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12-07-2019 Religion
Comment: What iPhone needs before wireless can replace Lightning or USB-C

Ming-Chi Kuo reported today that Apple plans to release an iPhone that is completely wireless in 2021. That is, an iPhone without Lightning or USB-C connectivity of any sort. I see several major hurdles with this strategy right now, but those could be solved by 2021. According to Kuo, Apple will release an iPhone in 2021 without Lightning connectivity. While many had assumed Apple would one day switch from Lightning to USB-C, Kuo seems to think that won’t be the case. Instead of going through another change in connectivity, Apple’s strategy will seemingly be to ditch outwardly facing ports altogether. According to Kuo, Apple’s goal with the 2021 iPhone is to “provide the completely wireless experience.” The change would first come to the “highest-end model,” then spread downmarket to the rest of the iPhone lineup. The hurdles 2021 seems optimistic for an iPhone without Lightning or USB-C. In my mind, there are a few major hurdles: fast charging, CarPlay, on-the-go charging, and diagnostics. Wireless charging is incredibly convenient around the house and even in the car, but that’s not always the case. When out and about, using a portable battery is one of the easiest ways to recharge your iPhone. With a wireless charger, this isn’t really possible. You also still can’t easily use your phone while charging it wirelessly. For example, if you’re sitting at an airport charging your iPhone, chances are you’re going to want to be using it while it charges. Again, this isn’t yet possible with wireless charging. Then, there’s fast charging. The iPhone 11 can charge at up to 18W when using a USB-C to Lightning cable. Most wireless chargers only charge at 7.5W or 10W. Wireless charging is great for overnight power, but when you need a quick boost, wired charging is still the way to go. Apple touts that using an 18W charger with your iPhone 11 can get you a 50% charger in just 30 minutes. That type of speed just isn’t yet possible with wireless charging. There’s also the issue of support and diagnostics. If something goes wrong with your iPhone today, you can plug it into your Mac and easily restore it to factory settings. Without a Lightning port or USB-C port, there would seemingly be no easy way to do this without going to an Apple Store. Lastly, CarPlay. While some newer cars and head units support wireless CarPlay, the vast majority don’t. And it’s highly unlikely that the majority of iPhone users will buy a car with wireless CarPlay by 2021. It’s not impossible Of course, technology can progress a lot between now and 2021. It’s entirely possible that wireless charging will be just as fast, if not faster, than wired charging by then. iPhone battery life could also continue to improve. The less we have to worry about charging, the more feasible it is to ditch the Lightning port. Apple made dramatic improvements to iPhone battery in 2019, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   9to5Mac

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12-07-2019 Science&Technology
These Are the Free Windows and macOS Apps You Should Be Using

When you buy yourself a Windows or macOS machine, you’re not just buying the operating system on top of your hardware, you’re buying a suite of free apps as well. These pre-installed, built-in tools can often get overlooked or forgotten about, so we’re here to remind you how useful some of them really are. Windows It’s only in the last few years that Window’s software suite has caught up to macOS in terms of attractiveness, but the company has been bundling software nearly from the beginning. Beyond Minesweeper and Microsoft’s homegrown browsers there are a few free pre-installed Microsoft apps that are worth a look. Mail It’s fair to say that not all of the native Windows apps have been a success since the tablet-friendly revamp of the OS, but we think Mail is an exception: It covers just about everything you’re going to need from a desktop email client, so you don’t have to fork out for the full-fat Outlook option unless you really need advanced mail management tools. It starts off by working with the free Outlook.com address you get with your Microsoft account, but adding extra accounts (like Gmail or iCloud) is a breeze, and it’ll identify the most important emails in your inbox for you. It comes with plenty of customization options too, and a dark mode, as well as standard email features like auto-respond and signatures. OneNote OneNote is free for everyone these days and comes as part of Windows 10, so it’s the perfect way to keep a record of... well, just about anything. Like similar apps such as Notes on macOS or Evernote, OneNote defies easy description, but you can think of it as a digital note pad where you can store everything from shopping lists to ideas for your thesis. Like much of Windows 10 now, OneNote can sync information between devices using your Microsoft account (there are accompanying apps for Android and iOS), so you’ve always got your notes and your photos and your scribblings at your fingertips. It’s especially useful if you use a stylus with your Windows 10 device, as it works well with digital ink. Your Phone “Oh no,” you might think, “not another app to help me use my phone and my laptop together more effectively.” But hold on weary traveler, because we have used the Your Phone app, and can confirm that it is indeed good. It’s really only for Android users though, as Android gives third-party apps the necessary hooks into messages and photos that are needed to make Your Phone work well. And it’s really those two components—photos and SMS messages—that make Your Phone worth your while. You can create and respond to texts right from the Windows 10 desktop without picking up your phone, and effortlessly sync pictures and videos between your devices, without a USB cable in sight. You will, however, need the Android companion app too. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Gizmodo

