Business
377
Sports
305
Sport
610
Politica
651
The Verge - All Posts
unread news (Demo user)
The Verge - All Posts
unread news (Demo user)
Walmart is using AI-powered cameras to prevent theft at checkout lanes
Walmart has been surveilling its checkout registers using a computer vision technology called Missed Scan Detection to identify when items move past the scanner without having been scanned. As reported by Business Insider, the technology has been implemented in more than 1,000 stores across the US over the past two years, and it monitors both self-checkout kiosks and traditional registers managed by human cashiers. The system runs on cameras that watch as items move across the register. If an unusual activity occurs, such as an item moving into a bag without being scanned, a checkout attendant will be notified to take action. Missed Scan Detection was designed to help reduce theft and other losses, a problem that has cost US retailers up to $47 billion in 2017. In the two years since the system was deployed, Walmart says it has reduced rates of theft, inventory loss, fraud, and scanning errors. The company, however, did not specify exactly what those rates were, or how much money the tech helped stores save. Though both Walmart and Amazon have been investing in AI and computer vision technology in their stores, the approaches are very different. While Amazon uses AI to create a cashier-less, seamless shopping experience, Walmart has been implementing technology as a way to boost productivity for its employees. In April, Walmart opened an AI-powered store that uses computer technology to monitor live inventory so employees know exactly when they need to replenish each section. Walmart has also invested in robots to help with cleaning floors.
The Verge
Good Omens protesters demand show be removed from completely wrong company
It’s a universally acknowledged truth that an angry fan online must be in search of a website to launch a mostly useless petition. A recent protest from a Christian group asking Netflix to remove Good Omensfrom its library is a perfect example — except that Good Omens isn’t part of Netflix’s library, because it’s an Amazon show. The petition was first reported by The Guardian, which discovered that a Christian organization known as the Return to Order campaign launched the petition on its website asking Netflix to remove the series, which is an adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s beloved satirical novel from 1990 about the apocalypse. The petition argued the show was another flagrant attempt to “make satanism appear normal, light and acceptable,” adding “this type of video makes light of Truth, Error, Good and Evil, and destroys the barriers of horror that society still has for the devil.” The petition collected more than 20,000 signatures at the time of The Guardian’s report, but seems to have since been removed. That’s likely due to the petition’s founders discovering that Netflix doesn’t have any say over whether Amazon decides to take down the show from its site. Gaiman has responded to the petition in jest multiple times on Twitter, calling it absolutely beautiful. He’s also thanked people who have taken the petition as a way to share their own stories about personal connections to Good Omens and various religions. It seems to be a pretty positive experience for Gaiman overall. “I love that they are going to write to Netflix to try and get #GoodOmens cancelled,” Gaiman tweeted. “Says it all really.” The petition is absurd, but it’s an exemplary case proving what the state of online petitions has become in 2019. Whether it’s 20,000 people trying to get the wrong streaming service to remove a show because it promotes satanism (no one mention Sabrina), people angry over something in Star Wars: The Last Jedi,or objections to Captain Marvel, online petitions based around entertainment and fandom have become a mockery onto themselves. They don’t seem to carry any cultural cache they once did — and that may be because so many shows and movies have led to petitions. Not even Game of Thrones is safe. For what it’s worth, Good Omens isn’t going to leave Amazon. Although the company did publicly send along their condolences to Netflix. .@netflix so sorry for your loss https://t.co/0WvOmvDU10— Amazon Prime Video US (@PrimeVideo) June 20, 2019
1 h
The Verge
Apple says incoming China tariffs would be disastrous for business
Apple says the Trump administration’s tariffs could lower the company’s economic output and put it at a disadvantage compared to its international competitors, particularly its Chinese counterparts. In Apple’s letter to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the company argues that the proposed tariffs, which would impact nearly every Apple device including the iPhone, MacBook, AirPods, and Apple Watch, would hurt Apple’s US employees and its ability to contribute to the US economy. Up until now, Apple has more or less skirted around the Trump administration’s tariffs, despite its heavy reliance on Chinese manufacturing. Earlier rounds of China tariffs had avoided Apple’s highest volume devices, like the iPhone and Apple Watch, but did have its “adapters, chargers, cables, and cords” affected. In May, the Trump administration announced a massive expansion of those tariffs, levying a 25 percent tariff on nearly every category of goods that had been previously unaffected, including computers, smartphones, and televisions. The Office of the US Trade Representative is currently seeking comment on those tariffs, which is why Apple wrote this letter. Other laptop manufacturers like Dell, HP, Intel, and Microsoft, also wrote a letter in which they voiced their opposition to the increase. “The tariffs will harm US technology leaders, hindering their ability to innovate and compete in a global marketplace,” the companies write. If the tariffs go into effect, companies like Apple don’t have many options to avoid them. One option would be to move their production out of China, which Apple is reportedly exploring. Nikkei reported yesterday that Apple is looking to move to other South East Asian countries, like India and Vietnam. Apart from shifting the production location, companies would either have to raise prices on their goods, which wouldn’t be great for consumers, or absorb the cost of the tariff, which would reduce profit.
2 h
The Verge
Facebook’s Libra won’t be as power-hungry as Bitcoin
Libra, Facebook’s new cryptocurrency, is expected to have a smaller environmental footprint compared to some of its more notorious blockchain brethren, including bitcoin, according to experts. Its energy demands are projected to be more like those of existing data centers — which, while still demanding, aren’t quite as energy-hungry as mining bitcoins. The currency hasn’t launched yet, so it’s hard to know how those claims will stack up against reality. But its design — more centralized than most cryptocurrencies — means that Libra will likely draw less energy. Unlike its more decentralized peers, only a few trusted members of the Libra Association, the centralized hub for the currency, can create Libra. an order of magnitude more efficient than bitcoin “This is an order of magnitude more efficient than bitcoin will ever be,” says Ulrich Gallersdörfer, a researcher at Technical University of Munich focused on blockchain research. Gallersdörfer was the co-author on a recent paper in Joulefinding that bitcoin operations emit more climate-warming gas than the country of Jordan. Bitcoin uses so much energy because people who want to hold the cryptocurrency have to compete for it. That means bitcoin mining operations need huge amounts of computing power to snag a single coin, and to stay in the running, they all need to be running a set of complicated problems all at once. That uses a huge amount of energy every year — in 2018, researchers estimated that bitcoin used about as much energy as Ireland. By contrast, Libra is designed so that an algorithm issues units of the cryptocurrency in proportion to the size of a company’s initial deposit into the system. That’s still a lot to keep track of, but it’s nowhere near as complicated as a mining operation. Instead, it’s more like… normal data centers. Now, data centers draw power, too. In fact, data centers accounted for 2 percent of the total US energy usage in 2014, a 2016 study published by the DOE found. And they’re also responsible for about as many carbon dioxide emissions as the airline industry. But despite those drawbacks, these specially designed warehouses of servers are the rocks on which tech giants like Facebook continue to build and expand their digital empire. “Facebook or other companies will have to set up servers, will have to run the software, will have to validate transactions. But that’s not really anything different to running regular services for Facebook.com or for WhatsApp,” Gallersdörfer says. a useful way to generally consider how to make data centers less environmentally terrible Facebook has made concerted efforts to make their centers more sustainable, but the energy demand prompted by Libra might be a useful way to generally consider how to make data centers less environmentally terrible. The easiest thing to do is make sure that the existing resources are used efficiently — so that might mean more efficient hardware. But it also means considering the vast amounts of water used to cool servers: in a lot of cases that fresh water flows through the system and gets discarded, a horrifying waste, especially in areas with water shortages. One way to meet the challenge in a water-scarce world is to reuse water as often as possible, says Emilio Tenuta, vice president of sustainability at EcoLab. But water can’t be reused forever in cooling systems. As it gets heated and moves through the pipes, salts and other contaminants — think of scale from hard water forming in a bathroom — can build up in the machinery, making it less efficient. But by constantly monitoring and treating the water as it goes through a system, companies like Ecolab hope they can recirculate water through cooling systems as often as possible, reducing the amount of water used in data centers overall. Making existing centers more efficient is great, but products on the scale of Libra could mean new data centers — and where they are matters. Companies could save themselves (and the world) a lot of environmental angst by simply looking for better locations to put data centers in the first place, Katrina Kelly-Pitou says. The area where we’re failing, in the United States, is cleaning our power supply Kelly-Pitou, an urban systems strategist with architecture and engineering firm SmithGroup, says that companies should look for places with trained software engineers — to keep the servers running smoothly — and abundant, low-carbon power sources. By relying on a nearby hydroelectric dam, wind farm, or nuclear plant instead of coal or natural gas, data centers could dramatically cut their carbon footprint. That’s because ultimately, every data center relies on the energy grid. And that’s where many current data centers are falling short. “The area where we’re failing, in the United States, is cleaning our power supply, and ensuring that we have clean energy to power the economic development that we want,” Kelly-Pitou says. Libra hasn’t launched. We don’t know if it will take off. But for it to even get off the ground, it will need data centers — and developing greener data centers, and a lower-carbon energy grid to power them is something that could pay off no matter what.
