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The Verge
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The Verge
unread news (Demo user)
AT&T is now telling customers the Galaxy Fold will ship on June 13th
After Samsung delayed the launch of the Galaxy Fold, there are a few hanging questions. What caused the screens the break, and what will Samsung do to change the Fold’s design? But for those who preordered the device and are not put off by all the drama about the screens breaking, the biggest question of all might actually be this: when it will finally ship? AT&T has been emailing customers one potential answer — June 13th. That’s according to a bunch of screenshots we’ve been seeing on Twitter and Reddit. The screenshots themselves are certainly legit, but that doesn’t mean that the date is. Samsung tells us that it has not announced any updates on the timing. We’ve reached out to AT&T and were told the company did not have any comment. If anyone is curious as to when the #GalaxyFold will ship, here is the email I just got. @backlon pic.twitter.com/RGwbDv6NeP— MightyDroid (@mighty_droid) April 23, 2019 It’s possible — and to our thinking, likely — that the June 13th date is just a placeholder. Maybe AT&T’s systems required some kind of specific date to keep the preorders alive and the computer wouldn’t accept an entry of “whenever Samsung finishes its diagnostics” in that particular data entry field. If the June 13th date turns out to have just been a guess, it’s a pretty bad look for AT&T to have just sent a bunch of customers that email without more context. The need for the email could be related to this copy about “federal regulations require us to gain your acceptance of the new shipping date(s),” but that just makes it doubly important that AT&T provide more information about what’s going on. Hard as it may be to believe, some customers might not be fully caught up on what has been going on with the Galaxy Fold and its screen. It’s all very unclear, but that lack of clarity is not entirely surprising. Delaying the release of a phone so close to its original shipping date is bound to cause some confusion. Looks like the new shipping date for the @SamsungMobileUS #GalaxyFold is June 13thAt least according to this email about my order I just received from @ATT ‍♂️ pic.twitter.com/0At2XzPoFA— David Cogen (@theunlockr) April 23, 2019 Meanwhile, Reuters has reported that Samsung is collecting all the review units it has distributed so far. Likely Samsung wants to forestall any further reports of broken screens. At least one new report of a bulge rising up between the hinge and the flexible screen popped up just today from Michael Fisher. That makes for a total of three review units that have had bulges appear in between the screen and the hinge. Sigh. A little grain of something found its way beneath my Galaxy Fold display. Like the saying goes: "not surprised; just disappointed." Sending this back to Samsung hoping they figure out a way to seal up that hinge. Silver lining: video tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/9UfYDMOEul— Michael Fisher (@theMrMobile) April 23, 2019 Collecting all the phones that are out there is a smart move on Samsung’s part, but as it finishes retrieving them, it will mean that we are even more beholden to the company for explanations of what happened to these review units. In the meantime, the most cogent guesses we’ve had so far come from iFixit, which pointed out several possible failure points. None of them are definitive, however. We’ll update this post with more information from AT&T or Samsung if we get it. In the meanwhile, my suggestion to people who preordered the device and are getting these emails is to treat that June 13th ship date like AT&T’s infamous 5G E icon: aspirational, but probably not accurate.
4 h
The Verge
Foxconn wants to alter the Wisconsin deal
Even as Foxconn continues to promise Wisconsin that it will, in fact, bring jobs and an LCD plant to the state in exchange for an unprecedented $4 billion in tax breaks, it may be quietly attempting to renegotiate the deal. According to a letter from Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (via Wisconsin Public Radio), Foxconn was actually the one to first propose changing the deal back in March, and the company is apparently planning to submit “the necessary documentation” to start that process in a mere matter of weeks. “The State is identifying areas we believe will enable greater flexibility and transparency as the project continues to evolve.” Six days ago, we learned that Governor Evers was having some doubts about whether Foxconn might be able to actually bring its promised 13,000 jobs to Wisconsin — doubts that we’d call pretty valid, given The Verge’s recent extensive reporting on the subject — but as late as this morning, it seemed like both Foxconn and Wisconsin were on the same page. “Foxconn remains committed to our contract,” the company said on Friday as it recommitted to opening an LCD plant. “We have a solid contract,” Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) CEO Mark Hogan assured reporters earlier today, according to The Associated Press. Now, we wait and see whether Foxconn will officially scale this deal back, or whether it will attempt — once again — to pretend that empty buildings aren’t empty. Foxconn and Evers’ office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
5 h
The Verge
Apple claims it isn’t scanning customers’ faces, after teen sues for $1 billion
Apple is being accused of using facial recognition software in its Apple Stores to arrest the wrong person for theft — a New York student who’s now suing Apple for $1 billion. And while Apple tells The Verge it doesn’t use facial recognition technology in its stores, the case is weird enough, and there’s enough wiggle room, that it’s not clear if that’s the whole truth. Ousmane Bah, 18, claims in a lawsuit that he was incorrectly identified as the robber in several Apple Store thefts across multiple states, but denies that he’s the person in the photo that accompanied the warrant for his arrest. Backed by surveillance footage and the testimony of a detective, district attorneys in New York and Boston have already dropped the charges against Bah, the lawsuit states. (He is still being accused of larceny in New Jersey in a pending case, according to the document.) An NYPD detective first noticed Bah “looked nothing like” the video suspect According to the lawsuit, NYPD detective John Reinhold first noticed that Bah “looked nothing like” the suspect in the surveillance video of a Manhattan Apple Store that was robbed. According to the lawsuit, the detective then explained that Apple’s security technology identifies suspects of theft using facial recognition technology. When we reached Reinhold on the phone for comment, he agreed that Apple doesn’t technically have facial recognition in its stores, but also that his statements as described in the lawsuit were correct. He declined to answer further questions, but it’s worth noting that the second defendant on the lawsuit, Security Industry Specialists, might explain the contradiction — it could have been that company which used facial recognition to analyze security footage after the fact, and possibly outside of Apple’s facilities. SIS Security doesn’t explicitly mention Apple as a client on its public website, but the third-party firm seems to have a long working relationship with Apple, and a 2016 employee handbook hosted at its website specifies Apple as a client. The lawsuit states that Bah was presented with a police report which claimed a SIS loss prevention employee caught him stealing Apple Pencils on security video from a Boston Apple Store. Allegedly, Apple initially claimed it didn’t have surveillance video, but eventually produced the footage, according to the lawsuit. Bah claims that he couldn’t have attempted the Boston theft because he’d been attending his senior prom in Manhattan at the time, but speculates the real thief could have stolen his information from a learner’s permit he’d previously lost — one which didn’t have a photo. The lawsuit tries to justify the $1 billion claim by alleging that Apple and SIS caused harm to Bah by their wrongful actions, including causing him to be arrested by the NYPD at his home in four in the morning, forcing him to miss school and a midterm exam, which then hurt his grades. The suit claims Apple was negligent, intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and defamed and slandered Bah, among other charges. Ousmane Bah vs. Apple and Security Industry Specialists by Anonymous x0vjYq on Scribd
7 h
The Verge
Snap makes a comeback after the release of its rebuilt Android app
Snap is heading in the right direction again. The company revealed in its earnings release today that its daily user base has grown by 4 million people globally. It now has 190 million daily active users, up from the 186 million people who had consistently been using the platform for the last two quarters. This updated number is still 1 million people short of Snapchat’s peak user base since it went public in 2017, but this is still good news for Snap. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said in prepared remarks that the platform reaches more 13- to 34-year-olds in the US than Instagram, but didn’t elaborate on why or how its user base suddenly grew. He says Snapchat reaches 75 percent of 13- to 34-year-olds and 90 percent of 13- to 24-year-olds. The Android release resulted in more Snaps being sent Snap had a big quarter that involved not only major product updates, but also the awaited release of its rebuilt Snapchat Android app. The Android app doesn’t have any UI or navigation changes, but it is designed to be faster and less buggy. It’s been in the works for years and talked about on most prior earnings calls. Spiegel says within the first week of upgrading the app, there was a 6 percent increase in the number of people sending Snaps. This clearly was an essential release and might make the app more enticing to people around the world, especially considering that there are billions of Android devices in use. Last month, Snap also held its first partner summit in Los Angeles where it showed advertisers, reporters, and creators all the things they could do with the platform. It showed that Snapchat stories would come to Tinder and Houseparty; Snap ads will appear in other developers’ apps; it’s building a video game platform and a roster of original programs; and that it developed new AR filters that make the Eiffel Tower puke rainbows. Today and at the summit, Spiegel said these changes could keep users on the platform for longer and keep them more engaged. With these big platform changes and a continued focus on ad products, Snap might have a resurgence.