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12-07-2019 Cars
Tesla releases Autopilot update with new speed adjustments, stop sign warnings, and more

Tesla has started pushing a new software update for Autopilot with new speed adjustments, stop sign warnings, and more. There are a lot of eyes on Autopilot improvements since Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the automaker will push a “feature complete” version of its full self-driving (at least to its early access owners) by the end of the year, which is just a few weeks away. Tesla appears to be still quite far from that, but new updates are introducing some good improvements. In a new update (2019.40.2) this week, Tesla is pushing several new Autopilot features and improvements, including a new way to adjust speed on Autopilot based on the speed of an adjacent lane. When your vehicle is moving at a significantly faster speed than vehicles in neighboring lanes, Autopilot now automatically reduces your driving speed. This is helpful in heavy traffic situations or when there is a long line of vehicles merging into a different lane or exiting onto an off-ramp. When your vehicle detects that adjacent lane traffic is significantly slower, the lane is highlighted with arrows and its vehicles are highlighted gray in the driving visualization. This speed adjustment can be temporarily overridden by pressing the accelerator pedal. The new update also includes “Automatic lane change improvements”: Automatic lane changes have been tuned to make lane changes with more confidence. When the adjacent lane is detected to be open, automatic lane changes will initiate faster and be more assertive. Finally, Tesla is also introducing “Autosteer stop sign warning”: Your car may warn you in some cases if it detects that you are about to run a stop sign, in addition to stop lights, while Autosteer is in use. This is not a substitute for an attentive driver and will not stop the car. This is an early feature that will lead to Tesla’s goal to have Autopilot work for city driving. Autopilot is currently meant for highway driving, and the new Smart Summon handles low-speed driving in parking. When Musk talks about a “feature complete” version of its full self-driving, he is talking about closing the gap between the two features with city driving capability. However, Tesla plans to still require drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel and be ready to take control at all times. Musk believes that it will take another year to take the driver out of the equation, and even then, it will depend on regulatory approval per market. This new 2019.40.2 update is being pushed gradually to Tesla’s fleet and may take days or even weeks to get to the entire fleet. Furthermore, different car models could get different features. Electrek’s Take This is an exciting update that makes a lot of sense on paper, but it will depend on how it works in practice. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Electrek

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12-07-2019 Environment
Are we Headed Towards Climate Crisis Tipping Point? Here Are the Evidences

The tipping point—the point where small, insignificant changes and incidents become big enough to cause a massive shift. It's something that can be positive or negative, but in the case of climate change and our environment, it leans towards the latter. Are we headed towards a climate crisis tipping point? Researchers Say We Are Close to Climate Crisis' Tipping Point According to a news article by WIRED, a group of researchers published a journal on Nature, arguing that we are now closer to the point of no return and unleashing the nine climate demons compared to what was previously believed. "We argue that the intervention time left to prevent tipping could already have shrunk towards zero, whereas the reaction time to achieve net zero emissions is 30 years at best," wrote Timothy Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter, United Kingdom, as well as his colleagues. They also believed we might have already lost control if the tipping occurs. When Earth's system collapses, it can lead to what is known as "hothouse earth" conditions, wherein the temperature around the world can increase nine degrees Fahrenheit or five degrees Celsius. It can also cause sea levels to rise 20 to 30 feet high, as well as losing our coral reefs and the Amazon rainforest, making large parts of our world uninhabitable, as per National Geographic. The Tipping Points There are already evidences that we are headed towards a climate crisis tipping point, and they are grouped into three categories: ice, land, and sea. Greenland is losing its ice sheet, and Financial Times reported it might be nearing a point where the ice sheets will eventually shrink. The Arctic ice is also currently losing more ice, which could cause more heat absorption since ice water is more reflective compared to seawater. Soil that has stayed frozen throughout the years is also getting exposed, which is causing carbon dioxide and methane to be released into the atmosphere. It means losing ice can further cause warming. The Land and Sea Things happening on land are more grim, with the deforestation happening in Amazon and around the world's largest forests. Deforestation causes drying, which can fuel more wildfires, just like what has happened previously in the Amazon forest and other forests around the world, therefore losing Earth's lungs gradually. Additionally, the fires emit more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. The rise of the global temperature has taken its toll on our coral reefs, causing bleaching and their inevitable death. Besides global warming, the ocean's acidification and pollution are also causing more damage than what we thought, adding around two degrees Celsius in our global temperature. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Tech Times

