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Jaguar makes first hire through Gorillaz mixed-reality app

In June, Jaguar Land Rover launched its code-breaking recruitment puzzle in the Gorillaz mixed-reality app in order to attract new talent to its team and fast-track successful players through the interview process. Today, the company has announced that it has made its first hire through the app and he’ll be joining the company next month.

So far around 41,000 people from 35 different countries have taken the app’s recruitment challenge and over 500 have cracked the code. Jaguar has interviewed around 50 candidates so far. Daniel Dunkley, a 23-year-old UK resident is the first hire. He left school at 16 and taught himself the software skills that landed him the job.

Gorillaz guitarist and Jaguar Land Rover ambassador Noodle said in a statement, “Think big and do better, my motto. Stop putting those filters on your food and download this app immediately. The first hire has happened, so get involved and win!”

The challenge is still available through the Gorillaz app and Jaguar is actively looking to hire. Interested applicants can also head to Jaguar Land Rover’s London-based Tech Fest September 8th through 10th to try their hand at a recruitment puzzle at the festival’s pop-up Gorillaz garage.

Source: Jaguar Land Rover


Sony’s smart speaker gives Google Assistant a more capable home

Google announced a slew of new devices running its Assistant software here at IFA 2017, and one of the most interesting additions is Sony. The electronics maker today showed off its new smart speaker, which has the unfortunately clunky name of LF-S50G. The speaker resembles Apple’s upcoming HomePods, but runs Google’s Assistant with some Sony enhancements. So basically it’s the love child speaker of tech’s Romeo and Juliet, except raised by Sony.

I checked out a demo of the smart speaker at Sony’s press conference here at IFA, and found it about as responsive as my Google Home. The audio is louder than the Home, and the music it played was clear — I was surprised I could hear over the noise in the convention hall.

The speaker itself is a squat cylinder with a perforated grill, and has an LED display on the front to tell the time, and animates to show you when the Assistant is listening or processing. Much like the Amazon Echo, the Sony LF-S50G has a ring of lights at near the top to indicate volume levels, too. All told, the speaker is physically unremarkable — some of my colleagues appreciate its aesthetic, but I find it bland. It’s available in white, black and blue, and none of the three stand out as especially appealing to me.

What sets the Sony device apart from other existing smart speakers is its ability to recognize touch-free control gestures to tweak volume and control playback. In plain words: you can adjust the volume by drawing a ring in midair above the speaker, or skip tracks by sliding your hand over the device. During our demo, only the Sony rep was able to do this well, most likely because he had been trained on exactly where you should place your hands. I tried drawing a clockwise ring in the air above the speaker, but it only picked up my movement after my fifth attempt. This isn’t a feature I see myself using a lot, anyway, since I’d usually just tell Assistant to turn down the volume or skip to the next track.

The LF-S50G will cost $200 when it ships in October, which is $50 more than the Google Home but cheaper than the $350 Apple HomePod. From the brief demo we had here in Berlin, the Sony smart speaker’s superior audio makes it a good alternative to Google’s own version, but we’ll have to perform our own at-home tests to see if that holds true. And with the slew of new Google Assistant speakers that were unveiled this week, the Sony LF-S50G has a lot of competition to outdo.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!


Windows 10 Mixed Reality headsets are coming on October 17th too

In addition to Microsoft debuting Windows Mixed Reality on October 17th, as part of the Fall Creators Update, its hardware partners will also have their VR headsets ready to go on the same day. That’s not a major shock, though it’s a surprise to see that computer makers have moved from the inexpensive, $300 price Microsoft was originally aiming for. Headsets from HP, Lenovo, and Dell will cost $350 on their own, or $450 together with motion controllers. Given just how important motion tracking is in VR, it wouldn’t make sense to go without those controllers, either.

​​​All of the Windows VR headsets feature a 1,440 by 1,440 pixel per eye resolution, as well as a 90Hz refresh rate. Unlike the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, you also don’t need to set up additional sensors to use them, as they feature a variant of the “inside-out” spatial tracking that Microsoft developed for HoloLens. The headsets mainly differ when it comes to their designs. Some models, like HP’s, are a bit hefty. Others like Acer’s, are surprisingly light. Several of them also have the ability to flip their VR visors up, without taking the entire headset off. That makes it much easier to hop between VR and the real world.

