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Motorola may introduce its X4 phone on July 25th

Today, Motorola sent out a press invitation to a launch event on July 25th in New York. The question is, what exactly are they launching?

The invitation is an animated GIF with the text “You won’t want to miss this.” Down below is the hashtag #hellomotoworld, along with the date (July 25th) and location (New York City). The background image is a blue hallway that lights up in different colors.

In May, a roadmap of Motorola’s 2017 phone lineup leaked, and it was pretty ambitious. It’s safe to say that the July 25th event is likely a phone launch, and judging from the invitation, it might be a big one. Speculation is heavy on which phones exactly will be announced — people are clamoring to see the Moto X4, which may be the first non-Google phone able to use Google Fi. Possible specs for this phone include 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a fingerprint reader, a 3,800mAH battery and a Snapdragon 660 processor.

The launch could also cover the Moto Z2 Force, the sequel to last year’s flagship Z Force. According to leaks, this 0.24-inch thick phone will have a Snapdragon 835 chip, dual cameras, a 5.5-inch display and the return of the headphone jack. We’ll just have to wait and see what Motorola announces at the end of the month.

Source: CNET


Uber sought a Google partnership before they became bitter rivals

New court filings in the Waymo v. Uber lawsuit document the breakdown between the two companies’ cooperation and potential partnership. The filings contain a series of emails between former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Google senior VP David Drummond, who at the time was also an Uber board member. The exchange, which happened in early 2015, show Kalanick becoming increasingly concerned over rumors that Google was looking to start its own ride-sharing service with the self-driving cars it was developing. From the emails, it appears that Uber was looking to partner with Google in its autonomous vehicle efforts and Kalanick, worried about the rumors, repeatedly sought a meeting with Alphabet CEO Larry Page.

In one email from March of 2015, Kalanick reached out to Drummond after receiving information that Google would be launching a self-driving service in a few months. In it, Kalanick said, “We get stuff like this more than I would like. A meeting with Larry could calm this down if it’s not true but he has been avoiding any meeting with me since last fall. Without any dialogue we get pushed into the assumption that Google is competing in the short term and has probably been planning to do so for quite a bit longer than has been let on. I hope I’m wrong here, just need to do a meeting with Larry ASAP to get clarity and a mutual understanding of how to do a proper partnership here.”

Kalanick did get his meeting with Page, but it’s what happened after the meeting that Uber’s attorneys want to depose Page about and why Uber filed the emails with the court. They claim that Page attended that meeting to discuss a potential partnership with Uber but later decided to compete with them instead. In their argument for a Page deposition, Uber’s attorneys said, “Any such competitive business decisions are relevant to the issues in and motivations behind this lawsuit, and to damages.”

In a statement about the emails, a Waymo spokesperson highlighted that this case is about stolen technology, saying, “Uber continues to mischaracterize our claims in order to distract people from the bottom line: that Uber is using stolen Waymo trade secrets in their technology. We look forward to presenting our evidence at trial and respectfully await the Court’s ruling on Uber’s deposition requests.”

An Uber spokesperson said, “There is no substitute for these depositions, which would resolve some key unanswered questions. For instance: why, after Google learned of the alleged downloading of 14,000 files, did Mr. Page not alert Uber’s then-CEO to that fact when they spoke? Simultaneously, Google was rejecting a partnership with Uber, choosing instead to compete. This — and the lack of evidence supporting Waymo’s case — begs the obvious question: was this lawsuit actually motivated by the downloading of the files, or was it an attempt to slow down a competitor?”

Via: Gizmodo

Source: Business Insider, Buzzfeed


FAA offers registration refunds for casual drone pilots

Remember when you had to register your drone, regardless of whether it was hulking thousand-dollar pro model, or some cheap toy off Amazon? Then, remember when the FAA then realised it violated its own rules? Well, that decision in the US Court of Appeals means that the ever-growing drone pilots of America can now apply for a refund if they had previously registered their flying ‘bot.