3 h
The Verge
Apple recalls older 15-inch MacBook Pros because the batteries could catch fire
Overheating batteries are no laughing matter, so this may be urgent: Apple has just issued a recall for the 2015 MacBook Pro with Retina Display, saying its batteries “may pose a fire safety risk.” The company says there are a “limited number” of affected units, sold between September 2015 and February 2017, but that could easily be quite a number of laptops. But the company did sell that third-generation MacBook Pro between 2012 and 2018, so we’re definitely not talking about every 15-inch rMBP ever sold. But you know someone who’s holding onto that model — the one with the full-size ports and keyboard that doesn’t easily get crippled by dust — you may want to have them check their serial number now at Apple’s support website. The company says it’ll replace your battery for free, meaning your older MacBook Pro may wind up getting a longer lease on life than it might have normally. In general, the company says the recall doesn’t affect any other MacBooks, so this shouldn’t affect the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display sold during the same time period. Developing...
3 h
The Verge
Blue Origin fires up the engine of its future Moon lander for the first time
For the first time, aerospace company Blue Origin has fired up a brand-new engine the company developed for its future Moon lander. The engine, dubbed the BE-7, ignited for a full 35 seconds during a test at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. It’s a big step for the company as it prepares to build its lander, named Blue Moon, and eventually send it to the lunar surface. Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos tweeted out a video of the test last night. The recording shows flames coming from the engine horizontally, first appearing bright green and then turning clear for the rest of the test. The green flames can be attributed to the fluid that the BE-7 uses to start the ignition of the engine. Once that fluid burns away, the flames become clear since the engine runs on liquid oxygen and hydrogen — both byproducts of water. First hotfire of our #BE7 lunar landing engine just yesterday at Marshall Space Flight Center. Data looks great and hardware is in perfect condition. Test went full planned duration – 35 seconds. Kudos to the whole @BlueOrigin team and grateful to @NASA_Marshall for all the help! pic.twitter.com/cTjjrngumY— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) June 20, 2019 The news comes just over a month after Bezos revealed that the company had been developing the Blue Moon lander and this new engine for the last three years. The Blue Moon lander will use one BE-7 engine to lower itself down to the surface of the Moon. Bezos claims the lander is capable of carrying robotic rovers to the Moon or even a separate spacecraft with people that can take off and transport astronauts away from the Moon. And because of BE-7 runs on liquid oxygen and hydrogen, it could potentially be fueled by water mined from the lunar surface. When Bezos unveiled the BE-7 during his presentation, he made it clear that Blue Origin is very interested in using the Blue Moon lander to help with NASA’s plans to return humans to the surface of the Moon. And that opportunity may come very soon. NASA will send out a finalized call for lander designs this summer and will pick one or two companies to develop these spacecraft before the end of the year. Given how far along Blue Origin seems to be, the company may be a very serious contender.
4 h
The Verge
Uber tweaks its driver app amid rising tensions over worker rights
Uber made several changes to its app Thursday to improve the experience for both novice and seasoned drivers. The update came as ride-hailing drivers rallied in support of legislation in California that would reclassify them as employees rather than contractors. Uber is testing out several new features for drivers, including a scrolling feed of promotions and gamified “quests” that are viewable before drivers sign on to start driving. For new drivers, there will be a “simulated trip” to walk them through the virtual steps of their first ride before they commit to actually picking up a passenger. these features are designed to make the app more responsive to driver needs There will be additional notifications for longer-than-average trips, such as the amount of time it will take to reach the destination. When drivers need to cancel a trip, the app will now allow them to specify the reasons why. And a new feature automatically accepts the next trip, so drivers can more easily earn “consecutive trip” bonuses paid out by Uber. In sum, these features are designed to make the app more responsive to driver needs. Uber says its research shows that drivers want information about ways to earn more money (duh), including promotions or upcoming events where there is greater probability of a pickup correlated with high-activity foot traffic. Drivers have also told Uber they want more details about trips so they can better plan their days. The new scrollable “top opportunities” feed is probably the most significant change to the app. While it won’t show crucial information like surge zones — the hexagonal grid areas are still found on the navigational map within the driver app — it will present an easy display of all the promotions, bonuses, and “quests” that can earn them more money. Critics dismiss these “gamified” features as psychological tricks meant to keep drivers on the road longer. Uber argues these features are popular with drivers because they often put more money in their pockets. These new features come as the debate about Uber’s classification of drivers heats up Some driver experts are skeptical that this will change anything for drivers. “The problem is that Uber doesn’t put its money where its mouth is with these types of gamification features,” said Harry Campbell, who runs the website The Rideshare Guy. “They encourage drivers to go to certain places during certain times but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a ride. As part of their new driver app last year, they released a feature called opportunities and I guess no one was using it so they re-branded it as top opportunities.” He added, “Ultimately, there’s always going to be an inherent tension between drivers and Uber when it comes to features like this because drivers really want as few drivers nearby so they can capitalize on surge while Uber wants as many drivers nearby to meet demand and reduce surge.” These new features come as the debate about Uber’s classification of drivers heats up. A bill passed by the California State Assembly, and now with the state senate, would classify gig economy workers (like Uber and Lyft drivers) as employees if they don’t perform work “outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.” The federal Labor Department, though, maintains that gig workers should remain freelancers. In May, ride-hail drivers in cities across the US went on strike to protest unfair pay, poor working conditions, and a lack of transparency from Uber. The strike was timed to coincide with Uber’s much-anticipated IPO. Both Uber and Lyft’s IPOs under-performed amid questions about the industry’s tendency to lose vast sums of cash. The companies are scared, and are trying to rally drivers to oppose the California bill. Uber and Lyft sent notices to drivers urging them to sign in-app petitions to “protect” driver flexibility. And Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer made the unusual decision to co-author an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle pushing back on the California Assembly’s bill and promising a renewed commitment to job security and work conditions for drivers.
5 h
The Verge
Xbox One controllers, natively supported in iOS 13, are much cheaper today
Today’s best deals don’t stick to an overall theme. There is a little bit for everyone, with sales on the Xbox One controller and wireless adapter bundle (compatible with iOS 13 and tvOS 13), the Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker and Logitech peripherals, a great deal on Fujifilm’s X-T2, and more. Microsoft’s Xbox One controller and wireless adapter bundle are $44.99 at Amazon and B&H Photo, which is over $30 off the usual price. The included adapter can pair to eight controllers at once, and it offers a fast, easy connection compared to Bluetooth, which can sometimes be fidgety and slow. The Xbox One controller itself doesn’t require the adapter to work; it has Bluetooth support built in to connect to Windows 10 computers, and of course, Xbox One consoles. It sports a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is useful if you want to game without waking up the house. And, if you play games on your iPhone or Apple TV, iOS 13 and tvOS 13 will bring native support for this controller. Amazon’s Echo Dot (third-generation) is $29.99 from Google Express (via Target). This isn’t the first time that it has sold for this price, but this is currently the cheapest way to get one of these smart speakers. This model is usually $49.99, though it might be even cheaper once Prime Day 2019 rolls around next month. Logitech is discounting a bunch of PC peripherals for Amazon’s deal of the day. One that stands out is its MX Sound 2.0 desktop speakers, which are $59.99 (usually $99.99). These look better than most desktop speakers at this price range, and this set allows for multiple wired inputs, as well as Bluetooth support. If you need a cheap wired gaming mouse that has a 6,000 DPI sensor and a few extra buttons, Logitech’s G203 Prodigy is just $19.99 today. It’s usually $39.99, so not too pricey to start, but this is a nigh unbeatable price if you want good build quality and aren’t interested in having several programmable macro buttons. Fujifilm’s X-T2 mirrorless camera released in 2016, and it’s cheaper than ever for the camera body alone (no lens included) at B&H Photo and Amazon. The X-T2 regularly sold for $1,599 sans lens, though in months past, it briefly found its way down to around $900. Now, it’s $799. In our review, Chris Welch praised the X-T2 for being easy to use, though it offers plenty of depth for experienced shooters, with buttons and dials that give more control over your shots. B&H Photo is still offering $200 discounts on unlocked Samsung Galaxy S10E, S10, and S10 Plus devices. These are the best prices that we’ve seen so far on Samsung’s 2019 lineup, and other retailers haven’t come close. Starting with the most affordable, the Samsung Galaxy S10E is $549.99 at checkout with the coupon applied (usually $749.99). The S10 is $699.99 instead of $899.99, and the S10 Plus, which usually sells for $999.99, is a much more reasonable $799.99.