8 h
The Verge
Jack Dorsey met with President Trump in private today to discuss the ‘health’ of Twitter
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey met with President Donald Trump on Tuesday, according to a new report from Motherboard. The meeting was prompted by the White House in emails first obtained by Motherboard and reported earlier today. These emails do not disclose exactly what the 30-minute meeting entailed, but they do confirm that the two met for a discussion behind closed doors. In one email written by Twitter’s global lead for legal, policy, and trust and safety, Vijaya Gadde, the discussion involved “the health of the public conversation” on the platform. In a tweet, Reuters reporter David Shepardson says the White House has since confirmed the meeting. Breaking: White House confirms Trump met with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey— David Shepardson (@davidshepardson) April 23, 2019 For months, Twitter and other social media platforms like Facebook have faced intense scrutiny from Republicans who believe that they are being silenced online. Late last month, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) chaired a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on “tech censorship” and hammered officials from Twitter and Facebook over alleged bias. Only two Democrats showed for the hearing, and Republicans spent most of their time questioning the platform officials over individual situations where they believed their speech was silenced or they were “shadowbanned,” which is when a platform decides not to make public any posts from a user without informing them of the restriction. No actual data was part of the discussion, and their points wholly relied on anecdotal evidence. Dorsey replied in the email chain concerning the meeting saying, “As you know, I believe that conversation, not silence, bridges gaps and drives towards solutions.” He continued, “I have met with every world leader who has extended an invitation to me, and I believe the discussions have been productive, and the outcomes meaningful.” Twitter has removed many people from my account and, more importantly, they have seemingly done something that makes it much harder to join - they have stifled growth to a point where it is obvious to all. A few weeks ago it was a Rocket Ship, now it is a Blimp! Total Bias?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 26, 2018 In March, Trump made comments outside of the White House during a press conference with the president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro after they met. A reporter for the Daily Caller asked Trump how he felt about this perceived conservative bias online. Trump said that Republicans “have to do something” to combat it. At the press conference, Trump said, “I have very many, millions of followers on Twitter and it’s different than it used to be. Things are happening. Names are taken off. People aren’t getting through.” He continued, saying, “Something’s happening with those groups of folks that are running Facebook and Google and Twitter and I do think we need to get to the bottom of it. It’s very fair. It’s collusive and it’s very, very fair to say that we have to do something about it.” He has also made a variety of statements critiquing the platform for alleged bias on his Twitter account. In a tweet, Trump said, “Twitter has removed many people from my account and, more importantly, they have seemingly done something that makes it much harder to join - they have stifled growth to a point where it is obvious to all.” The Fox News Twitter account has been dormant since last November in an apparent boycott after show host Tucker Carlson was doxxed. Activists from a group called Smash Racism D.C. showed up outside of his home accusing him of promoting hate and, according to The Washington Post, “an ideology that has led to thousands of people dying.” I’ve got a meeting today that could result in division. I’m letting you know so you don’t hear it from someone else first. I’m volunteering at a grade school math center. I’m hoping both parties will learn from the exchange.— Biz Stone (@biz) April 23, 2019 Co-founder Biz Stone seemed to make light of the controversy on Twitter in a tweet, saying “I’ve got a meeting today that could result in division. I’m letting you know so you don’t hear it from someone else first.” He continued, “I’m volunteering at a grade school math center. I’m hoping both parties will learn from the exchange.”
8 h
The Verge
How long will it take to phase in driverless cars?
Aurora CEO Chris Urmson stopped by The Vergecast to discuss the future of self-driving cars with Nilay Patel and Andrew Hawkins. They explore how the industry has evolved over the years and how long it will take before self-driving cars are commonly used on the road. You can listen to the discussion in its entirety on The Vergecast right now. Below is a lightly edited excerpt from this interview regarding some of Urmson’s ideas about how he expects driverless cars to be rolled out in the coming years. Nilay Patel: So you want to be one of many, many suppliers in the emerging driverless car / automotive industry? Chris Urmson: Well, we don’t think there’ll be many, many people who can do this. We think actually building the driver is really hard. We imagine what’s now around 100 companies working in this space will probably consolidate down to a handful, and we expect to be one of those companies. Why? Is there a technology reason you think it’s going to consolidate? Is it a capital reason? Yes, it’s all of them. It’s really hard. It’s a very complicated problem and one of the more complicated engineering problems, if not the most complicated engineering problem we’re trying to solve right now. The number of people who have deep experience in this is relatively small. Ultimately, the technology, once we start to get it really deployed and served... people talk about there being self-driving cars today, but there aren’t. They’re not really out there yet. Once we start to see commercial scale happening, there will be evidence that the system works well and serving people well, and that will start to build a bit of a flywheel. The question I ask every person who comes on our show to discuss self-driving cars is: is this going to happen. Is this real? Yes, it can happen. I think you’re going to see small-scale deployments in the next five years, and then it’s going to phase in over the next 30 to 50 years. Do you think it will be rolled out in stages, like after adaption tools get better, or are you taking the steering wheel out right away? So we’re not taking the steering wheel out necessarily right away. But no, I don’t think it’s a continuum. I think that this Level 2 driver assistance capability is great. That’s making people’s lives a little bit better. But it’s very different than self-driving capability and driverless vehicles. That’s what we’re focused on because we look at all the big players in the automotive space, and they know how to do driver assistance, and it’s really a problem of “is the product compelling enough that the consumer wants to buy it for the price they can sell it at?” When we think about driverless vehicles that are self-driving vehicles as, you know, the Levels 4 and 5, that’s where we see a transformation. That’s where you can sleep in the car. That’s where the vehicle can be deployed as part of a transportation service, and give you a ride and give me a ride, and we can share the benefit of that together. I think that’s where the economics swing, and that’s where we see the biggest social good for the for cities like New York and San Francisco.
8 h
The Verge
Starting in July, any Kohl’s store will handle your Amazon returns
Amazon and Kohl’s are expanding their partnership that allows customers of the former to return their items to the latter’s retail stores. Beginning in July, Kohl’s will take back items you’ve ordered from Amazon and want to return for a refund. You don’t need to pack them up in a box, either; the retailer will handle all aspects of shipping and get the items back to one of Amazon’s return centers on your behalf. And everything is completely free. Kohl’s has been offering this convenience since 2017 at around 100 of its stores, but in July, it’ll be available at every location. Kohl’s says it will take all “eligible” Amazon purchases. I’ve asked the company what items would be considered ineligible under the program, but I’d guess it’s mainly oversized items or other illogical things to push onto a store. Also, you’ll likely be out of luck if your item came from a third-party Amazon marketplace seller. “I think the returns initiative is one where we can really leverage each other’s strengths. I think one of the benefits of being in brick and mortar and having an online business is to accommodate easy returns,” Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass told CNBC in an interview, noting that “80 percent of America lives within 10 miles of a Kohl’s.” What does Kohl’s get out of being the middleman between you and Amazon? The possibility that you’ll buy something from them when making the trip, of course. “If we go forward, it really does need to be a win-win for both of us,” Gass said when discussing the earlier pilot with Amazon. Apparently, it has proven to be exactly that. To return something from Amazon with Kohl’s, you actually start the process on Amazon’s website and then choose Kohl’s drop-off as your preferred return method. Amazon makes online shopping returns plenty easy, whether you want a prepaid shipping label to mail it back yourself or you prefer to just drop something off at an Amazon Locker location. But this option might prove popular with people who prefer just getting it done in person — assuming you can put up with waiting in the customer service line at your local Kohl’s. At least parking should be easier: the retailer installed dedicated parking spaces for customers who are making Amazon returns at some of its stores during the pilot phase.
