A bit like bulky luggage, large file sizes can cramp your style when you’re trying to shuffle them around the place. Luckily, external SSDs are here to help out. Western Digital’s My Passport series now offers the fastest speeds of a WD-branded portable drive to date, with its My Passport SSD providing transfer rates of up to 515MB/s over USB-C (while supporting the USB 3.1 standard and more). These speedy little drives work with both Mac and PC platforms and offer 256-bit AES Hardware Encryption to help provide some security as you jet set around with your data. On top of all that, they happen to look nice, too. WD has provided us with two of its 1TB My Passport SSDs for a pair of lucky readers this week. Just head down to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to three chances at winning!
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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, they may earn affiliate commissions that support their work. Read their continuously updated list of deals here.
You may have already seen Engadget posting reviews from our friends at The Wirecutter, as well as their weekly deals. Today, we’ll also be publishing some of the best deals they’ve found on Prime Day.
Anova Precision Cooker Wi-Fi
Street price: $170; MSRP: $170; Deal price: $130
Here’s the best price we’ve seen on this model, over $20 below our previous low. The Bluetooth model is also on sale for $100, which isn’t quite a new low, but a better than average deal.
The Anova Precision Cooker WiFi is our pick for the best sous vide gear. Tim Barribeau and Nick Guy wrote, “The Anova Precision Cooker WiFi is the best bet for most home cooks due to its low price, small size, and flexibility. It’s one of the cheapest ways to get into sous vide cooking, and thanks to an innovative adjustable attachment system, the Anova works with a much smaller volume of water than the earliest iteration did—so there’s now no need to heat up a gallon of water just to cook a couple of chicken breasts.”
Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 3rd Gen Starter Kit
Street price: $190; MSRP: $200; Deal price: $140
This is the best sale we’ve seen on the latest gen, getting close to matching the best prices we’ve seen on the 2nd gen models. We haven’t seen many substantial discounts on the 3rd gen, and since individual bulbs are on sale for $10 less, it’s a great time to grab these.
The Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit is our pick for the best smart LED light bulbs. Grant Clauser writes, “Philips Hue is not just a smart bulb; it’s a whole smart system. The color-adjustable A19 bulbs can remake the look of a room in seconds. Multiple app options and device compatibility make it the best overall choice.”
ASUS ZenBook UX330UA-AH54 13.3-inch Ultra-Slim Laptop
Street price: $700; MSRP: $760; Deal price: $630
This is the first good sale we’ve seen on our budget pick, a big $70 off of the street price. It’s already a great value at $700, so the additional savings make it an even better deal.
The Asus ZenBook UX330UA is our budget pick for the best ultrabook. Kimber Streams wrote, “Its specs are nearly identical to those of our top pick—except for a slower solid-state drive—but it costs about $350 less. The only things holding the ZenBook back from being our top pick are its less reliable trackpad, larger size, and lack of Thunderbolt 3.”
Eufy RoboVac 11 Robot Vacuum
Street price: $220; MSRP: $500; Deal price: $190 w/ code PRIME008
While this isn’t the lowest price we’ve seen in the past, it’s still a great deal and nice $30 drop from the normal street price. We’ve only seen this robot vacuum on sale twice in the past, so this is a fairly rare deal. The only time we’ve seen it lower was during an Amazon Deal of the Day, so this sale is likely the best price we’ll see outside of those one-off sales. Make sure to use code: PRIME008 in order to get the deal price of $190.
The Eufy Robovac 11 is our new top pick in our guide to the best robot vacuums. Liam McCabe wrote, “The Eufy RoboVac 11 is the smart-money pick for most people who want a robot vacuum cleaner. In our testing and research, the RoboVac 11 was the most likely to complete a cleaning cycle on its own, without getting stuck and waiting for a human to rescue it. That’s the most important part of a robot vacuum’s job, and the Eufy 11 does it better than almost any other model we’ve seen, even those that cost hundreds more.