5 h
The Verge
Both parties are mad about a proposal for federal anti-bias certification
Yesterday, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) unveiled legislation called “Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act,” which would shake up the legal foundation of the internet in an effort to root out online bias. Under the proposed law, companies like Facebook and Twitter would be required to obtain a government certification that they are not making politically biased decisions about content moderation, in exchange for liability protections they currently receive automatically. Hawley’s bill would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives companies legal protection from what users post on platforms. That provision is often seen as a fundamental part of the internet, and has been described as the law that allowed social media as we know it to flourish. The law has taken a beating lately, however, as some lawmakers, like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), call for overhauling 230. Democrats like Nancy Pelosi have also questioned the law, with the House speaker recently saying it’s “in jeopardy.” But if Hawley hoped to tap into some of that discontent with his bill, it hasn’t happened. Lawmakers in both parties, as well as liberal and conservative groups more broadly, largely slammed the idea, calling it a dystopian plan to regulate speech online and an unworkable act of government overreach. Here’s a rundown of the responses from the past day: The senator who wrote 230 Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) was one of the original authors of Section 230, and defended the law against Hawley’s plan. In a statement, the senator said the plan “will turn the federal government into Speech Police, flagrantly violating the First Amendment,” and “would force every platform to become 4chan or 8chan rather than maintain some basic level of decency.” He went on to say that “Trump’s Republican party seems to believe that lawyers and bureaucrats should tell private companies how to make clearly private business decisions.” .@HawleyMO's bill to require government oversight of online speech will turn the federal government into Speech Police, flagrantly violating the First Amendment. This bill would force every platform to become 4chan or 8chan rather than maintain some basic level of decency.— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) June 19, 2019 Congress’ leading Libertarian Even some sitting Republican lawmakers questioned the idea. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) responded to Hawley’s plan on Twitter. “This legislation is a sweetheart deal for Big Government,” he wrote. “It empowers the one entity that should have no say over our speech to regulate and influence what we say online.” This legislation is a sweetheart deal for Big Government. It empowers the one entity that should have no say over our speech to regulate and influence what we say online. https://t.co/IMtBvlKkfY— Justin Amash (@justinamash) June 20, 2019 A former Republican FTC commissioner The bill would require members of the Federal Trade Commission to certify that platforms are politically neutral, but not everyone who’s worked at the commission was on board with the idea. Joshua Wright, a former Republican commissioner who left the agency in 2015, said in a series of tweets that “the bill quite literally injects a board of bureaucrats into millions of decisions about internet content.” He called the idea “central planning.” “But the truth is that there is a ton of consumer surplus here arising from voluntary exchange in social media platforms,” Wright wrote. “I’m old enough to remember conservatives being into that kind of thing.” The Hawley Bill similarly offers the choice of death by bureaucratic board or the plaintiffs’ bar. Yes, this will impose big costs on social media. That might feel good to some conservatives politicians. But the hangover will be the cost it imposes on everyday internet users.End.— Joshua Wright (@ProfWrightGMU) June 19, 2019 The troll right The social media platform Gab, which has styled itself as a radically laissez-faire alternative to platforms like Facebook and Twitter — and has earned a following from racists in the process — asked Hawley on Twitter whether the plan would “cement Big Tech monopoly status.” After Hawley responded that smaller companies would be exempted, Gab said it supported the idea. “These are very fair benchmarks and won’t hinder competing startups like Gab,” the company wrote. “You have our support Senator, would love to chat more about how we can help.” Here is the proposal in full for those interested: https://t.co/wm6GJU1nHuThese are very fair benchmarks and won't hinder competing startups like Gab. You have our support Senator, would love to chat more about how we can help. pic.twitter.com/umzt3yDTi1— Gab.com (@getongab) June 19, 2019 Conservative media In an op-ed posted by the right-leaning Washington Examiner, Philip Klein argued that the legislation would result in less freedom of speech, not more, and would not remedy the alleged problems it’s trying to fix. “I get that conservatives are frustrated about bias shown in decisions to ban or suspend users,” Klein writes, “but this response would only lead to a more restrictive speech code.” Tech think tanks The nonprofit Open Technology Institute, part of the left-leaning think tank New America, said there are reasonable concerns about tech industry moderation practices, but that Hawley’s bill wasn’t the way to handle them. The group said “the concept of a ‘politically neutral’ platform is a broad, undefined one that creates an artificial, unmeasurable standard for platforms to meet.” Industry groups While tech companies have largely stayed silent on the proposal, industry trade groups came out in force against the plan. The Internet Association, which represents major platform companies like Facebook and Google, said in a statement that the bill “forces platforms to make an impossible choice: either host reprehensible, but First Amendment protected speech, or lose legal protections that allow them to moderate illegal content like human trafficking and violent extremism.” NetChoice, an e-commerce association that also includes major tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, said the bill would turn the internet into “a hub of extremism,” and “embolden extreme political movements, such as the KKK.” The Computer & Communications Industry Association called the plan “ludicrous,” comparing it to 1984. Conservative groups Right-leaning groups also slammed the legislation. The libertarian group TechFreedom said “the bill would give politicians a gigantic regulatory hammer to use against Big Tech,” and giving the FTC certification power “would set up a partisan bloodmatch every other year.” The Koch brothers-funded political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity was also critical of the plan, calling it “misguided” and saying it potentially “creates a scenario where government has the ability to police your speech and determine what you can or cannot say online.” The Media Research Center, a conservative group set up to combat a perceived liberal bias in the media, was one of the few right-leaning organizations that threw support behind the plan, saying it was “the first major step toward holding tech giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter accountable.”
