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02-19-2019 Cars
2019 Ford Focus ST taps Civic Type-R shaming torque

Ford has revealed the new 2019 Focus ST, the latest version of its hot hatch, but there’s bad news to go along with the good. The punchy five-door hatchback drops a choice of gas or diesel turbocharged engines under the hood, for torque that could shame a new Honda Civic Type R. Either way, it’s all based on Ford’s C2 platform, which is used for all of the fourth-generation Focus five-door and wagon boy styles. To that, Ford throws in new suspension, braking, and powertrain setups, to keep the Focus ST suitably feisty. Arguably the biggest change over the old ST is the introduction of an electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD). It’s Ford’s first such system on a front-wheel car, and will be offered on the EcoBoost gas-engined model. The automaker says that it should make the hatch more responsive to fluctuations in grip levels, along with more reactive to driver inputs, by pre-empting what the Focus ST believes is coming next. Using hydraulically activated clutches, the Focus ST can shift up to 100-percent of the available power to either the left or right front wheel. Rather than tracking wheelspin and attempting to correct it, Ford’s system looks at powertrain and vehicle dynamics sensors to try to spot where power will be needed in advance. The diesel car, meanwhile, uses a more traditional braking-based torque vectoring system. Two engines will be offered. Ford’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost gas engine will have a twin-scroll turbo and anti-lag technology, and deliver 276 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. The 2.0-liter EcoBlue diesel, meanwhile, packs 187 hp and 295 lb-ft. If you’re keeping score, the current Honda Civic Type R does edge ahead on horsepower: it brings 306 hp to the table. However its 2.0-liter engine’s 295 lb-ft of torque falls behind the 2.3-liter EcoBoost in the Focus ST. Ford says it expects its gas Focus ST to do 0-60 mph in under 6 seconds. Ford will offer either a six-speed manual transmission for the purists, or a new seven-speed automatic as an alternative. The stick-shift promises 7-percent shorter throws than the regular Focus’ manual, and there’s the Mustang’s rev-matching system if you add the Performance Pack to the EcoBoost car. That adds a shift indicator light and a throttle blip down you downshift. The automatic, meanwhile, has Adaptive Shift Scheduling, which promises to optimize shift timings based on driving style. Alternatively there are paddle shifters on the wheel. The Focus ST gets drive modes for the first time, too, for different settings to suit different conditions: Slippery/Wet, Normal, Sport, and – if you have the Performance Pack – Track. A dedicated Sport shortcut button is on the steering wheel. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   slashgear

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02-19-2019 Science&Technology
MWC 2019: Everything we're expecting from the world's biggest phone show

A new Mobile World Congress is almost upon us. The biggest names in the phone industry will descend on Barcelona between February 25-28, with press events scheduled the day before. Here's everything we think is going to make an appearance at MWC 2019. Before we get to MWC 2019 however, we should mention the special launch event Samsung has got scheduled for February 20 in San Francisco. Thanks to leaked information and Samsung's own teasers, we know we're going to see the unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy S10 and the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus. Those phones will follow on from the Samsung Galaxy S9 and the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus we saw last year, but according to the rumor mill, a new Galaxy S10E model will appear this time around – a cheaper variant to the main flagships, like the iPhone XR. It also seems likely that we'll see the foldable Samsung Galaxy phone at this February 20 event, though its on-sale date might still be some way off. This foldable phone has been a long time coming (Samsung has been showing off foldable concepts for years), but it's now almost ready for its debut. Foldable screen tech is likely to be everywhere at MWC too. Just about every major manufacturer has a phone with a folding screen in the pipeline, and even if these devices don't actually launch at MWC 2019, we should see a lot of prototype demonstrations. LG is widely tipped to have a foldable phone on the way, but the company will be concentrating most of its MWC 2019 efforts on the LG G8 ThinQ and the LG V50 ThinQ flagships – the latter of which is said to be arriving with 5G on board. We already know that the LG G8 will come with improved 3D depth sensing on its front-facing camera, as well as a screen that vibrates to double up as a speaker, and the usual internal specs bump should be expected too. The V series phone, if LG follows tradition, will offer slightly better features for a higher price. Sony usually launches a new flagship device at MWC, and 2019 looks like being no different. The Xperia XZ4 is rumored to be making its debut in Barcelona this year, powered by the Snapdragon 855 chipset that is likely to show up in the majority of flagship Android smartphones over the next 12 months. The Xperia XZ4's most notable feature might be a rumored 6.5-inch, 21:9 aspect ratio display – that would make it one of the tallest phones on the market (or widest, depending on how it's being held). Other leaks ahead of MWC 2019 point to a cheaper, less powerful Xperia 10 waiting in the wings too. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   new atlas

