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17
May

What is Google Daydream and what devices support it? Google’s Android VR platform explained


When it comes to virtual reality, Google has been very active in getting cheap devices into people’s hands, thanks to Google Cardboard, and even supplying them with plenty of content to view, through YouTube.

In 2016 Google introduced Daydream, a new VR platform for Android devices that’s built right into Android Nougat and supported by Google’s own viewer hardware, the Daydream View.

Here’s everything you need to know about Daydream, a fresh take on mobile VR.

Google

What is Daydream?

Daydream effectively simplifies access to virtual reality content on a mobile device.

It comes in three key aspects. There is an optimal specification list that manufacturers must meet for a smartphone to be labelled Daydream-ready.

There is a Google-made Daydream View VR headset, although multiple manufacturers could also build their own designs (as long as they meet Google’s standards).

And there is an all-in-one hub for VR content. Daydream Home is a one-stop shop where you can start virtual reality apps or view videos while wearing the headset itself.

Why do we need Daydream?

At present, virtual reality content is fragmented. It is available from different places, but rarely all accessible from the one central location. Anyone who’s gone through the charade of watching 360-degree YouTube videos on a Samsung Gear VR will know what we mean. You have to jump through several hoops just to get to the content you want to view.

Daydream is designed to solve that, at least for Android device owners. It will house the content from all mobile VR developers, no matter who they are. Sources big and small will be immediately accessible through the hub.

In addition, while Google Cardboard has been a fun and easy device to use to get a flavour of what VR is about, it’s hardly high-tech or, in many cases, comfortable. The Daydream View headset is a much more comfortable and practical approach, rather than the ad hoc nature of Cardboard viewers.

Pocket-lint

What devices will work with Daydream?

Daydream viewers

To use Daydream, you’ll need a Daydream viewer of some sort. At the moment, the only Daydream headset available is Google’s own Daydream View. As well as the Daydream View headset there is also a specific Daydream remote control, which comes with the Google device. It is designed by Google and enables users to interact with apps without having to tap the side of the headset – as in the case with the current Samsung Gear VR – or fiddling with other on-headset controls.

  • Google Daydream View review: A Pixel-perfect VR experience?

At the launch of Daydream, many partners were announced, with the likes of HTC, LG, Huawei and others listed. So far there’s been no other viewers launched, although some details have been shared about the Huawei VR headset. There’s no launch date on it, but we suspect it will be alongside a future phone, like the Huawei P10.

  • This is Huawei’s Daydream VR headset

Google

Daydream-compatible smartphones

The list of manufacturers that have so-far committed to releasing Daydream-ready phones includes Samsung, HTC, LG, Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE, Asus and Alcatel. To be classed as Daydream-ready, you need to conform to Google’s guidelines, although many flagship devices will qualify in 2017.

The following phones have been launched as Daydream ready, meaning you’ll be able to use Daydream on these devices:

  • Google Pixel (review)
  • Google Pixel XL (review)
  • Huawei Mate 9 Pro
  • Porsche Design Mate 9 (preview)
  • Moto Z (review)
  • Asus ZenFone AR
  • ZTE Axon 7

Qualcomm has also been vocal in supporting Daydream, saying that its Snapdragon 821 is Daydream ready, and that’s what you’ll find in the Google Pixel. However, even though you have the right hardware, the device manufacturer has to decide to support Daydream. For example, the new HTC U11 isn’t Dayream compatible, because HTC doesn’t see that as a priority (or would rather push its own Vive headset).

What apps will be compatible with Daydream?

Many third-party app announcements are yet to be made, but Google launched a YouTube VR app and Daydream Keyboard.

We also spotted Netflix VR, HBO Go and Hulu on the list, and the company revealed that an app based on JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be coming too.

There will be plenty of games too, of course.

When is Daydream coming and how much will it cost?

Google’s Daydream View VR headset and accompanying remote control are available from Google’s own online store. You will need a compatible smartphone to use the headset.

Shipping started on 10 November in the UK, US and other countries. Priced at £69 in the UK, $79 in the US, Daydream View is available in slate, snow and crimson colours.

The Daydream app also launched in the Google Play Store on 10 November. This app serves as the main hub for Daydream View headset. With it, you can find and play with Daydream-compatible apps installed on your phone. You will also have access to Google Play Store to download other apps and experiences.

