When it comes to activity tracking devices, Fitbit is a name many will recognise. The company already offers a huge number of options but rumour has it more are on their way.
There are currently eight devices in the Fitbit line-up comprising the Zip, One, Flex, Alta, Charge, Charge HR, Blaze and Surge. According to a substantial leak though, the Charge, Charge HR and Flex are about to be succeeded.
Here is everything we know so far about the rumoured Fitbit Charge 2 and Flex 2.
Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Flex 2: Release date
The Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Flex 2 both appeared in images published by TechnoBuffalo in the middle of August. The site didn’t mention a specific release date, but the image of the Charge 2 has 27 November on its display, which could be an indication.
Consumer electronics show IFA is coming up at the beginning of September so we wouldn’t be surprised to see Fitbit use that as its announcement platform, with the devices hitting shelves at the end of November in time for the holiday season.
Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Flex 2: Design
Based on the leaked images of the Fitbit Charge 2, it looks like it will be a larger version of the Fitbit Alta but with the addition of heart rate monitoring.
There are currently two Charge devices – the Charge and the Charge HR. They are identical in design, apart from the latter has Fitbit’s PurePulse heart rate monitor on board, while the former doesn’t. From the leak, it looks like there will be just one new Charge, combining the two older devices together.
The Charge 2 will sport a larger display than the current Charge devices, according to the images. Presumably this will be able to show some smartphone notifications like the Fitbit Alta, along with steps, distance travelled and the rest of the more common metrics found on an activity tracker.
Rumour has it the Charge 2 will also have interchangeable bands, again like the Alta, allowing the user to change the elastomer strap for a different look. The standard buckle fastening found on the original Charge and Charge HR, as well as the Blaze, looks like it will still be present for the Charge 2, meaning it will feel secure on the wrist.
The rumoured Flex 2 is a more simplistic and smaller device, in comparison to the expected Charge 2. Like the original Flex, it looks like the Flex 2 will be a plain elastomer band with LED lights to represent progress.
The original Flex had a smooth finish, while the Flex 2 appears to have a textured finish like the Fitbit Alta. It also looks like it will feature five LEDs like the original but they will be positioned vertically, rather than horizontally. We’d expect plenty of colour options.
Based on the leaked images, it looks like the Flex 2 will use a two-pin fastening method, like the Alta does and like the original Flex does. The leak also claims there will be interchangeable accessories for the Flex 2, suggesting the new device will again offer a small removeable tracker that can be placed into specially-made necklaces and bracelets like the original Flex could with the Tory Burch collection.
Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Flex 2: Features
The leak published by TechnoBuffalo didn’t just show what the Charge 2 and Flex 2 devices might look like, but it also detailed what features we might be able to expect on them.
According to the leak, the Charge 2 will offer PurePulse heart rate monitoring, as we mentioned above. It also looks like it will offer all day activity and sleep tracking, as the current Charge and Charge HR do, as well as Multi-Sport tracking and smartphone notifications, both of which the Alta does. We’re expecting it to measure steps taken, distance travelled, floors climbed, calories burned, heart rate, active minutes and sleep duration, along with call and text notifications.
Sadly, there is no mention of waterproofing capabilities for the Charge 2, but there is for the Flex 2. The Flex 2 is said to be swim-proof, while also offering sleep quality information and all-day activity monitoring. If accurate, it will be the only water-resistant Fitbit tracker available.
We’d expect the Flex 2 to measure steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, active minutes and sleep duration. The current Flex doesn’t have an altimeter, nor does the Fitbit Alta so we’d be surprised to see elevation data on the Flex, though it would be welcomed.
Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Flex 2: Price
The current Fitbit Charge HR costs £119.99, while the Fitbit Flex costs £79.99. We’d expect the Charge 2 to cost a little more than the Charge HR, but less than the Fitbit Blaze, so perhaps around the £130 mark.
We can’t see the Fitbit Flex 2 costing more than the Fitbit Alta as there is no display and less features based on the rumours, so we’d expect to see it sit around the £80 mark like the current Fibit Flex.
Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Flex 2: Conclusion
For now, everything is speculation with nothing confirmed from Fitbit, but a Charge 2 and Flex 2 certainly make sense, as do the leaked designs.
Whether the company will announce the two devices at IFA remains to be seen but we will be updating this feature if more rumours and leaks appear, as well as when official details are revealed.