5 h
The Verge
Dr Disrespect’s suspension is a big moderation moment for Twitch
Last week, Twitch banned one of its top streamers — Guy Beahm, better known as Dr Disrespect — for broadcasting from a public bathroom at E3. The ban now puts Twitch in a tricky position: Twitch needs to show that violating the company’s guidelines comes with real punishment, but a lengthy suspension means losing one of the platform’s biggest stars to competitors, like YouTube. Beahm is one of Twitch’s most popular streamers, with more than 3.2 million followers and approximately 20,000 paid subscribers, according to analytics firm SocialBlade. Subscribers pay at least $5 per month, which Twitch typically takes a 50 percent cut of, while non-subscribers are served with ads before the stream kicks in, with Twitch earning the majority of... Continue reading…
6 h
The Verge
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2’s creators want the game to grow up — but stay weird
In the cult 2004 role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, vampires love to dance. Your protagonist can show up at a nightclub and jump into the center of the action, throwing their limbs wildly with an enthusiasm that’s not generally credited to the undead. And in a demo of Bloodlines’upcoming sequel from Hardsuit Labs and Paradox Interactive, dancing is one of the first things you see, courtesy of a team member who did “extensive research” into the game’s original animations. Developer Hardsuit Labs seems to be building a lot of these little, familiar details in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2. But in an interview at E3, its creators also talked about how to translate the original game’s tone and ideas into a new era and a new city — in this case, a dark and supernatural reimagining of Seattle, due for release early next year. Bloodlines was an adaptation of White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade tabletop role-playing series, set in an alternate “World of Darkness” version of Los Angeles. The game had a famously troubled development cycle but also earned a famously enthusiastic fan base; it’s beloved for its distinctive tone and diverse gameplay mechanics. The sequel’s designers include both original team members — like lead writer Brian Mitsoda — and longtime enthusiasts like Cara Ellison, who wrote extensively about Bloodlines as a games journalist. “We have a lot of fans in the office. It’s really, really easy to essentially bring the old Bloodlines into the new one,” says Ellison. Enjoy vampire puberty Bloodlines 2 takes place in a Seattle where vampires and other supernatural creatures secretly hold sway over the city, maintaining a deception known as the Masquerade. The player is a fledgling vampire going through what Hardsuit refers to as a kind of “vampire puberty,” but they’ve had the good luck to get in touch with the city’s feuding vampiric clans. (You can play either a male or female character, and the developers say they’re exploring other options as well.) My hands-off E3 demo was drawn from early in the game and showcased a small set of special powers — I chose a form of telekinesis called Mentalism and the Tremere clan’s weaponized blood magic. As in Bloodlines, you’ll use your powers and stats (things like charisma or “humanity,” essentially a measure of your gameplay cruelty level) to accomplish tasks in different ways. Meanwhile, characters can give you contradictory goals that might ingratiate you with one faction or another. In the demo, the protagonist got a mission from a local leader and nightclub owner, who needed information from a recently turned vampire. The protagonist obligingly infiltrated a seedy area called the Jungle with telekinesis and smooth talking, convincing some drug dealers that they were a pharmaceutical salesman looking to make a deal. But then I voted to switch allegiances and help the target take refuge with the Nosferatu, a clan of hideously transformed but highly resourceful vampires. By the end of the demo, the club owner was distinctly displeased. Bloodlines 2’s demo is a deft mix of familiarity and strangeness. Characters speak with theatrical flair, but they’re recognizably grounded in the Pacific Northwest. The Nosferatu leader is a goofily dressed weirdo who was turned during Seattle’s ‘80s tech boom, and his clan lives in the city’s very real underground tunnel network. ‘Bloodlines 2’ will reference the original game but establish a very different setting The game still seems to play a lot like the original, but it emphasizes your supernatural powers while you’re in combat or navigating the city. The demo showed off new climbing abilities, and it downplayed the first game’s use of traditional guns and clumsy melee weapons. There’s also a new system called “resonance,” which essentially lets you read human characters’ emotional state and gain different ability buffs by feeding on them. In the World of Darkness, 2010s Seattle shares the basic grittiness of 2000s LA, but it’s supposed to be a less volatile city with distinct vampire politics. “We’ve built up Seattle as more of a separate location with its own separate factions that work differently from LA,” says Ellison. But the game is still, at its core, about “power struggles and how people keep in power.” Viewing a human’s resonance The Masquerade works differently in an age of social media, too. The original game had you occasionally recover photos and VHS tapes to cover up potential violations. Now, practically everyone in the city will be ready to document any supernatural behavior. “It’s extremely dangerous these days to break the Masquerade — because of surveillance, because of people wandering around with phones in their pocket all the time,” says UI / UX designer Rachel Leiker. The World of Darkness isn’t the only place that’s changed since Bloodlines. Some elements have aged badly in the real world, particularly its often stereotypical and surface-level depictions of mental illness. You can play a Malkavian — a fan favorite clan whose members are all cursed with some form of insanity — in Bloodlines 2. But the game will more deeply explore the way they see the world and spend less time leaning on broad tropes. There will still be weird and potentially comic moments, like a Bloodlines Easter egg that involves arguing with a stop sign. But as Ellison puts it, “Brian [Mitsoda] and I have matured since he made the first game and I played the first one. So we kind of want to reflect that.” “It’s extremely dangerous these days to break the Masquerade.” Vampire: The Masquerade’s tabletop system became mired in controversy last year, and the entire series is about the intersection of sensuality, power, and violence. Your character is far from the toughest vampire in Seattle, but they’re still a powerful monster that lives by exploiting human weakness. (And, more literally, blood.) This can be creepy when handled poorly. When it’s handled well, though, it can let players explore touchy issues in a fantasy setting with less real-world baggage. And it sets Bloodlines apart from games that just offer context-free fan service or awkwardly dip their toes into “adult” themes. “One of the coolest things about writing a vampire game is that whatever I do, everyone’s going to ooze sexuality,” says Ellison. “Like, they’re vampires. It’s very difficult to not write to that.” With the right stats, you can apparently flirt your way through substantial parts of the game, just like the original Bloodlines. And while Seattle doesn’t look as glitzy as LA, it seems to still have its share of dangerously seductive and charismatic characters — apparently including the ones that aren’t traditional sex symbol material. “There are some very strange ships in the office, let me tell you,” says Ellison.
6 h
The Verge
How the creators of Yakuza turned hard-boiled detective drama into a game
Last year, the Yakuza series wrapped up with its sixth and final entry, which bid farewell to lovable hero Kazuma Kiryu. Given the strong attachment fans had to the character, the team behind the series realized they had to go in a different direction for their next game. Judgment, which launches next week on the PS4, is similar to Yakuza in a lot of ways, but it’s also a hard-boiled detective story. It’s something that producer Kazuki Hosokawa, who directed both Yakuza 5 and the prequel Yakuza 0, has been thinking about since 2012. “It starts with personal preference,” he told The Verge during an interview at E3 last week. “I really love thrillers and detective stories.” Despite their prevalence in other media, detective dramas don’t exactly have a rich history in games. There are a few notable exceptions — like the goofy but heartwarming Ace Attorney series — but, for whatever reason, the genre hasn’t really taken off. As it turns out, interactivity adds a particular level of challenge to creating a story about investigation. It’s something Hosokawa realized early on in development. “It’s a difficult genre to tackle in games.” “I definitely think it’s a difficult genre to tackle in games, because solving the mystery is so important for progressing the storyline, and I feel like there are so many different types of players and they all have different abilities to solve mysteries,” he says. To get around this, the Judgment team used two different tactics. To start, they filled the game with all kinds of detective-like elements. At various points you’ll have to scan areas for clues, question witnesses, navigate overflowing case files, and inconspicuously follow people to see what they’re up to. Judgment plays a lot like a traditional Yakuza game — which means you’ll be exploring a large, impressively detailed city and getting into lots of fistfights — but these new interactions give it a different flavor, one very in keeping with the detective vibe. But while you’ll do plenty of investigating in the game, you won’t necessarily be solving crimes; instead, the moments of epiphany are featured in cutscenes and in-game dialogue, so you can follow along like in a movie or TV show, but not get stuck because you missed a clue. “We tried to put a lot of those moments of revelation in the storytelling side of things, so that players can still experience that drama,” Hosokawa says. In addition to these new elements, another thing longtime Yakuza players will notice is a change in tone. The Yakuza games are well-known for their unique blend of silly and serious; one moment you’re in the midst of a dramatic fight between warring yakuza families, the next you’re accidentally winning a live chicken in a contest. Given Judgment’s more serious tone, the sillier aspects have been scaled back, though they’re not altogether gone. “We want to make sure that players are able to see different sides of the character, and provide a variety of personality outlets so that players can get to know the character in their own way,” explains Hosokawa. “We want to make sure that players are able to see different sides of the character.” That new character is another big shift. Most of Yakuza’s more off-beat elements worked because of Kiryu, a lovable gangster with a heart of gold and seemingly superhuman strength. But for Judgment, the team wanted someone more grounded to fit the noir vibe. The game stars Takayuki Yagami, a former defense attorney turned private investigator, who gets pulled into a large conspiracy involving the criminal underworld. Hosokawa says that while having a brand-new character and storyline was freeing, it was also a big challenge, particularly for a studio so tightly connected to a single franchise. “When you’re writing a story and there’s a really solid character that’s been around for a long time, the character dictates what happens next,” he explains. “In contrast to that, with Yagami, at the start of development we didn’t really have anything attached to him at all. It was a challenge, but also an opportunity for a development team that has been working so long on the same series.” While it strikes a new note, Judgment also follows a particularly prolific period for the Yakuza series, where major new entries, including prequels and remakes, have launched on a near annual basis. With this in mind, Hosokawa says that the team had a clear goal of making sure this didn’t feel like yet another Yakuza game. “We definitely didn’t want players to tire of this design and the familiar elements,” he says, “so we did put a lot of thought into how we differentiate it.” Judgment launches on the PS4 on June 25th.