9 h
The Verge
Former Tesla Model S chief engineer takes over at EV startup Lucid Motors
Peter Rawlinson, the chief engineer of Tesla’s Model S sedan, has taken over as CEO of EV startup Lucid Motors, the company announced Tuesday. Rawlinson joined Lucid Motors from Tesla in 2013 as the chief technology officer, and he will retain that role going forward, the company says. Rawlinson replaces Sam Weng, who will retire, according to Lucid Motors. Weng co-founded the company back in 2007 as “Atieva,” with a focus on developing battery systems for electric cars. The company decided to change its name and focus on making an all-electric car in 2016, though it still develops some battery technology under the Atieva brand. Lucid Motors’ previous CEO, co-founder Sam Weng, will retire Rawlinson’s ascendance to CEO has been in the works for months, according to three former employees, who were granted anonymity due to nondisclosure agreements with the company. The former Tesla executive was going to become CEO “one way or another,” one said, following the September 2018 announcement that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund was investing more than $1 billion into the automaker. (That announcement came one month before the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Rawlinson attended the “Davos in the Desert” event in late October, despite a number of other Western executives bowing out.) Lucid Motors’ first car, the Air, is a luxury all-electric sedan that the company promises will offer around 400 miles of range, abundant acceleration (0–60 miles per hour in 2.5 seconds), and 1,000 horsepower. Rawlinson recently said that the first units Lucid Motors produces will cost over $100,000. The company plans to make around 50 Lucid Airs by the end of 2020, according to an internal document viewed by The Verge. A fleet of test cars will be built later this year, according to Rawlinson. The carmaker also plans to eventually release cheaper versions with more modest specs, and is also developing an electric SUV, as The Verge first reported in February. The Lucid Air was supposed to go into production in 2018. Lucid Motors ran into trouble lining up funding required to build its planned $700 million factory in Arizona, though, and spent much of 2017 and 2018 languishing until Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund came along. To help with the cash crunch, Lucid Motors entered into two separate agreements in 2017 where it used its intellectual property as collateral for loans, as The Verge originally reported last summer. The company now plans to break ground in Arizona in the next few months. In the meantime, Rawlinson recently told The Verge that the company was able to make “very significant advancements in [Lucid Motors’] technology” during that fallow period, including “real breakthroughs” on the Lucid Air’s electric motor.
9 h
The Verge
Reddit is making it much easier to follow discussions around TV, news, and live events
Reddit is launching two new post types to all subreddits today, Variety reports. Moderators will be able to create event and collection posts, which will help users follow along with discussions centered around live events, breaking news, and TV shows. Event posts allow moderators to schedule posts ahead of time, as well as add time information like start and end time. Users can follow the post and get a notification when the event starts. It’s a useful feature for upcoming events, such as TV shows or sporting events — particularly in subreddits like r/GameofThrones and r/RocketLeagueEsports, where the features have been in beta testing for the past several months. Reddit Collection posts let moderators curate and group relevant posts so users can quickly read through the best ones. It’s useful for finding all the discussions centered around TV episodes, or finding the best AMAs hosted in specific subreddits. Reddit Events and Collections offer users the option to follow the posts themselves, without having to subscribe to the entire subreddit. Reddit senior product manager Adam Barton told Variety that the features aim to make posts easier to navigate, and more user-friendly for new users: “We want to lower the barrier.”
9 h
The Verge
Kerf’s sustainable wooden wireless chargers are cheaper for Verge readers
Compared to most companies, Kerf takes a more sustainable approach to making phone accessories: it fashions them out of a wood casing of your choice. For a limited time, Kerf’s single-coiled wireless charging devices that support up to 10W of power are 20 percent off for readers of The Verge. Starting at $39, the most affordable configuration of the wireless charging block is made with walnut wood (you can customize the wood grain to meet your taste and budget). It brings a nice accent to your coffee table or night stand. Save for the USB-C port on the back, the charger doesn’t even look like a piece of technology. You can save 20 percent off with the offer code VERGE used at checkout, bringing the price down to $31.20. This wireless charging block (and Kerf’s other wireless chargers) doesn’t come with a charging cable and adapter by default, but an option on the product page lets you add an Anker PowerPort 1 adapter with Quick Charge 3.0 and a USB-A-to-USB-C cable to your order. With the offer code active, this bundle will cost $47.20 at checkout. Kerf Kerf’s wireless charging pad This exclusive discount also applies to Kerf’s wireless charging pad, as well as the Kerf Select wireless charging block. The wireless charging pad has a circular design that blends wood on top with a machined aluminum base for a more hefty wireless charger. It starts at $99, but the offer code brings it down to $79.20. If you can’t find the wood grain that you’re looking for, or if you have exceptional taste, the Kerf Select wireless charging block is built with rare species of wood, such as black Gabon ebony or Australian eucalyptus burl. Starting at $119, these are eligible for a 20 percent discount, too. Again, just enter the offer code VERGE at checkout. As mentioned above, Kerf’s wireless chargers support up to 10W of power, though your charging speeds will vary depending on the device that you want to charge. Some phones, like the Google Pixel 3, don’t support fast charging (except when using their own stands). The iPhone XS and iPhone XR allow for wireless charging, though they’re capped at 7.5W. The Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S10 can both take advantage of 10W fast wireless charging.
9 h
The Verge
Casper quietly raises the price of its Glow smart light by nearly 50 percent
Online mattress seller Casper made a notable entrance into the smart home market earlier this year with the Glow, a smartphone-controlled bedside light with some nifty dimming features and gesture controls. For a company that had never made a consumer electronics device before, it was a surprisingly high-quality gadget. Unfortunately, it’s now much more expensive. Casper has quietly raised the price of the Glow by nearly 50 percent: it’s now $129 for a single unit, up from $89. “Maintaining the highest quality product and experience for our customers remains our priority. This meant having to increase the price on Glow as the costs associated with making the product have gone up since our last production run,” a Casper spokesperson told The Verge in a statement. In other words, Casper appears to have priced the Glow incorrectly at the outset, or something unexpected must have occurred in its production process that is pushing up its manufacturing costs. The company did not provide any further clarification regarding the price hike. It’s an unfortunate circumstance for Casper. The company has made a strong effort to transform itself from an online mattress seller in a crowded marketplace of competitors like Purple and Tuft & Needle into a kind of lifestyle and wellness brand. Casper now sells pillows, bed frames, and sheets. It has its own nightstand and even a fancy $125 dog bed engineered by the same team that designs its mattresses. Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge The Glow was designed as an extension of its brand, positioned around sleep wellness and marketed as a product that would help you wind down at night without the need to stare at a phone screen. You can automatically set a dimming timer for the device that can be activated by flipping it from end to end, while rotating it on its wireless charging base dims and brightens the light. It’s also battery-powered, meaning you can pick it up and carry it with you to other parts of the house or even on short trips away from home. In my time with the device back in February, I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I found its high price, at $89, made it more of a smart home luxury than a product that could compete with cheaper, more utilitarian smart lighting options from Philips and other brands. At $129, the Glow is even more inaccessible for most consumers. It’s still the same stellar smart light, but it’s priced in a way that makes it hard to recommend unless you can reliably get a substantial amount of value out of it. To that end, Casper does offer a 30-day trial similar to the 100-day trials on its mattress line. So if you don’t like the Glow after one month, you can get a full refund. Still, $130 for a smart light that doesn’t even have voice control or any third-party support at the moment is a much tougher sell than when the Glow launched for $40 cheaper.