Amazon Basics Backpack for SLR/DSLR
Street price: $27; MSRP: $30; Deal price: $20
The first good drop we’ve seen on our affordable camera backpack pick. Already a great value at $27, this drop to $20 makes it even better.
The Amazon Basics Backpack is our affordable pick in our favorite camera bags guide. The WC staff wrote, “The affordably priced AmazonBasics Backpack is deceptively small but holds a great deal of gear. We were surprised to find it easily fit a 13-inch laptop, a DSLR, two lenses, a flash, and lots of extras, including batteries, business cards, tissues, memory cards, lens cleaner, personal items, and more.”
Deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go to The Wirecutter.com.
Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz recently said at an investor conference that the company’s ‘mixed reality’ headset (?) “is not far away” from launch, whatever that really means. While the mysterious startup might be closing in on consumer-ready hardware, it’s still in the process of discovering exactly what ‘mixed reality’ is. Delivering the opening keynote at gaming conference Develop:Brighton today, Magic Leap’s Graeme Devine said, “There’s huge expectations that mixed reality will come of the gate and, oh boy! It’ll be here and it’ll be just like Minority Report right away… And no, we’ve never seen that with any platform. So that ask is impossible.”
Magic Leap is a startup that feels like it came from the mind of a Silicon Valley writer, rather than having any place in the real world. It’s raised well over a billion dollars in funding, counting giants such as Google and Alibaba among its investors, and yet most of the world is all but oblivious to what the company is working on behind closed doors.
We know it’s some form of augmented reality wearable, and one that uses digital light field tech to project images into your eye, mimicking the natural way light hits your retinas. The tech is supposed to make digital objects so real it’s “like dreaming with your eyes open.”
Magic Leap doesn’t like the term ‘augmented reality.’ As Devine put it today, if virtual reality immerses you in another world, and augmented reality puts digital objects on top of your world, then Magic Leap does neither. It’s developing ‘mixed reality,’ where digital objects and characters become part of your world. It works alongside the context of your reality: From what time it is to where you are, to what’s in front of you, where you’re looking and who you’re with. “Mixed reality is digital content that interacts with the real world, and with you,” says Devine.
The company imagines mixed reality as an entirely new platform. Not a peripheral, like a console is to a TV, or a VR headset is to a PC, but something new. “Mixed reality has the opportunity to lift people’s heads up again, and put information back out in front of people… Mixed reality has the opportunity to actually place you back into where you should be instead of hanging out on a smartphone.”
The only problem with creating something entirely new is figuring out where to start. “If the platform is to succeed, we need a very different kind of application,” Devine said. “And there, we’ve no idea of the controls because it’s everything. It’s my hands, it’s my head pose, it’s my gaze, it’s my smartphone, it’s things I write down on a piece of paper, it’s controllers… it’s everything. It’s everything that we use in the real world today. And that’s really hard.”
Devine is adamant that “mixed reality is going to change the world” — which he says with all the enthusiasm you’d expect from someone with the title Chief Game Wizard at the world’s most secretive and hyped startup. He knows, though, that people won’t be buying whatever hardware the company is cooking up, but experiences. “It’s most of what we do.”
Describing the company’s experience prototyping process, Devine says Magic Leap is still learning what mixed reality means. But there are a few key musts internal pitches are built around: The idea must be indispensable and something you’d return to every day. It also has to be something only mixed reality can deliver and sell people on the entire concept. And most importantly, “can Magic Leap learn from it?”
Devine compares what Magic Leap is doing to the evolution of the TV. Everyone has one, it has become the vehicle for other creative formats like games consoles, and various technologies has evolved around it to make perfect use of the display. But as a platform, it took decades to get there, and Magic Leap must make a similar journey.