7 h
The Verge
Waymo strikes a deal with Nissan-Renault to bring driverless cars to Japan and France
Waymo inked a deal with Nissan and Renault to bring its driverless cars and trucks to France and Japan, the companies announced Thursday. The wording of the deal is vague and doesn’t indicate any concrete plans to launch either robot taxi or delivery services, as Waymo has done in the past with its other automotive partners. Instead, the three companies will simply “explore driverless mobility services for passengers and deliveries.” “This is an ideal opportunity for Waymo to bring our autonomous technology to a global stage, with an innovative partner,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a statement. “With the Alliance’s international reach and scale, our Waymo Driver can deliver transformational mobility solutions to safely serve riders and commercial deliveries in France, Japan, and other countries.” “This is an ideal opportunity for Waymo to bring our autonomous technology to a global stage” The news comes as reports have surfaced about tension between the Japanese-French automotive alliance. (Nissan and Renault are both part of a consortium with Japan’s Mitsubishi.) The Financial Times, citing current and former employees, recently reported that some departments that oversee shared parts of the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance are being cut, and others “have received no new work in months.” Carlos Ghosn, former Renault CEO and chairman of both Nissan and Mitsubishi, was a cheerleader for the alliance before his arrest on allegations of financial misconduct in November. Into this chaos steps Waymo, the Alphabet subsidiary that has been testing its self-driving minivans outside of Phoenix for almost two years. Those vehicles are modified Chrysler Pacifica minivans. The company has partnered with both Fiat-Chrysler and Jaguar-Land Rover to build driverless cars. This deal with Nissan-Renault, though, marks the first time Waymo is teaming up with an automaker that already has self-driving technology under development. Nissan, for example, has a fairly good advanced driver assist system with ProPilot Assist, the 2.0 version of which recently received government approval in Japan. ProPilot Assist is a Level 2 self-driving system, which allows the vehicle to control speed, distance from other cars, and keeping the car in the intended lane with minimal input from the driver. Cameras detect lane markings at highway speeds, and then adaptive cruise control, lane-keep, and blind spot detection systems keep you in that lane until you deliberately change lanes. Waymo is rumored to have been in talks with Nissan-Renault since February. Other deals between the Google spinoff and automakers have failed to emerge, though, likely due to Waymo’s data demands and other unequal terms. That has changed as the industry continues to consolidate. Ford, which has Argo AI as its main driverless technology supplier, is in talks with Volkswagen about sharing the costs of building self-driving car fleets. General Motor’s driverless subsidiary, Cruise, is partnering with Honda, while Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group is growing closer with Toyota. Fiat-Chrysler and Hyundai, along with Amazon, are both major investors in self-driving startup Aurora. (The Drive’s Ed Niedermeyer wrote a great piece on all these developments earlier this week.) It was once thought that Silicon Valley would devour the auto industry, but now it appears to be trending toward mutual cooperation.
7 h
The Verge
Adobe Lightroom returns to the Mac App Store
Adobe has made Lightroom, its pro photo editing and management tool, available on the Mac App Store. It’s the first pro Adobe app to make it to the App Store since Apple redesigned it with Mojave, last year’s version of macOS. The Mac App Store version of Lightroom is the “new” Lightroom formerly known as Lightroom CC, which syncs with complementary mobile and tablet apps and has a different UI to what is now called Lightroom Classic. It’s free to download and use for a week, then it’ll require a $9.99 monthly subscription through Apple’s in-app purchasing system, which includes 1TB of cloud storage. This isn’t the first time that you’ve been able to get Lightroom in the Mac App Store. Back in 2012, when Adobe sold its apps as standalone purchases before starting to push Creative Cloud subscriptions, Lightroom 4 was available for $149.99. Lightroom 5 never came to Apple’s store, however, and even Adobe itself doesn’t sell standalone versions of Lightroom today. The news won’t mean much for existing Lightroom users, but it is a sign that Adobe sees a potential market for pro app subscriptions through the Mac App Store and wants to take it more seriously. It’s also possible that the redesigned store’s promotional features, including editorial content such as tips and how-to articles, could introduce new customers to Adobe’s software.
7 h
The Verge
Unicorn is a $699 electric scooter from the co-creator of Tile
A new crop of scooter startups have emerged hoping to capitalize on the popularity of dockless rental services like Bird and Lime. The latest is Unicorn, a stylish $699 electric scooter from the co-creator of gadget tracker Tile. Based in Austin, Texas, Unicorn wants to be a scooter company for people who would rather own than share. In addition to having a striking profile — the all-white look is really something — the scooter also comes with a lot of high-tech bells and whistles, like GPS tracking and smartphone-enabled locking. Naturally this also includes integration with Tile, which uses Bluetooth to track easily lost items, like a wallet, keys, or phone. “I am currently fulfilling the dream I had years ago at Tile of putting item locating ability into everything, and at Unicorn we are doing that with electric scooters,” Evans said via e-mail. “By integrating Tile into our Unicorns, we are pushing Tile’s mission forward while also providing the easiest to use electric scooter on the market.” “I am currently fulfilling the dream I had years ago” Despite its flashy look, the Unicorn’s specs are fairly standard for an electric kick scooter. The scooter is manufactured in partnership with Segway/Ninebot, which is one of the biggest scooter makers in the world. The Unicorn has a maximum speed of 15 mph, a range of 10-15 miles, a 300 watt motor, and a 187 WH battery that takes 3.5 hours to charge. It weighs 28 pounds and can fold in half for easy storage. It’s priced at $699, which has been discounted to $549 as an introductory promotion. But at $699, Unicorn is hoping to hit a price point that’s slightly more expensive than most Xiaomi scooters you might find on Amazon, but not as expensive as some of the more rugged, powerful scooters hitting the market. So what about those bells and whistles? After you download the Unicorn app — of course there’s an app — the scooter will unlock and the light will turn on as soon as you get within 10 feet. When you’re done, the scooter will go into “armed mode” and won’t ride or move for anyone else. That said, you can still share access with someone else if you feel like sharing. The app allows you to share the scooter with two other people, or an unlimited number using a feature called UnicornCare. Because everything needs to be a subscription, UnicornCare gives customers access to a range of additional services for $29.99 a month. These include free repairs, replacements if the scooter is lost or stolen (with a $49 deductible), realtime LTE GPS tracking, unlimited sharing, and premium customer support. This shouldn’t come as a total shock. Evans’ other company, Tile, recently released its own subscription service, Tile Premium. For $29.99 a year or $2.99, customers get an unlimited number of Tile devices, extended warranties, and other premium features. As The Verge’s Ashley Carman wisely notes, subscriptions are one of the only ways gadget makers can hope to post profits. The scooter sharing services like Bird and Lime are struggling to make their unit economics work. But Evans thinks personally owned scooters still have a long runway, especially as some of the smaller sharing companies falter. “Building a quality product and lasting brand takes a lot more work than placing an order on Alibaba and slapping a your new hip logo and forgettable four letter company name on the side,” he said. “It’s about focusing on the customers’ wants and needs and finding the best way to address them. How you get there should be incidental to that goal.”
7 h
The Verge
Used Nest cameras had bug that let previous owners peer into homes
Google says it has fixed an issue that allowed old owners of Nest security cameras to continue to view a feed from the device, even after de-registering it from their account. The issue could have potentially allowed an old owner of one of the cameras to continue to look through it, even after selling it to someone else. The new owner would have had no indication that a stranger could be able to look inside their home. “We were recently made aware of an issue affecting some Nest cameras connected to third-party partner services via Works with Nest,” a Google spokesperson said to The Verge, “We’ve since rolled out a fix for this issue that will update automatically, so if you own a Nest camera, there’s no need to take any action.” Works with Nest is being discontinued The issue was related to Nest’s integration with Wink, a third-party home hub which its cameras connect to using the Works with Nest program. Even though de-registering a Nest cam from your account stops you from being able to view it using Nest’s own app, a user on a Wink Facebook group discovered that they could still view a feed through Wink’s third-party app. Wirecutter was later able to verify the existence of the problem, which allowed them to view still images from the camera. Since the camera was de-registered from its old Nest account, a new owner would be able to sign up for a new Nest account without any indication that the device was still associated with its old owner in some way. Wirecutter verified that the problem affected the Nest Cam Indoor, but it’s unclear whether the company’s other connected cameras were also impacted. It’s telling that the bug appeared through Google’s Works with Nest program, which the company announced it was discontinuing last month. At the time it said it was discontinuing the program in the name of privacy, to stop third party devices from having as much access to data captured by Nest products. Now that we’ve seen the extent of this data sharing, it’s hard to blame them. Works with Nest was originally due to shut down on August 31st, but Google later clarified that customers will be able to continue to use any services and connections until they’re replicated in Google’s new Works with Google Assistant program. This is the second major privacy scandal suffered by Google’s Nest division this year. Back in February it emerged that the Nest Secure home security system included an on-device microphone, which the company had failed to disclose when it was originally released. Although Google claims the issue has now been resolved, the process of buying a pre-owned Nest camera can still be complicated. If a previous owner hasn’t de-registered the camera from their account, then the only advice Google’s support page has is to email the previous owner directly to ask them to remove the device. Still, at least you’d be aware that there’s a problem in that case, unlike this more recent oversight.