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02-19-2019 Science&Technology
With the ZTE Axon 9 Pro nowhere to be seen in the US, ZTE is preparing to launch the Axon 10 Pro

emember the ZTE Axon 9 Pro? The last few months of 2018 was packed full of new flagship smartphone launches, so I wouldn’t blame you if you forgot about ZTE’s flagship. The Axon 9 Pro was supposed to be the successor to the 2016 Axon 7, but the new smartphone took away a lot of features that Axon 7 fans loved. It’s probably for the best that the smartphone was never actually released in the U.S., then. The Axon 9 Pro is available in Europe and China, and the company does support the product as seen by the recent release of an Android 9 Pie beta in China. Before the ZTE ban saga, we heard that the company was planning to release a 5G smartphone in the U.S. in the first half of 2019. While we don’t know if the company still has any U.S. launch plans, ZTE has confirmed the existence of a new 5G flagship smartphone. Announced on Weibo, ZTE is teasing a new flagship smartphone, though the teaser is a bit ambiguous as to whether the 5G smartphone will be an Axon smartphone. It’s possible that the company will release its first 5G smartphone under a new flagship brand, but Axon is ZTE’s existing flagship brand so it would make sense for the 5G smartphone to be an Axon device. The EEC recently certified a ZTE smartphone headed for Russia called the “ZTE Axon 10 Pro,” so we suspect that whatever smartphone ZTE will unveil at MWC will be the Axon 10 Pro. ZTE has set February 25th as the date for their new product launch, so we’ll find out their plans in just a week. I’m hoping to see ZTE return to form this year with a new Axon smartphone that pleases their fans but also introduces new features to stay competitive with the crazy tech we’ll see this year. We don’t know anything about the ZTE Axon 10 Pro, but we’re guessing it’ll feature the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 mobile platform and will run on Android 9 Pie-based MiFavor 9. If you haven’t seen the Axon 9 Pro yet, check out our hands-on of the device from IFA.

Read Original Article     ON:   xda developers

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02-19-2019 Science&Technology
Man discovers working 30-year-old Apple IIe in parents' attic

What just happened? A lot of readers might hold on to their old computers, though most of them are unlikely to work after spending decades gathering dust. But that wasn’t the case for one law professor from New York University, who discovered that an old Apple IIe found in his parents’ attic was still in working order. Professor John Pfaff, from Fordham University in New York, discovered the 30-year-old third model in the Apple II series, which was released back in 1983. Despite sitting in the same location for years, it still booted up and played games. “Put in an old game disk. Asks if I want to restore a saved game. And finds one! It must be 30 years old. I'm 10 years old again,” he tweeted. The game in question was Adventureland, the first text adventure game for microcomputers released by Scott Adams in 1978. Pfaff also tried out several other titles, including trivia game Millionware, Olympic Decathlon, and Neuromancer, which is loosely based on the 1989 book by William Gibson. The professor also found a letter his dad typed to him in 1986, when he was 11 and at summer camp. The main unit for the Apple IIe originally launched with a $1,395 price tag, equivalent to around $3,510 today. Buying it with accessories such as the monitor brought the price up to $1,995 (around $5,025 today). It came with new features including upper and lower case letters, full functionality of the Shift and Caps Lock keys, and four-way cursor control. It also boasted 64KB of RAM as standard, expandable to 1MB. The machine was discontinued in 1993.