Despite the startup not knowing exactly what mixed reality is or where it needs to go, Devine does believe in the existence of a ‘killer app’ he calls “everyday adventure.” There’s a tech demo/concept Magic Leap likes to revisit called “Ghost Girl.” This specter, known as Alice — Magic Leapers are never far from an Alice in Wonderland reference — lives in your house, and together you discover, over the course of endless meetings, more about her story.
“Alice is a companion that spends time with you. She interacts, she has conversations with you, she talks to you, she hangs out with you. All these things are simmering in the world, they are not very far away… Alice can be as real a ghost as you want a ghost to be.”
“The key thing is everyday adventure,” Devine continues. “Things you might actually want to do with Alice every single day.”
“And it can be Star Wars, it can be Harry Potter, it can be Finding Dory… and I can be a lawyer, I can be a plumber, I can work at Starbucks. I will have everyday adventure added to my life, by an app store of realities.” This is likely a long way off though, remember — the seed of what mixed reality could be. “Iteration in a new medium is a must. It will take us time to get there, to that conversation, to Alice being real. But I see it. I see it in my wanderings. It’s coming. It’s there. We will have that.”
“Everyday adventure, I believe, will define a generation.”
You won’t have to wait until Halloween to find out what the second season of Stranger Things entails. Netflix has announced that the follow-up to the nostalgic thriller will arrive a few days earlier, on October 27th. The accompanying teasers haven’t revealed more than you would have already seen in the Super Bowl TV spot, but they might be enough to whet your appetite: there’s an element of Lovecraftian horror as a creature from the Upside Down looms large over Hawkins, Indiana. While there’s no guarantee that the Duffer Brothers will live up to the rapidly mounting hype for their show, they’re at least good at sustaining that hype for months.
Some doors can’t be closed. #StrangerThings2 arrives on October 27. pic.twitter.com/NALL5HQalg
— Stranger Things (@Stranger_Things) July 11, 2017
Source: Stranger Things (Twitter)
You’d be forgiven for being burnt out on Spider-Man movies. The last two Amazing Spider-Man films were so forgettable, they practically evaporated from our collective pop culture consciousness. So, in an unprecedented arrangement, Sony partnered up with Marvel Studios to share the character’s film rights. That led to the web-slinger being recruited by Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark in last year’s Civil War. Consider that an appetizer. With Spider-Man: Homecoming, directed by Jon Watts, all of Stark’s technological ingenuity is on display with the most fantastically specced out Spidey suit yet.
Mild spoilers ahead.
Our new Peter Parker (played by the young Tom Holland) has a holographic display embedded in his gauntlets, allowing him to pull up information and track bad guys without a smartphone. There’s a parachute that automatically deploys if he falls from a high distance. And his suit also automatically conforms to his body’s shape (which seems much more convenient than squeezing into spandex). These features alone are a huge upgrade from the last five Spider-Man films, where Parker had to rely on his wits (and eventually, mechanical web shooters).
Later on in the film, we learn that Spider-Man’s outfit is more like Iron Man’s suits than we originally thought. There’s a built-in artificial intelligence, similar to J.A.R.V.I.S., who ends up training Parker on his new capabilities. And while Spider-Man still relies on homemade webbing (not organic shooters in his arms, like in Sam Raimi’s films), the suit gives him 576 different ways to use it. There’s electroshock webbing, several lethal options (which is a bit strange for the web-slinger), and web grenades for wrapping up foes remotely. Spider-Man can fly now — sort of — thanks to new wing gliders. And to make it truly a product of our times, the suit’s spider symbol also houses a reconnaissance drone.
All of this gadgetry adds up to a far different cinematic take on the character than we’ve seen over the past few decades. And that’s clearly for the better. One of the biggest issues with the Amazing Spider-Man films is that they felt like a bland and unnecessary rehash. Did we really need to see Peter Parker learn the same lessons; anguish over Uncle Ben; and fall for another high school crush so soon? With Homecoming, we get something completely fresh and new.
