Analysis of open source information carried out by the investigative website suggests drones that had been repurposed as flying bombs were indeed used in an attack on the president of Venezuela at the weekend. The Venezuelan government that an attempt had been made to assassination president Maduro using two drones loaded with explosives. The president had been giving a speech at the time which was being broadcast live on television when the incident occurred. Initial video from a state-owned television network showed the reaction of Maduro, those around him and a parade of soldiers at the event to what appeared to be two blasts somewhere off camera. But the footage did not include shots of any drones or explosions. News organization also reported that firefighters at scene had shed doubt on the drone attack claim — suggesting there had instead been a gas explosion in a nearby flat. Since then more footage has emerged, including videos purporting to show a drone exploding and a alongside a building. Vídeo prueba del segundo drone que exploto en el aire sin causar daños colaterales Vídeo cortesía — Caracas News 24 (@CaracasNews24) Bellingcat has carried out an analysis of publicly available information related to the attack, including syncing timings of the state broadcast of Maduro’s speech, and using frame-by-frame analysis combined with photos and satellite imagery of Caracus to try to pinpoint locations of additional footage that has emerged to determine whether the drone attack claim stands up. The Venezuelan government has the drones used were DJI Matrice 600s, each carrying approximately 1kg of C4 plastic explosive and, when detonated, capable of causing damage at a radius of around 50 meters. Matrice 600 drones are a commercial model, normally used for industrial work — with a U.S. price tag of around $5,000 apiece, suggesting the attack could have cost little over $10k to carry out — with 1kg of plastic explosive available commercially (for demolition purposes) at a cost of around $30. Bellingcat says its analysis supports the government’s claim that the drone model used was a DJI Matrice 600, noting that the drones involved in the event each had six rotors. It also points to a photo of drone wreckage which appears to show the distinctive silver rotor tip of the model, although it also notes the drones appear to have had their legs removed. Venezuela’s interior minister, Nestor Reverol, also claimed the government thwarted the attack using “special techniques and [radio] signal inhibitors”, which “disoriented” the drone that detonated closest to the presidential stand — a capability Bellingcat notes the Venezuelan security services are to have. The second drone was said by Reverol to have “lost control” and crashed into a nearby building. Bellingcat says it is possible to geolocate the video of the falling drone to the same location as the fire in the apartment that firefighters had claimed was caused by a gas canister explosion. It adds that images taken of this location during the fire show a hole in the wall of the apartment in the vicinity of where the drone would have crashed. “It is a very likely possibility that the downed drone subsequently detonated, creating the hole in the wall of this apartment, igniting a fire, and causing the sound of the second explosion which can be heard in Video 2 [of the state TV broadcast of Maduro’s speech],” it further suggests. Here’s its conclusion: From the open sources of information available, it appears that an attack took place using two DBIEDs while Maduro was giving a speech. Both the drones appear visually similar to DJI Matrice 600s, with at least one displaying features that are consistent with this model. These drones appear to have been loaded with explosive and flown towards the parade. The first drone detonated somewhere above or near the parade, the most likely cause of the announced by the Venezuelan government and on social media. The second drone crashed and exploded approximately 14 seconds later and 400 meters away from the stage, and is the most likely cause of the fire which the Venezuelan firefighters . It also considers the claim of attribution by a group on social media, calling itself “Soldados de Franelas” (aka ‘T-Shirt Soldiers’ — a reference to a technique used by protestors wrapping a t-shirt around their head to cover their face and protect their identity), suggesting it’s not clear from the group’s that they are “unequivocally claiming responsibility for the event”, owing to use of passive language, and to a claim that the drones were shot down by government snipers — which it says “does not appear to be supported by the open source information available”.
Bird strikes on aircraft may be rare, but not so rare that airports shouldn’t take precautions against them. But keeping birds away is a difficult proposition: How do you control the behavior of flocks of dozens or hundreds of birds? Perhaps with a drone that autonomously picks the best path to do so, . Right now airports may use manually piloted drones, which are expensive and of course limited by the number of qualified pilots, or trained falcons — which as you might guess is a similarly difficult method to scale. Soon-Jo Chung at CalTech became interested in the field after seeing the near-disaster in 2009 when US Airways 1549 nearly crashed due to a bird strike but was guided to a comparatively safe landing in the Hudson. “It made me think that next time might not have such a happy ending,” he said in a CalTech news release. “So I started looking into ways to protect airspace from birds by leveraging my research areas in autonomy and robotics.” A drone seems like an obvious solution — put it in the air and send those geese packing. But predicting and reliably influencing the behavior of a flock is no simple matter. “You have to be very careful in how you position your drone. If it’s too far away, it won’t move the flock. And if it gets too close, you risk scattering the flock and making it completely uncontrollable,” Chung said. The team studied models of how groups of animals move and affect one another and arrived at their own that described how birds move in response to threats. From this can be derived the flight path a drone should follow that will cause the birds to swing aside in the desired direction but not panic and scatter. Armed with this new software, drones were deployed in several spaces with instructions to deter birds from entering a given protected area. As you can see below (an excerpt from ), it seems to have worked: More experimentation is necessary, of course, to tune the model and get the system to a state that is reliable and works with various sizes of flocks, bird airspeeds, and so on. But it’s not hard to imagine this as a standard system for locking down airspace: a dozen or so drones informed by precision radar could protect quite a large area. The team’s results are.