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12-07-2019 Science&Technology
Find Out When Your Samsung Device Is Getting Android 10

One of the annoyances of owning a non-Pixel Android phone is that you’re often a second-class citizen for major Android updates. Google might release a big new iteration of Android, but you’ll have to wait weeks (or months) for your manufacturer to customize it for your device. Luckily, if you’re a Samsung user, there’s a pretty easy way to see when (or if) you’re getting the next big Android update. Well, two easy ways. First, you can just take a peek at this Twitter post from XDA-Developers’ Max Weinbach, who is rightfully upset that his Galaxy Fold has to wait all the way until April of next year for Android 10—seven months after its September 2019 release. Second, you can pull up the list yourself, which will allow you to check for changes to the release schedule. Start by launching your Samsung Members app. Look for a bell icon, as SamMobile reports, and tap on it to pull up a Notices section. (I don’t have a Samsung device to test this on, so we’ll have to trust SamMobile on this one.) You should then see a roadmap for your country, if it’s available. And that “for your country” part is critical, as the roadmap can vary by location. You probably figured this out by now, as reports are trickling in that Galaxy S10s are already getting the Android 10 update—but it’s an international rollout, and U.S. users will have to wait until January for their turn. This Samsung Members app is also where you enroll for beta operating system updates, so keep that in mind the next time a new iteration of Android launches; you might be able to get in on the action even sooner, if you don’t mind a few bugs here and there.

Read Original Article     ON:   Life Hacker

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12-07-2019 Science&Technology
Rocket Lab Launches 7 Satellites, Tries Hand at Guiding Booster Down toward Earth

Rocket Lab just launched seven satellites to orbit, and learned a thing or two about bringing boosters back down to Earth for reuse. A two-stage Electron rocket lifted off from the company's New Zealand launch site today (Dec. 6) at 3:18 a.m. EST (0818 GMT; 9:18 p.m. local New Zealand time), carrying an artificial-meteor spacecraft and six microsatellites high into the antipodean skies. If everything goes according to plan, all seven craft will be deployed about an hour after liftoff. But there was action in the downward direction as well on this mission, which was the 10th-ever launch for California-based Rocket Lab. (The company, which has a history of giving its missions playful names, dubbed this one "Running Out of Fingers.") Path to rocket reuse The first stage of this Electron was upgraded, "equipped with new guidance and navigation hardware (including S-band telemetry and onboard flight computer systems) and a reaction-control system to orient the booster during its atmospheric reentry," Rocket Lab representatives wrote in the mission press kit, which you can find here. "This mission will play a key role in helping us gather data and iterate towards our first full recovery mission next year," they added. That's right: Like SpaceX and Blue Origin, Rocket Lab plans to start reusing boosters. But the 57-foot-tall (17 meters) Electron is too small to feasibly make vertical, propulsive landings like SpaceX's Falcon 9 or Blue Origin's New Shepard, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck has said. So, the company intends to pluck falling Electron first stages out of the sky with a helicopter. The main goal of recovery and reuse is to boost launch frequency, which is part of Rocket Lab's core mission of increasing access to space. The company eventually aims to launch at least once per week with Electron, which can loft about 500 lbs. (227 kilograms) of payload on each roughly $5 million mission. "It's not about cutting costs at all, to be honest," Beck told Space.com in September, explaining that about 70% of the time and money spent on building each Electron goes into the first stage. "It's about increasing production. That's the sole reason we're doing it." ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Space