9 h
The Verge
Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly hopes to bring some science to the Senate
In February, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly announced his decision to run for the US Senate in Arizona — a move that he had been thinking about for the last couple of months. As the husband of former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Kelly is no stranger to politics. If elected, he will join a very small group of astronauts who have transitioned from an orbital office to one on Capitol Hill. The Verge spoke to Kelly about his path from astronaut to Senate candidate and how he plans to incorporate his scientific experience into politics. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. My experience with astronauts at NASA is that you remain very apolitical while you’re at the agency. What has the transition been like going from a NASA employee, where you don’t really enter the political fray, to becoming a more political figure and then ultimately running for office? As a federal government employee, you’re restricted in political activities because of the Hatch Act. And for people in the military — which is, by the way, about half the astronaut office — there are added restrictions. Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Glamour Mark Kelly and Gabrielle Giffords I was in a little bit of a different situation being married to a member of Congress. So I was involved in political stuff, but I certainly always followed all of those restrictions as somebody who is an astronaut at NASA and on active duty of the US military. But I always cared about what was going on in the world, domestic policy, national security issues, and what our government is doing with regards to space and science and engineering. I always cared about what was going on in the world After Gabby was injured [Note: Giffords was shot at a campaign event in 2011] and she left government, I left our space program, and I left the military. Then we had to start figuring out what we were going to do next and what our lives would look like. Some unfortunate events after I left NASA, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, shaped what the next several years looked like for us. I learned from that experience — and also being married to Gabby — the value of smart public policy that’s really rooted in real science data and engineering facts. And I think I have something to offer. There are not a lot of engineers in the United States Senate. I was going to say, there are not a lot of astronauts who have run for office, either. The most notable candidate was John Glenn, who served as a senator for 25 years. How do you think your experience, either flying the Space Shuttle or working as an engineer at NASA, will be helpful if you are elected? A space mission is a really hard thing to accomplish. It takes a big team of people — thousands of people working together, trying to accomplish something very technically and operationally difficult. It requires a tremendous amount of collaboration, and it requires having a strong grasp of data and facts. Image: Marky Kelly Mark Kelly in the pilot’s station of Space Shuttle Discovery in 2006 And I think that’s probably a unique perspective for somebody who is serving in the United States Congress, especially in the Senate. So I think — and I hope — that my experience is a benefit to my future colleagues if I’m elected. Everyone talks about that overview effect that astronauts experience, a shift in perspective that some people have when they see the curvature of Earth from space. Did that change your perspective on life and shape how you feel about certain policies? Well, it certainly changes your perspective of our situation here in the Universe — that we all pretty much live on an island in our Solar System. This is our planet. We have no place else to go. Don’t let anybody fool you into thinking that someday we’re all moving Mars. That is not happening, at least not in any time frame that matters. Don’t let anybody fool you into thinking that someday we’re all moving Mars. I don’t want to speak for all astronauts, but I think a common theme among people who have seen our planet from space is a couple of things: we’re all in this together, and we have a very fragile planet that we live on. People often look up, and you think you have this big, giant atmosphere that protects us from the radiation and from the vacuum of space. And it’s really not as big as people think. When you’re in orbit looking at the planet, our atmosphere looks like a contact lens on an eyeball. It is very thin, and half the atmosphere is at 10,000 feet and below. So you get a sense that we not only have to protect the planet and life on the planet, but we have to protect our atmosphere because it’s protecting us. Of course, you’ve been very closely tied to the political arena because of Gabby. What has she taught you about what you might expect if you were to be elected? We were married for her entire service in Congress, and she taught me how hard you have to work to be successful at that job, and I’m ready to do that. She taught me how you have to bring people together and how you have to work across the aisle. It’s not true for everybody, but a lot of folks that are currently in office, they tend to get into their corner — whether it’s all the way on the right or all the way on the left. That makes it very difficult for the folks we elect to accomplish things. So working across the aisle, and having some sense of independence from a political party is a very important aspect of serving at that level. You’re making science a very central theme of your campaign. What are some policies you’ll be focusing on if you are elected? Science affects everything. It’s health care. The increases in costs we’ve seen over the decades in health care is somewhat rooted in science. Science and data is at the root of most of the issues that we have to deal with, whether it’s border security, health care, climate, gun violence. I mean, you could continue to go down a list. You’re being endorsed by 314 Action. I would love some specifics on some ways that you can use science to approach decision-making. I think it starts with finding people who are going to serve, and that’s what 314 Action does. They want to support candidates that, first, fundamentally believe in science. We sometimes elect people who don’t, who have beliefs that are just not true and are not rooted in reality and facts. Sometimes these people even serve on the science committee, which I find a bit puzzling. Image: NASA Mark Kelly training at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab When you are trying to make these hard decisions, it’s important to look at the data. I used to be a test pilot. We would make decisions based on the data the airplane systems are telling us. Our government is doing a really good job of screwing some things up. And I think often what we find is that the people we elect are making decisions based on politics and partisanship, and not really looking at the underlying reasons. How did we come to these conclusions and these options? Definitely data is very important to have to back up what decisions you’re making, but what about making sure that you have the right data, and parsing when something may not be a good conclusion? What do you think are good ways to make sure that you have the right facts and the right data to back up your claim? Make sure the person who has done the research is from a reputable organization. This study that I’m looking at, is it from an accredited research university? Is this from the CDC? Is this from the NIH? Are these numbers and this analysis from the CBO or the Pentagon? Or are they from some organization you never heard of that has a partisan agenda? I think that’s kind of the first step in trying to make a decision: are you getting unbiased information? I think it helps to have a little background in science and engineering to be able to do that — and then also to evaluate options. What about matters that people might not necessarily consider very scientific? Are there ways that science could benefit policies that might be considered more political in nature than scientific in nature? I don’t know, everything seems political in nature, right? There always seems to be somebody lined up on one side of an issue or the other based solely on profit. Corporations are certainly involved in a lot of the decision-making that we see at the highest level. That’s one of the reasons why, by the way, I’m not going to take any corporate PAC money in this election or any others, for that matter. To try to get elected, I’m going to focus on people because then that’s going to help me. I’m going to vote in a way that’s in the best interests of the people of Arizona and this country, and not what’s in the best interest of some corporation. What are some of the issues that you’ve found are at the top of people’s minds in Arizona? Health care, wage growth, the environment, border security. I would say those are things that are at the top of the list. Image: NASA Mark Kelly (L) and his twin brother Scott Kelly (R), both of whom were NASA astronauts And, of course, climate change, when you live in the desert. If we don’t do something on this issue, the planet’s going to be seven degrees hotter in the year 2100. That’ll be devastating for people here in Arizona. Climate change is such a global issue. What are some of the ways that you hope to make change from the state of Arizona? We have 350 days of sunshine a year, and if we can continue to move from fossil fuels to more renewables, it’s a benefit to our state. It means jobs and lower energy costs, hopefully. We’ve got to spend more on energy research and development to try to drive down the cost of renewable energy, solar, wind, hydroelectric. If we do that, we will allow consumers to make decisions that not only are good for the environment, but are good for them financially. What that means here in Arizona, as we can continue to drive down the cost of solar, is that it becomes a very easy decision to add solar panels to your house or even maybe get an electric car. Those things just make a lot more sense. And more people will do it. It’s going to not only benefit them but it will benefit the environment. What has the reaction been like as you have met people and campaigned? How do people respond to having someone with a science background looking to run for office? I think that resonates with people. I think they look at that as a positive thing. That’s been my experience so far. Diversity is always good, right? This is what I always liked on the Space Shuttle. I always had people on the Space Shuttle from different countries. And when you have diverse people or a diverse workforce, they look at problems differently and offer solutions that a homogeneous group of people might not come up with. I think that’s important in the United States Senate as well — to have somewhat of a diverse background of people. That’s typically not the case.