For now, you can visit our Fitbit hub for everything you need to know about the company’s current line-up.
Bigscreen’s promise to bring the environment of a LAN party into virtual reality is becoming more credible, now that it’s also available in the Oculus store. The free software has been “completely cross-platform” since launch, ready for sharing with friends using Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets, and now you can get it in a new place. As the name implies, it syncs a virtual space so people can show what’s on their desktop to everyone else, even if they’re not physically looking over your shoulder.
The software is also getting a big upgrade, with avatars that are customizable down to their hair, eyes, skin color, gender and glasses. It also claims pseudo eye-tracking and synced mouth movements to help increase the presence in VR (at least, as much as you can with a group of disembodied heads). Another new feature is that now everyone will be able to share their desktop audio, not just the host. That makes it easy for anyone to pull up a YouTube clip, start playing a game or listen to music, without shuffling things around so everyone can hear.
The new update should be available on Steam and Oculus right now.
Source: Oculus, Steam
The robots are coming, and they’re taking our jobs. Or that’s the concern, anyway. A recent Oxford University study surmises that over the next two decades, about 47 percent of U.S. jobs are at risk of being made obsolete thanks to automation. This isn’t restricted to just blue-collar factory labor either; even office clerical duties and high-skilled work could eventually be done by computers and artificial intelligence. And if that happens, how will we make a living? Well, recently, a very old idea has gained momentum in Silicon Valley that aims to solve this very problem. The solution? Guaranteed income for everyone.
The concept is also known as Universal Basic Income, and it really is just that. The government would cut every citizen a check — around $1,000 to $2,000 a month — with no strings attached. You can spend it on groceries, stash it in a savings account or splurge it all on a trip to Hawaii. It doesn’t matter what you do with it; the government will send you that money every month regardless. That check might not matter so much if you already have a decent salary, but if you’re poor or unemployed, that extra $1,000 could be the difference between a roof over your head and living on the streets.
As technology progresses and the threat of job loss looms, basic income is a compelling notion that’s garnered fans in the tech community. Y Combinator, an established startup incubator, announced this year that it was going to conduct a basic income experiment. Researchers at the firm will run a pilot study on 100 families in Oakland, California, whereby each person would be given $1,000 to $2,000 a month. The data gathered from this endeavor (which is slated to last between six months to a year) will inform a five-year project that could involve thousands.
Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator [Bloomberg via Getty Images]
“It’s really important to get data rather than just talk about it,” said Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, during a Bloomberg panel interview. “Are they happy? Are they fulfilled? How does it change their skills, how they spend their time?” He wrote earlier in a blog post: “I’m fairly confident that at some point in the future, as technology continues to eliminate traditional jobs and massive new wealth gets created, we’re going to see some version of this at a national scale.”
Although Silicon Valley’s interest in basic income is recent, it’s actually an idea that’s been around for decades, if not centuries. Founding father Thomas Paine made the case in 1797 for a national fund to pay 15 pounds sterling to every adult over the age of 21, and British philosopher Bertrand Russell called for it in the “social credit” movement in the UK. In the U.S. during the 1930s, the New Deal ushered in a more targeted approach to resolving poverty — it included Social Security, the introduction of workers’ rights and public works projects. So the notion of simply giving people money fell by the wayside.
But interest in basic income lingered. It saw a revival in the 1960s, and interestingly, it had proponents on both liberal and conservative sides of the political aisle. Supporters on the left like it because it would lessen inequality in society, and those on right like it because pure cash handouts are preferable to the bureaucracy of food stamps and other welfare programs.
In his book Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote: “I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.” Libertarian economist Milton Friedman advocated for a version of basic income called the “negative income tax” that would essentially give money back to those who earn below a certain amount. President Richard Nixon even tried to pass a partial basic income bill, but it died in the Senate after it passed the House of Representatives.
Pro-Basic Income protestors dressed up as robots in Switzerland [Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters]
Now, the idea is back in vogue. Switzerland just held a referendum for basic income (it failed with 77 percent opposing), and countries like Finland, the Netherlands and Canada plan on running experiments to see if the idea has any merit. There was actually a small basic income study done in Manitoba, Canada back in the 1970s, but funding dried up before it could be completed. However, it was later discovered that during that time, hospitalization rates in the province fell, work rates didn’t drop off and more teenagers stayed in school. It certainly seems like there was enough promise to at least try it again.