7 h
The Verge
New deepfake tech turns a single photo and audio file into a singing video portrait
Another day, another deepfake: but this time they can sing. New research from Imperial College in London and Samsung’s AI research center in the UK shows how a single photo and audio file can be used to generate a singing or talking video portrait. Like previous deepfake programs we’ve seen, the researchers uses machine learning to generate their output. And although the fakes are far from 100 percent realistic, the results are amazing considering how little data is needed. By combining this real clip of Albert Einstein speaking, for example, with a photo of the famous mathematician, you can quickly create a never-before-seen lecture: Getting a bit whackier, why not have everyone’s favorite mad monk, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, belting out the Beyoncé classic ‘Halo’? What a karaoke night that would be. Or how about a more realistic example: generating video that not only matches the input audio, but is tweaked to communicate a specific emotion. Remember, all that was needed to create these clips was a single picture and an audio file. The algorithms did the rest. As mentioned above, this work isn’t completely realistic, but it’s the latest illustration of how quickly this technology is moving. Techniques for generating deepfakes are becoming easier every day, and although research like this is not available commercially, it didn’t take long for the original deepfakers to bundle their techniques into easy-to-use software. The same will surely happen with these new approaches. Research like this is understandably making people worried about how it will be used for misinformation and propaganda — a question that is currently vexing US legislators. And although you can make a good argument that such fears in the political realm are overblown, deepfakes have already had caused real harm, particularly for women, who have been targeted to create embarrassing and shaming non-consensual pornography. Getting Rasputin to sing Beyoncé is just a bit of light relief at this point, but we don’t know how weird and terrible things might get in the future.
8 h
The Verge
Philips Hue company announces lights that can beam data at 250 Mbps
Signify, the company formerly known as Philips Lighting that produces Hue-branded smart lights, has announced a new range of internet-transmitting Li-Fi lights called Truelifi. They’re capable of transmitting data to devices like laptops at speeds of up to 150 Mbps using light waves, rather than the radio signals used by 4G or Wi-Fi. The product range will consist of both new lights as well as transceivers that can be retrofitted into existing lighting. The technology can also be used to wirelessly connect two fixed points with data speeds of up to 250 Mbps. Signify, a leading lighting provider, is initially targeting professional markets like office buildings and hospitals rather than homes, where it has the potential to reach a much wider audience. Li-Fi technology has been around for years — we even tried a working prototype from Oledcomm back at CES 2018 — but so far it’s failed to take off. Most internet-connected devices like laptops and smartphones need an external adapter to receive data over Li-Fi, and even then the signal can be blocked when the receiver is in shadow. Signify says you’ll need to plug a USB access key into a laptop to receive a Li-Fi signal from its Truelifi products. Signify already has two customers for the technology In the right circumstances, however, Li-Fi’s use of light rather than radio signals to transmit data has its advantages. For example, it can be used in areas where there might be a lot of radio frequency interference, or in places like hospitals where RF could interfere with sensitive machines. While Li-Fi signals can be easily blocked, this disadvantage can be a boon to security applications since you have a lot more control over where the network spreads.
9 h
The Verge
A paper towel dispenser with an end-user license agreement is a special kind of hell
The battle for supremacy in the world of hand hygiene is a dirty one, and nothing demonstrates this better than the depressing sight of a paper towel dispenser with a EULA. That’s right — even dumb plastic boxes whose only use in this world is to hold paper towels apparently need an end-user license agreement now. In this case, it forbids the people who have to refill this Tork dispenser from using rival, non-Tork products. What a world. EULAs, if you’re not familiar, are contracts made between companies and customers that bind the latter’s actions in certain ways. You might have seen complaints about them in the context of digital rights, where they and other long-winded terms and conditions you agree to when installing software, can be used against you in weird and unsettling ways. EULAs are often an example of ludicrous legal bureaucracy As the digital rights group EFF explains here, EULAs can be used to stop you criticizing a product publicly, for example, or from fixing it yourself if it breaks. They’re examples of the ludicrous extremes of legal bureaucracy, and it’s ridiculous to apply them to something like a paper towel dispenser. Just think about it for a second. You can definitely make the case that EULAs are useful in certain situations, particularly if it helps the customer get the best out of a product. But do you really think the job of dispensing paper towels is so technically difficult that only Tork towels in a Tork dispenser can do it properly? More often than not, the logic of EULAs is used to limit customer choice, as with coffee pods and printer ink, for example. If we let this sort of protectionism become the norm, it’s all of us who end up losing out. What’s depressing is that this paper towel EULA isn’t even new. The picture that brought this tedious Tork tissue tussle to our attention comes from Harvard Library curator and Twitter user John Overholt, who spotted it at a recent conference (and gave us permission to use his picture). We saw it via BoingBoing, but a quick search on Twitter reveals sightings of the same legal gobbledygook dating back to at least 2015. Obviously Tork has been trying this hustle for awhile. The obvious question, though, is why would anyone even care enough about which paper towels they use to put a EULA on a paper towel dispenser? Well, as I found out myself back in 2016, the world of hand hygiene can be pretty vicious. Back then, I reported on a series of scientific studies, supposedly proving paper towels or hand air dryers as the superior hand-drying method. Each study was sponsored by big corporate backers like Airblade-makers Dyson and the European Tissue Symposium, and each used dodgy methodology to smear the competition and drum up sensational headlines. In other words, I’m not surprised that even in an apparently low-stakes industry like this, a company such as Tork might pursue such weird legal methods to promote its own products and shut down the competition. However, I’d be greatly surprised if this particular EULA was ever enforced. How would Tork even know? Surprise inspections? Contracts like this aren’t worth the paper towels they’re written on.
The Verge
Vivo’s Super FlashCharge tech fills a 4,000mAh phone in 13 minutes
A new entrant joined the ultra-fast-charging Chinese phone wars today as Vivo announced its Super FlashCharge 120W technology. There aren’t any details yet on how it works, but the claim is that it’s capable of fully charging a 4,000mAh phone battery in just 13 minutes, which would make it the fastest solution on the market if it were actually to ship in a phone. Company representatives didn’t respond to a request for further information. A Vivo product manager posted a video to Weibo demonstrating a phone charging from around 10 to 14 percent in the space of about 16 seconds, though it doesn’t show anywhere close to a full charge cycle. Vivo’s best effort to date was the 44W charging in its iQOO gaming phone, which had a 4,000mAh battery that reached full capacity in 45 minutes. In March, Xiaomi announced a 100W charging system that supposedly charges a 4,000mAh battery in 17 minutes, though the tech hasn’t yet shipped on a commercial device. The fastest-charging phone that people can actually buy remains the Oppo Find X Lamborghini Edition, which comes with a Super VOOC charger that fills up its 3,400mAh battery in 35 minutes. Vivo is likely to demonstrate Super FlashCharge 120W at next week’s MWC Shanghai, along with its first 5G device.