Spider-Man fans might take issue with the sheer load of gear he’s equipped with. This isn’t the same Peter Parker who was forced to learn hard lessons on his own, and didn’t have the support of a billionaire playboy philanthropist. Indeed, it almost feels like we lose a bit of the character in the process. This Parker is still a scrappy genius who mixes his own webbing, but he gets a huge assist from Tony Stark, and he knows there are other superheroes fighting the good fight. The fact that he’s not alone makes his circumstances feel a little less desperate at times.
Still, this Spider-Man feels like a version of the character who’s better equipped for today’s highly connected world. He’s also facing off against a villain — Michael Keaton’s surprisingly sympathetic Vulture — who’s stealing and experimenting with the discarded alien technology from all of the Avenger’s battles. It’d be hard for Spider-Man to keep up with such a well-equipped villain without his own assortment of gadgets.
Perhaps most importantly, the technology in Homecoming isn’t frivolous. It’s all tied back to the characters in some form. The first few features we come across make it clear that Tony Stark is trying to mold Peter Parker into an ideal superhero, one who isn’t burdened by building weapons of mass destruction like he is. At the same time, all of the built-in safety features show how much he thinks about protecting his protege. And when Peter decides to hack the restrictions in his suit, it’s a classic act of teenage rebellion (though it comes from a good place, since he’s trying to protect people from the Vulture’s alien weaponry).
Ultimately, its smart use of technology is just one reason why Spider-Man: Homecoming works. It’s also incredibly well-written, with characters we actually care about. But it’s nice to see a superhero movie where gadgetry isn’t just an afterthought (I’m looking at you, Batman v. Superman), it’s an essential part of the story.
The self-driving future has a ratings scale. The classifications begin at zero, where you’re constantly in charge of all the car’s acceleration, steering and braking. Basically a car without cruise control. It ends with Level 5, where the car that doesn’t even need a steering wheel or a driver. Currently, if drivers want semi-autonomous features they’re getting a Level 2 experience. Like Tesla’s Autopilot or Cadillac’s Super Cruise, the car can drive itself in specific situations (usually on the highway) but require the human behind the wheel to pay attention and take over at a moment’s notice.
At its first tech summit, Audi introduced the new A8 with Level 3 autonomy. It’s the first production vehicle that’ll let the driver actually stop paying attention while the car drives itself. It’s also big deal for the automaker and drivers that really need to update their Facebook status while commuting. Here, the company is making a bet that other companies have decided to pass on.
Most automakers see Level 4 as the next logical step for their vehicles. At that stage, the car is is almost totally in control all of the time without any human interaction and will only stop itself if there’s a system failure or the conditions dictate that the human behind the wheel needs to take control.
A Level 3 vehicle can also drive itself without the driver paying attention. But not all the time and usually only in certain circumstances. Still, that’s a huge leap from what’s currently on the road and requires constant supervision by the driver. But before you start planning on napping while driving to work, this level of autonomy still requires the driver to take over if the system gets confused or fails.
It’s that last bit that’s had automakers like Volvo and Ford publicly state that they will go directly to Level 4. The argument against a Level 3 vehicle being sold to the general public is about safety. If a driver becomes too dependent upon the car’s autonomy, they’re less likely to intervene when the system fails. While Elon Musk has called out these automakers for withholding what he perceives are additional safety features that would ship with a Level 3 car, it’s likely that Tesla will jump to Level 4. Musk has even noted that Level 5 autonomy will be available in approximately two years.
Audi’s system seems to address some issues around Level 3 driving with Driver Ability Detection. This brings the car to a stop if it determines that the driver is not attentive and able to take control of the vehicle after 10 seconds of audible and visual warnings. At that point, the vehicle turns on the hazard lights and alerts Audi. Also it’s not Level 3 everywhere, just in heavy traffic going slower than 37 miles per hour.