Read Original Article     ON:   techspot

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02-19-2019 Science&Technology
Apple foldable display patent showcases multiple interesting designs

Foldable display tech is quickly and surely shaping up as the most explosive tech "hot topic" of 2019. Everybody who's anybody and their uncle seems to be working on a concept right now. And while the tech clearly still has its limitations, as evidenced by the first actual, even if obscure, devices we have seen out of the gate, the hype is very much there and growing rapidly. MWC 2019 will surely fuel that even further with players like Samsung, Huawei, LG and Xiaomi expected to touch on the topic in some way and perhaps even show off devices. Meanwhile Cupertino seems to be taking its time assessing the situation. As per previous rumors and industry-insider comments, Apple is planning its first foldable display device for 2020. Allegedly complete with a "different approach". Well, "innie vs outie" folding, like many have suggested, apparently doesn’t even begin to cover all that Apple is currently experimenting with. A very recent patent filing, or rather continuation of an original document from 2011, later updated in 2016, now features a sea of intriguing diagrams. These pretty much go through every possible way a foldable display could be mounted on a device and made to work mechanically. Some are clearly simpler than others - just take two parts, hinge them together and slap a foldable display on one side. That does, however, leave the question of where the excess "display" would end up once the device is fully closed. The first couple of pictures show an overly-ambitious design, since current foldable panel tech can't come close to such extreme angle and small diameter bends. What you're a lot more likely to end up with is a slightly awkward loop, much like the one on figure 9. Instantly invoking associations with Microsoft surface devices. But just because you might have to accommodate the bend to work within the limits of current tech, doesn't necessarily mean you have to end up with an awkwardly-closing device. Having the display wrap around the outside of the rest of the device is one obvious solution. It seems to be the approach most early adopters among device manufacturers are currently gravitating towards. This is where the hinge design starts to really come into play. You can actually achieve pretty interesting component positioning via a multi-link assembly. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   gsm arena

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02-19-2019 Games
PlayStation Now still isn't good enough

Sony launched its subscription plans for PlayStation Now, a service that lets you download and stream games from an ever-growing library, on January 13th, 2015. Since then, a lot has changed. The company has added PS4 blockbusters and PS2 classics to its once PS3-only catalog. Meanwhile, Xbox Games Pass, Discord Nitro and others have emerged as competent pay-once, play-anything contenders on rival platforms. Many technology behemoths, including Google and, reportedly, Amazon and Verizon, are also experimenting with hardware-agnostic game streaming. In 2019, is PlayStation Now worth $19.99 per month? Or a $100 annual subscription? For a narrow subset of PC and PlayStation 4 owners, yes. Sony's subscription service currently offers over 700 games. (I counted 646 on February 11th, 2019, in the UK.) The company's marketing is quick to highlight its biggest and most-loved titles, including Red Dead Redemption, Steep and Mafia III. Scroll across to the 'All Games' tab, however, and you'll find that the heavyweight pickings are slim. The bulk of the library is filled with forgettable titles such as Alien Spidy, Gem Smashers and Kung Fu Rabbit. There are four Formula 1 games -- yes, four -- ranging from F1 2014 to 2017. While a valuable form of game preservation, they feel like needless padding. How many people want to go back and play F1 2014? The catalog does have some big hitters, however, including The Last of Us (the PS3 version, not the PS4 remaster), Fallout: New Vegas and BioShock Infinite. But as I started bookmarking titles, I quickly realized how many were already sitting in my library. Bloodborne, Until Dawn, For Honor, Mafia III, Journey, God of War III: Remastered -- I had earned all of these through PlayStation Plus, an older subscription service that costs $9.99 per month or $59.99 per year and is required to play PS4 games online. As I started bookmarking titles, I quickly realized how many were already sitting in my library. You don't need PS Plus to take out a PlayStation Now subscription. That means you could ditch PS Plus -- which usually means forfeiting your library of 'free' games -- and still have access to the titles I just mentioned. So which, if any, should you choose? If you own a PS4 and play anything with an online multiplayer component, you obviously need PS Plus. PlayStation Now has a bigger and broader selection of 'free' games, though, in particular for people who are new to the ecosystem and haven't accrued a decent library of PS Plus games. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   engadget

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02-19-2019 Science&Technology
Chrome to patch loophole that allows sites to block Incognito mode users