There are rules, however: To qualify for the refund, owners need to reiterate that their drone is used only for recreation and in accordance with community safety guidelines — of course. If you’re ticking those boxes, you can find the rest of the application form here, so send that off and start imagining what you’re going to do with that sweet fiver.

While the US still figures out how to keep a check on drones, the European Commission recently unveiled a blueprint of standards that will unify laws across the EU, starting 2019. No-one appears to have found the perfect balance of drone monitoring and civilian freedom just yet.


Source: FAA


Kodi boxes ‘threaten to undermine’ the UK’s anti-piracy efforts

Media centre software Kodi is once again taking flak for its role in facilitating digital piracy today. An announcement from the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has praised “innovative” services like Netflix and Spotify for keeping Brits on the straight and narrow, but notes that the scale of online piracy remains “stable” — which is just a positive way of saying no gains have been made in tackling infringement over the past 12 months, following several years of decline. While not mentioning Kodi specifically (which isn’t unusual), the IPO states that “illicitly adapted set-top boxes” are partly to blame for this, and “threaten to undermine recent progress.”

According to the IPO, research conducted by Kantar Media in March found that roughly 7 million Brits are guilty of online piracy, with 13 percent of those using modified set-top boxes to get their fill. (Note that these figures are based on a survey of 5,267 people and extrapolated to represent the entire UK population.) Additional data in The Telegraph suggests that while music and films are becoming less attractive to pirates, TV shows have grown in popularity. Among people who watch shows illegally, 16 percent did so through Kodi and 17 percent used streaming website Putlocker.

Torrent sites like The Pirate Bay have long been in the crosshairs of the authorities and copyright holders, and still are — the UK’s ‘educational’ piracy email alert programme, which began this year, relies almost entirely on public torrent data to function. But set-top boxes capable of streaming films, TV shows and sports events illegally have been receiving much more attention of late, and most finger-wagging has been directed firmly at Kodi. While it’s an entirely legitimate media centre application, it supports third-party plug-ins that modify the software to access pirate streams.

Between high-profile criminal cases targeting ‘fully loaded’ box sellers, the Premier League winning the right to take down servers powering football streams, the EU ruling that preconfigured set-top boxes are indeed illegal and lawsuits aimed at the add-on community directly, Kodi is rarely out of the headlines these days. The UK’s Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) has even threatened to start tracking down the owners of Kodi boxes individually, not just sellers.

Today’s announcement from the IPO also named stream-ripping as the new go-to tool for UK music pirates. Research commissioned by the IPO and PRS for Music — a royalties collection society — found that the use of services that scrape tunes from YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify and the like, turning them into downloadable MP3s, increased by over 140 percent between 2014 and 2016. Apparently, it now accounts for almost 70 percent of music piracy.

YouTube is unsurprisingly the most popular primary source, and one of the top ripping sites that turns video links into MP3s is currently being sued by music labels in the US. Interestingly, of the over 9,000 people surveyed as part of the research, 31 percent of those who admitted to stream-ripping claimed they only did so in order to download music they already owned. Yeah, sure…

Source: UK Intellectual Property Office


Here’s why CNN isn’t ‘doxing’ anyone

With the addition of three sentences, CNN turned a relevant news story into an utter mess. This week the organization uncovered the identity of HanAssholeSolo, the Reddit user who created the GIF tweeted round the world: Donald Trump beating up a man with the CNN logo plastered over his head. Media outlets also discovered HanAssholeSolo’s history of publishing anti-Semitic and racist messages on Reddit, and he deleted his account after sharing a lengthy apology.

Here’s where CNN messed up: In an effort to appear transparent, the network said it would not publish HanAssholeSolo’s name, as he had “shown remorse” and promised not to post bigoted messages in the future. This segment concluded, “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”

CNN was immediately accused of blackmailing the Redditor, while some outlets — mainly far-right ones — took things a step further, claiming the news organization was actually doxing him.

This is not true. CNN is not doxing anyone.

But, to better understand why CNN’s tactics were simply ominous and self-destructive, rather than potentially illegal, it’s crucial to answer the following question: What is doxing?