The Verge
RHA releases wireless edition of the excellent T20 earphones
Scotland’s RHA is one of those charming boutique companies that operates on the strength of word-of-mouth recommendations and the occasional placement on Apple store shelves. Specializing in earphones, its best model to date has been the T20, which I gave a glowing review back in 2015, and which today gets an overdue wireless upgrade. The T20 Wireless matches the price of the former T20i Made for iPhone model at $249.95, promising to deliver the same exciting sound signature and quality, but with fewer wires and a 12-hour battery life. I’ve had a pair of these T20 Wireless in for review for a few days, and I wouldn’t quite say RHA has succeeded at either of its goals. The battery of these new neckbuds seems to run down at a rate that puts their battery life closer to nine or 10 hours rather than 12, and, when connected to an iPhone over Bluetooth, their sound doesn’t match its former refinement. But both of those are small detractions, and there’s still a lot to like about the T20 Wireless. Photo: RHA They carry over the same DualCoil internal structure from the original T20s, and they have a hefty steel enclosure that feels made to last multiple lifetimes. With standard MMCX connectors, the T20 Wireless can be used with a wide variety of accessories from other manufacturers, including those from Shure and Final Audio, and RHA provides a regular analog cable in the package as well. Alongside it, there’s a wide selection of really good ear tips and two pairs of additional sound filters you can install inside the earphones. One bumps the bass, the other heightens the treble, and the preinstalled filter is the so-called reference one for a balanced sound. Personally, I find the T20 Wireless a little too forward in the high frequencies, which is something of an RHA signature sound, and so I favor the bass filter. I really appreciate the USB-C charging on the T20 Wireless, which the company says takes them from empty to full in 1.5 hours. What that means in practice is that I just plug my phone charger into them for five minutes before I head out and that’s enough for them to always be topped up. Photo: RHA My biggest issue with these earphones is the Bluetooth neckband that comes with them. It’s rather crude and chunky, making it impossible to ever forget you’re wearing it and occasionally tugging down on the earbuds. If only this part of the design was a little nicer, I’d be recommending the T20 Wireless on the strength of their rock-solid construction, stable connection, good battery life, and fast recharging. However, at their high price of $250, they cost a fair chunk more than the majority of true wireless models of today, and I can’t accept the compromised ergonomics of their bulky battery collar. The T20 Wireless don’t have the superlative sound quality of something like the Final E5000, which just compels you to have it. Without that, their price starts to feel unjustifiable in the modern world of true wireless convenience at the same or lower price, alongside better and cheaper neckbuds from OnePlus and Huawei at the $99 mark.
The Verge
GE accidentally makes the case for not owning smart GE bulbs
Anyone that’s ever dabbled in smart home tech knows that part of the experience involves an eventual reset. Having trouble with your C by GE bulbs? No worries, just follow these simple instructions as spotted on Twitter by Josh Jordan: Turn on for 8 seconds Turn off for 2 seconds Turn on for 8 seconds Turn off for 2 seconds Turn on for 8 seconds Turn off for 2 seconds Turn on for 8 seconds Turn off for 2 seconds Turn on for 8 seconds Turn off for 2 seconds Turn on Did the bulb flash three times? Maybe you mistimed one of the 11 steps. GE recommends counting with “one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Miss...“ Or maybe you have an older version of the C by GE bulb. You did keep the original packaging for reference? It could be a case of running older firmware on the newer bulbs. Here, try this instead, and don’t forget those Mississippis: Turn on for 8 seconds Turn off for 2 seconds Turn on for 2 seconds Power off for 2 seconds Turn on for 2 seconds Power off for 2 seconds Turn on for 2 seconds Power off for 2 seconds Turn on for 8 seconds Power off for 2 seconds Turn on for 8 seconds Power off for 2 seconds Turn on See, that wasn’t so bad. At least it’s not a Samsung smart TV that requires you to run a virus scan every two weeks.
The Verge
UK to indefinitely delay age-verification system for online porn
The United Kingdom will likely delay its controversial age-verification system for online pornography ‘indefinitely,’ according to a report from Sky News. Citing multiple sources, Sky News says Jeremy Wright, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport secretary overseeing the UK’s regulation of the internet, will announce the delay tomorrow in British Parliament. The ban was slated to go into effect by July 15th, after numerous delays over the course of the last year or so. According to The Guardian, a government spokesperson “did not deny” that the system has been effectively shelved when reached for comment. The age-verification system, which is also sometimes referred to as the UK porn block, was designed as a way to prevent children under the age of 18 of viewing illicit media on the internet. But its proposed implementation has raised serious concerns with privacy advocates, academics, and the global porn industry. Critics are fearful such a measure would give outsize power to MindGeek, the massive Canadian porn conglomerate that has been tapped to build and operate the age-verification technology. There is also concern such a system could open the door to severe privacy violations and potential blackmail related to the tracking of UK citizens’ porn habits. Additionally, There have been concerns about how consistent the system would be. Security experts have found you can easily bypass such a block by using a Virtual Private Network that masks your country of origin. Social media sites, like Twitter and Tumblr, would also reportedly be exempt, causing concern for pornography websites that feel the system will allow such media to flow freely on the social web while crippling the industry that produces it. Back in March, a YouGov poll found that 76 percent of respondents in Britain were not even aware that the age-verification system was going into effect.
The Verge
Microsoft and Kano are launching a build-your-own Windows 10 PC kit
Kano, educational startup known for creating build-your-own computer kits for kids, has partnered with Microsoft to create a DIY touchscreen laptop that runs Windows 10 S, a lite version of the OS. Called Kano PC, the laptop closely mirrors the design of a Surface PC, with a 11.6” display that latches onto a keyboard case. Everything about the Kano PC, from the transparent backing that reveals the modular pieces of the computer, to the included apps that encourage tinkering with sound and touch, is designed “specifically for the 21st century classroom”. Kano’s released DIY computer kits before, but they were powered by Raspberry Pi 3s and Kano’s own OS. This time around, it can run full Windows 10 (albeit it in S Mode, which limits it to only runs apps from the Microsoft Store.) The touchscreen PC is powered by a 1.44 GHz Intel Atom x5-Z8350 quad-core processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage that’s upgradable with a microSD card. There’s an HDMI port, a headphone jack, microphone, 2 USB ports, plus WiFi and Bluetooth. Kids can learn to assemble their computer through instructions presented as a step-by-step storybook, and learn more from an app called “How Computers Work”, which also teaches them to code and create emoji with binary code. An education edition of Minecraft will be included in the PC, along with other Microsoft apps like Paint 3D and Microsoft Teams bundled in. Kano PC is available for preorder on Kano.me for $299.99 USD. It’ll launch in the US, Canada, and the UK on October 21st.
The Verge
Microsoft’s Chromium Edge browser now available on Windows 7 and Windows 8
Microsoft is making its Chromium-powered Edge browser available on both Windows 7 and Windows 8 for testing today. The release comes two months after Chromium Edge first debuted on Windows 10, and a month after it appeared on macOS. Microsoft is releasing the daily Canary builds initially, and plans to support the weekly Dev channel “soon.” “You will find the experience and feature set on previous versions of Windows to be largely the same as on Windows 10, including forthcoming support for Internet Explorer mode for our enterprise customers,” explains a Microsoft Edge team blog post. While most features will be the same, dark mode is missing and Microsoft says there is no support for AAD sign-in. Microsoft is still testing its Chromium Edge browser across Windows 10, macOS, and now older versions of Windows, and it’s still not clear when the company will start to release it more broadly. Edge Chromium will include an IE mode for businesses, and a new Collections feature that’s designed for web users to be able to more easily collect text, images, and information from the internet into a note.
The Verge
The Senate will hold a hearing next month on Facebook’s Libra currency
On Wednesday, the Senate Banking Committee announced it will be holding a hearing next month to question witnesses over Facebook’s new cryptocurrency initiative, Libra. The hearing, entitled “Examining Facebook’s Proposed Digital Currency and Data Privacy Considerations,” is set for July 16th, but the committee has yet to nail down who will be testifying. The plans come shortly after Facebook formally announced its new cryptocurrency and blockchain ecosystem, Libra. Facebook’s plan was met with harsh criticism from lawmakers, as well as calls for investigation into the potential consumer risks. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is the top Democrat on the committee and was one of the first lawmakers to question Facebook’s new product. “Facebook is already too big and too powerful, and it has used that power to exploit users’ data without protecting their privacy,” Brown said yesterday. “We cannot allow Facebook to run a risky new cryptocurrency out of a Swiss bank account without oversight. I’m calling on our financial watchdogs to scrutinize this closely to ensure users are protected.” The senators’ colleagues in the House have also requested a hearing. Both Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-NC) called for Facebook to testify before the House Finance Committee, and Waters even asked that the company halt the development of the currency until Congress and regulators could investigate the potential privacy and financial risks. “With the announcement that it plans to create a cryptocurrency, Facebook is continuing its unchecked expansion and extending its reach into the lives of its users,” Waters said in a statement yesterday. “Given the company’s troubled past, I am requesting that Facebook agree to a moratorium on any movement forward on developing a cryptocurrency until Congress and regulators have the opportunity to examine these issues and take action.” A Facebook spokesperson responded, saying “We look forward to responding to lawmakers’ questions as this process moves forward,” but did not agree to pause development on Libra.