Future versions of Chrome will fix a loophole that lets websites detect and block users who attempt to access them using the browser’s Incognito mode, reports 9to5Google. As well as not storing any local records of your browsing history, Chrome’s Incognito mode stops websites from being able to track you using cookies. However, because so much of the web’s ad revenue relies on this tracking data, some sites, such as The Boston Globe and MIT Technology Review, prevent you from reading their articles if you visit them using this mode. Most sites do this by trying to use the “FileSystem” API, which is disabled while using Incognito mode because it allows permanent files to be created. However, recent commits to Chromium’s source code, which were first spotted by 9to5Google, show that the browser will soon trick websites into believing its FileSystem API is always operational. When sites request to use the API when the browser is in Incognito mode in the future, Chrome will no longer return a conspicuous error. Instead, it will create a virtual file system in RAM. This will then get deleted at the end of your Incognito session, so that no permanent record can be created. However, this workaround could end up being a short term fix before the FileSystem API is removed entirely. Internal design documents seen by 9to5Google suggest that the feature could be removed if Google discovers that it’s not seeing any legitimate use outside of discovering Incognito mode users. The fix is currently aiming to arrive as an opt-in feature with Chrome 74, accessible via the “chrome://flags” menu of experimental features. That’s expected to arrive in April, before hopefully being turned on by default in Chrome 76. We’ve contacted Google for comment, and will update this piece if we hear a response.

Read Original Article     ON:   the verge

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02-19-2019 Science&Technology
Samsung’s Blu-ray days are over

Samsung is bowing out of Blu-ray in the US, with the electronics behemoth confirming that it will no longer be offering the disc-based media players. The company’s last new Blu-ray players were released in 2017, with 4K Ultra HD support as well as apps for streaming services. 2018 came and went, however, and no new Samsung Blu-ray players arrived in the US. Typically, the company would use IFA in Berlin, Germany, and CES, in Las Vegas, NV, to unveil its latest models. The news comes as little surprise, mind. Blu-ray has taken a back seat in recent years, and though home theater aficionados still prefer the disc-based media for its high resolution, the convenience of streaming services like Netflix, iTunes, and other platforms have seen them gain far greater traction. Samsung itself hastened that, with integrated apps for the more popular services preloaded onto its smart TVs. Word of the discontinuation broke on Forbes, with Samsung confirming that it no longer had 4K Blu-ray player plans for the US. That came after unnamed A/V dealers shared word from the company that they shouldn’t expect new hardware this year. Samsung than confirmed to CNET that regular, non-4K Blu-ray players were also being dropped, with the more affordable 1080p Full HD models also getting the axe. It means a premature end to at least one high-end Samsung Blu-ray player that was supposedly on the roadmap for 2019. Although not yet officially announced, the player is said to have been a single-deck model. No other specifications have been leaked. It leaves those still clinging to Blu-ray in a much smaller market. Samsung’s decision follows an announcement last year by Oppo, that it too would be exiting the Blu-ray player space. That’s despite its recent models proving particularly well-received by users. Of course, Samsung wasn’t the only company still making the players. Sony and Panasonic are still in the space, along with some other firms, so it’s not like those wanting a Blu-ray deck will be left entirely in the cold. What Samsung may be doing in other regions is unclear at this stage. Although the US market for Blu-ray may now be too small for it to consider worth pursuing, the situation in other countries could well be very different. The success of streaming services depends on a number of factors, after all, not least licensing deals and the prevalence of high-speed – and non-bandwidth-capped – internet connections. That could well mean that Samsung Blu-ray hardware remains available in other locations.

Read Original Article     ON:   slashgear

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02-18-2019 Science&Technology
With Galaxy S10, 5G and foldable devices, Samsung hopes to get its mojo back