Some numbers published in reveal that very few owners of Alexa-powered devices use them for shopping. Of about 50 million Alexa users, only about 100,000 reportedly bought something via voice interface more than once. It’s not exactly surprising, but it may still harm the narrative of conversational commerce that Amazon and others are trying to advance. The Echo and its brethren are mostly used for the expected everyday purposes of , asking what the weather will be like tomorrow and setting timers. All of these things are obviously things that phones do as well, but there’s something to be said for having a stationary hub for the more domestic tasks. But part of the expectation of seeding the home with these devices has been that users would also make purchases using them: “Alexa, order more Oreos,” or “Alexa, buy a pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones.” This always seemed rather odd, as people tend to want to look at items before buying them, to check reviews, to shop around for better prices and so on. Who would just buy something by telling their Echo that they want to? Hardly anyone, it seems. That said, it would be a bit disingenuous to pretend that conversational commerce is anything other than one point in a litany of proposed uses for the likes of Alexa, running the gamut of credibility. As a hub for increasingly common smart home devices, Alexa is a great choice and a common one. And although groceries and impulse purchases may not be something people do via voice, an Echo is a great seller of subscriptions like Spotify and Audible, not to mention future possibilities from queries like “Alexa, call me a plumber.” And of course there’s the whole behind-the-scenes industry of ads, promotions and . Why would anyone use these devices to shop? It’s like using a laptop as a hammer. Possible, but not recommended. The other stat The Information mentions is that a million people have tried buying stuff but only 100,000 continued. It may be that this side of e-commerce is merely not “mature,” that catch-all term that could mean so many things. But it may also just be that it’s not something people want to do.
hopes to add a few digital wellness features to its latest update, Pie (out today) but Apple is already on this health track with its latest update for iOS 12. Digital wellness allows users to keep track of time spent on and unplug from your digital device when needed. Google announced the new wellness features coming to at I/O in May, including a dashboard for digital wellness, or the ability to track just how much time you spend on your device, an app timer that lets you set time limits on apps, a new Do Not Disturb feature that silences pop-up notifications and Wind Down, a feature to help you switch on Night Light and Do Not Disturb when it’s time to hit the hay. is also making digital wellness a focus. New features in this space announced during its WWDC conference earlier this summer and the company has included an updated “Do Not Disturb” feature in the iOS 12 update, also . have suggested the importance of unplugging and breaking our addictions to our smartphones for our sanity’s sake, and it seems Google would like to help us do just that with these new features. However, the new digital wellness features aren’t quite available in the latest Pie update, . We’ve asked Google why not and will update you when and if we hear back on that. Meanwhile, Apple continues to roll ahead, adding its own controls to help iPhone owners curb their app and screen time usage. Similar to Android’s future offerings, iOS 12 includes a dash with a weekly report on how you spend time on your device. A feature called Downtime helps you schedule time away from your screen (versus just leaving your phone somewhere, seeing a notification and being tempted to pick it up), a feature to set time limits on apps and a way to block inappropriate content from reaching your screen as well. Apple beats Android in this department for now, but those features will supposedly be made available to everyone with a Google phone eventually. For those wanting to check out the new digital wellness features for Android, you can still do that today, but only if you happen to have a Google Pixel — and only if you’ve signed up for the beta version.
If you have an old Kindle e-reader lying about then you’d best dig it up. This cool hack can turn your dead e-reader into a living clock that scours hundreds of books for exact times and displays the current time in a quote. It updates once a minute. The , requires a jailbroken Kindle and little else. The app uses quotes collected by and includes writing from Charles Bukowski to Shakespeare. Creator Jaap Meijers writes: My girlfriend is a *very* avid reader. As a teacher and scholar of English literature, she reads eighty books per year on average. On her wishlist was a clock for our living room. I could have bought a wall clock from the store, but where is the fun in that? Instead, I made her a clock that tells the time by quoting time indications from literary works, using an e-reader as display, because it’s so incredibly appropriate :-) Given that our family is apparently on our fifteenth Kindle in the household it only makes sense to repurpose one of these beasts into something useful. Don’t have a Kindle? You can visit a .