Before downloading the app, you may have to update your phone to the latest version of Android 7.1 Nougat.

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17
May

Google Lens brings super powers to your phone camera


Google has announced a new smart camera-based product called Google Lens. It’s essentially a super-powered version of Google Goggles that does way more than just do a search based on what you take a photo of.

Its most recently announced comparable product is probably Bixby Vision on the Galaxy S8 and S8+. It uses deep machine learning to not only detect object, but action functions based on those.

As an example, you can point to a specific flower and ask Google Assistant what it is, and it will tell you. Or, point it at the barcodes, network name and password keys on the back of a router and it connects your phone to the Wi-Fi network.

It can also recognise restaurants, clubs, cafes and then immediately bring up a pop-up window on the screen to show you reviews, address details and opening times.

With Google Lens, your smartphone camera won’t just see what you see, but will also understand what you see to help you take action. #io17 pic.twitter.com/viOmWFjqk1

— Google (@Google) May 17, 2017

Through Google Assistant, you will be able to do other things like point the camera at the show times outside a cinema, and tell it to remember that particular event. It also translates in real time when you point it at languages you don’t understand. 

When it launches, the service will be available through Google Assistant and Google Photos before being launched through other Google apps in the near future. 

17
May

Samsung DeX review: The impressive, unnecessary, phone-powered PC


My family’s first computer was a boxy, squat Tatung with an AMD K2, a handful of RAM and a 4GB hard drive. It was ugly and slow, even by 1998 standards, but it (somehow) got the job done. The decade and change that followed brought staggering leaps in performance and huge reductions in size. I’m writing this on a Galaxy S8 Plus — a metal-and-glass slab I just pulled out of my pocket — connected to a monitor, keyboard and mouse with Samsung’s new DeX dock. The kicker: It’s far better than I dared expect. Ten-year-old me would be losing it if he saw this. In fact, the me from three or four years ago would’ve done the same. After all, this isn’t a new idea.

Companies have tried — and mostly failed — to make smartphones work like PCs for years now. Just look at Motorola’s Atrix or Microsoft’s Continuum or any of the startups languishing on Kickstarter. And yet, here we are — the Galaxy S8 doubles as a surprisingly respectable PC. The real question now isn’t about how feasible the idea is, it’s whether anyone should bother. Unfortunately, as impressive as DeX can be, the answer for most people is a big ol’ “no.”

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Chris Velazco/Engadget

Getting started

If you want to turn the S8 or S8 Plus into a PC, you’re going to need a bunch of extra parts. There’s the DeX dock ($150) to start, which has most of the requisite connections — an HDMI-out port, an ethernet jack and two full-size USB ports. You can connect a wired keyboard and mouse, but the more elegant solution is to use a pair of Bluetooth ones. Just remember to pair them before you dock — otherwise you’ll be stuck with a pretty desktop and no way to use it.

For most, the biggest omission is a headphone jack, because the phone’s speaker is blocked when docked. Audio is routed through the S8’s speaker by default, which gets the job done, but anyone planning to spend a lot of time in front of a DeX desktop will want something better. Here’s hoping the monitor you connect to the DeX dock has built-in speakers or a headphone jack of its own. (You could also link up a Bluetooth speaker if you have one of those handy.) And while we’re talking about monitors, there’s a decent chance the spare displays in your home use VGA or DVI connections. If that’s the case, you’ll need an HDMI adapter to connect the screen to your dock — yet another thing you might have to buy.

Some of you reading this will have all this stuff lying around the house anyway. In that case, go nuts: Getting everything set up takes moments, at most. If, however, you have to go out and buy all the extra peripherals, a little mental math is in order. Do these extra costs seem worth it when you probably have a full-blown computer within reach?

In use

Screen-Shot-2017-05-16-at-11.48.05-AM.jp

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Once everything is plugged in, you’re dropped onto a very familiarlooking desktop — the app launcher-button lives in the bottom-left corner like the classic Windows start button, and the time and quick-settings panel are locked on the bottom-right. If you’ve fiddled with Windows at all since 1995, everything will make sense.

