check and limit global warming. The challenge is to have companies and governments work in harmony — that's not guaranteed, even if the fix is relatively straightforward.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/methane-flaring-oil-extraction-worse-emissions-134504251.html?src=rss

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House, Senate Democrats ask FTC to fight Amazon’s acquisition of iRobot (updated)

Amazon might face some political opposition in its bid to acquire iRobot. Democrats including Senator Elizabeth Warren and House Representatives Jesus Garcia, Pramila Jayapal, Mondaire Jones, Katie Porter and Mark Pocan have asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to oppose the purchase of the Roomba creator. iRobot is a "powerful" incumbent in robot vacuums, according to the politicians' letter, and Amazon would allegedly reduce competition with the resources it could pour into the market.

The members of Congress pointed to Amazon's history of technology buyouts to support their case, arguing that the company snaps up competitors to eliminate them. Amazon killed sales of Kiva Systems' robots after the 2012 acquisition and used them exclusively in its warehouses, for instance. The 2017 and 2018 acquisitions of Blink and Ring reportedly helped Amazon dominate US video doorbell sales, while the internet retailer has also faced multiple accusations of abusing third-party seller data to launch rival products and promote them above others.

We've asked Amazon for comment. The online shopping giant frequently denies anti-competitive practices, and has even called for the recusal of FTC chair Lina Khan in Amazon-related cases over claims she's biased against the company.

The Commission hasn't said if it will take action against the iRobot deal. Reports circulated that the FTC reviewed Amazon's purchase of MGM, but didn't challenge it. Khan didn't have a party majority at the time, however, and movie studios aren't the same as robot vacuum makers. iRobot is estimated to have 75 percent of the American robovac market by revenue, according to Statista. It's already difficult for challenges like Shark and Eufy to thrive, and it wouldn't get easier with Amazon involved.

Update 9/30 1:40PM ET: An Amazon spokesperson claimed the politicians' letter had a "number of falsehoods," and that it would "cooperate" with regulators in a deal it felt would encourage competition. It wouldn't elaborate the allegedly false claims on-record.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/politicians-want-ftc-to-oppose-amazon-irobot-acquisition-144534035.html?src=rss

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USB branding could become a little easier to understand

The group that oversees USB wants to make it easier for you to understand what various cables and ports can actually do. It's trying to ditch branding like SuperSpeed and USB4 in an attempt to simplify matters, but manufacturers may not necessarily adopt the changes.

The steps are part of a broader drive by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) to rebrand USB standards. The group brought in new logos for cables, ports and packaging last year. The updated branding is about helping people understand what the standards are capable of in terms of data transfer speeds and performance, as well as charging speeds, USB-IF president and chief operating officer Jeff Ravencraft told The Verge.

SuperSpeed (also known as USB 3) has been around over a decade. You may have seen it on USB cable boxes. Going forward, USB-IF wants cable makers to use “USB 10Gbps” instead of “SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps” and “USB 20Gbps” instead of “USB4 20Gbps." Meanwhile, USB-C cables certified by the USB-IF will need to list both data transfer speeds and charging wattage.

The changes recently came into effect, and the updated branding could start appearing on labels and packaging by the end of the year. The branding guidelines apply to products with any type of USB port except for USB 1.0, which you won't see much these days anyway, and USB 2.0 (aka USB Hi-Speed). The USB-IF reckons that, in the latter case, using "USB 480Mbps" may create confusion for those who might see that on packaging and believe it to be faster than USB 5Gbps, simply because of the larger number.

The rebranding requirements only apply to devices and cables certified by the USB-IF. But, because USB is an open standard (unlike, say, Thunderbolt 4), there's nothing really to stop manufacturers from using SuperSpeed and USB4 branding if they really want to, as The Verge notes. As such, it remains to be seen how much these measures will actually clear things up for people who just need a cable for their device.

Knowing which cable you need is already complicated enough. Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 connectors and ports look exactly the same as USB-C ones, for instance. The updated guidelines won't do much to help you understand if a cable supports DisplayPort or a certain fast-charging standard either.