Let’s be honest, if you use a receiver as the hub of your home entertainment system, you probably only use about a quarter of the buttons, dials and inputs on it, at most. Not everyone needs all the bells and whistles of a receiver-driven surround sound system. For those looking to get their sound with a considerably smaller footprint, 2.1 powered systems consisting of a pair of bookshelf speakers and a subwoofer are just the ticket, and ‘s $300 S350DB is solid option. Setup is simple: just connect both speakers to the subwoofer and you’re good to go. The sub has a plethora of input options, so you can easily route your entire setup through it. It’s got a pair of 3.5mm AUX inputs, optical and coaxial, along with Bluetooth connectivity. There’s no HDMI, which is fine for my setup but might not be for others’. The speakers and sub are sturdy. They have a nice weight to them and don’t feel cheap. The system is also easy on the eyes — it’s striking, yet understated, with both speakers and the sub clad in a dark, cherry wood-like grain. It would look right at home in any modern home theater setup, but also has a great retro appeal to it. The bass, treble and volume knobs flanking the right speaker are a nice touch, providing a solid tactile sensation in a world beset by feedback-less touch screens. The volume can also be controlled with the included remote. The system’s pair of bookshelf speakers pack 3/4-inch titanium dome tweeters, which each output 40W total, while the 8-inch subwoofer puts out 70W. The subwoofer can be cranked up to wall-shaking, neighbor-infuriating levels, but also dialed back considerably while still picking up the nuances of the low end from every source I threw at it. [gallery ids="1686244,1686243,1686242,1686240,1686247"] The system has a good value/quality-to-price ratio. At $300, it’s cheaper than many high-end sound bars, and can stand on its own as the hub of your home’s sound system. The S350DB speakers warmly and faithfully reproduce sound equally well from cable TV, set-top boxes, video game consoles old and new, Blu-rays and even vinyl. I tried everything from classical to hip-hop albums using the system and I was impressed with the fidelity and clarity of the playback on every genre, even with my middling quality record player. It also has Bluetooth V 4.1 APTX, which promises lossless sound from whichever device you’re streaming. The Bluetooth was easy to connect. It never dropped the connection and always sounded rich and full. My few complaints are more like nitpicks. For one, the speakers don’t have grill covers. Which, for some, is an aesthetic deal breaker. The tweeters haven’t been quite the dust magnet I’d feared so far, but time will tell if that design choice affects their lifespan. The remote is a little… odd. It’s shaped like a hockey puck, which makes it somewhat unwieldy. I still haven’t quite figured out the best way to hold it yet. The buttons are laid out well, however, with the play/pause button in the center pulling double duty as the mute button (which is not noted on the remote itself, I, somewhat embarrassingly, had to consult the manual to figure this out). The remote was also somewhat persnickety in registering button presses, requiring somewhat precise aim at the speaker (which houses the active input indicator LEDs). I also wish the wire connecting the right speaker to the subwoofer was a little longer. I’m somewhat limited in how much I can spread the system out since the right speaker can be no more than a few feet from the sub. Nitpicks aside, the S350DB from Edifier is a good, budget-friendly option that will cover the home audio needs for most people. It packs a punch when you need it to, but it can easily rein it in and show its softer, subtler side.
Is the dystopian future of shoestrong budget weaponized drone attacks here already? The and are reporting claims by the Venezuela government of an assassination attempt on its president using a couple of drones carrying explosives. President Nicolás Maduro was giving a speech at a military event in Caracas which was being screened live on television when the incident occurred. Footage of the speech on the shows the president, flanked by military generals and with his wife also standing alongside, being interrupted mid-flow by what appears to be a blast from above them. The people in the shot react by looking startled and looking up. The audio to the video cuts out before the blast can be heard. Footage of the incident from a different camera angle showing a panorama view of a military parade at a standstill during the speech, does include the sound of a blast. Afterwards people can be seen pushing into and then running into the frame. The soldiers break rank in panic and the sound of screams can be heard. Speech by Venezuela President cut off during a military parade, soldiers seen running — Guy Elster (@guyelster) Venezuela authorities have reported that seven soldiers were injured in the incident and several people were later arrested. Communications minister, Jorge Rodriguez, said two drones loaded with explosives went off near the president’s stand. In a national address later, Maduro said: “A flying object exploded near me, a big explosion. Seconds later there was a second explosion.” However there has been no independent verification that explosive-carrying drones were the cause of the blast. And a report by cites firefighters at the scene of the blast disputing the government’s version of events. It reports that three local authorities said there had been a gas tank explosion inside an apartment near the speech and where smoke could be seen streaming out of a window. But AP adds that they provided no further details on how they had reached that conclusion. There has also been an unverified claim of responsibility for an attack using drones. The BBC and AP report that a little known group called Soldiers in T-shirts has claimed on social media that it planned to fly two drones loaded with explosives at the president but that government soldiers shot them down before they reached their target. Both news organizations say the group did not respond to attempts to contact it. Venezuela’s president has blamed Colombia for the attack — an accusation that has been refuted by the neighboring state as “baseless”.