“I think it’s a very interesting time in that basic income, which has not been really feasible throughout history, is going to be feasible soon,” said Altman. “And the thing that people forget is if the robots do take all the jobs, it’s because they can do it less expensively,” adding that it’s possible that this could mitigate the potential cost of basic income.
There are other benefits to this constant stream of income too, according to Altman. “I went from living paycheck to paycheck to never having to worry about money ever again,” he said, referring to the sale of Loopt, a startup he sold to Green Dot corporation for $43.4 million. “I went from constant anxiety to having all of my brain cycles back. The thing I hope we find in our study is a massive transformation to people’s willingness to take risks, have their mind back to worry about more important things.”
“I have found that Silicon Valley’s interest in this is one part optimism and one part guilt,” said Natalie Foster, in the same Bloomberg interview. Foster is a strategic advisor about the “future of work” for the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to “fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue.” “People spend day in and day out thinking about the impact automation and technology will have on society, and the labor force,” she said. “And at the same time, this is a group of people who like big moon-shot ideas and tackling big problems.”
Andy Stern, author of Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream [Bloomberg via Getty Images]
Andy Stern, former head of the SEIU (Service Employees international Union), and author of a new book called Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream, said that a massive disruption in the job market is coming as a result of technology. Trucks, for example, could be replaced by a fleet of self-driving eighteen-wheelers. If that happens, truck drivers won’t be the only ones out of a job. Insurance companies, rest stops and a whole slew of industries could be impacted. “It’s not like the fall of the auto and steel industries. That hit just a sector of the country,” he said in a Bloomberg interview. “This will be widespread. People will realize that we don’t have a storm anymore; we have a tsunami.”
Stern’s model is to pay each American adult $1,000 a month. This, according to him, would lift people out of poverty — the federal poverty line in 2016 is $11,880 for individuals — but wouldn’t be quite enough for them to stop work entirely. If that sounds expensive, well, it is. He aims to pay for this by eliminating cash-transfer programs, which are government efforts to give people money under certain conditions. “There are 122 in the government today,” he said. “UBI could replace programs like food stamps, EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit is a program that gives a refundable tax credit to low-income families) and unemployment insurance. There is a potential $500 billion savings from existing Federal Programs. Then there are $1.3 trillion of tax expenditures of which another $500 billion of savings I believe can be found.”
And that, Stern said, is before the military budget or other spending is examined. “The U.S. could also reinstate a financial transaction tax or implement a VAT or a carbon or asset tax.” With all of these efforts combined, he believes that the $1,000 income is well within reach.
Silicon Valley’s interest in basic income is one part optimism, one part guilt [Getty Images/iStockphoto]
That said, it still sounds pretty daunting. Even proponents of basic income say that, realistically, a program like this will take decades to implement. “A full UBI is 15 to 20 years out,” said Foster. “But in terms of political will, anything feels possible.”
Stern, however, thinks that it could be achieved in 10 to 15 years. He predicts that in the next five years, cities will start experimenting with a basic income for children, in which governments could give families vouchers for daycare.
There’s also a rising interest from politicians such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose government is spearheading an upcoming basic income trial in Ontario. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) is also not opposed to the idea. In an interview with Vox, he said:
“I am absolutely sympathetic to that approach. That’s why I’m fighting for a $15 minimum wage, why I’m fighting to make sure that everybody in this country gets the nutrition they need, why I’m fighting to expand Social Security benefits and not cut them, making sure that every kid in this country regardless of income can go to college. That’s what a civilized nation does.”
Critics of basic income worry, however, that the cost is just too high. Not only is it expensive, it would take money away from existing welfare programs, which is a bone of contention for those on the left. Conservative detractors say that simply giving people money could be a disincentive to finding work. There are also those who think that the dystopian future of structural joblessness simply won’t happen.
“There’s this idea that there won’t be enough jobs to go around,” said Stephen Menendian, the director of research at the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, which is a research organization at the University of California, Berkeley dedicated to equity, inclusion and diversity. “I tend to be a skeptic of that,” he continued. “It’s not going to be true for decades.” He said that right now, the problem is that there’s a skills mismatch, but there are still plenty of jobs out there. “We don’t spend enough money on vocational development and skills training.”