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12-07-2019 Games
GTA Online gets a brand-new casino heist and arcade business

The last big content update for GTA Online introduced the Diamond Casino, a new zone where players can gamble, purchase a luxurious penthouse, and accept new missions from a new cast of characters. Rockstar has announced a follow-up is coming to the Diamond Casino: a new heist coming in December. Heists in GTA Online are a set of lucrative missions that are tougher than your average job, but have a payout to match. The last heist was related to a doomsday bunker, and was released two years ago. This heist will be a little more down to earth, tasking a group of four players to break into the vault at the Diamond Casino and take down the Duggan family, which took over the successful business via nefarious means. Rockstar claims there will be more ways to set-up, prep, and explore missions than in previous heists; there will be multiple paths of approach to the end objective, different security measures to consider, and in-mission choices that will need to be made on the fly. A set-up may go hideously wrong mid-mission, requiring players to pull out their weapons and do things in a much more messy fashion. In theory, this should make this the most replayable heist yet, with both different routes to take and different outcomes for each mission along the way. Players will also get access to a new commercial venture: a retro arcade business property. This will work as a staging ground for heists, where players can practice hacking and vault cracking minigames. There will also be a very handy Master Control Terminal, allowing players to manage all of their businesses from one place, which is a huge quality of life addition for GTA Online. The Diamond Casino Heist launches on Dec. 12, 2019.

Read Original Article     ON:   Polygon

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12-07-2019 Games
‘And the Winner is…’ Apple Finally Announces Favorite 2019 Apps and Games

Apple finally revealed yesterday its favorite apps and games, as well as its most influential trends that, as stated in the company's newsroom, "drove app culture in 2019." Apps help an individual in simplifying life and expressing creativity. They also connect people from anywhere in the world, and of course, provide fun in ever app installation. With this year's best apps, the editorial team of the Apple App Store has touted its top picks on each of its hardware platforms, from iPhones and iPads to Mac computers to Apple TV. In a statement released on its website's newsroom, Apple senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, said that apps and games developers all over the world "inspire us all with innovative apps that have the power to impact culture and change lives." This 2019, Schiller continued, "that is as true as ever." The winners of this year's App Store Best Apps and Games, according to the company official, reflect Apple's worldwide desire for creativity, fun, and connection. Apple's Best Picks 2019 Apps For the last two days before this big announcement, everyone was curious about what Apple's invitation for its "Special Event" was all about. Though the company revealed they would soon announce their favorite apps and games, no other important details were unveiled. Yesterday, the company happily announced the diverse group of App Store winners in 2019 with Best Apps of 2019, and Best Games of 2019 is among the categories. For the Best Apps of the Year, the iPhone App of the Year award goes to Spectre Camera (Lux Optics). iPad App of the Year is awarded to Flow by Moleskine (Moleskin). Affinity Publisher by Serif Labs won the Mac App of the Year. As for the TV App of the Year, The Explorers (The Explorers Network) got the award, while Storytelling Simplified garnered the App Trend of 2019 award. The choices for 'app trend,' according to Apple via the list that came out on the newsroom page, are based on a set of apps or anything that can help tell people's stories. The apps include Anchor by Anchor FM, Unfold by Unfold Creative, Steller by Expedition Travel Advisor, Over by Over, Inc., and Wattpad by Wattpad Corp. Favorite 2019 Apple Games For the Best Games of 2019, they were also divided according to the hardware platform they belong to. This means that some games best suit the big screen or Apple TV while the others are more appropriate for the iPhone. Winners are Sky: thatgamecompany's Children of Light for the iPhone Game of the Year; Abylight S.L.'s Hyper Light Drifter for iPad Game of the Year; Devolver/Nomada Studio's GRIS for Mac Game of the Year; DotEmu's Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap for Apple TV Game of the Year; Simogo's Sayonara Wild Hearts for Apple Arcade Game of the Year; and Blockbusters Reimagined for Game Trend of 2019. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Tech Times

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12-06-2019 Games
The next Xbox is in the wild, connecting to current-gen Xbox One players