For being the richest company ever with $243 billion in cash, sure cuts corners in the stingiest ways. The hardware giant became the . Yet it’s tough to reconcile Apple earning $11 billion in profit per quarter with it still screwing us over on cords and keyboards. The “it just works” philosophy has slipped through the cracks of the money-printing machine. We still turn to Apple because it makes the best core products. But the edges of the customer experience have frayed like the wires of a Lightning cable. The key to Apple’s fortune is obviously selling high margin iPhones, not these ways it nickels and dimes us. But the company has an opportunity to raise its standards after this milestone, though, and win back the faith that could push it to a $2 trillion market cap. 1. Frayed Charging Cables Apple gives you that tingly feeling in the worst way. Can it not build Lightning cables and MacBook chargers a little sturdier? If you avoid losing one long enough to put in some serious use, it inevitably ends up splittling where the cord meets your iPhone or exits the laptop power supply. Whether it’s wrapping them in electrical tape or the spring of a retractable pen, people have come up with all sorts of Macgyver methods to make their Apple chargers last. It got so bad that Apple was , but that expired years ago. If these are what allow us to play with the fancy devices it invents, shouldn’t they get the same quality of industrial design? Image via 2. Buried iTunes Subscriptions Cancellation Want to cancel your Apple Music subscription or some other service you got roped into with a free trial? It’s SUPER easy. First, click the totally unlabeled and generic circle with a blotch in it that’s supposed to be a profile picture icon. You should see a “Manage Subscriptions” option…but you don’t. Instead, you’ll have to know to tap “View Apple ID”. Once you auth in with the same face or thumbprint that opened your phone in the first place you’ll find the option to cut them off. And as thank you for this convenience, you’ll get to pay 30 percent extra on some subscriptions if you pay through Apple. It’s clearly exploitative dark pattern design. 3. Keyboard Claptrap The MacBook keyboard is the on-ramp to the information superhighway, yet a single grain of sand can cause a pile up. Renowned Apple pundit “one of the biggest design screwups in Apple history”. The new butterfly key design Apple rolled out in 2016 can get jammed by dust, requiring a lengthy disassembly process often requiring a professional to fix. Suddenly your work grinds to a halt. Apple wouldn’t always cover this repair, even under warranty. It and tons of public backlash for Apple , and that still typically leaves you without a laptop for a few days. I’m typing this article on a cracked-screen 2013 MacBook Pro because I refuse to upgrade until they make the keyboard design more resilient. 4. Killing Affiliate Fees Blogs Rely On Apple benefits from a legion of blogs obsessing over its hardware and software, hyping up everything it sells. Just this week it returned that favor by announcing it will cut off one of their core sources of revenue. Websites would previously earn a 7 percent commission from Apple in exchange for affiliate link clicks leading to purchases on the App Store. But over the past few years, Apple has begun to sell ads inside the App Store too, competing for advertisers with those external blogs. It’s also built up its own editorial team that curates what’s featured, and apparently doesn’t want competition in being a king-maker. So in October that app review sites like TouchArcade and AppShopper depend on, potentially spelling their doom. 5. Dongle Hell What’s the opposite of “it just works”? Paying extra to lug around a slew of gangly cord connectors you need just to plug things into your laptop or phone. Dongles are the emblem of Apple’s abandonment of the user experience. A Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 dongle runs $50 while it will cost you $9 to plug in any pair of headphones from the past half-century once you’ve inevitably lost the Lightning dongle you’re allocated. Apple loves pushing us towards its vision of tomorrow, like Bluetooth headphones (that it sells) and USB-C fast-chargers (that it sells). But ditching headphone jacks and old school USB ports makes Apple’s latest devices incompatible with sanity. Even its own commercial shows musician . Sorry you can’t pass me the aux cord. I’m from the future. Image via [Featured Image via ]
today announced its Series F funding of $550 million. That brings the total amount raised, according to CrunchBase, to $994.7 million. According to the announcement, this round puts Peloton’s valuation at $4 billion — TCV led the round with other participation in the round from Tiger Global, True Ventures, Wellington Management, Fidelity, NBCUniversal, and Kleiner Perkin, along with new investors – BlackRock, Franklin and Winslow Capital. “We are truly honored to partner with TCV and with Jay Hoag personally,” said John Foley, founder and CEO of Peloton, in a released statement. “TCV’s reputation, experience, and involvement in businesses like Netflix, Spotify and Facebook will be invaluable as we build Peloton into one of the most unique and influential global consumer product and media companies of our day.” The company previously closed a $325 million Series E, which was reportedly used to fuel expansion into the retail market. The company expects to use the latest round of funding to continue growing that sector and grow international. Earlier this year, Peloton announced its second product, a connected treadmill, which the company still says will launch to consumers this call. The company also introduced a new membership product and opened several retail locations.