Universal Basic Income campaign in Switzerland [Reuters]
“Our focus should always be on improving the opportunity structure, improving the institutions and investments we have in developing human capacity and skills,” he continued. “The money would be better spent there.” Plus, he said that taking away welfare programs like food stamps would actually make people’s lives worse. “A lot of these programs have economies of scale,” he said. “Take low-income housing for example. Tax incentives encourage developers to build them. Simply giving money to individuals is not going to help build more low-income housing.”
“We will always have a bottom 10 percent no matter what,” said Foster, adding that basic income won’t solve society’s ills. “There’ll always be a ratio or divide. But if you look at it as not trying to get rid of poverty, but instead dealing with people who are completely destitute who cannot take care of themselves.”
“I’m not sure it’s a solution,” said Altman, admitting that he doesn’t know if basic income will work. “I don’t think it absolves anyone from figuring out policy changes or new organizations or educational technology. Basic income will not make the world more fair and equitable for everyone.”
“But I think it’s worth studying. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Twitch’s social network-like Friends feature just got more useful if you want more company for streaming or broadcasting. A new feature called “Activity Sharing” will notify your entire Friends list if you’re doing something interesting so they can join in. Conversely, you can check your Friends list to see what others are doing and join in, as shown in the GIF below. Users can keep broadcasts or streams private, if they prefer, by un-ticking the “share my activity” box.
The Friends feature, which recently launched on mobile, is still in open beta. Much like with Facebook, Friends can send each other Whispers at any time, but followers need permission. Twitch created the feature to make it easier to send “Whispers,” or private messages, to pals, but has since expanded it considerably. While some users are dubious of the “Twitchbook” feature, it’s undeniably good for broadcasters and socially-minded streamers.
Titanfall 2 represents a huge opportunity for Respawn Entertainment. When the first game launched in 2014, the Xbox One was still in its infancy, and struggling from Microsoft’s disastrous messaging. Titanfall received plenty of accolades for its human-versus-robot combat, but never found an audience befitting a veteran Call of Duty developer. The follow-up could be different, however, because it’s headed to the PlayStation 4 in addition to the Xbox One and PC. The game will also feature a full-blown campaign — a first for the franchise and something the original was criticized for not having.
“A lot of people are going to be playing this franchise for the first time, so we can’t take anything for granted,” Drew McCoy, a producer on Titanfall 2, told Engadget. “It’s a difficult balancing process, because you don’t want existing players to feel like the first game didn’t matter, but you also don’t want new players to feel like they’ve been left out of the loop. It’s something we’ve always been aware of while making the game.”
The story centers on a lowly grunt called Jack Cooper, who inherits the robot Titan BT-7274 from a dying pilot. Stuck in enemy territory, the two unlikely allies are forced to team up and continue their mission, battling the villainous Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) along the way.
McCoy is the first to admit that the campaign has been a challenge to develop. Titanfall is a game about mobility, with countless ways to sneak up and flank foes. You can wall-run along the side of buildings, or vault over walls and debris with your jetpack. Then there are the Titans — huge, lumbering machines that can obliterate both robot and human foes. Containing all of this movement and destruction in a linear story mode is no easy task. Initially, the team tried to apply all of their mechanics to a single-player campaign, but it didn’t jell. “We wasted a decent amount of time trying to make that work,” McCoy said.
Titanfall 2 would need a different approach. The team split up and went to work on new ideas that would later be called “action blocks.” These were smaller, simpler experiences that revolved around a particular weapon, mechanic or level idea. The only requirement was that they be fun and that they work with an individual player-controlled character. More than 100 of these were produced, before being whittled down to a set that could be chained together in a coherent series of levels.
The result is a campaign that’s more varied than the Call of Duty franchise. Of course, there will be some explosive shootouts, but you can also expect some quieter, more reflective moments. A bit of light platforming. Perhaps a puzzle or two. McCoy says Respawn has been inspired by Valve games such as Half-Life and Portal, and how they convey the story to the player.
“A lot of the people that bought or were interested in the first game would have classed themselves as an action-adventure gamer more than a shooter player,” McCoy suggested. “So that helped us be comfortable with the fact that you’re not always shooting guys in Titanfall 2. There are sections where you’ll go for minutes and minutes without shooting anything, and that’s fine, because that’s what this game wants to become.”