To really get a feel for what the S8s are capable of with DeX, I spent the past week trying my best to use this setup as my daily work rig. I’ve been firing off emails, opening loads of browser tabs, skimming through videos, and generally trying to be productive. There’s a surprising amount of power locked away inside the Galaxy S8, making DeX snappier than I expected. For the most part, DeX has kept up with everything I’ve thrown at it, and everything moves smoothly even when the system inevitably tells you it’s running low on memory. It’s not as quick as the PC you probably already have, but it was more than enough for most of my daily routine.

Most of the time, I had Slack and Chrome taking up my screen space, with Evernote, Google Docs, Pocket Casts, The New York Times app, Twitter and more in idle windows in the background. None of these posed problems. DeX even handled some arcane corporate tasks, like filing expense reports. I was able to dig up a receipt from my inbox, download it onto the phone, and import it into our expenses system with a little help from a third-party file-manager app. Consider me (mostly) impressed. Gamers obviously need not apply, but if you spend most of your day within the confines of a web browser, DeX may suffice.

Even so, there were occasional moments when the interface refused to respond at all, prompting minutes of frustration and pointlessly clicking on things. And often the system started working normally again just as abruptly as it stopped. Confusingly, I had maybe 10 apps going (far short of the 30 Samsung set as a cap) when it would freeze up. These instances are relatively rare, but they’re a jarring reminder that the S8s were meant to work as a phone first and a desktop second. And really, that’s the most important thing to keep in mind about DeX. Samsung has shoehorned a perfectly usable desktop interface into the S8s, but they often still try to act like phones.

Screenshot_20170512-123535.png

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Just look at how DeX handles your installed software. Some apps, like Microsoft Word and Excel, have been optimized for DeX and deliver the smoothest “mobile” productivity experience I’ve seen. At the time of this writing, there are 16 optimized apps in Samsung’s store, some of which are more helpful than others. The Office apps are a no-brainer, as are Skype, Wunderlist and Photo Editor MG, but who’s aching for Craigslist+? Some of you will also love Amazon Workspaces, which lets you spin up a virtual Windows or Linux machine when Android is too constricting. With a solid network connection, Workspaces is excellent when windowed or running full-screen. You’ll need passing familiarity with Amazon Web Services to get started, which can be tricky for non-power users. Then again, if you’re a power user, you’re probably not spending that much time on a DeX rig anyway.

Other apps, like Twitter, can be resized into tablet-like forms. But they don’t feel any better on a desktop monitor than they do on a tablet — and app optimization for Android tablets is pretty terrible. The last category is the biggest: These are the apps that run solely in small, phone-sized windows. Facebook and Instagram fall into this pile, which, honestly, isn’t so bad, because I could just open them up in a web browser and be on my merry way. Unfortunately, your choice of browser will have a pretty big impact on the quality of your DeX experience. Samsung’s, for instance, defaults to showing you full desktop versions of websites instead of their (usually lackluster) mobile equivalents. Chrome — my go-to — doesn’t. It serves up mobile versions of sites, despite Samsung reps telling us this wouldn’t be the case. Sure, you can force Chrome to request desktop pages, but that has to happen on a site-by-site basis, which is a waste of time.

Screenshot_20170512-131721.png

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Still other apps refuse to run under DeX at all. Some are obvious, like Samsung Pay — after all, there’s no reason to worry about mobile payments when your phone is plugged into a dock. Others, like Spotify, are much more frustrating. And let me be 100 percent clear: It’s not that Spotify won’t run in a resizable window; it refuses to run altogether, even the web player. The only way I could access my Spotify library was to fire up a virtual Windows machine (thanks, Amazon) on which I could install and run the desktop Spotify app. (Thankfully, other media apps, like Google Play Music, work just fine.)

And then there are the little things. Certain web apps, like Evernote, won’t work in browsers, so you’re forced to download the app. The phones don’t keep track of the way you like your windows organized, so you’re starting from scratch each time you dock. Sometimes the Samsung Pay tab appears at the bottom of the main display, which is, well, useless. Copying and pasting between apps can be tricky, if not impossible, because they don’t all work well with mouse cursors. And unlike Microsoft’s Continuum, which keeps the Windows Phone’s screen active while docked, the S8 stays mostly inert. You can use the built-in iris scanner to authenticate yourself when DeX is locked. But “can” doesn’t always equal “should.” I had to hunch over my desk and move my face for a few moments to find the sweet spot. Trust me: You’re definitely better off punching in your PIN.