I love camping, but there’s always an awkward period when you’ve left the tent but haven’t yet created coffee that I hate camping. It’s hard not to watch the pot not boil and not want to just go back to bed, but since the warm air escaped when I opened the tent it’s pointless! Anyway, the Swiss figured out a great way to boil water faster, and I want one of these sweet stoves now. comes from design students at ETH Zurich, who have clearly faced the same problems as myself. But since they actually camp in inclement weather, they also have to deal with wind blowing out the feeble flame of an ordinary gas burner. Their attempt to improve on the design takes the controversial step of essentially installing a stovepipe inside the vessel and heating it from the inside out rather than from the bottom up. This has been used in lots of other situations to heat water but it’s the first time I’ve seen it in a camp stove. By carefully configuring the gas nozzles and adding ripples to the wall of the heat pipe, PeakBoil “increases the contact area between the flame and the jug,” explained doctoral student and project leader Julian Ferchow in an ETH Zurich news release. “That, plus the fact that the wall is very thin, makes heat transfer to the contents of the jug ideal,” added his colleague Patrick Beutler. Keeping the flames isolated inside the chimney behind baffles minimizes wind interference with the flames, and prevents you having to burn extra gas to keep it alive. The design was created using a selective laser melting or sintering process, in which metal powder is melted in a pattern much like a 3D printer lays down heated plastic. It’s really just another form of additive manufacturing, and it gave the students “a huge amount of design freedom…with metal casting, for instance, we could never achieve channels that are as thin as the ones inside our gas burner,” Ferchow said. Of course, the design means it’s pretty much only usable for boiling water (you wouldn’t want to balance a pan on top of it), but that’s such a common and specific use case that many campers already have a stove dedicated to the purpose. The team is looking to further improve the design and also find an industry partner with which to take it to market. MSR, GSI, REI… I’m looking at you. Together we can make my mornings bearable.
It happened. won the race to $1 trillion in market capitalization. Following , Apple shares () briefly traded at $207.05, which values the company sightly over $1 trillion based on the most recent of July 20. While the smartphone market is more or less saturated, Apple managed to increase its margins and the average selling price thanks to the iPhone X. iPhone sales grew by 1 percent, but revenue jumped by 20 percent. With $53.3 billion in revenue, the company managed to grow by 17 percent year-over-year. iPad sales are more or less flat while Mac sales are down. For the past few years, Apple has been saying that services are going to become a key part of the company’s bottom line. All various services (Apple Music, iCloud, Apple Pay, etc.) now represent $9.6 billion in revenue. But let’s be honest. Apple is killing it on the iPhone front, and it’s all that matters. Big tech companies have been performing incredibly well for the past year. Alphabet (Google), Amazon and Microsoft now all have a credible shot at crossing the $1 trillion mark. It’s a meaningless milestone, but an impressive one — $1,000,000,000,000. Apple has been the biggest company in the world when it comes to market cap for years. It might not remain the case forever, so the company can celebrate this moment. Now that tech companies have become so big, it raises a ton of questions. Do they cause antitrust issues? Is there enough regulation to make sure they don’t hold too much economical and political power? Apple (and Tim Cook) are more powerful than many countries and political leaders. Let’s hope they use this power for good. Apple shares are now slightly below today’s high:
Got some spare time this weekend? Why not build yourself a working rover from plans provided by The spaceniks at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have all the plans, code, and materials for you to peruse and use — just make sure you’ve got $2,500 and a bit of engineering know-how. This thing isn’t made out of Lincoln Logs. The story is this: after Curiosity landed on Mars, JPL wanted to create something a little smaller and less complex that it could use for educational purposes. ROV-E, as they called this new rover, traveled with JPL staff throughout the country. Unsurprisingly, among the many questions asked was often whether a class or group could build one of their own. The answer, unfortunately, was no: though far less expensive and complex than a real Mars rover, ROV-E was still too expensive and complex to be a class project. So JPL engineers decided to build one that wasn’t. The result is the , a set of plans that mimic the key components of Curiosity but are simpler and use off the shelf components. “I would love to have had the opportunity to build this rover in high school, and I hope that through this project we provide that opportunity to others,” said JPL’s Tom Soderstrom. “We wanted to give back to the community and lower the barrier of entry by giving hands on experience to the next generation of scientists, engineers, and programmers.” The OSR uses Curiosity-like “Rocker-Bogie” suspension, corner steering and pivoting differential, allowing movement over rough terrain, and the brain is a Raspberry Pi. You can find all the parts in the usual supply catalogs and hardware stores, but you’ll also need a set of basic tools: a bandsaw to cut metal, a drill press is probably a good idea, a soldering iron, snips and wrenches, and so on. “In our experience, this project takes no less than 200 person-hours to build, and depending on the familiarity and skill level of those involved could be significantly more,” . So basically unless you’re literally rocket scientists, expect double that. Although JPL notes that they did work with schools to adjust the building process and instructions. There’s flexibility built into the plans, too. So you can load custom apps, connect payloads and sensors to the brain, and modify the mechanics however you’d like. It’s open source, after all. Make it your own. “We released this rover as a base model. We hope to see the community contribute improvements and additions, and we’re really excited to see what the community will add to it,” said project manager Mik Cox. “I would love to have had the opportunity to build this rover in high school, and I hope that through this project we provide that opportunity to others.”