On the surface, at least, these seem like positive moves to reduce confusion and get rid of unnecessary verbiage. Still, it's unclear whether abandoning the SuperSpeed moniker, which was arguably less commonly used than USB 3 in any case, will actually help clarify things for most users. It may not matter much anyway given the increasingly widespread adoption of USB-C as a more universal standard — which is the whole point of USB in the first place.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/usb-branding-superspeed-usb-4-usb-if-150554927.html?src=rss

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Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 falls to $250 plus the rest of the week’s best tech deals

The week may be almost over, but there are still plenty of offers to be found. Apple's 512GB MacBook Air M2 has hit a new low price, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is down to just $250, you can pick up an Xbox controller from $45 and Lenovo's Smart Clock Essential with Alexa is at an all-time low of just $35. Here are the best tech deals from this week that you can still get today.

MacBook Air M2

The MacBook Air M2 with 512GB of storage is $150 off and down to $1,150 right now, a new low. We gave the updated laptop a score of 96 for its excellent performance, gorgeous display and ultra-thin design. If you don't need all that storage, the 256GB model is also on sale at $1,050.

Buy MacBook Air M2 at Amazon - $1,350

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

If you have your eye on Samsung's new Galaxy Watch 5 but were waiting for a deal, one has already arrived. Amazon's Woot portal is selling the 40mm model in several colors (Grey, Pink Gold and Silver) for $250, a savings of $30 or 11 percent off the regular price. We gave the Galaxy Watch 5 a score of 85 in our review, praising its design, build and comprehensive tracking features, with the biggest downside being battery life.

Buy Galaxy Watch 5 at Woot - $250

Xbox Core Wireless Controller

Amazon is selling the Xbox Core Wireless Controller for up to 26 percent off. The white model is the most affordable of the bunch at $45 (normally $60), but you'll also find significant savings for the blue, red and Electric Volt (read: neon green) variants. If you own an Xbox Series X or Series S, you know what to expect. The Core Wireless Controller largely offers Microsoft's years-old layout, just with an Elite-style circular directional pad, a share button and better grip. 

Buy Xbox Core Wireless Controller at Amazon - $45

Lenovo Smart Clock Essential with Alexa

If you’re looking to add some digital smarts to your bedroom without buying a device that features a camera, smart clocks are the way to go. One of the better options out there is the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential with Alexa, and it’s currently on sale. Amazon has discounted the device by 50 percent, making it $35 at the moment. We’ve seen the Smart Clock Essential go on sale frequently in the past. However, $35 matches an all-time low for the device.

Buy Smart Clock Essential at Amazon - $35

Samsung T7 Shield

The 1TB model of the Samsung T7 Shield SSD is still on sale for $100, which is just about the best we've ever seen. This rugged drive has a tough exterior that can withstand drops from nearly 10 feet, plus an IP65 rating for dust- and water-resistance. It also has the same read/write speeds of the other T7 models and works with a bunch of devices including PC, Mac, Android and even some game consoles.

Buy T7 Shield (1TB) at Amazon - $100

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4

Another holdover from last week, Samsung's Z Flip 4 has a discount of $100, so you can pick it up for as low as $900. This foldable came out just a few weeks ago and we gave it a score of 86 in our review, mostly for its still-innovative formfactor, improved battery life and useful hands-free functionality.

Buy Galaxy Z Flip 4 at Amazon - $900


HBO Max has discounted its annual plan, so you can save 30 percent if you sign up and pay for one year upfront. If you can deal with ads, the service will cost $70 for 12 months, down from the usual $100. To get an ad-free experience, you'll pay $105, which is $45 off the usual rate.

Subscribe to HBO Max

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/samsung-galaxy-watch-best-tech-deals-this-week-153005603.html?src=rss

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Anker’s Soundcore Liberty 4 earbuds can monitor your heart rate

Anker's Soundcore audio brand has revealed yet more products. Among them are the Liberty 4 earbuds, which can track your heart rate. The heart rate sensor is in the right earbud, so you'll need to wear that one to use the feature. When it's measuring your blood oxygen levels, the earbud will emit a red light. Soundcore hasn't disclosed the waterproof rating, which is odd given that heart-rate tracking functions are closely linked to workouts.

Soundcore says an algorithm can tune the spatial audio function depending on whether you're watching a movie or listening to music. The earbuds offer dynamic head tracking too. Soundcore is using a gyroscope to ensure sound always surrounds you. In addition, Liberty 4 offers adaptive noise canceling (which automatically adjusts noise cancellation levels based on environmental audio) and personalized sound.