The Verge
YouTube facing investigation from federal government over inability to protect children
YouTube’s ongoing problems surrounding content that involves children has led to an investigation from the federal government, according to a new Washington Post report. The Federal Trade Commission is said to be investigating YouTube’s data collection practices and failure to protect children, according to the Post. The investigation is reported to be in its late stages and was brought about after complaints from consumer groups and privacy advocates. The investigation also follows numerous reports and investigations from publications over the last several months demonstrating how YouTube’s autoplay and recommendation feature allows predators to take advantage of content on the platform featuring children. A spokesperson for the FTC... Continue reading…
1 d
The Verge
New web app brings the Marvel movies to their logical endpoint: a literal bible
Fans really love the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Arguably, the movies are almost a religion to some dedicated adherents, who worship their idols through intensive movie marathons and arguing about the films online. But what if they actually were a religion, with the text of the movies turned into a form of scripture? Well, then you’d get the MCU Bible, a project created by developer Sean Lennaerts that turns every single line of dialogue from the 22 films in the MCU into a literal bible. The web app arranges the MCU dialogue as books of scripture, with each movie as its own book. Instead of assigning chapter and verse numbers for each line of dialogue, the MCU Bible features timestamps where each line can be found in the movie. The app makes sifting through the films easy, allowing you to find classic pearls of wisdom and life lessons like these: “Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave! With a box of scraps!” (I Iron Man 95:32) “Have you ever tried shawarma?” (I Avengers 128:52) “Whatever game you’re playing, it won’t work.” (III Thor 115:24) “See, Loki, life is about… It’s about growth.” (III Thor 91:07) “Okay, Spider-Man. Do a flip.” (I Spider-Man 17:14) In all seriousness, though, the MCU Bible is a fairly useful tool for anyone who wants to look up a line from a Marvel movie. The nearly instant results make it a fast way to parse quotes, and the layout lets you see the context around whatever quote you find. Want to make a supercut of every time someone says the word “Avengers”? This is probably the best way to do it. Or, as the scriptures say in I Iron Man, “I mean, I’d apologize, but isn’t that what we’re going for here?”
1 d
The Verge
Samsung auto-email signature accidentally reveals scripted government news story
Details about the death of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi have been conspicuously absent from news reports. Despite being the first democratically elected Egyptian president, news outlets have scrubbed that information from stories of his demise in what appears to be a government-mandated description sent out to press. As noted by Mada Masr, a majority of newspapers published the same 42-word story sent to editors as a directive via WhatsApp. In the case of at least one outlet, a news anchor did that a little too well. In the clip below, the anchor can be heard wrapping her report with “sent from a Samsung device.” المذيعة بتقرا بيان المفترض إنه رسمي عن حالة محمد مرسي الصحية وبتقول في الآخر: تم الإرسال من جهاز سامسونج pic.twitter.com/1GQ9laVmuM— sayed torky (@torkyat) June 18, 2019 Morsi was elected in June 2012, though military forcibly removed him about a year later. The former president collapsed on Monday while in the midst of a courtroom hearing. The circumstances of Morsi’s death have been called into question by rival regimes, including that of Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was aligned with Morsi during his brief rule due to both men’s links to the Muslim Brotherhood. However, human rights groups have cited Morsi’s deteriorating health over the years as the probable cause of this death. It’s unclear why the current government, led Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, instructed news outlets to scrub Morsi’s presidential history.
1 d
The Verge
How to generate virtual online IDs to prevent spam, scams, and phishing attacks
So many cybersecurity vulnerabilities exist on the internet nowadays that giving out your email address or phone number when signing up for a service is akin to giving someone your full name on the first date. Recently, a string of SIM swapping hacks have occurred; attacks in which hackers take control of your account by stealing your phone number, claiming ownership of it through your mobile carrier, and using it to bypass text message-based two-factor authentication. As attacks like these become more common, it’s worth taking extra precautions when locking down your personal contact information. Apple will begin to implement a new authentication system for iOS users when it launches Sign in with Apple later this fall. But until then (or if you’re not an iPhone user), there are other methods you can use. To increase your security, you can use secure password authentication tools like Authy or USB security keys on your original Gmail account to prevent unauthorized access. It’s also worth setting up additional PIN protection on your phone number account through your mobile provider to avoid impersonators from making changes without your consent. And, of course, a good password manager app is a must. And if you really want to hide your identity, you can use virtual contact data when signing up for new services. By not offering services your actual email, phone number, or credit card information, you’re at least one step removed from potential cyber attacks should those services suffer a breach. Here are some common ways to generate virtual identifications for various uses around the web. Phone numbers Many online services and apps offer the option to link your phone number to your account so that you can still get in if your password gets lost. Instead of putting in your actual number, you can generate alternatives from free services like Google Voice and FreedomPop. Google Voice lets you do this using an iOS or Android app, or on the web. Personally, I find it easier to do it on the web so I can copy and paste the numbers to various services quickly. Here’s how you get started on the web: Head to voice.google.com and sign in with your Gmail address (if you’re not signed in already). Choose a number based on the digits available in the area code you desire. Select the number you want. You’ll then be asked to link it to your actual number by a text-based confirmation. (Note: You can only link one Google Voice number to each “real” phone number.) Now you can use this number to register / link to any apps you want. When you decide you no longer want this number or want to change it up (like you would a password, for example) you can go to the Voice’s Settings page to change the number or delete it as needed. Email Using different email addresses to sign up for new accounts or access to coupons, articles, and other downloadable material is a good way to avoid spam emails, unwanted newsletters, and email tracking used by apps and services to send you ads. They also add a layer to remove yourself from potential phishing emails. If you really want to avoid any info from a website, you can use a service like Temp Mail, Maildrop, or Mailsac to create fake email addresses. These temporary inbox services will only hold emails for a small period of time (anywhere between 10 minutes to a week). Because of that, though, may not want to use them for any site where you do want to check up on free promotions you might have gotten in the past. For those sites, you can create a separate throwaway Gmail, Outlook, or other email address specifically for online registrations. And as with phone numbers and passwords, switch your ID occasionally instead of using the same one time after time. If you do decide to use one of these temp inbox services, head to the site and you’ll see a space where you can generate any email ID you want. No registration is required, so you can create a temporary email address to put into any site where you don’t want them to have permanent access to you. Again, depending on the service you use, the emails you receive through those temporary addresses are only kept for a short period of time, so they shouldn’t be considered as permanent alternate emails. Be aware that a generic ID like “testing@” might have already been claimed by someone else, so you could end up sharing the temporary inbox with another person. Try to pick a username that is more complex and hard to guess, to avoid someone else being able to see your purchases and activities. And if you use these services to sign up for something you don’t want permanent access to (a service trial, for example), make sure you delete the email when you’re done so no one has access to potential identifiers like account usernames or links to confirm password changes. Credit cards Most mobile / e-wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, PayPal, Visa Checkout, Mastercard Masterpass, and bank-specific apps offer encrypted methods of payments to prevent directly sharing your credit card information to a third party. Still, that doesn’t mean they’re fail-proof either, as mobile wallets can be hacked if your phone is not properly secured. Before setting up your mobile wallet, try to do so from a secure Wi-Fi network (your home is likely the best bet). If you have to do so while you are away from home, use a VPN for a layer of protection. Then, after you add your credit card numbers to your mobile wallet of choice, follow general smartphone protection protocols: set up a locked home screen that can only be authenticated either by your biometric data, PIN, or pattern-based lock (or a combination of the three). Image: Capital One In instances where mobile payment apps are not accepted, you can generate a random credit card number to use as a one-time payment solution. Currently, only three American banks offer this service: Bank of America, Citi, and Capital One. Note that banks may limit the number of virtual credit cards you can generate at any period of time, or set a spending minimum or maximum per card number, so it may not be the best solution for every purchase. Keep in mind that you should not use these types of services for items you could possibly return, as these card numbers could expire. They are also not recommended for reservations where you have to present the credit card used to make the purchase to verify the booking (such as car rentals, hotels, flights, etc.). Following these extra steps can offer additional protection against online hackers, but always remember to build strong password habits on top of these methods to provide multiple layers of security and keep your data safe. 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.
1 d
The Verge