This is going to take more than one line.

Doxing is all about control. In a doxing attempt, attackers hunt down and publish personal information about someone with the intent to cause harm, sharing items including addresses, phone numbers, places of employment, sexual orientation, age, social media accounts and even family members’ information. Generally, there’s an appeal to dig up even more sensitive information and further harass the victim — calling dozens of times a day, sending items to their address or actually showing up at their home.

At its heart, doxing is an intimidation tactic meant to scare and silence someone — generally, someone the attacker disagrees with online.

Doxing was one of the main weapons deployed by proponents of Gamergate, a loosely organized movement that led to the widespread harassment of women in the video game community around 2014. Gamergate targeted game developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu and Feminist Frequency founder Anita Sarkeesian, among others.

The FBI got involved, and earlier this year the Bureau released a redacted 173-page document outlining its Gamergate investigation, including swaths of abusive tweets, emails and messages. One suspect apparently admitted to calling and threatening a victim 40 to 50 times a day, though it appears this person didn’t face any punishment. The entire investigation was closed in September 2015.

Felicia Day, actress and all-around nerd goddess, penned a blog post in October 2014 about her personal reaction to Gamergate and to explain why she hadn’t spoken up about the controversy before then. Essentially, she wrote, she was scared of being doxed:

I have been terrified of inviting a deluge of abusive and condescending tweets into my timeline. I did one simple @ reply to one of the main victims several weeks back, and got a flood of things I simply couldn’t stand to read directed at me. I had to log offline for a few days until it went away. I have tried to retweet a few of the articles I’ve seen dissecting the issue in support, but personally I am terrified to be doxxed for even typing the words “Gamer Gate.” I have had stalkers and restraining orders issued in the past, I have had people show up on my doorstep when my personal information was HARD to get. To have my location revealed to the world would give a entry point for a few mentally ill people who have fixated on me, and allow them to show up and make good on the kind of threats I’ve received that make me paranoid to walk around a convention alone. I haven’t been able to stomach the risk of being afraid to get out of my car in my own driveway because I’ve expressed an opinion that someone on the internet didn’t agree with.

Day was doxed minutes after publishing that blog post.

Doxing is a tool of silence, and it doesn’t even have to be deployed to have monstrous effects. Its mere threat can close people out of conversations, pushing them away from entire communities and fandoms. Yes, even nerd goddesses.

Especially nerd goddesses. The Pew Research Center found in 2014 that men are more often the victims of name-calling, physical threats and embarrassment tactics in the digital world, while women “experience particularly severe forms of online harassment,” including stalking and sexual harassment.

“Young women, those 18-24, experience certain severe types of harassment at disproportionately high levels: 26 percent of these young women have been stalked online, and 25 percent were the target of online sexual harassment,” Pew writes. “In addition, they do not escape the heightened rates of physical threats and sustained harassment common to their male peers and young people in general.”

Take former NFL player Chris Kluwe, for example. He railed against Gamergate just days before Day published her blog post, and he took a decidedly more antagonistic tone:

Dear #Gamergaters,

Do you know why you piss me the fuck off?

Because you’re lazy. You’re ignorant. You are a blithering collection of wannabe Wikipedia philosophers, drunk on your own buzzwords, incapable of forming an original thought. You display a lack of knowledge stunning in its scope, a fundamental disregard of history and human nature so pronounced that makes me wonder if lead paint is a key component of your diet. You think you’re making piercing arguments when, in actuality, you’re throwing a temper tantrum that would embarrass a three-year-old.

And that was just the intro. However, Kluwe wasn’t doxed minutes or even weeks later. Kluwe hit Twitter the following day to drive home the fact that attackers were clearly targeting women, something Gamergate proponents have long denied: “And for the record, none of you fucking #Gamergate tools tried to dox me, even after I tore you a new one. I’m not even a tough target.”

Kluwe discovered plans to dox him on a public message board about a month later, though it’s unclear whether the attackers were tied to Gamergate at all.