A late Wednesday post from the leader of Microsoft's Xbox team, Phil Spencer, confirmed that the first "Project Scarlett" console is officially in the wild, ahead of its late 2020 launch window. And current Xbox One players appear to have already unknowingly connected to it. "And it's started," Spencer posted on his Twitter account on Wednesday. "This week, I brought my Project Scarlett console home and it's become my primary console, playing my games, connecting to the community and yes, using my Elite Series 2 controller, having a blast." Without any extra posts or clarification as of press time, we can only surmise so much from this single statement. But it's admittedly dense. Primarily, Spencer affirms a few details that he and the Xbox team have previously announced about Project Scarlett, the current codename for the unnamed successor to the Xbox One console. For one, the only way Spencer is playing games that connect to the "community" is with existing fare, which confirms Xbox's pledge that all existing Xbox One software will play on Scarlett. Whether those games will receive any Scarlett-specific upgrades, like bumps to resolution or frame rate, remains to be seen. Microsoft has also pledged that all existing accessories for Xbox One will work on Scarlett, which is good news for anyone who bought last month's $180 Elite Series 2 Controller (which Spencer shouts out here). There's always the possibility that Xbox will release some form of upgraded controller, but we suspect that the Scarlett console's default controller will copy the buttons and layout of existing Xbox One pads (which already resembled other Xbox controllers' designs). Most intriguingly, this kit's connectivity to the standard retail Xbox One environment, as opposed to a sandboxed "dev kit" network, is a sharp turn from standard Xbox practice. Previous Xbox generations' dev kits have exclusively connected to private systems, including Xbox 360's "Partnernet" (which we used to test pre-release software in the 360's heyday). Does this mean Scarlett's specs are closer to finalized than we previously suspected? Journalists like The Verge's Tom Warren had argued that Project Scarlett's specs were "nowhere near final" as recently as this Saturday, which could very well be the reason Xbox went so far as to let Spencer brag about his brand-new "primary console." Of course, without clarification from Spencer, there's no telling whether he's honestly using an unfinished dev kit whose specs could be changed or boosted at any point between now and the system's "2020 holiday season" launch window. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Ars Technica

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12-06-2019 Science&Technology
MacBook Pro Diary: A third failure, and a potentially radical solution

To add to the faulty keyboard and swollen battery, it turns out my MacBook Pro has a third failure: a logic board fault. There was some good news when I went to collect my MacBook Pro today: the top-case replacement had been done. It had a shiny new keyboard, and non-swollen battery. The bad news, however, was that the machine still immediately shutdown when run on battery power… My immediate reaction was frustration at the fact that it appeared nobody had carried out a real-life test of the machine. The records showed that it had been put through all the automated tests, and had passed all of them. It also showed that a ‘functional test’ had been performed. This is what is supposed to be a real-life test: starting up and then running some software to ensure that trackpad, keyboard, microphone, speakers, and so on, were all working. However, what hadn’t been done was to startup or wake the machine on battery, as that’s what resulted in an instant shutdown when the machine was brought in and still resulted in an instant shutdown when I tested it on collection. The technician responsible came out, and we were able to solve the mystery. Why the problem was not properly diagnosed Not unreasonably, when you have a visibly swollen battery and a machine that shuts down when you attempt to wake it or restart it on battery power, the obvious suspect is a failed battery. The top-case replacement includes a new battery, so that should have solved it. All of which meant that the technician who booked it in for repair didn’t log detailed notes. He also rather understated the extent of the battery problem. Under Issue, he wrote this, and only this: Unresponsive keys. Battery run time too short. Intermittent shutdown. And there was a bizarre behavior too. Although the machine would instantly shutdown if you woke it or restarted it on battery power, that wouldn’t happen if you did either of those things on power and then disconnected the power. It would still shutdown randomly, but not immediately. The technician didn’t note those things. So, the second technician, who carried out the repair, ran the standard tests afterward – which include disconnecting from power and ensuring all is well. However, he hadn’t tested waking or starting on battery as that isn’t in the checklist. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   9to5Mac

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12-06-2019 Science&Technology
Instagram Now Requires Users To Provide Their Age