A robot rumble
Titanfall 2 will feel a bit like a buddy cop movie. Cooper and BT are wildly opposed in their abilities and the way they view the world. They’ll start off as awkward comrades but slowly bond over the course of their adventure. The Titan will have its own personality too. In one scene, he casually explains the probability and likely causes of death before throwing Cooper across a large gap. At certain points you’ll be able to choose from a few different dialog options too, shaping your relationship and, hopefully, developing an emotional attachment to the machine.
Respawn has drawn inspiration from countless pieces of pop culture. During our interview, McCoy mentioned Terminator, Robocop and an anime series called Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. If you walk through the company’s offices, you’ll see figures and posters for classic mecha properties such as Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion. “All of the stuff from the last 30 years that you would expect to see — we’re all fans of it.”
The Titanfall universe is a blend of Western military shooters and the Japanese robots that have been drawn on manga pages for decades. While the game is still quite violent — it’s nothing like as playful as Overwatch — it will have a lighter, more upbeat vibe than Call of Duty. McCoy compared it to Indiana Jones, which manages to present murder in a way that’s still family friendly. “It does have a more playful tone at times,” he explained. “We’ve got some over-the-top characters, and there’s a little bit of levity in there — some comedy, if you will. It’s more of a high adventure.”
Titanfall 2 has some tough competition this fall. It’s up against Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty, as well as ongoing service-style shooters such as Overwatch, Star Wars Battlefront and Destiny. Titanfall has a solid reputation already, but it still has to fight for attention.
“No matter what, we’ve crafted a game that’s unlike anything else,” McCoy said. “I think it’s going to stand off to the side of everything else, and it’s not going to be the head-to-head that everyone thinks it will be. So I think the chances of us gaining an audience that likes what we’re doing are pretty good. Regardless, we’re making a game that we think is fun, and our philosophy has always been that if we like it, there are probably going to be other people out there that like it as well.”
We’re live all week from Cologne, Germany, for Gamescom 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.
By Eve O’Neill
This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. Read the full article here.
After three years of continually testing headlamps, and adding 12 new models to our test pool, we still think the Black Diamond Spot is the best headlamp for most people. Nothing this affordable can burn brighter or longer—very important features if you plan on taking your headlamp into the outdoors.
Who this is for
Ultrarunner Joe Grant, about to hit the trail. Photo: Fredrik Marmsater
If you’re a backpacker or a camper who loves to go hiking and mountaineering, this is the guide for you—we even have a rechargeable alternative if you plan on taking a lot of day hikes. If you’re looking for a headlamp for reading, performing home and auto repairs, or crafting and modeling at home—or if you work in HVAC or construction—we have recommendations to suit your particular needs as well.
Keep in mind that the headlamps in this guide are not recommended for mountain biking (you need something brighter) or hunting, nor are they appropriate for military purposes, tactical use, or rescue (you need something with colored LED lights, and color temperature might matter, too). And they are not the right choice for caving, diving, or underwater photography (you need something seriously waterproof).
How we picked and tested
Documenting the relationship between battery life and light output. GIF: Eve O’Neill
We began by researching headlamp reviews and recommendations from reputable sources online, and then combing through and vetting other products found on Amazon that had great word of mouth. Currently, a lot of fake reviews are floating around and inflating the popularity of less-expensive options, a development we find discouraging. This is becoming a more pervasive problem, and we wish it would stop.
After conducting a small survey of our readers to find out how people use their headlamps, we made a spreadsheet to compare specs of the products we liked, picked which ones we wanted to test firsthand, and put 23 headlamps through four rounds of testing.
For our battery test—done because light and battery specs on headlamp boxes are highly misleading—we loaded our headlamps with fresh batteries, turned them on to their highest setting, and recorded their performance for five hours. To test the beam spread, we photographed the beams of our lights inside a dark shed to see what they looked like, and we compared them with one another. As for usability, we used every light for DIY tasks around the house and for outside activities, and tried to see which ones we could operate without having to read the instructions. Finally, we put all 23 headlamps through the spin cycle of a dryer for 30 seconds, to test their durability.