Fitbit’s stock price jumped in after-hours trading and is currently trading around $6.00 a share, off its 52-week intraday high of $7.79. The company , which saw the average selling price of its wearables increase 6 percent year-over-year to $106 a device. New devices introduced within the last year represented 59 percent of the company’s revenue. Smartwatches were a high-point for Fitbit this quarter. The company stated that its higher-priced smartwatch wearables outsold Samsung, Garmin and Fossil smartwatches combined in North America. Smartwatch revenue grew to 55 percent of revenue, up from 30 percent on a sequential basis. “Our performance in Q2 represents the sixth consecutive quarter that we have delivered on our financial commitments, made important progress in transforming our business, and continued to adapt to the changing wearables market. Demand for Versa, our first ‘mass-appeal’ smartwatch, is very strong. Within the second quarter, Versa outsold Samsung, Garmin and Fossil smartwatches combined in North America, improving our position with retailers, solidifying shelf space for the Fitbit brand and providing a halo effect to our other product offerings,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO. Fitbit’s stock price rallied earlier this summer, hitting 7.79 — its highest selling price since early 2017. The stock has been slipping since, though this quarterly release could cause the price to jump again.
It’s been a week since Lenovo’s Assistant-powered smart display . Slowly but surely, its competitors are launching their versions, too. Today, JBL announced that its $249.95 Link View is , with an expected ship date of September 3, 2018. JBL went for a slightly different design than Lenovo (and the upcoming ), but in terms of functionality, these devices are pretty much the same. The Link View features an 8-inch HD screen; unlike Lenovo’s Smart Display, JBL is not making a larger 10-inch version. It’s got two 10W speakers and the usual support for Bluetooth, as well as Google’s Chromecast protocol. JBL says the unit is splash proof (IPX4), so you can safely use it to watch YouTube recipe videos in your kitchen. It also offers a 5MP front-facing camera for your video chats and a privacy switch that lets you shut off the camera and microphone. JBL, Lenovo and all announced their Google Assistant smart displays at CES earlier this. Lenovo was the first to actually ship a product, and both the hardware as well as Google’s software received a positive reception. There’s no word on when LG’s WK9 will hit the market.
Chinese smartphone manufacturer is now the second biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world according to new reports from and , as initially spotted. In IDC’s , the firm says that the overall market has shrunk by 1.8 percent in Q2 2018. But the biggest surprise is that Huawei now has a 15.8 percent market share with 54.2 million smartphones shipped in Q2. It doesn’t mean that is performing poorly. The company is shipping slightly more smartphones this year compared to last year. Apple also has a slightly bigger market share with 12.1 percent of the market. Samsung is shipping 10.4 percent less smartphones but still remains the leader with 20.9 percent market share, or 71.5 million smartphones. In other words, many Samsung buyers are now buying Huawei devices, or other Android devices. Canalys confirms this trend with the same order — Samsung, Huawei and then Apple. But the firm also highlights that Apple suffers from seasonability compared to its competitors. Samsung and Huawei sell many different devices and release new phones all year long. Apple usually releases new devices in September, which creates a huge spike during the last quarter of the year. Apple will likely overtake Huawei and maybe even Samsung in a couple of quarters. It’s interesting to see that Huawei is performing so well while the company has had issues with the U.S. government. If you browse the smartphone category on Amazon, Honor devices usually appear near the top of the list — Honor is Huawei’s brand for cheaper devices. The is also a solid device for those looking for a premium device.
I worked Circuit City when the PlayStation 2 launched. For weeks, we were sold out, and there was always a crowd around the blue demo unit in the gaming department. It’s easy to see why the PlayStation 2 was a hit looking back. It was powerful, inventive and excelled at local gaming. It was the right system for the time. If recent success proves anything, building for the time is more important than making for the future. Nintendo is that saw 88% year over year operating profit on the back of the Nintendo Switch. The company has sold nearly 20 million systems since its launch, surpassing the total amount of Wii U systems sold and closing in on Gamecube’s tally of 21.7 million units. The Switch is great. I can’t get over how good it is. Again, like other systems before it, the Switch is the right system for the time. It’s portable, it’s small, and it leans heavily on cloud services. It’s not the most powerful system on the market nor does it pack 4k gaming or VR capabilities. The Switch doesn’t even have YouTube or Netflix. It’s a game system. The Switch was a big bet for Nintendo. The company was coming off of the nascent Wii U, which besides Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon, was a game system without good games. It seemed Nintendo had lost its edge. The Wii U, in a way, was a trial for the Switch. It brought gaming off the TV and into the hands of gamers — but those gamers had to be in the same room as the Wii U base station. The Wii U didn’t go far enough in all sense of the phrase. By the time the Switch came out, the looming threat of mobile games seemed to be over. A few years earlier, it appeared that the smartphone was going to take over and eat up the casual gaming market. Even Sony got in on the theme, releasing a hybrid smartphone and game system called the Xperia Play. While the smartphone game market is alive and thriving, it never gobbled up the home console market. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launched and gamers settled into the couch. The Switch offers something different and timely. To state the obvious, the Switch is mobile, and that’s what’s needed in today’s environment. It’s different from the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and in the best way possible. Like previous Nintendo products, the graphics are below the market average, and the capabilities are less than competitors. But that doesn’t matter. The Switch’s gaming experience, to some, is superior. I take my Switch on long flights. I can’t do that with a PlayStation 4. Gamers agree. With nearly 20 million units sold since it launched in 2017, the Switch is nearing the sales amount of the Xbox One, which launched in 2013 and has sold between 25 and 30 million units. The PlayStation 4 is the clear winner of this generation of game systems, though, with nearly 80 million units sold — and an argument could be made that Sony built the Playstation 4 for today’s gamers too, bypassing all the extras Microsoft included in the Xbox One and instead focusing solely on games. Nintendo has done this in the past, too. Think back to the Wii. It launched in 2006 and went on to sell over 100 million units. In 2006 Sony and Microsoft were pushing heavily into HD gaming with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. And for a good reason, too. Consumers were heavily shopping for their first HDTV at the time, and Sony and Microsoft wanted to build a system for the future. Both the PS3 and Xbox 360 went on to long, healthy lives but they never saw the runaway success of the Wii. The Wii was the must-have Christmas gift for 2006 and 2007. It was novel more than beautiful. Compared to the graphics of the PS3, the Wii looked childish. But that was part of the appeal. First generation gamers were aging and having families, and the Wii was built for all ages. Anyone could pick up a Wiimote and swing it around to hit the tennis ball. To many outside the core gaming crowd, the Wii was magical. It was the right system at the right time. The next part seems to be the hardest for Nintendo. Now that the Switch is a success, Nintendo needs to maintain it by building and supporting a robust ecosystem of games. And Nintendo cannot be the source of all the best games. Nintendo must court developers and publishers and keep them engaged in the advantages of the Switch gaming system. If it can do that, the Switch has a chance to be a generational product like the Wii before it.