Wrap-up

DeX has issues, but as a whole, it works well enough that some little problems can be overlooked. There’s no way to turn a phone into a computer without a lot of help from software partners and app developers, and despite some flawed execution, DeX blurs the line between phone and PC better than anything else in smartphone history. It’s a hell of a technical achievement.

That doesn’t mean you should rush out and buy a DeX dock, though. On some level, it feels like something Samsung built just to prove that it could. Because of that, it can be difficult to imagine how something like this meaningfully slots into someone’s life. If you can afford a pricey smartphone, you almost certainly have a PC or two around the house already. You could feasibly use it as a computer for kids, but if they’re old enough to be responsible for an expensive device, they probably already have access to a computer. Most important, the technical restraints here and the need for extra gear ultimately make DeX a hard sell.

17
May

Qualcomm sues iPhone suppliers to get to Apple’s money


Qualcomm and Apple are at each other’s throats yet again. Well, indirectly this time. The latest development in this legal saga is that now the chip-maker is suing Foxconn, Pegatron, Wistron and Compal Electronics for refusing to pay their due licensing fees. “Qualcomm seeks an order that would require the defendants to comply with their long-standing contractual obligations to Qualcomm, as well as declaratory relief and damages,” the company said in a press release.

The rub here is that Qualcomm says many of these licensing agreements were in place before Apple produced its first iPhone. And, that these manufacturers are paying Qualcomm licensing fees for non-Apple products, but not those for the Cupertino-branded devices.

“While not disputing their contractual obligations to pay for the use of Qualcomm’s inventions, the manufacturers say they must follow Apple’s instructions not to pay,” the release says.

Late last month, Apple began withholding money it owed to these same licensors, prompting Qualcomm to cut its revenue estimates for the third quarter by $500 million. Now the licensors are further caught in the middle between the two companies. A few weeks ago, it was reported that Qualcomm might try blocking new iPhones from entering the country this fall.

“It is unfortunate that we must take this action against these long-time licensees to enforce our agreements, but we cannot allow these manufacturers and Apple to use our valuable intellectual property without paying the fair and reasonable royalties to which they have agreed,” Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm’s general counsel said.

Qualcomm is currently on the other side of a lawsuit, too. Intel and Samsung joined the Federal Trade Commission’s claim that Qualcomm uses its patents to unfairly stay at the top of the mobile industry.

Source: Qualcomm

17
May

Drone pilots in China have to register with the government


Americans aren’t the only ones who have to register their drones. China’s Civil Aviation Authority has announced that pilots will have to register any robotic flier heavier than 0.55 pounds starting on June 1st. Online registration will open up on May 18th, and the government will start publishing no-fly zone data for civilian airports on the same day. It’s hoping that drone makers will use the info to implement geofencing that prevents drones from venturing into dangerous areas.

The initiative will also see regulators working with local government and police to curb drone interference, and will eventually standardize commercial drone use with four main categories: aerial photography, agricultural use, aviation photography and license training. The country already recognizes over 200 training outlets that have issued over 14,000 certificates so far, so some of this standardization would really just expand on what’s already happening.

It’s hard to escape concerns that this will help the government crack down on drone pilots for spurious reasons, such as when they record protests or questionable government activities. However, the registration officially comes as a response to a mounting number of safety incidents involving drones at airports. Authorities note that Chengdu alone saw eight examples of drone interference since April, six of which grounded 138 flights. If those sorts of figures are applicable elsewhere, that’s a lot hassle and potential danger.

The weight limitation does mean that some drones will be exempt. The Hover Camera Passport we tried last fall is just light enough to squeak by, for example. However, the new rules will definitely affect a large chunk of the drone market, including relatively small machines like the DJI Mavic Pro. The Chinese drone landscape is about to change in a big way, for better or worse.

Via: Mashable

Source: CAAC (translated), Beijing Youth Daily (Xinhua)

17
May

Watch the Google I/O 2017 keynote right here!