While it’s nice to see Windows VR headsets getting closer to reality, it’s a shame that they’re pricing isn’t nearly as disruptive as we originally thought. The Oculus Rift is now available for $499 — and that includes its excellent Touch Controllers. Earlier this year, the Rift bundle was just $399 on sale. HTC, meanwhile, dropped the Vive to $599. For that additional cost, though, you also get true room-scale support.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!


Panasonic’s fridge of the future comes when you call it

We don’t know how the kitchens of our future will work, but Panasonic’s vision includes a moving refrigerator that responds to voice commands. The company was showing off a concept for such a device that, if we’re lucky, might make it to our homes in the next few decades.

Essentially, the Movable Fridge is little more than a coolbox glued on top of a robot vacuum cleaner with a voice interface. With its built in LIDAR and depth sensor, the device would — theoretically — scan your home and be able to navigate around on its own. The idea, according to the company, is that the unit would always listen out for your command, such as “Fridge, come here.” Then, it would emerge from its hole in your kitchen wall and scoot over to you without bumping into your household pets.

Panasonic intends this to be used by the elderly and those with mobility issues, saving them from unnecessary trips to the kitchen. The company is also considering adding a warming plate to the top, to move warm meals from room to room.

Of course, we can also imagine this finding plenty of fans with the sort of people who currently have a beer fridge cluttering up their TV room. Imagine the bragging rights when you’re asked for some cold ones, and they make their own way from the kitchen.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!


The best personal breathalyzer

By Séamus Bellamy

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.

After 65 hours of research—which included getting intoxicated at a police station to test personal breathalyzers alongside law enforcement equipment—we’re sure the BACtrack S80 Pro is the most accurate, reliable, and easiest-to-use personal breathalyzer that you can buy. We reached this conclusion after conducting research over four years, considering 102 models, and trying 15.

Who should get this

In the four years we’ve researched this guide, the best advice we’ve heard on the topic of personal-breathalyzer use came from one of our law enforcement partners: If you’ve been drinking enough to think about using a breathalyzer to see if it’s safe for you to drive, you’re drunk enough that you should call a cab. We want to discourage that kind of use, as well as the idea of using it to see who’s gettin’ drunkest.

We’d also like to note that a breathalyzer’s blood-alcohol content measurement doesn’t always tell the complete story of your intoxication. Such devices estimate the alcohol in your bloodstream based on the amount of ethanol they detect in the air you exhale. But alcohol affects every person differently, and the same BAC number can reflect a very different level of impairment from one person to another. BAC also fluctuates over time, and can increase for 30 to 90 minutes after an individual has stopped drinking and the alcohol has had time to be fully absorbed into the bloodstream. And no matter the results of a personal-breathalyzer test, you can almost never use the data in a court of law.

But a breathalyzer can be useful to have on hand. Arguing with an intoxicated friend, coworker, or family member can be useless. But supporting your concerns with BAC data can be more gracious and less confrontational than offering your own subjective judgment—and, we hope, more useful in persuading someone not to drive.

How we picked

A previous year’s test group included (from left to right) the AlcoHawk PT500, the BACtrack S80 Pro, the 2045Tech Floome, and the BACtrack Trace. Photo: Michael Hession

The most important feature for any breathalyzer is how accurately it measures BAC samples. Our pick is roughly as accurate as the devices police officers use to perform roadside testing. Beyond that first key detail, you’ll want any breathalyzer you purchase to include the following features.