Gender not only dictates likely victims of a doxing attack; it also plays a role in how individuals view privacy threats. Women are more often the target of sexual harassment and stalking attempts online, and are therefore inundated with warnings about keeping accounts, photos and all personal information exceptionally private. Men face privacy threats and are reminded to keep their digital lives on lock, but they’re generally spared the relentless, buzzing anxiety that comes with being a woman online.

Violet Blue offers a real-world example of this perspective gap in her book The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy: A man and a woman, a couple, hear Snapchat has been hacked, and users’ real names and phone numbers are out in the wild. The man brushes it off, saying it’s just his name and number, no big deal. The woman, however, is immediately concerned. She sees a real, increased risk of stalking or harassment.

“It isn’t a story about ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways of thinking about privacy,” Blue writes. “Their reactions just show a great example of the difference between what women and men see as risky exposure. He didn’t think it was a big deal for anyone to have his number, username, and real name. She, on the other hand, said it made her worried.”

Doxing can be a precursor to stalking, which is one reason it’s so unsettling — to say the least.

But doxing is terrifying enough on its own for people of any gender, stripping away layers of privacy and inviting the skeevy underbelly of the internet into the victim’s life, home and bedroom. It transforms every stranger into a potential attacker, every car driving by the house into a mystery stalker, every phone call into a fountain of anxiety.

This simply isn’t the case with the CNN controversy. Publishing a relevant person’s name as part of a news article — a standard journalistic practice that answers the question, “Who said what?” — is not the same as sharing their location or contact information and instructing others to make their life hell. As for claims of blackmail, the Redditor apparently apologized and deleted his account before speaking with the news organization. But, that’s a different topic altogether.

CNN certainly made a mess of things, but it definitely did not dox anyone.


The best multiroom wireless speaker system

By Chris Heinonen

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

We’ve spent hundreds of hours over several years testing multiroom wireless speaker systems in every possible room—even outside—and Sonos remains the best option for most homes. It supports the widest variety of streaming services, offers excellent sound quality across its lineup at varying prices, and its apps offer unparalleled ease of use. The competition is catching up, but Sonos still offers the most complete and reliable package overall.

Who should get this

Multiroom wireless speaker systems are for people who want to be able to play music throughout their home and easily control it from their phone, tablet, or computer. These systems let you play different tracks on each speaker, or group them together to play the same tracks. They support both local media libraries and streaming services, allowing you to access music from almost any source. They make it easy to expand your system by just adding another speaker or zone.

If you have already invested in a different multiroom wireless speaker system and it has access to all the services you need, there really is no reason to upgrade. And if you care only about music in a single room, or don’t care about multiple sources, other options will work for less money, such as Bluetooth or AirPlay speakers.

How we picked and tested

Over the years we’ve looked at 15 different whole-home audio systems and performed long-term, hands-on testing on nine of them by listening to local files and a handful of streaming services. In the case of soundbars, we watched movies and TV as well.

Since we first started testing, what makes for an ideal system has changed a bit. These days, we evaluate each system based on how many online streaming music services it offers, whether it streams directly from the source or through your phone or computer, how easy it was to control the system via an app or voice control, and whether it offered Bluetooth or Airplay as a fallback solution for when your preferred streaming service isn’t supported.

We particularly like flexible systems that allow you to group speakers together to stream the same music or to combine speakers in stereo pairs. We also prioritized systems that have a wide selection of products at a wide range of prices, and make it easy to add more speakers or zones on your own. Finally, we preferred systems with dual-band Wi-Fi support for situations where interference occurs from other devices on the 2.4 GHz spectrum.

Our pick

Sonos offers many innovative features such as Trueplay, which helped tune this Play:5’s sound to make up for its corner placement. Photo: Chris Heinonen

The Sonos system is the best multiroom wireless speaker system because it supports the most services, has a wide selection of great-sounding speakers, is easy to search, and has a well-organized app that runs on almost all major platforms. Sonos currently offers support for 49 streaming services, as well as playback for your local music library and podcasts, and adds new services all the time. It also keeps its platform up to date by introducing new features like Trueplay room-correction technology.