Last week we heard the latest Windows plans from Microsoft at Build and now it’s Google’s turn. The company kicks off its annual Google I/O developers conference today at 1PM ET and we’ll bring you all the news as it’s announced from the stage. As always, you can complement your livestream experience with witty commentary and real-time analysis via our liveblog starting at the aforementioned time. For your convenience though, we’ve embedded the YouTube livestream down below so you don’t have to go looking for it yourself. Until then, familiarize yourself with what we expect to hear more about in our Google I/O 2017 preview.

For all the latest news and updates from Google I/O 2017, follow along here.

17
May

Live from Google’s 2017 I/O keynote!


We got here a little too early, but the fatigue will be worth it. Google’s I/O developer conference kicks off today with a 1.5 hour keynote address that’ll shed a whole lot more light on the company’s updated vision of computing. Naturally, we’re gonna liveblog the hell out of it.

So, what’s on deck? We got our first taste of Android O with a developer preview released in March, and today should see the search giant dig deep into this big update. If persistent rumors hold true, we might also get our first official glimpse at Fuchsia, the mysterious operating system that seeks to broaden Google’s software reach in ways we don’t yet understand. And since conversational interfaces are a bonafide thing now, expect some insight into the future of Google’s chatty Assistant. We’d expect some chatter about Android Wear (which, as you’ll recall, got a major update earlier this year) too, along with a few surprises. What can we say? We’re hopeful people.

The keynote starts at 1PM Eastern/10AM Pacific, and our live coverage will start a little before then. Stay tuned, and don’t forget to check back in for more liveblog fun tomorrow — Google’s delivering a separate keynote address for AR and VR then.

For all the latest news and updates from Google I/O 2017, follow along here

17
May

‘Arrested Development’ returns to Netflix in 2018


Arrested Development is coming back for a fifth season. Netflix announced that it’ll premiere next year on the streaming service and that “the entire series regular cast” will be involved as well. That includes Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, David Cross, Tony Hale, Portia de Rossi, Alia Shawkat, Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walter — collectively known as The Bluth family. Hopefully they’ll all be on-set simultaneously and the show will flow a little more naturally this time.

Last week Bateman tweeted that he’d just signed on to put a few more miles on the perpetually corrupt family’s stair car, with Entertainment Weekly reporting that shooting would potentially start this summer.

Will this bring the show’s first three seasons back to Netflix so fans can dive back into Wee Britain and all of Gob’s huge mistakes before the season five premiere? That isn’t clear at the moment. Right now, all that’s available is the Netflix-produced fourth season. You could say that the company blue itself with that move.

Now the story of a wealthy family, and the one streaming service that had no choice but to keep them all together. @arresteddev S5. 2018. pic.twitter.com/sn9jKH2hYp

— Netflix US (@netflix) May 17, 2017

Source: Netflix

17
May

Lib Dem election manifesto promises a greener UK


Less than 24 hours after the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats have published their manifesto for the UK’s snap election in June. The party, which has long been a third-place contender, is trying to reposition itself as the true opposition to the Conservatives. Labour is in disarray, they argue, and the Liberal Democrats won’t consider a coalition government this time. Instead, party leader Tim Farron wants voters to choose an MP that will stick up for their local area, while fighting for a better Brexit deal and championing investment in healthcare and education.

The environment

Science and technology isn’t the party’s focus, but they do feature heavily in its manifesto. In particular, the Liberal Democrats want a greener and healthier society that isn’t so dependent on fossil fuels. It’s championing a ‘Green Transport Act’ which would would ban the sale of diesel cars and small vans by 2025, while reforming vehicle taxation so that electric and other low-emission vehicles are more viable. At the same time, it would boost the number of charging points for electric cars and force private hire vehicles to use “ultra-low” and zero-emission fuels in urban areas by 2022.

A second piece of legislation called the Zero-Carbon Britain Act would self-impose two new environmental targets: To reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent before 2040 and to zero by 2050. To do this, the party would double-down on renewable energy, using these greener sources to generate 60 percent of the UK’s electricity by 2030. It would also increase government support for solar installations and onshore wind in “appropriate locations.” If elected, the Liberal Democrats would also introduce a ‘British Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank’ to increase investment in new, low-carbon and sustainable infrastructure.