Hot on the heels of the , 21 states have filed a joint lawsuit against the federal government, alleging not only that decision is dangerous but also that it’s illegal for a number of reasons. But the lawsuit may backfire via the so-called Streisand Effect, further entrenching the controversial technology. Earlier this month brought the news that the U.S. government dropped its case against Cody Wilson and his companies dedicated to the proliferation of 3D models of firearm parts. There are still restrictions on how guns can be made and sold, but the files containing 3D data and allowing people to print components seem to have been determined not to fall under those rules. This was unwelcome news for those in favor of stricter gun control laws, a group apparently including the attorneys general of 21 states. Bob Ferguson, AG for Washington, announced that his team would be leading a lawsuit intended to block the federal actions that legalized this particular form of data. “These downloadable guns are unregistered and very difficult to detect, even with metal detectors, and will be available to anyone regardless of age, mental health or criminal history. If the Trump Administration won’t keep us safe, we will,” . They allege that the administration needs the Defense Department to sign off on the decision, and that Congress needed to be notified 30 days in advance. The decision is also held (owing to a lack of on-record citations or consultations) to be “arbitrary and capricious,” and thus illegal under the Administrative Procedure Act. The Tenth Amendment also gives states the right to regulate firearms, and the filers say that the federal action deprives them of this right and is therefore unconstitutional. That’s all well in order, but the danger posed by these files is overestimated, as is the ability of the government, state or federal, to curtail their distribution. If this lawsuit is successful, it will have little or no effect on 3D printed guns at all. “The status quo – which currently ensures public safety and national security by prohibiting publication of firearm design files on the Internet – should be maintained,” reads a letter sent from a number of AGs to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and AG Jeff Sessions. At the risk of dipping into an extremely charged debate and sensitive political topic (I’ve added the “Opinion” tag just in case), the status quo does no such thing. It must be said that if effective gun control is the goal, there are far more important steps to pursue. Loopholes abound in existing regulations, for instance gun show purchases of unregistered firearms and “80 percent lowers,” which are a quite legal method for creating them. Furthermore, any attempt to remove something from the internet is doomed to failure, as we have seen again and again, often enough that the phenomenon has its own nickname, the Streisand Effect. Workarounds for illegal content are numerous and effective, and presumably the type of person interested in printing their own gun will not be shy about using a VPN or torrent site. If anything, a concerted effort to remove something from the internet usually causes that thing to be permanently maintained online as a sort of middle finger to the authorities. It’s not in the internet’s DNA to forget. While it’s true that outlawing the 3D models would give prosecutors and investigators more to work with, the nefarious actors of the world haven’t been waiting with bated breath on the outcome of the previous lawsuit. Criminals, terrorists, foreign adversaries and so on in the first place don’t even need these files to obtain or create unregistered guns in the first place, nor would their being illegal deter them in the least. The lawsuit may, it is true, tie up and possibly bankrupt Wilson and his supporters, but that’s not much of a victory and certainly doesn’t make anyone safer. Unfortunately this particular demon isn’t going back in the box.