Even then, Audi’s Traffic Jam Pilot feature requires that the vehicle is on a divided highway with a barrier or at least a median between the vehicle and opposing traffic. Basically it’s the road most people drive everyday to work. It’s a very specific circumstance that many people deal with everyday and during that time, the A8 will drive for you and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, you can text your friends while behind the wheel or even watch TV as noted by Audi.
The biggest obstacle to the vehicle being able to deliver on all its technical promises is regional regulations. While an A8 can drive itself without the driver paying attention, where it’s being driven will determine whether it’s allowed to That’s going to true for many vehicles in the future. Just because a car deliver Level 4 or even Level 5 automation, it doesn’t mean lawmakers are going to let it actually happen on the roads under their watch.
So if you live in a state or country that allows Audi’s flagship luxury sedan take care of the heavy lifting while you’re commuting, count yourself lucky. The automaker may be going all in on Level 3, but it hinted at the ability to update the new A8 to Level 4 capabilities via a software update — if the hardware can handle it.
Regardless of how lawmakers initially react to the new car’s technology, Audi is moving forward. The company will further fine-tune its AI and algorithms in anticipation of an autonomous world. The A8 isn’t so much a bet as an investment for Audi, as it levels up in the world of self-driving vehicles.
Brain training apps such as Lumosity and Elevate are supposedly useful in order to keep your cognitive skills sharp, but there’s been quite a bit of doubt cast on whether they are actually useful. Now, scientists led by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Joseph Kable are chiming in. As published in The Journal of Neuroscience, the team “found no evidence that cognitive training influences neural activity during decision-making, nor did we find effects of cognitive training on measures of delay discounting or risk sensitivity.”
The team’s interest in the issue was in regard to instant gratification. Specifically, they wanted to see whether cognitive training could change behavior, leading users to prefer delayed or less risky rewards. They set up young adults with the brain training app Lumosity; each participant completed a grand total of 50 sessions over 10 weeks.
The results were pretty clear. There was no change in choices or decision-making behavior by study participants. The exception was “specifically trained” cognitive task performance. In other words, the only thing that using Lumosity improved was users’ ability to play the games in Lumosity.
This isn’t all that surprising, given the history of brain training apps such as Lumosity. Last year, parent company Lumos Labs was ordered to pay $2 million to the FTC because of charges it misled the public. And way back in 2014, a Florida State University-based team determined that playing Portal 2 actually improves cognitive skills, while Lumosity does not. This current study is just another nail in the coffin for the brain training fad.
Source: The Journal of Neuroscience
When you think about all the Android Wear watches on the market, you probably recall LG, Huawei, Michael Kors or Tag Heuer. Google typically partners with heavyweights in tech and fashion. So it’s intriguing to see a small, obscure startup like Mobvoi offer its own Android Wear watch. What’s most interesting, though, is the Ticwatch E’s price tag: just $99.
Of course that’s only if you buy the Ticwatch E on the company’s Kickstarter project before it becomes more widely available. When that happens, it will cost $159 and you’ll be able to get it on Amazon or Mobvoi’s website. A higher-end version called Ticwatch S will cost $119 on Kickstarter, and $199 at retail. Even after the early bird period, though, that’s still the cheapest Android Wear 2.0 watch around right now.
What you get for those prices is surprising; Mobvoi didn’t cut corners. Both models sport a bright round 1.4-inch screen with a 400×400 resolution, a heart rate monitor and a GPS sensor — features that some more-expensive devices lack. Our demo unit of the Ticwatch E was responsive, and Google Assistant was actually faster than on competing devices I’ve tested. That’s particularly impressive given Mobvoi uses a Mediatek processor here instead of a higher-end Qualcomm option. During our preview, Google Maps was also quick to locate us, despite being indoors.
With their bright colors (white, black and lime are available) and silicone rubber straps, the Ticwatch S and E both look and feel cheaper than the competition. While you can swap out the standard 22mm band on the S version to make it prettier, you’re stuck with the default non-removeable strap on the E flavor. That’s because the latter’s GPS antenna is built into the band. Mobvoi figures the E model is more appropriate for a sportier crowd, so it made the entire device lighter. It also designed the E’s strap to be “breathable” by carving out a hollow underneath to avoid sweat buildup.