If you purchase a Spot, be sure to get the newly redesigned version, which looks like this. Photo: Eve O’Neill
If you’re headed into the wilderness, the Black Diamond Spot gives you the most of what you need (a bright beam and long-lasting battery) and the least of what you don’t (especially high-quality optics) for a reasonable price. Its design is lightweight and packable, as well as splashproof and dustproof, and it also has a red LED to preserve your night vision. A few extras are crammed in, too, including a fully dimmable beam, a battery indicator light, and a way to lock the button so the lamp doesn’t turn on in your bag.
Is the Spot perfect? No, but after testing 23 options, we’re convinced that no headlamp is. The single on-off switch is sometimes frustrating, and this headlamp gets no points for optical quality—a hot spot sits right in the middle of the beam. But we don’t think you’ll notice or care (if you do, we have a pick with a better beam below). In our tests, we had no problem using the Spot while hiking in a whiteout blizzard, rummaging around a dark shed, and peering down some long, clogged gutter downspouts.
For casual use
The Vitchelo’s simple, intuitive buttons were our favorite thing about this very nice lamp. Photo: Eve O’Neill
If the button on the Black Diamond Spot were as easy to use as those on the Vitchelo V800, it would be near perfect. If you’re not bothered by the fact that Vitchelo isn’t a huge brand name, the separate buttons the V800 has for red and white LEDs are so rare (and so gloriously easy to operate) that we think they alone make this headlamp worth the purchase.
In fact, this light is bright, easy to use, lightweight, and pretty cheap—and although we found that most of its Amazon reviews were phony, according to Fakespot, we tested the V800 ourselves, and for now we’re convinced that it’s a good option for casual use.
A rechargeable choice
The ReVolt is a rechargeable headlamp that can also take AAA batteries when power gets low. Photo: Eve O’Neill
If you’re a frequent day hiker or a dedicated weekend warrior, having a rechargeable headlamp that you can juice up in the car on the way to the trailhead can be liberating. We looked at nine rechargeable models, and we think the Black Diamond ReVolt is better suited for the beating you’ll give it than any other option. Most important, it can operate on AAAs if the rechargeable battery happens to die when you’re nowhere near a USB outlet, a feature that most rechargeable headlamps don’t have.
The Coast FL75 has separate buttons (the red wings on each side) for the red and white LEDs. Photo: Eve O’Neill
The Coast FL75, our upgrade pick, has both a red LED and a white one, and just like our runner-up, it has a separate button for each of those colors, which makes turning the lamp on and toggling through modes unusually, gloriously straightforward.
This is a 405-lumen light, and such bright lights—the kind that spit out beautiful, even beams—can suck a battery dry in no time. Thankfully, the FL75 runs on AAAs and can go for two hours on high and up to 12 hours on low, longer than other lights in the category. The only bummer is that it’s slightly heavier than the Black Diamond Spot.
Great for kids
The Shining Buddy is inexpensive and has the flashing red lights that kids love.
Though we made sure all of our headlamps “for adults” had a red LED for practical purposes, we weren’t shocked to find that kids were drawn to headlamps with red flashing lights, too. The kids we know seem to like it mostly so that they can pretend to be red-eyed monsters or aliens. And why not let them? The Shining Buddy LED Headlamp is easy to adjust and operate, equipped with both red and red-flashing modes (in addition to a white light for utility), and inexpensive enough that everyone can have their own.
This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.
The Federal Communications Commission is just as fed up with robocalls as you are. After opening the door for telecoms to offer robocall blocking services last year, and urging those companies to make them available for free last month, members of the FCC convened a meeting of the Robocall Strike Force this morning to figure out what should happen next. (And yes, that’s really what it’s called.)
“As in any pressing challenge like this,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, “perfect is the enemy of the good. The nature of software, as you all know, is to start and continually improve. Let’s have that philosophy here.”
That fast-moving mentality is good news for folks sick of getting fake calls from the IRS at dinnertime, but it’s too bad the part of the meeting the public got to see was a little light on the substance. Still, we got get a finer sense of the companies throwing their weight behind this cause. Beyond AT&T, Apple and Google (which were already known to be part of the strike force), AT&T CEO and strike force chief Randall Stephenson conformed that “technical experts” from Comcast, Level 2, Nokia, Samsung, Sprint and Verizon.