Gripping something with your hand is one of the first things you learn to do as an infant, but it’s far from a simple task, and only gets more complex and variable as you grow up. This complexity makes it difficult for machines to teach themselves to do, but researchers at Elon Musk and Sam Altman-backed have created a system that not only holds and manipulates objects much like a human does, but developed these behaviors all on its own. Many robots and robotic hands are already proficient at certain grips or movements — a robot in a factory can wield a bolt gun even more dexterously than a person. But the software that lets that robot do that task so well is likely to be hand-written and extremely specific to the application. You couldn’t for example, give it a pencil and ask it to write. Even something on the same production line, like welding, would require a whole new system. Yet for a human, picking up an apple isn’t so different from pickup up a cup. There are differences, but our brains automatically fill in the gaps and we can improvise a new grip, hold an unfamiliar object securely and so on. This is one area where robots lag severely behind their human models. And furthermore, you can’t just train a bot to do what a human does — you’d have to provide millions of examples to adequately show what a human would do with thousands of given objects. . Instead, they let the computer try and fail over and over in a simulation, slowly learning how to move its fingers so that the object in its grasp moves as desired. The system, which they call Dactyl, was provided only with the positions of its fingers and three camera views of the object in-hand — but remember, when it was being trained, all this data is simulated, taking place in a virtual environment. There, the computer doesn’t have to work in real time — it can try a thousand different ways of gripping an object in a few seconds, analyzing the results and feeding that data forward into the next try. (The hand itself is a , which is also more complex than most robotic hands.) In addition to different objects and poses the system needed to learn, there were other randomized parameters, like the amount of friction the fingertips had, the colors and lighting of the scene and more. You can’t simulate every aspect of reality (yet), but you can make sure that your system doesn’t only work in a blue room, on cubes with special markings on them. They threw a lot of power at the problem: 6144 CPUs and 8 GPUs, “collecting about one hundred years of experience in 50 hours.” And then they put the system to work in the real world for the first time — and it demonstrated some surprisingly human-like behaviors. The things we do with our hands without even noticing, like turning an apple around to check for bruises or passing a mug of coffee to a friend, use lots of tiny tricks to stabilize or move the object. Dactyl recreated several of them, for example holding the object with a thumb and single finger while using the rest to spin to the desired orientation. What’s great about this system is not just the naturalness of its movements and that they were arrived at independently by trial and error, but that it isn’t tied to any particular shape or type of object. Just like a human, Dactyl can grip and manipulate just about anything you put in its hand, within reason of course. This flexibility is called generalization, and it’s important for robots that must interact with the real world. It’s impossible to hand-code separate behaviors for every object and situation in the world, but a robot that can adapt and fill in the gaps while relying on a set of core understandings can get by. As with OpenAI’s other work, , as are some of the tools they used to create and test Dactyl.
Here is the Mavic 2 before you’re supposed to see it. Just like the original, it’s a small, foldable drone with amazing capabilities. This time around, there will two different version, the Zoom and the Pro, though both will reportedly have the ability to fly at 45mph with a range of five miles. DJI has yet to announce this model. This leak comes from the UK where the drones are described in detail in the latest Argos catalog. Both editions of the Mavic 2 will reportedly have 360-degree collision detection and sport DJI’s Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems and Active Track 2.0 to assist in flying the drone. The battery life is clocked at 31 minutes. The DJI Mavic 2 Pro comes equipped with a 1-inch CMOS Hasselblad camera where the Zoom model has a 2x zoom lens. The Argos advertisement doesn’t mention if the gimbals are removable. Pricing and release date is not mentioned in the advertisement. Chances are both models will be available in the coming weeks as retailers ramp up holiday stock. Expect pricing to be similar to the current Mavic. better quality image — Monty_f (@monty_f)
Several dummy units of future iPhone models have leaked over the weekend. It gives a good idea of what you should expect to see in September when introduces the next iPhone. Most likely, the iPhones on these photos aren’t actual iPhones. They are just dummy units. Every year, a few manufacturers create objects that look exactly like future iPhones. They are based on leaked design schematics and usually look just like the real thing. Case manufacturers and other accessory makers buy those dummy units to get ready before Apple’s announcement. shared photos of two different phones — a bigger iPhone X and a new iPhone that looks a bit like the iPhone X but with a single camera lens. These devices line up with . As you can see, the bigger device looks just like the existing iPhone X, but bigger. It’s a 6.5-inch second-gen iPhone X Plus. It has two cameras at the back and the familiar notch at the top of the display. According to rumors, the second-gen iPhone X Plus could cost $999, or the same price or the iPhone X today. Apple could also update the regular 5.8-inch iPhone X with better components and a lower price — $899. But what about that mysterious 6.1-inch iPhone? 2018 Apple iPhone, iPhone X, iPhone X Plus front panels — Ben Geskin (@VenyaGeskin1) Apple wants to offer a more affordable iPhone with a notch for $700. Unlike the second-gen iPhone X and iPhone X Plus, this new iPhone could feature a slightly bigger bezel and an LCD display. OLED is still much more expensive than LCD, so it’s hard to roll it out across the entire lineup. Apple could also put a single camera at the back of the device and use aluminum instead of stainless steel on the borders. Dimitri12 also shared photos of dummy units that look like Geskin’s dummies: When it comes to colors, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that the cheaper model should come in many different colors — grey, white, blue, red and orange. The second-gen iPhone X and iPhone X Plus should come in black, white and gold. Apple is expected to announce new iPhones in early September. So you should take those dummy units with a grain of salt.