The party opposes fracking, but will stop short of banning it outright. A Lib Dem government would also “accept” the role of nuclear power, while increasing support for “cutting-edge technologies” including hydrogen, tidal and offshore wind. In particular, it’s promised to green-light the tidal lagoon at Swansea Bay. Like the Labour party, the Lib Dems are keen to maintain Britain’s membership in Euratom, the European atomic energy regulator. Keeping that tie is important, the party argues, for “continued nuclear co-operation, research funding, and access to nuclear fuels.”

The third piece of its environmental pledge is a Green Buildings Act that would ensure at least four million homes have a Band C energy rating by 2022. It would then push to have every home at Band C by 2025, and ask local councils to develop community-focused energy saving projects. A separate, but related pledge is to create 10 “garden cities” in England that would offer thousands of zero-carbon homes, complete with gardens, shared green space and environmentally friendly public transport.

Better broadband

A more pressing concern for most home owners is broadband service. The Liberal Democrats want every building in the UK to have “superfast” (30Mbps download speeds, 6Mbps upload speeds) with an unlimited data cap by 2022. The party would also invest so that all new broadband connections and services “have a speed of 2 Gbps or more,” with fibre-to-the-premises and unlimited data usage as standard by 2020. To achieve this, the party would ring-fence £100 billion for, among other projects, installing “hyperfast, fibre-optic broadband across the UK.” It would also invest £2 billion to help high-speed broadband deployment in rural areas.

Research and the “digital economy”

Better internet access would be paired with fresh investment in technological and scientific research. The Liberal Democrats have promised to “protect” the nation’s science budget and create innovation centres that can “catapult” new companies and ideas. The party wants to double the number of small and medium-sized business that are contributing to the “digital economy” and create new, regional initiatives similar to Tech City and Tech North. Farron also wants more apprenticeships in creative and digital industries, and new, sector-focused colleges that can specialise in key areas such as low-carbon technologies.

The manifesto gives a passing mention to the space and video game industries, but doesn’t promise much beyond investment and “support.”

Privacy

Earlier this week, the Liberal Democrats reiterated their discontent with the Investigatory Powers Act, and said they would reverse many of its powers should they be elected. The party’s manifesto repeats this pledge, promising to end “the indiscriminate bulk collection of communications data, bulk hacking, and the collection of “internet connection records.” It would also oppose any attempt to break encryption and notify innocent people who were placed under targeted surveillance. Finally, it would force all front-line police officers to wear body cameras, “protecting the public from abuse of power and police officers from malicious accusations.”

The Liberal Democrats seem realistic about their chances of being elected. Farron admits that “Theresa May’s Conservative Party is on course to win this election,” and that “unless we make a stand, they will walk away with a landslide.” Based on recent polls, it certainly seems unlikely that the Lib Dems will unseat the current government. The party’s pitch is, therefore, a little different: If you like our policies, vote for your local MP and we’ll fight for them in the House of Commons, regardless of who has the majority.

Source: Liberal Democrats Manifesto 2017

17
May

Todoist syncs instantly with Google Calendar to keep you on schedule


Todoist’s latest upgrade is one that will benefit the busiest of task list-addled users. It’s added two-way sync between its task lists and Google Calendar. This means that not only can you see, sort and prioritise tasks from inside your calendar (on the web, or on your app), but that any changes made will also flow back to your Todoist account.

The team reckon it’ll help busy users to plan out bigger projects, as they’ll be better equipped to keep an eye on — and plan for — milestones along the way. It’ll also cleverly block off time in your gCal schedule to ensure you bake in time for myriad projects and tasks. Once you authorize the integration of Todoist with your Google account, any existing tasks with due dates and times will be automatically added to your Google Calendar. (Don’t worry: you can select only specific tasks to sync as well.)

Todoist warns that anyone who’s been wily enough to hook up some gCal-Todoist syncing through IFTTT or other tools might suffer from infinite task duplication, so it might be worth pausing your inter-service recipes to ensure everything runs smoothly. The feature should help to complement the task manager’s Smart Schedule, which tapped into deep learning algorithm to offer deadlines for everything you need to get done. Those AI-suggested deadlines can now make a home in your Google Calendar — then there’s no escaping them.

Source: Todoist

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