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How to use Google Voice
Google Voice is one of those services of which people tend to say, “Is that still around? Does anyone still use it?” But don’t be fooled by its longevity: people do still use it — and it’s possible that you may want to as well. Originally called GrandCentral before it was bought by Google in 2009 and only intermittently updated since, Voice is a telecommunications service that works in conjunction with your existing phone service and offers a free secondary phone number with voicemail, SMS capabilities, and other services. Once your number is assigned (you are given a variety to choose from), you can associate it with one or several cellular or landline phone numbers. When I first signed up for Google Voice in 2009, phone carriers were still making it unnecessarily difficult to move your phone number if you were changing carriers, so having a phone number that easily moved to whatever device you wanted to use made life a lot easier. That’s no longer the case; but over the years, I’ve found Voice immensely helpful in a number of other ways. For example, it’s useful if you have more than one phone, and want to make sure that the important people in your life can easily find you; if they call your Voice number, you can set Voice to ring all of your phones. You can create a separate business number on your personal phone. It’s helpful if you occasionally use temporary phones (for example, I found it very handy when I was reviewing phones and wanted to carry one around with me for a couple of weeks). You can have a number to give to vendors and organizations that you want to keep in touch with, but which might sell the number to spam callers. And so on. Google Voice is, of course, not the only service that offers additional numbers for your phone; there are other services out there as well, such as Hushed and Burner. Although Voice’s interface is a bit old-fashioned (despite a relatively recent update), and (this being Google) there is always the chance that the company will suddenly decide to get rid of it, it’s a very good alternative. You can sign up for Google Voice either on the web or by downloading the Google Voice app from Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store. I found it slightly easier to do the initial sign-up via the web; however, the process is nearly identical on a mobile phone. Sign up for Google Voice Go to https://voice.google.com/. If you haven’t already, sign in to your Google account; if you don’t have a Google account, you’ll be asked to create one. You can read the Terms of Service and the company’s Privacy Policy if you like. Do you accept them? Okay, press “Continue.” Choose your Google Voice number. Google will give you a choice of several locations in your region. If you don’t like the first few numbers, you can keep clicking on “Show More” until you find one you like. (Not ad infinitum, of course; eventually, you do run out.) Click on “Verify.” Verify what? Well, once you’ve selected your number, you have to verify that you have an existing phone number to associate with the Google Voice number. Note: you can only associate a single phone number with a Voice number. However, if you’ve already got a Google Voice number associated with your current number and you want another, there is a way around it — use another virtual number. For example, I was able to create a Google Voice number using a Hushed number, and you should be able to use a Skype number as well. You’ll be asked to enter your existing phone number so you can be texted a six-number code (if you don’t want to text, you can opt to receive a phone call). Once you’ve got the code, enter it where indicated. That’s it! You’ve linked your new Google Voice number to your existing number. So what now? Adjust Voice to suit your needs Well, there are a number of adjustments you can make, depending on how you want to use the service. A few are described below. These were tested using the mobile app on an Android phone; the interface for iOS devices is similar. All of the following tweaks are available in the Settings section of the app. If you’re using the Android app, reach them by tapping on the three parallel lines on the top left of the home screen, and then choosing Settings from the resulting menu. Use Voice to make calls Scroll down to and tap on “Calls started from this device’s phone app.” Choose whether you want to make calls using your Google Voice number or your phone’s number. You can also choose which you want to use each time you make a call, or just use Voice for international calls. (Domestic calls through Google Voice are free, while international calls do have a fee. The fee for international calls is likely less than your carrier’s, however.) Receive incoming calls using Voice Scroll down to and tap on “Call forwarding.” You’ll see a list of all the devices you’ve registered with Voice. Toggle “on” those that you want to use to receive Voice calls. Change your voicemail greeting Scroll down to and tap on “Voicemail greeting.” You can use a general “The Google subscriber you have called is not available. Please leave a message after the tone,” or a slightly more personalized “<name of person> is not available. Please leave a message after the tone.” Or you can record your own. Choose how you are notified when you have a message or miss a call. Scroll down to and tap on “Message notifications” or “Missed call notifications.” There are a variety of options you have here; the choices are basically the same in both cases. Options include: Toggle notifications on and off. Display your notifications in the status bar. Use lock screen notifications. Choose a ringtone for a notification and / or vibrate the phone when a message comes in. There are even more features available in the Google Voice settings menu. Besides those already mentioned, you can toggle “Do not disturb” on or off, so that all calls are sent immediately to voicemail; record all incoming calls; get transcripts of your voicemail via texts or email; hide your caller ID; and screen calls by hearing a caller’s name when you pick up. Try Legacy Google Voice Google revamped the web version of Google Voice in 2017, simplifying the interface so that it worked with the company’s Material Design. However, some users still prefer the older interface (especially since, despite the more crowded UI, you can more easily tweak some of the aspects of the service). It’s worth checking out. To access the Legacy version of Google Voice: Go to the main site at https://voice.google.com. On the upper left corner of the window, click on the three parallel lines. This will open up the side menu (which before only showed a few icons) and will add an icon and label for Legacy Google Voice. Click on that. Take a look at your settings by clicking on the gear icon on the upper right corner. Messaging with Google Voice Any description of Voice would be incomplete if messaging wasn’t included. As with the phone number that comes with your phone’s SIM, you can use your Google Voice app to text to any number that uses SMS; the app will use your Voice number. Unfortunately, however, Google’s other apps aren’t all that friendly to Voice messaging. While you can call others using Voice and they will see your Voice phone number, if you text to someone using an app other than Voice (say, Google’s Messages app), the recipient will see the text as coming from the number of your phone’s SIM rather than your Voice number. There is one exception: you can use Google’s Hangouts app to send and receive text messages using your Voice number (and only your Voice number; Hangouts stopped being a general SMS app back in 2017). What will eventually happen to Hangouts is still up in the air (it’s due to be sunsetted for G Suite customers this coming October), but it is an option. In short Google Voice has not experienced any dramatic changes over the past ten years. But it can be very useful if you want a flexible phone number to use — and unlike some other Google products, it seems to have staying power. It’s certainly worth a try. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.
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Tim Cook says tech needs to be regulated or it could cause ‘great damage to society’
Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested today that for the average person to have their data privacy protected, technology needs to be regulated by the government. “We all have to be intellectually honest, and we have to admit that what we’re doing isn’t working,” Cook said at the Time 100 Summit today in New York where The Verge was in attendance. “Technology needs to be regulated. There are now too many examples where the no rails have resulted in a great damage to society.” He pointed to Europe’s stringent GDPR data privacy rules as an example that US lawmakers could slowly emulate, while suggesting that Europe could continue to improve on those rules as well. “Europe is more likely to come up with something. GDPR is a step in the right direction,” Cook added. “We are advocating strongly for regulation — I do not see another path at this point,” Cook said. “I refuse to have one because it shouldn’t exist” At the same time, Cook says Apple is also responsible for improving data privacy for users — a topic that’s recently become part of the company’s marketing strategy as well. “We cannot look for the government to solve all of our problems,” he said. He also told Time that “Apple doesn’t have a PAC [political action committee],” meaning an organization that helps fund political candidates. “Apple’s probably the only large company, or one of the few, I would think that doesn’t have a PAC. I refuse to have one because it shouldn’t exist.” “The company donates zero to political candidates,” Cook stressed. Cook says he believes individual donations are more transparent than a PAC, saying that he personally makes donations to causes he believes in. As one example, he described how 300-plus Apple employees were allowed to stay in the US because of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, and as the CEO, he publicly supported these people. Cook was also asked by Time about a study that showed how people touch their screens thousands of times a day. He replied humorously, “Well, you shouldn’t be doing that.” (Here’s more about the screen time debate.) He later added, “If you’re looking at your phone more than you’re looking at people’s eyes, you’re doing the wrong thing. We don’t want people using their phones all the time. This has never been an objective for us.”
