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Engadget giveaway: Win a set of refinished AirPods courtesy of BlackPods!

Like most Apple products, the AirPods are a solid option (and familiar fit) for those looking to check out truly wireless earbud-style headphones. The look when you’re wearing them, however, is a bit funky, and to date, there’s only one “color” option: white. That’s where BlackPods come in. The company offers a three-phase, military-spec refinishing service for the AirPods, delivering a more subdued black color in either Classic (high-gloss) or Stealth (satin). The company can refinish your existing headphones at a lower cost (the mail-in option) or you can simply buy a new set through BlackPods with the refinishing and shipping included for $279/$299 depending on style. For all our readers, the promo code ENGADGET will get you $20 off any of the options, but for two lucky souls, a free pair of BlackPods are in your future. All you need to do is head to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to three chances at winning a pair of refinished AirPods courtesy of BlackPods.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. Comments are no longer accepted as valid methods of entry. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, though we may offer them as opportunities for extra entries. Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given to third parties.
  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec), 18 or older! Sorry, we don’t make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so direct your anger at our lawyers and contest laws if you have to be mad.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. Two (2) winners will each receive one (1) pair of Apple AirPods finished in either Stealth (satin black) or Classic (high-gloss black) by BlackPods ($299 / $279 value respectively).
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes your real name and a contact email. We do not track any of this information for marketing or third-party purposes.
  • This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. Engadget and AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
  • The full list of rules, in all of its legalese glory, can be found here.
  • Entries can be submitted until August 30th at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!

Amazon adds multiroom audio control to Echo devices

There were rumors earlier this month that Amazon was working on incorporating multiroom audio into its Echo line and today, the company has announced that it’s done just that. For those with Echo devices in multiple rooms, you’ll now be able to play music on a specific device or group multiple speakers together.

Through the Alexa App, users can create groups of speakers — like, for example, all of the speakers in the upstairs rooms of your house — then when you want to hear music just through those devices, you’ll just have to say, “Alexa, play Kesha upstairs.” For now, this capability is offered with Amazon Music, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and Pandora. Spotify and SiriusXM support is on the way.

Along with the new Alexa capability, Amazon will make tools available later this year that will allow developers to enable standalone Alexa-enabled devices to integrate with the new multiroom skill. So, users with Echo devices and other Alexa-enabled speakers will be able to use them together to play music.

Other systems like Google Home and Sonos already have these multiroom capabilities, but Amazon announced an additional feature in the works that paints the Echo as more of an accompanying device rather than just a competitor. Amazon’s new Connected Speaker APIs will allow other audio systems to be controlled by Alexa. The company said it’s already working with Sonos, Bose, Sound United and Samsung on the upcoming capability, which would let users control connected Sonos speakers through their Echo Dot, for example.

In a statement, Sound United CEO Kevin Duffy said, “Soon, users will be able to play their favorite song, alter the volume, or change an input in any room where our connected products are placed, simply by asking Alexa to do so.”

Source: Amazon


Intel’s 18-core Xeon CPU may be destined for the iMac Pro

There’s been a lot of speculation about which Xeon chips the upcoming iMac Pro will use, but Intel may have just revealed the answer. During IFA, it unveiled the Xeon W-series lineup aimed at high-end, single-CPU, mainstream graphics workstations. Intel didn’t say that the iMac pro would use the chip, but the stars line up: The flagship Xeon W has 18 cores and is due by Q4 2017, and Apple promised that iMac Pros with up to 18 cores would arrive this December.

After the 18-core model, you’re looking at Xeon Ws with 14, 10, 8 and fewer cores. The top-of-the-line chip can be boosted to 4.3 GHz if you’ve got the cooling, while the lesser models can go up to 4.5 GHz. The new CPUs also support up to 512GB of DDR4-2666 ECC RAM and have 48 PCI Express 3.0 lanes, giving you plenty of storage and port options. All told, performance is 38 percent better than the current Xeon E5 generation, Intel says.

To be clear, these processors are aimed at video, graphics and VR content creators, not gamers. For those folks, there’s the crazy Core-i9 lineup, which blows current single-CPU Xeons out of the water. The $1,000 10-core model is faster than all but two Xeon CPUs, according to PassMark, so the $2,000 18-core model should handily eclipse them all when it’s released later this year. That performance no doubt grabbed the attention of graphics and video types, so Intel likely didn’t want to wait too long to unveil new Xeon chips lest they be cannibalized.

Intel hasn’t said yet which PCs are supporting the Xeon Ws, but with IFA upon us, you might see announcements from Dell, HP, Lenovo and other workstation makers. Apple could also give us some more iMac Pro information during its next iPhone event, rumored to be on September 12th. There’s no pricing for the 18-core model yet, but the 10-core W-2155 is $1,440, about 50 percent more than the 10-core i9 CPU.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!


India shut off the internet in an attempt to maintain order

Last week, local governments in the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana shut down citizens’ internet access and text messaging services just before a verdict was to be released on a high-profile rape case. The case involved a cult leader with a large following who was accused of raping two women in his group. A statement from the Additional Chief Secretary of Haryana said the order was “issued to prevent any disturbance of peace and public order” in the region. Around 50 million people lost internet access for five days.