Users on Instagram will soon be required to enter their birth date in order to use the social networking app. The Facebook-owned company previously only checked that the new user was at least 13 years old. The changes are being made in the hopes of making the platform safer for younger users, Instagram said in a statement. The birth dates will be used to recommend different privacy settings and features. Birthdays will not be visible to the public. It will also be used for targeted ads, an Instagram spokesperson told NPR. "While we expect ads targeted by age to be more accurate on Instagram following this update, this isn't the reason we made these changes," Instagram said in an email. "Our focus is on developing new, age-appropriate experiences for young people using this information." Instagram said ads for age-restricted products, such as alcohol and tobacco, will no longer be displayed for people under the legal age limit in their country. The company also said it will soon give users more power to restrict who can send them direct messages. Reaction to the announcement has been mixed. Many have noted that Instagram is not verifying birth dates, which will allow children to lie about their age to gain access to the platform. Others are wary about the social media giant's access to more personal data. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   NPR

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12-06-2019 Entertainment
Boarding Group Needed to Ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance on Opening Day at Disney’s Hollywood

In anticipation of large crowds in Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the Rise of the Resistance attraction, Disney has announced that Boarding Groups will be in effect throughout the day. This is different from the original Boarding Group concept in that the virtual queue will be specifically for the new attraction, and not the land as a whole. If you plan on going out to experience it, no matter if you’re partial to the Light side or the Dark side, entering a virtual queue is required to help reduce your time in line. This will give you more time to enjoy the rest of the theme park. For those going to Disney’s Hollywood Studios today, the first step is to make sure you download the My Disney Experience app if you don’t already have it. Once you enter the park, open the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge section and go to “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – Access by Boarding Group.” Click on “Find Out More.” The next screen will share the current boarding status of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. If boarding groups are available, you may be able to tap “Join Boarding Group.” There will also be a display indicating which boarding group may now enter the attraction. Additional information about virtual queue: If “Join a Boarding Group” is grayed out, that means the boarding groups are full for the day and are no longer available. As long as your My Disney Experience account is linked to park tickets for you and the others in your group, you’ll be able to enroll everyone in the virtual queue at the same time. Make sure push notifications are turned on for My Disney Experience so you will be alerted if your boarding group is called to return. You’ll have up to two hours from the time of the alert to go to the entrance of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, so there’s no need to rush right over. Once there, you can expect to wait and spend some time getting immersed in the story and soaking in the rich details before experiencing the attraction. Please note that joining a boarding group does not guarantee the ability to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. If you have any questions or need a hand with the virtual queue, the members of the Guest Experience Team are available throughout the park to assist.

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11-30-2019 Entertainment
E.T. And Elliott Reunite 40 Years Later In A Commercial Sequel

Nostalgia is a hell of a drug. It has the power to reboot franchises on screens big and small. The sheer force of well-placed nostalgia can practically move mountains. Or can–at the very least–get us in our feelings for a minute or two. Holidays are fuel for nostalgia. Big movies like Star Wars come out, playing on our childhood loves, while Christmas commercials prey on our memories of yesteryear. But you can’t exactly blame the companies that use old characters to sell us new things–it works. Which is why we’re here to admit we’re total suckers for this new commercial from Xfinity. Not only does it feature characters we’ve known and loved for almost 40 years, but it also reunites them in a truly special way. Behold, the reunion between E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and his dear friend Elliott, with Henry Thomas back as the adult version of the beloved character. We’re not crying, you’re crying! First of all, this about the last thing we expected to wake up to on Thanksgiving morning. What a pleasant surprise. The special commercial is called “A Holiday Reunion” and works as a sort of mini-sequel to the 1982 Steven Spielberg movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. In that film, a young boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) befriends an alien from another world and hides him in his suburban home. He calls him E.T. and slowly introduces him to his family: brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton), sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore), and mother Mary (Dee Wallace). Eventually, the government catches wind of E.T.’s presence on Earth and the little alien escapes and flees back to his home world. His goodbye scene with Elliott and his family ranks up there as one of the more tear-jerking moments in the history of cinema. “I’ll be right here,” E.T. tells Elliott, placing a finger on the young boy. In “A Holiday Reunion,” an older E.T. comes back to Earth and thinks he’s stumbled on Elliott once again. But it’s actually Elliott’s children, who look a lot like him and Gertie as kids. Henry Thomas comes out of his home, excitedly reuniting with his old friend. (Who’s chopping onions?) The two connect, with E.T. once again welcomed into Elliott’s home. But exactly like before, the alien’s time on Earth is limited. The commercial is for Xfinity, owned by Comcast, which also owns Universal Pictures–the company that originally brought us E.T. A shortened version appeared on TV, but the full 4-minute version is available online. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Nerdist