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Verizon will directly sell YouTube TV to its mobile and Fios customers
In lieu of building out its own full-blown streaming TV subscription service, Verizon is instead putting its weight behind YouTube TV. On Tuesday, the company confirmed that it plans to directly offer YouTube TV to both its broadband and mobile customers. For now, there are zero details on exactly when Verizon will begin selling YouTube TV subscriptions or whether its customers can expect a discount versus just paying for it alone. Verizon says there will be promotions for its customers, but I expect those will require a bigger bundle with either Fios or a smartphone plan. Verizon will also promote YouTube TV as part of the arrangement. Verizon has partnered with popular streaming apps before. Some of its unlimited mobile data plans include a free Apple Music membership. And Fios customers can redeem a year of free Netflix right now, for example — if they’ll sign a two-year agreement. The extremely small number of people with Verizon 5G Home broadband have already been able to receive YouTube TV as part of their service. YouTube TV just hiked its base subscription price to $50 with the addition of Discovery networks, and the move has left some users frustrated and wondering if it’s still worth keeping over traditional cable. Having more exposure via Verizon might help counteract any cancellations over the more expensive monthly fee. And it gives Verizon an answer to the DirecTV Now and WatchTV services owned and promoted by rival AT&T. “YouTube TV has become known for its best-in-class user experience that enhances the way users watch live TV today,” said Heather Rivera, YouTube’s global head of product partnerships. “With this partnership, we’re making it simple and seamless for Verizon’s customers to sign up to enjoy YouTube TV on-the-go on their mobile phones or tablets or at home on their big screen devices.” “As we pave the path forward on 5G, we’ll continue to bring our customers options and access to premium content by teaming up with the best providers in the industry and leveraging our network as a service strategy,” said Verizon’s Erin McPherson, head of content strategy and acquisitions. “We were first in the world to bring commercial 5G to our customers and now another first on the content front as we offer our customers access to YouTube TV on whatever platform they choose.”
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Apple is working to speed up repairs of its bad MacBook keyboards
Apple is now conducting repairs of MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro keyboards on-site at its stores, and it’s promising a next-day turnaround for pickup in many cases, according to MacRumors. The company previously sent machines out to its repair depot, but it’s now telling its Genius Bar employees to handle “most” keyboard-related repairs at the store “until further notice.” The company wrote in a service memo that “additional service parts have been shipped to stores to support the increased volume.” Apple’s attempt to expedite the keyboard repair process is just the latest development in the ongoing saga of the much-maligned butterfly keyboards that are found on all modern Mac laptops. The keys are vulnerable to sudden failure and unpredictable behavior if dust or outside debris makes its way into the mechanism. Apple has a repair program in place for MacBooks with the butterfly-style keyboard that might be out of warranty, and the company recently apologized for the fact that “a small number” of customers continue to experience problems even with its most recent products. Speeding up repairs is a nice customer service move — especially for machines that are otherwise excellent products. But there are still plenty of people who’ve been holding off on upgrading their Apple laptops until the company finally introduces a totally redesigned keyboard without any of this reliability baggage.
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This colorful printed patch makes you pretty much invisible to AI
The rise of AI-powered surveillance is extremely worrying. The ability of governments to track and identify citizens en masse could spell an end to public anonymity. But as researchers have shown time and time again, there are ways to trick such systems. The latest example comes from a group of engineers from the university of KU Leuven in Belgium. In a paper shared last week on the preprint server arXiv, these students show how simple printed patterns can fool an AI system that’s designed to recognize people in images. If you print off one of the students’ specially designed patches and hang it around your neck, from an AI’s point of view, you may as well have slipped under an invisibility cloak. As the researchers write: “We believe that, if we combine this technique with a sophisticated clothing simulation, we can design a T-shirt print that can make a person virtually invisible for automatic surveillance cameras.” (They don’t mention it, but this is, famously, an important plot device in the sci-fi novel Zero History by William Gibson.) This may seem bizarre, but it’s actually a well-known phenomenon in the AI world. These sorts of patterns are known as adversarial examples, and they take advantage of the brittle intelligence of computer vision systems to trick them into seeing what is not there. In the past, adversarial examples have been used to fool facial recognition systems. (Just wear a special pair of glasses, and the AI will think you’re Milla Jovovich.) They’ve been turned into stickers, printed onto 3D objects, and even been used to make art that can fool algorithms. Many researchers have warned that adversarial examples have dangerous potential. They could be used to fool self-driving cars into reading a stop sign as a lamppost, for example, or they could trick medical AI vision systems that are designed to identify diseases. This could be done for the purposes of medical fraud or even to intentionally cause harm. In the case of this recent research — which we spotted via Google researcher David Ha — some caveats do apply. Most importantly, the adversarial patch developed by the students can only fool one specific algorithm named YOLOv2. It doesn’t work against even off-the-shelf computer vision systems developed by Google or other tech companies, and, of course, it doesn’t work if a person is looking at the image. This means the idea of a T-shirt that makes you invisible to all surveillance systems remains in the realm of science fiction — for the moment, at least. As AI surveillance is deployed around the world, more and more of us might crave a way to regain our anonymity. Who knows: the hallucinogenic swirls of adversarial examples could end up being the next big fashion trend.
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The Apple Watch Series 3 is back down to $199, its lowest price yet
Today’s best deals include the Apple Watch Series 3 dropping back down to its lowest price of $199, and RavPower’s slim fast-charging 60W USB-C wall charger is also discounted for readers of The Verge. The weeklong sale on Amazon’s Echo Dot smart speakers has come to an end, but we found a deal that still includes a free speaker with the purchase of a smart lighting kit. The 38mm Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS connectivity is $199 at Amazon. This matches the best deal that we’ve seen, so this is another opportunity to save if you’ve missed out on previous promotions. This price applies to the silver aluminum watch with a white band, as well as the space gray aluminum model that comes with a black band. If you want the 42mm Watch, Amazon has the space gray aluminum Apple Watch Series 3 for $229, though it’s currently on backorder until April 25th. Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge RavPower’s 60W USB-C wall adapter is $42.99 for readers of The Verge with the offer code VERGE104, via Amazon. This slim adapter can charge your phone, Nintendo Switch, laptop, and USB-C devices faster than most chargers. For context on its power throughput, Apple’s 2018 MacBook Air includes a 30W charger. The 13-inch MacBook Pro ships with a 61W charger, but this charger’s gallium nitride (GaN) internal design means that it’s able to provide nearly the same wattage in a much smaller form factor. A four-pack of Tile Mate Bluetooth trackers (with replaceable batteries) costs $59.99 at Target, which is a fairly standard price for that bundle. If you buy before April 27th, you’ll get a free Google Home Mini smart speaker with your purchase. Promotions that give away Home Mini speakers pop up fairly regularly, but it’s still a nice freebie to receive with Tile trackers. Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge The Moto G6 has been succeeded by the newer Moto G7, but this last-generation model is still a good deal if you want an affordable Android phone that works on every US carrier. In fact, it’s now at its lowest price for Amazon Prime subscribers. Originally priced at $299.99, it’s now down to $159.99. This is $40 cheaper than the lowest price that we’ve seen it go for. Amazon’s third-generation Echo Dot is back to its regular $49.99 price, but you can still get it for free by purchasing Sengled’s $69.99 smart lighting kit. This kit includes two smart A19 light bulbs, and you can adjust their color with a companion app. The Sengled hub that’s included will let you easily add more bulbs in the future.