India has a history of censoring web content in the name of social order. Some areas of the country have made liking blasphemous social media posts punishable with jail time, it has blocked sex sites and has arrested WhatsApp group members who have posted altered, unflattering photos of the prime minister, which is against the country’s law prohibiting fake news.

If the order to temporarily shut off the region’s internet had any effect, it wasn’t to prevent a disturbance of the peace. After the cult leader was found guilty, his followers violently protested the verdict, resulting in 38 deaths. Trains were also stopped from traveling to and from the states, schools and businesses were closed and security officers were sent to regain order. Internet and messaging services were restored this morning.

Source: CNET


Neo-Nazi site Stormfront has been temporarily taken down

The post-Charlottesville removal of neo-Nazi content from various web sources continues to power on as the long-standing website Stormfront has, for now, been taken down. A Whois search shows that domain provider Network Solutions LLC has put a hold on the website and as the Knoxville News Sentinel reports, the hold prohibits the site from being updated, transferred or deleted. If the domain provider decides to delete Stormfront, any subsequent version hosted elsewhere would have to be recreated from scratch.

The nonprofit group Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law requested the site be taken down, pointing to a clause in Network Solutions’ policies that disallows sites on their domains “to display bigotry, discrimination or hatred.” The group’s executive director, Kristen Clarke, told the Sentinel, “Following our efforts, Network Solutions has pulled the site. And while bringing down one site won’t terminate their efforts, it will make it a little more difficult for white supremacists to sow hatred.”

Recently, the white supremacist site Daily Stormer lost its GoDaddy web domain and then subsequently lost hosting support and website security from Google, Cloudflare and DigitalOcean. In past weeks, we’ve also seen Spotify, Google and Deezer take down racist music, Facebook and Reddit ban hate groups, Squarespace shut down bigoted and hateful websites and OkCupid ban a white supremacist from its platform for life.

Some groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have come out against these moves as violations of the principles of free speech, but really, the less Nazi content around, the better.

Via: Gizmodo

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law


Amazon’s podcast-inspired ‘Lore’ series premieres October 13th

Amazon embraced the podcast revival late last year when it opted to turn the nonfiction podcast Lore into a Prime Video series, and you’re about to see whether or not its effort was worth the wait. The internet giant has revealed that its Lore adaptation will reach Prime Video on October 13th. It’s a six-episode stint, but it could be intriguing even if you haven’t listened to a single episode of the show that inspired it. It combines documentary footage with cinematic scenes to tell the origins of horror myths, and it stars big names like Terminator 2’s Robert Patrick and True Blood’s Kristin Bauer van Straten.

Podcast creator Aaron Mahnke was one of the executive producers of the show,and he’s joined by luminaries such as The Walking Dead’s Gale Anne Hurd and The Office’s Ben Silverman.

Is this bandwagoning? You bet. However, it’s also a testament to how big podcasts have become in recent years. The Lore podcast might not have the same cachet as Serial, but it’s managing an average of 5 million listens every month. Even if only a fraction of those listeners are willing to watch the video series (which is drawing on favorite episodes from the audio show), that’s a large potential audience. It’s no wonder that Amazon leapt at the chance — it knew it would have enough viewers to justify the investment.

Source: Amazon, YouTube


Lomography’s all-analog square camera uses familiar film

Do you prefer to shoot photos with a completely analog camera, but wish you could get in on the square photo trend that’s all the rage with the Instagram crowd? Lomography thinks it can help. It’s crowdfunding the Lomo’Instant Square Camera, a fully analog instant camera that takes the same square Instax film you’d use in Fujifilm’s semi-digital Instax Square SQ10. You won’t have to look far to restock, in other words. The camera itself, meanwhile, revels in its non-digital nature — although there are some concessions to modernity.

The design uses a bellows-like mechanism to keep the design compact while offering a 95mm glass lens. You have to use color gels for flash filters, and you’ll have just 10 shots (indicated with LED lights) with each roll. You do get a fully automatic mode, though, and there’s a remote-controlled shutter release so you can take that old-school selfie whenever you’re ready. You can also expose the same frame as many times as you like if you’re going for a multi-shot effect.

Like the idea? You might want to move quickly. The Lomo’Instant Square will normally sell for $199, but you can snag it for $129 if you back it in the first day of the campaign (that’s August 29th, if you’re reading this in time). Relative latecomers can score a camera with a $149 pledge, and shelling out more will get you combos that include more of the gear you might want when getting started. All of them are expected to ship in March 2018 if all goes well. That’s not a trivial amount for a camera which is practically defined by its constraints, but look at it this way: if you wish you’d been around when Polaroid’s instant film cameras were cutting-edge tech, this may be the closest you’ll get to hopping in a time machine.

Source: Kickstarter


Apple Now Accepts WeChat Pay in China

In a statement sent to multiple Chinese media outlets today, Apple said iPhone and iPad users in China can now use WeChat Pay as a payment method for App Store and Apple Music purchases.