Feel like your Samsung phone's a little boring? That's about to change. Samsung's phone lineup will take a huge leap this year. Among the advances: fingerprint readers, super-fast 5G connectivity and even foldable phones that expand into tablets. We'll get a glimpse of those new features and more on Wednesday, when the company hosts its Unpacked event at San Francisco's Bill Graham Auditorium. Samsung will kick off its keynote at 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET. The South Korean phone giant will use Unpacked to introduce its new Galaxy S10 lineup, the phones many of us will buy over the next year. It's also expected to show off wearables, in addition to talking up its 5G push and foldable phone. The event will be jam-packed with some of the biggest changes to Samsung devices in years. Unpacked can't come soon enough. Let's face it, phones just haven't been exciting lately. It's become harder for manufacturers to cram new innovations into their rectangular slabs of glass each year, even though prices keep going up. Suffering from both phone fatigue and sticker shock, many of us are hanging onto our devices longer than before. Samsung, Apple and everyone else need to work harder to woo us into spending. Smartphone shipments dropped 5 percent to 376 million units last year, according to Strategy Analytics. "This was the first time ever in history the global smartphone market has declined on a full-year basis," Strategy Analytics analyst Linda Sui said. "It is a landmark event." Last month, Samsung reported a steep drop in revenue and profits as the sluggish smartphone market took its toll. Most of its businesses, from chips to displays, felt the effects of weaker demand and stiffer competition in the handset sector. Smartphone sales declined, memory chips destined for handsets didn't sell as well and mobile displays suffered. Overall, Samsung shipped 291.3 million smartphones last year, Strategy Analytics said, down 8.3 percent from 2017. Samsung, which declined to comment ahead of Unpacked, hopes the changes it's making to its lineup will be enough to get us to open our wallets again. At the very least, the company wants us to be intrigued enough to head to its new stores to see the devices in person. Galaxy S10 tweaks Samsung has struggled with the same problem as everyone in the mobile industry: making changes big enough to get people to upgrade. Last year's Galaxy S9, S9 Plus and Note 9 didn't have many noticeable improvements from 2017's Galaxy S8, S8 Plus and Note 8. Sure, the phones had faster processors and souped-up components, but the designs remained the same and they didn't do anything all that different. That hurt demand for the phones. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   cnet

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02-18-2019 Science&Technology
Apple buys the voice tech startup behind Hello Barbie

Apple has acquired PullString, the startup behind the voice technology powering the interactive "Hello Barbie" doll Mattel released in 2015. PullString, previously known as ToyTalk, was founded back in 2011 by former Pixar employees. Its AI platform gave its partner companies and clients a way to create digital and physical characters and voice apps that can communicate with people. Hello Barbie was one of those -- an interactive Thomas The Tank Engine toy was another. The company previously launched software that makes it easy even for non-technical pros to create Alexa apps of their own, as well. According to Axios, which broke the news, Apple paid around $30 million upfront and promised around $10 million in potential earn-outs for management. Since Cupertino has yet to formally announce the acquisition, it's not entirely clear what it plans to do with PullString's technology yet. Presumably, the purchase could also lead to software to help more people create Siri apps of their own. That could give Siri and Apple's Echo-rival, the HomePod, the oomph they need to be a better competitor to Alexa and Google Assistant. We might also see Siri-powered toys in the future, though it remains to be seen whether Cupertino will catch as much flak as Mattel did when it released Hello Barbie. People viewed that doll as a surveillance tool, especially after warnings from security researchers about potential vulnerabilities. These days, however, consumers are much more used to the idea of keeping devices that listen for wake words and voice commands in their homes.

Read Original Article     ON:   engadget

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02-18-2019 Games
'Rainbow Six Siege' Expands Its Universe With Impressive Animated Short

Today, Ubisoft unveiled its first ever animated short for Rainbow Six Siege during the Six Invitational. Nobody knew what quite to expect when Ubisoft teased some sort of "short movie", but the "Hammer and the Scalpel" short is impressive. Starring the blunt, old-school Thatcher and the younger tech-savvy Dokkaebi, the short goes to great lengths to expand on the operator personalities we only get a glimpse of in their buried in-game bios. It's also incredibly well-animated and rendered with impressive realism that evokes the game. I loved hearing more of the operator voices usually limited to brief quips in-game. Like Overwatch's excellent animated shorts, "The Hammer and the Scalpel" helps players build a stronger sense of Siege's world. The richer the world, the more a player can identify with its characters and enjoy Siege beyond only its tactical gameplay. You also get to see Thatcher curb stomp a bunch of hooligans in a bar like a grittier "Manners Maketh Man" scene from Kingsman. The short introduces Harishva "Harry" Pandey, the new "Six" leader taking the reigns of Angela Bassett's character seen in the game's opening. The direction comes off as a fresh start for Siege's storytelling ambitions, moving on from the ultra-serious tone of the game's origins. Instead, the short's message is hopeful and even a bit wholesome. Ubisoft used this opportunity to announce Rainbow Six Universe, a team dedicated to telling more stories within the Siege lore. It's not clear whether that means more animated shorts or expansions into other media, but "The Hammer and the Scalpel" makes an amazing first impression. Follow me on Twitter for the best Rainbow Six Siege ramblings around.