“We have carriers, device makers, OS developers, network designers, and as you heard the commissioner speak, regulators and lawmakers are going to have a role to play in this as well,” said he added. “So what we’re going to have to do is come out of this session with a comprehensive playbook and that we [will] all go out and begin to execute.” Beyond that, Commissioner Ajit Pai raised more specific questions about steps the working group could take, from encouraging Congress to pass an anti-spoofing act proposed in 2015 to pushing for enforcement actions against known, shady telemarketers.
Not long after, strike force members in attendance took sequestered themselves behind closed doors to get to work. Here’s hoping up they cook up a thorough plan of action soon — they’ll report their findings in 60 days.
EV charging company Evatran has been prepping its upcoming Plugless wireless charging system for release in the near future.
The product, which was previously available for pre-order for Tesla Model S owners, is about to start shipping. Plugless acts as a boon for drivers way creating a drive-up wireless charging pad to juice up the car itself.
Vehicle owners won’t be responsible for doing this themselves, though. Plugless will use installers to add on a special module that’s needed for the charging system to work, and it’s all included in the entry price tag of $2,440 per system. It won’t affect the car’s warranty, and Plugless offers its own three-year warranty in the event anything goes south, so you’re covered in the event any issues arise.
The charging kit can provide a minimum of 20 miles of juice per hour with a 7.2kW charging rate, and it can be used indoors or outdoors. The first installations will begin in a few weeks to a small group of those lucky enough to have pre-ordered. After that, more Model S owners will see a larger expansion this fall.
Project Arena is a full-body VR game that pits two players against each other in a Tron-esque light disc battle. It was born from Icelandic developer CCP’s “VR Labs,” an initiative of experimentation and iteration, where teams are free to create lots of working concepts before working out which can become full games. Project Arena has already passed the first test — it morphed from the concept phase last year (when it was called Disc Arena) into the “project” phrase this year.
Playing the game is intuitive. CCP is only showing off ‘brawl mode,’ which is a straight player-versus-player experience. I wore an HTC Vive headset, and in each hand I held a Vive controller. A voiced tutorial then talked me through the basic mechanics. The aim of the game is to hit your opponent with a light disc, which you can either throw directly at them or bounce off walls. You only have one disc, and if you miss, you need to wait for it to come back and catch it. At the same time, your opponent throws their disc at you, and you need to either deflect it with your hands or dodge it entirely. You also have a large shield that you can use three times if you’re in trouble. Each player gets three lives, and there are two rounds to decide a winner.
I had a lot of fun with Project Arena, and it’s a very polished VR experience already — just like Eve: Valkyrie and Gunjack before it. I’m hopeful that CCP will take it further and turn it into a full game, as there’s no reason this couldn’t work with a Rift, a Vive or PSVR at home. And that’s not just blind optimism: So far, Project Arena has followed the same development path that led to the Gear VR shooter Gunjack being released.
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Streaming radio service Pandora is getting ready to introduce two new on-demand paid subscription tiers, in addition to keeping its popular free option available, according to people familiar with the matter speaking with The Wall Street Journal.
The company is said to be “close to inking deals” with some major record companies that will let it expand the two new tiers in both the United States and some markets overseas.
The most expensive subscription is said to be $10 per month and grant users unlimited access to tens of millions of songs on Pandora, bringing the internet radio streaming service closer to that of Spotify and Apple Music. The company will then slightly tweak its existing $5 per month ad-free option with a few new perks like skipping songs, offline listening, and more.
While competing with the likes of Spotify, Apple and other $10-a-month service providers may be difficult, some music-industry executives believe that Pandora’s planned $5-a-month tier presents a bigger opportunity for the business, potentially unlocking new revenue from consumers who want a bit more control over their listening experience but wouldn’t pay $10 a month.
First launched in 2000, Pandora has never had to get individual permission from record labels to play their music since its services offer only randomized, radio-like “stations” that prevent users from playing specific songs. Since its new model will add these on-demand listening features for its users, Pandora now has to partner with various record labels in addition to the broad internet radio licensing fees it pays.
The company hopes its new business model attracts subscribers, since it’s seen a “listenership plateau” over the past few years with 80 million active monthly users, about 4 million of which are paying $5 per month to avoid ads between songs. Currently, the radio features of Pandora are available in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, but the potential new markets overseas it will expand to have not yet been disclosed.
Also left unspecified was a release date for the new on-demand streaming tiers beyond sometime in the fall. For those who don’t have it, you can download the Pandora app for free from the iOS App Store. [Direct Link]
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