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Alphabet’s Wing drones get FAA approval to make deliveries in the US
Wing, the Alphabet-owned startup, has become the first drone delivery company to gain the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval to make commercial deliveries in the US. Bloomberg reports that the company was granted the regulator’s blessing after fulfilling many of the safety requirements of a traditional airline. Gaining the FAA’s approval as an airline was necessary for the way Wing wants to operate its drone deliveries. Current FAA regulations prevent a drone from being flown outside of an operator’s line of sight, while licenses for automated deliveries have previously only been granted for demonstrations where drone companies haven’t been allowed to accept payment for their services. Gaining the FAA’s approval as an airline meant creating safety manuals and training routines and implementing a safety hierarchy. Wing will deliver items from local businesses to homes in Blacksburg and Christiansburg, Virginia The approval means that Wing, which has the same parent company as Google, can start making deliveries in Virginia in the coming months, where it plans to deliver goods from local businesses to rural communities in Blacksburg and Christiansburg. Wing will be able to apply for the FAA’s permission to expand to other regions in the future. The FAA is the second regulator to have given Wing the go-ahead to launch a commercial drone delivery service. Earlier this month, the Australian regulator CASA granted the Alphabet-owned startup the right to make deliveries in Canberra to around 100 homes after the conclusion of a successful 18-month trial that involved 3,000 deliveries. For Wing, gaining the FAA’s approval took months, but Bloomberg notes that the process is likely to be a lot quicker for future drone delivery companies now that the regulator has worked out which airline rules are appropriate for drone operators. These competitors could include Amazon’s Prime Air, which has yet to launch a commercial drone delivery service, despite having performed its first public demonstration in the US back in 2017.
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The company behind the $16,000 AI-powered laundry-folding robot has filed for bankruptcy
Seven Dreamers, the Japanese company behind the AI-powered laundry-folding robot Laundroid, has filed for bankruptcy. The company is now in the process of selling and transferring its business, it announced on its website today, which was spotted by Bloomberg editor Gearoid Reidy. Backed by companies like Panasonic and Daiwa House, Laundroid had ambitious dreams to be the ultimate wardrobe organizer for the entire household. It had multiple cameras and robotic arms to scan a load of laundry, and used Wi-Fi to connect to a server that would analyze the clothing using AI to figure out the best way to fold it. A companion app was supposed to be able to track every piece of clothing that went through Laundroid, and categorize the clothes by household member. One load of laundry would take a couple hours to be folded, as each T-shirt took about five to ten minutes. That’s how it was supposed to work in theory, anyway — when I tested it out at CES 2018 with my own T-shirt, the machine ate it up and Laundroid engineers had to work for about 15 minutes to pry it out. The explanation was that its cameras couldn’t recognize my black shirt, only the brightly colored demo shirts they’d prepared on hand. I suspected something might be wrong when the company was conspicuously absent at this year’s CES. Meanwhile, rival laundry-folding robot company Foldimate was back for a second year, enjoying large crowds gathered around its prominent booth and giving nonstop demonstrations with a fully working prototype. When I spoke to Seven Dreamers CEO Shin Sakane at CES 2018, he told me that he hoped to eventually bring the $16,000 product down to under $2,000. But according to credit research agency Teikoku Databank, the company racked up over $20 million in debt to 200 creditors while trying to get its product to market. It never actually shipped. It’s sad news for everyone involved, but maybe we don’t need an expensive Wi-Fi-connected machine to do our simple chores for us. After all, now we have Marie Kondo to teach us how to fold fitted sheets.
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Amazon can now leave packages safely in your garage
Starting today, Amazon Prime members in the US can have their packages delivered directly to their garages. Key for Garage, which Amazon first announced back in January, is an expansion of the company’s existing Amazon Key service, which already lets Amazon’s drivers deliver packages directly into your home or the trunk of your car. It’s a compromise between the invasiveness of letting a driver into your home and the risk of leaving a package vulnerable to the elements, not to mention passing porch pirates. In order to use the new service, you’ll need a myQ-compatible garage door opener from Chamberlain or LiftMaster. Amazon has a lookup tool available on its site so you can check if your existing garage door is compatible. If you... Continue reading…
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Intel’s new laptop processors hit the 5GHz mark
Intel has announced a new suite of processors for high-end laptops that offer faster speeds and better connectivity options than prior chips. The new 9th Gen H-series processors, which have 45W power draws, compared to the 15W chips in thinner and lighter laptops, are available in Core i5, i7, and i9 versions and are designed for demanding uses such as gaming or content creation. The star of the new chips is the Core i9-9980HK, which has a new top turbo speed of 5GHz, which is a rate that was previously unattainable in a laptop chip. It’s also unlocked, which means that it can be overclocked for even more speed. Like prior Core i9 chips, the 9980HK has eight cores and 16 threads and comes with 16MB of cache. In addition, the new chips support Intel’s latest Wi-Fi 6 networking cards, which can hit speeds of 2.4 Gbps. 5GHz speeds in a laptop Intel says the new processors provide up to 54 percent faster 4K video editing and a 56 percent improvement in gameplay compared to a three-year-old computer. The new chips are available in machines from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Razer, Lenovo, and MSI starting today. Intel has also expanded its range of 9th Gen chips for desktops to more than 25 different CPU options across the Celeron, Pentium Gold, Core i3, i5, i7, and i9 lineups. The new Celeron and Pentium Gold designs are the first 9th Gen chips in those families and should give a boost to low-end, entry-level computers. All of these new chips are still using the 14nm process, which Intel has been stuck on for a few generations. Theoretically, the company is expected to move to a newer process later this year, which should provide more improvements to performance and efficiency.