Sonos sells a range of speakers, starting at the low end with the Play:1 and extending up to the Play:5s. If you already own speakers, a turntable, or a Bluetooth receiver and simply want to integrate it with your Sonos system, you can use the Connect, or the Connect:Amp if they’re passive speakers. And for your TV, Sonos offers the Playbar and Playbase soundbars, as well as the Sub.

The Sonos app is well-designed and runs on iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS. From the app you can control all of the speakers or zones, group them in any combination, adjust the volume of each individual speaker (even if they’re grouped), search for music on any of your streaming services, create playlists, mark your favorites, and more. The speakers themselves offer very few controls, only volume and a play/pause button in most cases. The app handles the rest. It also makes it very easy to set up and expand a system no matter how technically inclined you are.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Currently, no Sonos device offers Bluetooth or AirPlay support, which mean if your favorite streaming service is missing, it is hard to get it onto a Sonos device. We would also like to see a cheaper way to get line-in for hooking up a Bluetooth receiver, record player, or other device. Currently, your only options are the $350 Connect or the $500 Play:5.

Also, Sonos products are stuck on the standard 2.4 GHz band unless you buy the company’s optional bridge that creates its own Wi-Fi network. This can be a problem if you live in an apartment or condo building with a large number of 2.4 Ghz routers causing interference.

More affordable, with voice control

If you aren’t ready to invest a few hundred dollars into a Sonos system, the Google Chromecast Audio platform offers an affordable and compelling alternative. Like Sonos, Chromecast-equipped devices play music via Wi-Fi directly from many of the same streaming services, and can group speakers into zones. However, it doesn’t have a universal app to control playback and there’s no way to search across all your services at once. As a cheap way to get into wireless multiroom audio streaming that you can expand at any time, the Chromecast Audio is almost impossible to beat, but it behaves more like a feature you add-on to a product rather than a controlled ecosystem.

The main advantage of Chromecast Audio is that it’s an open platform that can be built into any Wi-Fi–connected audio product or added to virtually any audio product with a 3.5 mm headphone jack (or an optical output with an optional cable) via the cheap Chromecast Audio dongle. This flexibility is Chromecast’s main strength and gives manufacturers a lot of room to experiment with different feature sets, but it does have a downside–there’s a lack of control over who supports what and an inability to enforce quality standards.

Ironically, Google Chromecast’s search features are lacking compared with Sonos’s. There’s no unified Chromecast app, so instead it relies on each individual service’s app for finding content and controlling playback. However, not every app and service supports Chromecast—Apple and Amazon’s offerings are notable absentees—though this is less of an issue if you buy Chromecast-enabled speakers that also have Bluetooth or AirPlay. You also cannot currently form a stereo pair of speakers, though that is supposed to roll out in a future update in 2017. Though it lacks the controlled ecosystem and user-friendliness of Sonos, the cheaper price, flexibility, and rapid expansion of Chromecast Audio make it an attractive option, and we can see it becoming the top pick in the future if the flaws are corrected.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.


Google DeepMind teams with Open AI to prevent a robot uprising

If you’re worried that one day the robots will revolt and either exterminate or subjugate the entire human race, you’re not alone. But instead of sitting back and waiting for the robot rebellion, two leaders in AI are teaming up to tackle the problem of creating smart computer programs that won’t eventually try and take over.

Google DeepMind and Open AI, a lab partially funded by Elon Musk, released a research article outlining a new method of machine learning. It actually takes its cues from humans when it comes to learning new tasks. This could be safer than allowing an AI to figure out how to solve a problem on its own, which has the potential to introduce unwelcome surprises.

The main problem that the research tackled was when an AI discovers the most efficient way to achieve maximum rewards is to cheat — the equivalent of shoving everything on the floor of your room into a closet and declaring it “clean.” Technically, the room itself is clean, but that’s not what’s supposed to happen. Machines are able to find these workarounds and exploit them in any given problem.