“We are glad to offer users in mainland China the option of WeChat Pay for their favorite mobile app or Apple Music products. We continue to be dedicated to provide multiple simple and convenient payment methods for customers within the Apple ecosystem,” Apple said in an official statement today.

WeChat Pay is the second most popular mobile payments service in China, with an estimated 39.5 percent market share as of the first quarter of 2017, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys. By comparison, Apple Pay’s market share was estimated to have been just one percent in the first quarter.

WeChat itself is an incredibly popular app in China that allows users to pay for services, chat, hail a cab, watch videos, play mini games, and more. Since the app can be installed on Android, some analysts believe WeChat is a threat to Apple by way of reducing the iPhone’s competitive advantage in China.

Nevertheless, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said WeChat’s creator Tencent is one of its most important developers.

“I see Tencent as one of our biggest and best developers,” said Cook, speaking on a conference call in early August. “They’ve done a great job of implementing iOS features in their apps, and we’re looking forward to working with them even more to build even greater experiences for our mutual users in China.”

Apple has also accepted Alipay, the most popular mobile payment service in China with 53.7 percent market share, since October 2016.

Tags: China, WeChat
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YouTube Updates Logo and Announces New Features for iOS App and Desktop Site

YouTube today announced a few changes coming to the company’s mobile apps and desktop site, including a visual update for the well-known YouTube logo. Instead of emphasizing the “Tube” part of the branding, the new icon places the TV-like icon to the left of the company’s name.

Designed for our multi-screen world, the updated Logo combines a cleaned up version of the YouTube wordmark and Icon, creating a more flexible design that works better across a variety of devices, even on the tiniest screens.

Why’s it more flexible? When room is limited (say on a smartphone) you can use the brightened up Icon as an abbreviated Logo, which will be seen more easily and read more clearly. You’ll see the new Logo and Icon roll out across mobile and desktop today, and across all our other apps and services soon.

Additionally, the company announced a few updates coming to its iOS and Android apps including improved navigation, more gesture controls (like swiping left and right to jump between videos in a playlist), the ability to speed up or slow down videos, and a dedicated player for vertical videos. There’s also a new way to browse more videos while in the YouTube player, by swiping up from the bottom of the screen to see suggested videos.

Both the app and desktop site are being updated to Google’s Material Design aesthetic, which will refresh YouTube with a “simple and intuitive user experience that lets content shine,” according to the company. With the new update to the desktop site, users will be able to turn on an official Dark Theme so they can browse YouTube more comfortably at night. The Verge reports that Dark Theme will be available on the YouTube mobile apps as well.

Many of the iOS, Android, and desktop updates will launch today, along with the all-new YouTube logo which users should begin noticing across mobile apps and online throughout the day.

Tag: YouTube
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Google Reveals its Answer to Apple’s ARKit With ‘ARCore’, Bringing AR to 100M Android Devices

Google today announced a new developer platform for augmented reality apps that won’t require dedicated hardware, which it’s calling “ARCore.” The company originally began making inroads in the AR space a few years ago with Project Tango, which required manufacturers to implement specialized equipment so that smartphones would be compatible with Tango’s AR features.

Now, Google is “effectively shuttering” the Tango brand, according to TechCrunch, and focusing on the ARCore software development kit. The new platform will deliver AR abilities to compatible Android smartphones, immediately turning a large swath of the Android device market into advanced AR-enabled machines, similar to what will happen with iOS 11-enabled devices following the debut of Apple’s upcoming ARKit.

To start, ARCore is launching on the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8 (which must be running 7.0 Nougat or above), and a wider adoption of more smartphones will come later down the line for ARCore’s public launch. By that date, Google “plans to have 100 million Android devices” out in the wild that support motion-tracking AR capabilities, and as more advanced smartphones launch the company said that ARCore will only grow stronger.

“We’ve architected ARCore to be able to perceive a wide variety of sensors,” Google AR/VR head Clay Bavor told TechCrunch. “We foresee, in the future, many more phones having depth-sensing capabilities and as those come into mainstream phones, that’s great, ARCore will work seamlessly with those and benefit from the additional sensing capabilities.”

ARCore works by detecting surfaces near the user in order to display augmented reality content in a stable space. The Android smartphone sensors will detect these horizontal planes, factor in the device’s motion tracking, and estimate the light entering a room so objects can be dynamically lit based on their environment.

The company is also focusing on the web, which it describes as “a critical component of the future of AR.” It’s beginning by releasing a prototype browser for web developers, allowing them to begin experimenting with AR alongside mobile developers. In the future, Google says that these custom browsers will allow developers to make AR-enhanced websites that run on both Android and ARCore, as well as iOS and ARKit.

Apple announced ARKit back in June, introducing a developer platform that functions in much the same way as Google’s ARCore. With ARKit, developers can create apps that take advantage of the built-in camera, processors, and motion sensors of an iPhone or iPad, resulting in advanced AR experiences. Demos of these apps have been continuously emerging online in the wake of ARKit’s WWDC announcement.

Android developers interested in ARCore can begin experimenting and creating apps for the Pixel and Galaxy S8 smartphones starting today. To see more examples of ARCore in action, Google has created an AR Experiments website.

Tags: Google, augmented reality
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