Read Original Article     ON:   forbes

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02-18-2019 Science&Technology
TCL's folding phone projects include a watch-like bracelet

Multiple companies have ideas as to how they'll develop folding smartphones. TCL, however, isn't content to settle on one -- it's seemingly tackling them all. CNET has obtained images and patent filings that show TCL exploring five foldable designs. Four of them are ultimately variants on a theme (folding horizontally or vertically, inward or outward), but a fifth model would turn into a smartwatch-style bracelet. Effectively, it'd resurrect Lenovo's Cplus concept as a practical product. Whether or not TCL will make these isn't certain. CNET stressed that it was early. TCL previously vowed to ship its first foldable device in 2020, but it wasn't clear what its plans were at the time beyond some kind of smartphone. It's clearly more interested in the phone than first thought, although it said that TVs and other devices could use the technology. Whatever ships, it might not live up to people's dreams. Current bendable displays won't fold like paper, so they'll typically be thicker. The relatively exotic nature of the hardware tends to carry a premium. There's also the all-important software. While Android will natively support foldable phones, it's not certain how well that will work in practice. This could still amount to an early adopter device.

Read Original Article     ON:   engadget

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02-14-2019 Science&Technology
Report: Made by Google 2019 lineup includes budget Pixel, Google Home, watch, new Nest Cam

According to a report this morning out of Japanese newspaper Nikkei, the Made by Google hardware lineup for 2019 is pretty much what we expected: There’s a budget Pixel right around the corner, a premium Google Pixel 4 in the works, a new Google Home, a first-party smartwatch, and a new Nest Cam. The report details a lot of things we already knew for the most part, but states them as being in the plan for this year with near certainty per “industry sources”. For one, the publication reiterates many previous reports and rumors that, yes, a budget Google Pixel 3 “Lite” will be launched this year which will undercut the iPhone XR in price. Google’s new smartphone will be its first non-premium model aimed at price-sensitive customers and those in emerging markets. It is expected to be priced lower than Apple’s cheapest iPhone, the XR, which starts at $749. Android Police‘s David Ruddock previously reported that the Google Pixel 3 “Lite” and Google Pixel 3 XL “Lite” would launch on Verizon in the United States “this spring.” While easy to assume considering we’ve seen a new Google Home every year since 2016 (not to mention evidence we’ve surfaced pertaining to a larger Google Home Hub), the report notes that “an updated version” of the Google Home will launch this year. It’s unclear whether this means a “2nd generation” of the standard Google Home or a new Home entirely. The company will also roll out an updated version of its signature smart speaker Google Home this year, as well as a new smartwatch to compete with the Apple Watch, the person familiar with the plan said. The long-awaited Pixel Watch will reportedly finally see its debut this year as well. Notorious leakster Evan Blass said last year that the Pixel Watch was set to launch at Google’s 2018 hardware event, but that didn’t pan out. Our sources have said the watch was indeed planned to launch last year but was delayed. Finally, the report says that a person with “direct knowledge of the matter” said that Google also plans to revamp its Nest Cam lineup. 9to5Google reported earlier this year that Google is working on a rebrand of Nest following its integration into Google’s hardware team. One person with direct knowledge of the matter told Nikkei that Google plans to release a new security camera later this year after it integrated the team from Nest Labs, the tech startup it acquired in 2014. Nest Labs has been building household-use security cameras since 2015. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   9to5google

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02-13-2019 Science&Technology
Google Maps will use your camera to determine your location more accurately

Have you ever come out of the subway running late for a meeting with no clue which way you're supposed to go? Sure, Maps will tell you how to get to your appointment, but only if it's aware of where you are and what direction you're facing. Sometimes it "thinks" it knows these, even though the data it's being fed is inaccurate. You're then in for some impromptu outdoor trivia: Try to figure out which path to follow by checking if the blue dot is moving in the same direction you're supposed to. If it's not, it probably means your compass is not calibrated, so you can start frenetically shaking your phone in an 8 shape to see if it'll eventually point the right way. You then walk for a few feet and the dot suddenly "slides" 2 blocks away... Oh right! You're in a crowded city, and GPS accuracy is reduced because of all these skyscrapers. Don't worry though; you'll find a street sign and a landmark to manually pinpoint your location on the map and arrive 15 minutes late. Google is well aware we're tired of losing both our time and tamper with this, so it's come up with a solution called Global Navigation to combine camera, GPS, and compass data to determine your position more precisely. This technology relies on the Visual Positioning System method, which creates maps by combining images of landmarks with their location so their outlines and features can be used for navigation. Thanks to its Street View imagery, Google has created a detailed VPS index so devices can accurately identify their position and orientation based on what is around them. They will also use machine learning so phones know what reference points to look for, as the initial images might have been taken during a different season or from another angle. Google is still working on improving this technology before making it widely available. It's already begun testing it with select Local Guides, along with AR-based navigation, but will probably spend some time improving it before integrating it into its official Maps application.