You'll get up to nine hours of use on a single charge, Soundcore claims, and 28 hours in total before you need to top up the charging case's battery. These figures drop to five and 15 hours with spatial audio on, and seven and 24 hours when ANC is enabled. That said, Soundcore says you'll get up to three hours of use after charging for 15 minutes.

In addition, there's multipoint connectivity, so you can pair Liberty 4 to your computer and phone at the same time over Bluetooth. The $150 earbuds come in white or black colorways. You can buy Liberty 4 direct from Soundcore now and other retailers in October.

Soundcore has also unveiled new sleep earbuds. It says the Sleep A10 buds can block out up to 35dB of noise thanks to a four-point noise masking system.

Unlike Bose Sleepbuds 2, which only allow you to listen to sleep sounds from a certain app, you can play any audio through Sleep A10 via Bluetooth. Soundcore says its earbuds have dynamic drivers designed to deliver low-frequency sound that induces sleep. Crucially, the earbuds are seemingly comfortable for folks who sleep on their side. They have ear wings and twin seal ear tips to help keep them snug in your ears during the night.

Other features include sleep monitoring and a personal alarm clock. Anker claims the buds have a battery life of up to 10 hours, so they should be able to help wake you up in addition to lulling you to sleep. The Sleep A10 buds, which cost $69 less than Bose's Sleepbuds 2, are available from Soundcore's website for $180.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/anker-soundcore-liberty-4-earbuds-heart-rate-tracking-sleep-a10-163234047.html?src=rss

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You can now buy some YouTube TV add-ons without the $65 base plan

YouTube TV is now offering users the option to subscribe to standalone add-on channels without signing up for the platform's base plan. You can choose from 20 channels, including HBO Max, Showtime and NBA League Pass. Epix and Starz, which will soon be rebranded in certain territories, are among the options as well. YouTube TV is following the likes of Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Roku and Sling TV in adding standalone channel subscriptions.

The cable-style YouTube TV base plan costs $65 and includes more than 85 channels (the full line up will vary slightly, depending on your location). But you'll no longer need that to access MLB.TV, Cinemax et al through the service. Users who opt out of the base plan can still take advantage of YouTube TV features such as unlimited DVR space, up to six profiles per household and three simultaneous streams.

To some, it might seem unnecessary to sign up for standalone channels through services like YouTube TV when they have their own apps. There are some benefits though, especially if you subscribe to more than one. You'll be able to access the services from a single app that might be available on more platforms than standalone apps for Shudder, Acorn and so on. Managing your subscriptions with a single bill may be useful too.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/youtube-tv-add-on-channel-subscriptions-172712214.html?src=rss

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Magic Leap’s smaller, lighter second-gen AR glasses are now available

Magic Leap's second take on augmented reality eyewear is available. The company has started selling Magic Leap 2 in 19 countries, including the US, UK and EU nations. The glasses are still aimed at developers and pros, but they include a number of design upgrades that make them considerably more practical — and point to where AR might be headed.

The design is 50 percent smaller and 20 percent lighter than the original. It should be more comfortable to wear over long periods, then. Magic Leap also promises better visibility for AR in bright light (think a well-lit office) thanks to "dynamic dimming" that makes virtual content appear more solid. Lens optics supposedly deliver higher quality imagery with easier-to-read text, and the company touts a wider field of view (70 degrees diagonal) than comparable wearables.

You can expect decent power that includes a quad-core AMD Zen 2-based processor in the "compute pack," a 12.6MP camera (plus a host of cameras for depth, eye tracking and field-of-view) and 60FPS hand tracking for gestures. You'll only get 3.5 hours of non-stop use, but the 256GB of storage (the most in any dedicated AR device, Magic Leap claims) provides room for more sophisticated apps.

As you might guess, this won't be a casual purchase. The Magic Leap 2 Base model costs $3,299, while developers who want extra tools, enterprise features and early access for internal use will want to pay $4,099 for the Developer Pro edition. Corporate buyers will want to buy a $4,999 Enterprise model that includes regular, managed updates and two years of business features.

You won't buy this for personal use as a result. This is more for healthcare, industry, retail and other spaces where the price could easily be offset by profits. However, it joins projects from Qualcomm, Google and others in showing where AR technology is going. Where early tech tended to be bulky and only ideal for a narrow set of circumstances, hardware like Magic Leap 2 appears to be considerably more usable in the real world.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/magic-leap-2-ar-glasses-price-release-date-180041487.html?src=rss

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