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11-30-2019 Science&Technology
Amazon Alexa is about to get more emotional — here’s what it sounds like excited and disappointed

Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant will soon speak more emotionally. The company announced new tools on Wednesday that will allow developers who build Alexa into skills to express excitement or disappointment with varying levels of intensity. The voice assistant will be able to respond with high, medium or low degrees of the two emotions. Amazon said it built the feature because “customer feedback indicates that overall satisfaction with the voice experience increased by 30% when Alexa responded by emotions.” Here’s what an excited Alexa with high intensity sounds like, for example: And here’s how a disappointed Alexa with high intensity sounds: Amazon said this could be used in games, when Amazon might respond to a correct or incorrect answer. Amazon is also rolling emotions out to Alexa’s voice outside of skills created by developers. “We’re continuing to introduce Alexa capabilities that will help create a more natural and intuitive experience for our customers,” a spokesperson told CNBC. “For example, customers will begin to notice improvement when asking for sports updates depending on their sports team affinity, results of a recent game, and additional contextual signals. Alexa will deliver the update in an enthusiastic, upbeat voice if their team has won the recent game or just clinched a position in the play-offs.” ...

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11-29-2019 General
Alexa is about to be very disappointed

A general lack of judgment has always been one of the strongest appeals of smart assistants. Whatever bad pop song or terrible online video you play for the 10,000th time — they don’t care. They’re simply there to help, judgment free. Amazon, however, has been working on some features behind the scenes to help make Alexa more lifelike. Those involve bringing more emotional resonance to the smart assistant — namely the ability to make its voice sound varying levels of excited and disappointed. “Alexa emotions” feature three levels of intensity. For the full effect, here’s “I just listened to the Smiths and then Googled what Morrissey has been up to lately” mode: We all get down around the holidays, Alexa. Are you sure there’s nothing you want to talk about here? Amazon says users are feeling the newly empathetic assistant. “ Early customer feedback indicates that overall satisfaction with the voice experience increased by 30% when Alexa responded with emotions,” it writes in a post. The feature is available to developers starting today, primarily focused on gaming skills. That means they’ll probably start rolling out to applications in the near future. No word on whether it’s possible to set those flash news briefings to perpetual disappointment. The company is also rolling out a content-tailored delivery, design to give Alexa a style more akin to a news anchor or radio host.

Read Original Article     ON:   Tech Crunch

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11-28-2019 Science&Technology
Watch Google Assistant’s new Ambient Mode in action for the first time

In September, Google announced its Ambient Mode feature for Google Assistant, which shows useful information right on your lock screen when your Android phone or tablet is plugged in. A Google spokesperson has confirmed to The Verge that Ambient Mode will roll out next week to “the majority of users” on Sony Xperia phones, Nokia phones, Transsion phones, Xiaomi phones, and Lenovo’s Smart Tab M8 HD (when placed in its charging station) and Yoga Smart Tab (when using its kickstand) tablets. Oddly, Google’s own Pixel products aren’t yet on the list. Yesterday, the company posted a new video showing Ambient Mode in action, and the mode shows on-screen items like calendar info, notifications, weather, and smart home controls. It effectively turns your phone into a smart display whenever it’s charging. Ambient Mode looks pretty handy, even if it seems somewhat duplicative of a functionality you could already find on a Google Nest Hub, as my colleague Dieter Bohn pointed out in his original article. But in theory, it seems like Ambient Mode could tell you when your next meeting is, what your commute is like, and let you turn off the lights as you’re about to leave the house, all from your lock screen. Google says that, for a device to support Ambient Mode, it must be running Android 8.1 or above and have the latest version of the Google search app installed. There are some reports of the feature rolling out now to Nokia phones and at least one Xiaomi phone, the Redmi K20 Pro. It’s unclear when other devices might get Ambient Mode in the future, but the video does say that Ambient Mode is “deeply integrated” into Android and isn’t a standalone experience, so it seems possible that it will be available on more Android devices before long.

Read Original Article     ON:   The Verge

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