Read Original Article     ON:   androidpolice

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02-13-2019 Games
My Favorite Childhood Gadget of the '80s, the Speak & Spell, Is Back

I can’t remember when exactly the Speak & Spell first entered my life—it was sometime in the very early ‘80s when I was four or five years old—but I do remember being amazed that my parents allowed me to touch and play with this marvel of technology, when other devices, like the VCR and the stereo, were strictly off-limits. And now a new Speak & Spell is coming for kids who aren’t quite ready for that outdated phone or tablet you still have lying around. After introducing the classic educational title, The Oregon Trail, to a new generation of kids with the first portable version of the game, Basic Fun! is reviving another classic electronic toy from my youth, and my first real gadget obsession. By today’s standards, the Speak & Spell is beyond primitive, but when introduced by Texas Instruments at CES in 1978, it was one of the first handheld devices to incorporate an electronic display, expansion cartridges, and a speech synthesis engine that could say and spell over 200 words. It even ran on one of the first microprocessors, the TMS1000, which was a power hog that would quickly drain the toy’s four C-sized batteries. The Speak & Spell’s computerized voice was its most impressive feature, and it was so fascinating to me as a kid that I can still clearly hear its raspy, slightly incomprehensible pronunciations in my head; when I’d be hard-pressed to remember the voices of any of my childhood friends. We even dug one up when I was in college to fake a robot voice for a radio show, because, for whatever tragic reason, the Speak & Spell I grew up with died, and was Marie Kondo’d by my parents. RIP my old friend. Phones, tablets, and even handheld video games have since filled the niche Speak & Spell inhabited so well, but if you’re eager for your kids to learn to spell the same way you did, or are simply looking for a cheaper gadget that’s not as fragile as a slab of glass and plastic, then this new version could be appealing. Basic Fun! worked hard to make its recreation as faithful to the original as possible; although with a few compromises. The kid-friendly, dust-proof (alphabetically-arranged) keyboard is still here, as are all of the original game modes, and the simple segmented display that’s been updated with semi-modern LCD technology. But to make it more user-friendly, the new Speak & Spell now features additional voice commands that give brief instructions as you switch between each game mode, whereas the original only included them in the printed instruction manual due to its limited memory for storing voice commands. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   gizmodo

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02-12-2019 Science&Technology
Google's augmented reality Maps are live for some users Share

In May 2018, during its annual I/O developer conference, Google announced a new feature for its Maps mobile app, called the AR Visual Positioning System. It provides navigation via a layer of augmented reality, plastered over actual reality as seen through your phone's camera. To use it, you lift the phone in front of your eyes and the software gives you directions via arrows which show where you need to go. Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, Google is making the feature available to a small subset of users. I don't have the feature on iOS or Android. But the WSJ's David Pierce got to try it out on an Android device, and he says the camera was able to recognize landmarks and figure out his position with "remarkable precision." It's no good for driving, but is useful at the beginning of a journey, he claims. The feature is mindful of your battery drain; the screen darkens when you hold the phone in front of your face too long, and reverts to traditional map view when you put it down. All in all, it doesn't look all that different to the demo Google had shown at last year's I/O (guides included). Go to 9:41 in the video below to see the feature in action. Google's user-experience lead for the AR project, Rachel Inman, told the WSJ the feature is not meant to be your primary navigation tool. She said it's most useful at complicated intersections or finding a hidden alley. I've used similar tools before; for example, Yelp's Monocle feature lets you view businesses around you by pointing your camera at them. But Google Maps is one of the best map and navigation apps rolled into one, and I can see this feature being tremendously helpful in a foreign city. WSJ claims the feature will roll out "soon" to a few Local Guides, but it will only become widely available when Google is "satisfied that it's ready," which will probably take a while. In the meantime, Maps users will have to make do with the traditional map view.

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