The issue is with the reward system, and that’s where the two groups focused their efforts. Rather than crafting an overly complex reward system that machines can cut through, the teams used human input to reward the AI. When the AI solved a problem the way trainers wanted to, it got positive feedback. Using this method, the AI was able to learn play simple video games.

While this is an encouraging breakthrough, it’s not widely applicable: This type of human feedback is much too time consuming. But through collaborations like this, it’s possible that we can control and direct the development of AI and prevent machines from eventually becoming smart enough to destroy us all.

Via: Wired

Source: arXiv


EE tempts students with a free 500MB ‘data safety net’

Most students are currently enjoying their summer away from the rigours of university life, and EE has decided to give them one more thing to feel happy about. The provider has introduced a new perk for those in higher education it calls a “data safety net.” Any student on a two-year handset plan or 12-month SIM-only contract can now claim 500MB of free data each month, which kicks in once they’ve exhausted their regular monthly allowance.

There’s just one catch, in that you need to be registered with student network UNiDAYS to be eligible, and submit your unique UNiDAYS code to activate the offer. Still, that small hurdle will get you 500MB of emergency data each month to tide you over until your allowance resets. If you chew through your monthly cap watching Netflix on the bus to lectures, though, remember Three will soon introduce a new range of plans that ignores data used for several streaming services.

Via: Mobile News

Source: EE


Jawbone’s demise heralds the end of the wearables industry

Sometimes deaths are sudden, but most company deaths are the opposite, with Jawbone’s protracted terminus taking upwards of a year. The company was an early pioneer in the consumer wearables market, and had raised close to a billion dollars in investment, but that wasn’t enough to save it. Its end doesn’t just mean the demise for one company, but signals the end of the great generation of wearables.

A report by The Information claims that the company has begun the process of liquidating itself, at least in part. It’s also believed that co-founder and CEO Hosain Rahman is launching a new company — Jawbone Health Hub — to continue part of his mission. Health Hub will apparently produce health-related wearable hardware and software, as well as servicing the existing Jawbone devices in the wild.

Whatever form the remains of Jawbone will take, the company will never again scale the heights as it once did. The wearables market, and the world, has moved on to the point where new entrants have a nigh-impossible journey to success. A variety of factors killed Jawbone the first time out, but there’s no indication that Rahman knows how to get past those obstacles.

One lesson that many startups learn the hard way is that developing consumer hardware is far harder than it may seem. Even Jawbone, which had experience building Bluetooth audio gear, couldn’t easily apply its knowledge to wearable technology. 2011’s Jawbone Up promised the world a stylish fitness tracker that made the Nike+ Fuelband and Fitbit’s belt-worn pedometers look outdated by comparison.

In reality, however, the first version of the Up was a disaster, with individual models randomly bricking and components liable to failure. The promised 10-day battery life never materialized, and vibration motors were prone to breaking at inopportune moments. Engadget’s review unit broke after two weeks, and while the company began offering free replacements to buyers, its reputation was already damaged.

Unlike software, which can be fixed months, or even years, after it was originally released, hardware is a much trickier proposition. Whatever advantage Jawbone had in getting the first Up through the door was lost when the company had to claw back those devices and start again. If some of the richest companies in the world, can ship hardware with massive defects, what hope does a tiny startup have?

Jawbone’s hardware chops didn’t improve, however, and my own Up 3 review unit broke after just three weeks of use. I charged it to full before going to bed, but the low battery alarm went off five times in a single night. Given that the company had talked up the prowess of its smart wake features, the failure was extraordinarily grating.

Jawbone might have been smart to prioritize durability and looks over function, but the follow-up device was hamstrung by what it couldn’t do. A lack of wireless connectivity meant you had to plug the band into your smartphone’s headphone jack to sync data, a bugbear rival wearables quickly eliminated. Its high cost also began to alienate users who were looking for cheaper devices — a market that Fitbit was quick to embrace.

Then there’s the fact that the watch industry itself is never going to be as big as that for other technology products, like Bluetooth speakers or smartphones. The advent of the mobile phone helped reduce people’s need for a dedicated timepiece on their wrist, and not everyone wears one on a daily basis anyway. Those who do may want a device that can actually tell the time — a feature that Jawbone’s devices notably lacked.