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Pete Buttigieg wants the FTC to fight big tech monopolies
During his CNN town hall event last night in New Hampshire, 2020 Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg said that, if elected president, he would work to empower the Federal Trade Commission so that it could better tackle tech monopolies. Buttigieg has previously critiqued what he perceives to be concentrations of wealth across industries, including tech. On Monday night, he discussed at length the extent to which he believes current antitrust standards fail when challenged by free services like Facebook and Google. “Antitrust law as we know it has begun to hit its limits with regulating tech companies.” “Antitrust law as we know it has begun to hit its limits with regulating tech companies,” Buttigieg said. “It’s not designed to handle... Continue reading…
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Two Google employees say management is punishing them for organizing walkout
Two Google employees who worked on a mass walkout of workers say they faced retaliation from company management. In an internal post first reported by Wired, Google Open Research head Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton, a YouTube marketing employee, said their roles at the company had changed following protests from employees. Whittaker said she was told that her role “would be changed dramatically” after Google disbanded its AI ethics council, and that she could no longer work at the AI Now Institute research center. The decision to abandon the council was made as employees criticized the inclusion of the president of the conservative Heritage Foundation. Stapleton, who has worked at the company for 12 years, said in the post... Continue reading…
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Year 2100: redrawing the world’s coasts
By the year 2100, swollen seas and rivers will redraw shorelines as climbing temperatures melt ice caps. In one of the most extreme scenarios, waters globally could rise by as much as eight feet, and even a smaller amount of flooding would inundate low-lying areas of the coast. In places like New York, which is home to around 8.6 million people, even moderate flooding could drastically impact the city’s population and infrastructure. The city got a taste of its future after Hurricane Sandy struck New York City in 2012. Soon afterward, the city announced several resiliency projects, which are all designed to keep water away from New York’s streets. While inspired (in part) by the dramatic onslaught of a storm, many of these projects are a... Continue reading…
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Razer adds 4K OLED and 240Hz screen options to its Blade 15 laptops
Razer has announced that, starting on April 24th, there will be two new display choices available for the Blade 15 Advanced gaming laptop: a 4K OLED panel and a 240Hz high-refresh LCD option. These new displays, which were first shown off at CES earlier this year, join the 144Hz LCD option that’s already available. The Blade 15 Advanced also now comes with Intel’s new Core i7-9750H processor that’s clocked at 2.6GHz with a turbo boost to 4.5GHz and a new Wi-Fi 6 networking card with support for 2.4 Gbps speeds. The 240Hz screen is one of the highest refresh rates available, and it provides a smoother experience for gaming. It has a 1080p resolution, a matte finish, and it supports 100 percent of the sRGB color space. The new 4K OLED... Continue reading…
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Verge Science just won a Webby Award
The jury is in, and we’re pleased to announce that Verge Sciencehas won a Webby Award and a People’s Voice Award in the Science & Education (Channels & Networks) category. We started the Verge Scienceseries on YouTube less than a year ago, and we have been stunned to see how quickly it amassed an audience of more than 750,000 subscribers. We’re incredibly proud to see that our series has earned a seat at the table with some of the best science video journalism out there. Alongside today’s award, we thought we’d look back at some of our favorite work and consider a few things that make for a good Verge Sciencevideo. 88,000 tons of radioactive waste – and nowhere to put it. First, we have the distinct joy of working with some of the... Continue reading…
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Mortal Kombat 11 is a game nearly 30 years in the making
The Mortal Kombat series has been around since 1992, but it’s a franchise that has aged surprisingly gracefully. In fact, Mortal Kombat is arguably more popular now than at any point in history. The most recent release, 2015’s Mortal Kombat X sold 11 million copies, making it the biggest MK release to date. Coming off of a hit like that, you might expect developer NetherRealm Studios to offer more of the same, but with Mortal Kombat 11, which launches today, the team decided to change things up. MK11 features a redesigned fighting system aimed at more strategic play, along with a much bigger focus on the story. According to creative director and series creator Ed Boon, this desire to keep changing is one of the key reasons Mortal Kombat has managed to stay relevant for so long. “It’s scary, but it’s necessary,” he says. “The reason why we’re going stronger than ever is because we’re not afraid; well, actually, we are afraid, but we don’t hesitate to make dramatic changes to the formula of the game. There are some staples we know we don’t want to change up, but we are firm believers that we have to keep changing.” “It’s scary, but it’s necessary.” Boon says that the desire to create something different is the starting point for any new Mortal Kombat. “The first thing we talk about is, ‘What are we going to do new that hasn’t been done in our previous games?’” he explains. For MK11, it began with a story concept. MKX fast-forwarded the series 25 years into the future, giving fans a look at aging versions of classic fighters like Johnny Cage. The new game mixes up these various timelines so that younger and older versions of Mortal Kombat veterans are interacting with each other. Photo by Tasia Wells / Getty Images Ed Boon (right) at a Mortal Kombat 11 reveal event in January. “We really wanted to tap into the nostalgia of the older versions of these characters,” says Boon. “It really plays on people’s memories of Mortal Kombat. So when you see MK2 Scorpion meeting MK11 Scorpion, fighting together or fighting each other, there’s something really cool about that. (To keep track of the series’s increasingly convoluted storyline, Boon says he relies on MK writers Dominic Cianciolo and Sean Kittleson, keepers of the lore. “I’ll say, ‘Why don’t we do this?’ and they’ll say, ‘Well, no because in Mortal Kombat 4, we established this happened.’”) In an age when fighting games are steadily moving away for storytelling to focus on the competitive side, MK11’s big-budget single-player campaign stands out. But it’s also something the team has wanted to do since early on in the series’s life. Longtime fans may remember the short-lived attempt to turn Mortal Kombat into a blockbuster action film series, with the 1995 film and its 1997 sequel, Annihilation. Meanwhile, there were various in-game storytelling experiments, including the single-player Konquest mode from the PS2 era. “We realized that players were really intrigued by the backstory of these characters.” “From the first Mortal Kombat game, we realized that players were really intrigued by the backstory of these characters,” Boon explains. “They were just short little paragraphs saying ‘Liu Kang was a Shaolin monk who came from the White Lotus society’ and all that, and there was such an attachment. We knew that that aspect of the character — not just what they looked like, not just the moveset — we saw players gravitate towards it.” Recent games like Mortal Kombat 11 are a long-delayed fulfillment of this goal, interspersing gorgeous cinematic cutscenes with all of the bloody fighting action. It’s sort of like watching a Mortal Kombat CG movie at the theater, but with lots of breaks to play at the arcade outside. Once the technology was in place, particularly with larger storage mediums like Blu-ray discs, they finally made it happen. “That presentation is something that I had wanted to do for a long time before we actually did it,” Boon says. With this idea of constant change and reinvention for the long-running series, Boon says that there are a few core constants that need to be in place for a game to feel like Mortal Kombat. That includes iconic characters like Sub-Zero and Sonya Blade, combat filled with over-the-top violence, and, of course, fatalities — those finishing moves that often depict disturbingly graphic dismemberments. These aspects have been in place since Mortal Kombat debuted in 1992, but pretty much everything else has changed. The four-person team that created the original has steadily grown to a studio of more than 200. In addition to Mortal Kombat, NetherRealm also develops the incredibly popular DC Comics fighter Injustice. “That happened over the course of 25 years,” Boon says of his career at the studio. “There wasn’t any one time where I was like, ‘Oh, now we’re big, and we were small yesterday.’ It’s much more of a realization you have long after it’s happened.” “I was never a player who saw it for the first time.” This has had a curious effect. Many members of the current development team actually grew up with the series, which Boon says has helped keep Mortal Kombat reinvigorated over the years with new ideas. “They played it in the arcades, and have their memories of it,” he explains. “They bring an amazing wealth of fresh ideas from that perspective. I’ve been working on the game since the first one, and I have my perspective as a developer, but I was never a player who saw it for the first time. I never participated from the outside. They bring awesome new ideas that are being put into the game.” With Mortal Kombat approaching its 30th anniversary and Boon having been part of it from the very beginning, he’s part of a very small group of game developers who have stuck with a single franchise for decades. Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii, for instance, has worked on that series since 1986 with no plans to stop anytime soon. But that kind of singular focus is rare. Boon says that being able to take breaks to work on Injustice has helped creatively, but he’s primarily inspired by the continued popularity of this universe he had a part in creating. “That is very contagious,” he says. That said, Boon won’t predict just how long he might stick around with Mortal Kombat, preferring instead to take it one game at a time. “If you had asked me, ‘How long are you going to be working on Mortal Kombat?’ when we were 10 years in,” he says, “I don’t think I would’ve guessed 15 more years.” Mortal Kombat 11 is available now on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch.
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Feeble humans prove no match for OpenAI’s Dota 2 gods
The OpenAI team that’s been developing artificially intelligent agents who can play Dota 2 better than the pros decided to open access to amateur gamers to compete against its technology. The outcome has been predictably soul-crushing for anyone who is still enthusiastic about human intelligence. In 7,257 matches between humans and the OpenAI Five, the AI won 4,075 games, the humans abandoned (i.e., admitted defeat) 3,140 times, and a meager 42 games ended in the AI losing. That’s a win rate of 99.4 percent. Fresh off their victory against reigning Dota 2 champion team OG, the OpenAI developers felt confident enough in the robustness of their agents to let laypeople interact with the AI. Aside from a competitive humans vs. AI mode, the... Continue reading…
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OnePlus 7 Pro launch event set for May 14th
OnePlus is preparing to launch the OnePlus 7 series of phones on May 14th in what it says will be its most ambitious launch to date, coordinating simultaneous events in three cities: New York City, London, and Bangalore. Yesterday, The Verge reported that there will be an upgraded OnePlus 7 Pro model with the option for 5G mobile data and a “breakthrough” display (according to CEO Pete Lau), which has been rumored to have a 90Hz refresh rate. Other leaked specs for that device include a pop-up selfie camera, which will eliminate the notch on the display, and a triple-camera system on the rear — but, alas, there won’t be wireless charging. The more conventional OnePlus 7 is expected to retain the notch while upgrading the specs from the... Continue reading…
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