Mobvoi said it included only “essential hardware” that it believes its users would need, which explains why neither version has a cellular radio. That omission not only keeps the watches slim and lowers costs, but should also allow for longer-lasting batteries than the competition. Depending on how you use it, the company says each device should last between 1.5 to 2 days.
Mobvoi also says it will include five of its own apps on the watches, such as Tic Fitness, Health and Music Player, which lets you store and play music on your watch. These are carried over from the core app suite on the Ticwatch 2, and can’t be uninstalled. The inclusion is meant to please fans of the company’s existing smartwatches, which run Mobvoi’s own OS. Up to 15 other apps from that system will be available for download from the store, too. Since the apps weren’t on our demo unit, we couldn’t tell if they would actually be useful or feel more like bloatware.
Ultimately, we can’t determine whether the Ticwatch S and E will hold up after long-term use based on our brief preview. People who are style-conscious probably won’t appreciate the watches’ distinctly plastic, toy-like appearance. But those who could care less about looks and are more interested in trying out Android Wear 2.0 on a budget should hit up the team’s Kickstarter page before they’re sold out.
Tesla just completed its first batch of Model 3s and 30 cars are scheduled to be in their owners’ hands on the 28th. But with an estimated 400,000 orders waiting to be filled, Tesla’s production ramp up is going to put many more Model 3s on the road in the very near future. In preparation for those added vehicles and the demand they’re sure to put on Tesla service centers, the company is working to expand its service facilities.
According to Tesla, it will be adding 100 new service centers, hiring 1400 more service technicians and tripling its service capacity worldwide. Remote diagnostic capabilities allow around 90 percent of potential car troubles to be identified outside of a service center and to address offsite issues, Tesla is adding over 350 service vans to its mobile fleet. The vans can tackle a number of repair issues and do so wherever the car may be, but if a vehicle needs to go into a service center, owners can schedule an appointment from their car. Tesla claims that it has optimized repair flow so that its shops work four times faster and in three times less space than regular repair facilities.
While more Tesla service centers will be useful and likely in demand, expanding Tesla repairwork to independent automotive shops would be a better move. In January, there were reports that Tesla was working on making repair information and spare parts available to Tesla owners, currently only available to those living in Massachusetts, which passed a right to repair law in 2012. However, that law is set to become a national standard by 2018 after a number of automotive groups, like the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers, struck a deal in 2014 with independent garages and retailers to make it so.
Unfortunately, the agreement isn’t a law and can’t actually be enforced, but if Tesla wants to become more mainstream, as its Model 3 would suggest it does, it would behoove the company to let others repair its vehicles.
Microsoft Ends Support for ‘Windows Phone’ After Years of Battling to Compete With iPhone and Android
Today, Microsoft is ending support for Windows Phone 8.1, effectively marking the end of the “Windows Phone” era.
Microsoft released Windows Phone in 2010 and, within three years, it became the world’s third most popular mobile operating system. But the platform simply couldn’t compete with the likes of Apple and Google and, as of earlier this year, iOS and Android accounted for a combined 99.6% market share.
Microsoft continues to sell a limited number of mostly budget smartphones running its newer Windows 10 Mobile operating system, but the platform has only received minor updates in recent months as the Redmond-based company has shifted its focus towards the “intelligent cloud and intelligent edge.”
Microsoft has stopped manufacturing its own Lumia-branded smartphones and, according to The Verge, rumors suggest the company will simply maintain Windows 10 Mobile until support for the platform ends in 2018.
Ultimately, Windows Phone is another casualty of the iPhone, and later Android smartphones, which completely upended the mobile phone industry a decade ago. Just ask BlackBerry, Nokia, or Palm.
Tags: Microsoft, Windows Phone
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