Economics played its part in Jawbone’s demise, since the job its devices professed to do could be done by much cheaper hardware. It’s hard to justify buying the Up 3, a $180 fitness band that can’t tell the time, if your smartphone can track your activity just as well. It was also released after the first Apple Watch, making Jawbone’s newest device a relic from a simpler time.

For those people who don’t want a smartwatch, it’s possible to buy a fitness tracker for the same as a bucket of fried chicken. Chinese behemoth Xiaomi has become the biggest name in the wearables market with its MiBand, which is priced at around $22. For that little cash, you get a device that will monitor your activity and sleep that packs both an optical heart rate monitor and an OLED display.

Jawbone isn’t the only wearables outfit to face tougher competition, and gloomy clouds are beginning to linger over Fitbit. The company has spent big to control the middle tier of the wearables market with its $70-ish devices like the Flex. But it’s hard to justify such a purchase if you can get a similarly-workable piece of kit for half, or even a third of that price. Meanwhile, at the top end, it’s hard to justify spending almost as much as a true smartwatch for a premium fitness tracker like the Blaze.

The Blaze is a good case study, since it retails for $199.95 — just $50 less than LG’s Watch Style and $70 less than the cheapest Apple Watch model. It explains why Fitbit is so desperate to build its own smartwatch platform that can stand toe-to-toe with the offerings from both Apple and Google. But even Fitbit, which has spent big to acquire smartwatch companies like Pebble and Vector, is struggling. Although it may, once again, attempt to buy Jawbone in the hope of bolstering its own ambitions — something we’ve talked about before.

The wearables market is looking an awful lot like main street after the advent of big box retail on the outskirts of town. Jawbone, Basis, Pebble, Vector, and the rest, look like mom and pop stores compared to the behemoths of Apple and Google. Fitbit is holding on, and using its cash to buy up whatever talent it can in the hope of staying afloat, but that’s no guarantee of success.

It’s hard to see how the wearables market, at least concerning devices that go on your wrist, can continue from here on out. Earlier this year, iMore’s Rene Ritchie commented that there is no longer a “smartwatch market, just an Apple Watch market.” Looking at the IDC figures for the first part of 2017, it’s hard not to see his point, especially when the only company coming close to Apple is Xiaomi.

It’s easy to predict that the wearables market will soon crunch down, with Apple dominating the high end and Google living off its scraps. Fitness trackers, the stock in trade of companies like Fitbit and Jawbone, will become the province of cheap, mass-market brands like Misfit in the US and Xiaomi in China. The rest will be divided up between niche players like Garmin and Polar, the traditional watch industry, Withi… Nokia Health and Fitbit, for however long the latter can survive.


US Army is building a versatile, flying squirrel-like drone

The military is constantly working on new drone technology. That includes new types of drones like autonomous boats and small swarming UAVs as well as ways to combat drones, like frying them with microwaves, guided bullets and hacking. Right now, the US Army is working on a small, lightweight drone that can take on a number of tasks depending on what’s needed in a given situation.

The drone, which you can see in action in the video below, looks a little bit like a flying squirrel. It’s small, weighing just over half a pound, and its rotors can tilt themselves, giving the UAV plenty of flexibility in how it moves around. The design goal is to create a drone that can easily integrate with soldiers in the field and have multiple uses. “You’re not going to know ahead of time what you need that vehicle to do. It might need to go over the next hill, see what’s there. It might just need to follow above you to kind of give you some scouting,” Steve Nogar, a researcher working on the project, says in the video.

Next up for the small drone is the ability to perch. The developers want to give the UAV the ability to land on various objects in its surroundings, which will require it to sense the environment and do so very quickly. That level of design will need to integrate things like AI and fast perception, challenging given the stripped down design of the lightweight drone, which has just one camera.

Nogar and others are continuing to hone the drone’s abilities at the US Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

Via: Popular Mechanics

Source: Army Research Laboratory

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