  • Easy-to-use controls: You or a friend may be intoxicated when using a breathalyzer, so ease of use is a must-have.
  • A fuel-cell-based sensor: Law enforcement officers prefer this type of device for its portability, dependability, sensitivity, and high degree of accuracy. This type needs occasional calibration and is pricey compared with other types of breathalyzers, but it’s also the only kind that consistently generates accurate readings.
  • Readable results: A breathalyzer should make reading and interpreting the results of a BAC test simple. Big, bright, or backlit numbers are best for reading inside a dimly lit bar.
  • Recalibration: All hardware eventually loses accuracy, and you should be able to calibrate your breathalyzer by either sending it back to the manufacturer for service or ordering fresh sensor components to recalibrate the hardware yourself.
  • Low power requirements: Your breathalyzer should be ready for more than a thousand uses before the batteries need changing.
  • Quick performance: The faster a breathalyzer can perform, the better. Our pick is ready to go in roughly 20 seconds, nearly twice as fast as some of the others we tested.
  • A way to share: Having replaceable mouthpieces is a great way to remove a friend’s (valid) concerns about germs and make the readings a bit more accurate.

How we tested

Our law enforcement partners provided access to their equipment and expertise. Photo: Rebecca Boniface

Under police supervision, I consumed a controlled amount of alcohol over a 45-minute period. The amount of alcohol—7 ounces of Jameson Irish Whiskey served as seven Jameson and Gingers—was administered according to my sex, height, weight, and age (for the record, I’m a 40-year-old male measuring 5-foot-7 and weighing about 250 pounds). The amount of alcohol was chosen with a specific purpose in mind: to put me over the legal limit, which in the province of British Columbia (and many US states) is a BAC of 0.08 percent. Ideally, we wanted to get a sample at a minimum BAC of 0.10 percent, which is enough to register a “fail” warning on the police department’s portable testing hardware. Cheers!

Once the 45-minute time limit elapsed, we waited 20 minutes to allow my body to absorb the alcohol I’d ingested, then tested my BAC with the police department’s Alco-Sensor IV handheld portable breathalyzer. To confirm that the Alco-Sensor IV’s reading was accurate, I also submitted a breath sample to the department’s Intox EC/IR II tabletop hardware. In both rounds of testing, the breath samples registered a BAC reading of 0.09. We then tested the civilian breathalyzers we’d brought with us, compared their readings with the police equipment’s, and repeated the test after waiting another 20 minutes.

Our pick

With its large display and simple two-button operation, the BACtrack S80 Pro is easy to use, no matter how much you’ve had to drink. Photo: Michael Hession

In three separate tests, the BACtrack S80 Pro stood head and shoulders above everything else we’ve tried, consistently producing the most accurate test results compared with the law enforcement equipment we’ve used during supervised drinking sessions at a police station. Beyond that, this fuel-cell-based tool is simple to use, portable, hygienic, and easy to read and interpret. It takes less than 20 seconds for the device to warm up, and has disposable mouthpieces for hygiene and accuracy.

There’s a lot to like about the S80 Pro, but above all else, it’s the best because it’s the most accurate. BACtrack claims that the S80 Pro can track BAC levels from 0.000 percent to 0.400 percent, and its fuel-cell-based hardware won’t show false positives. In our tests, the BACtrack was within 0.01 percent from the police equipment we compared it with, making it the only breathalyzer we tested to prove nearly as accurate as the police hardware.

The S80 Pro uses disposable mouthpieces, which is important for hygiene and accuracy, as breathing into a clean mouthpiece ensures that a reading won’t be at risk of contamination from a previous user. New disposable mouthpieces aren’t terribly expensive.

After 1,000 uses, you need to send the S80 Pro and $20 to the manufacturer for calibration, which isn’t that hard to do—but it isn’t as easy as the recalibration procedure for some other fuel-cell-based breathalyzers, which you can perform yourself simply by switching out the fuel cell. Some people will send theirs in right on time, but not everyone who needs this product will be the most responsible type of person—and they’ll end up relying on inaccurate readings from the device, which can put them (and others) at risk.

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.


Apple is reportedly planning to set up shop in Hollywood

In June, Apple announced that it had hired Sony bigshots Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg to head its video programming division. The move signaled that Apple might be more serious about its TV and film aspirations than its currently small offerings would suggest. Now, the Financial Times is reporting that the company has its eye on a major Hollywood studio.

The Culver Studios has been the set for films like Gone with the Wind, Carrie and Rocky. It’s also hosted TV shows like The Andy Griffith Show, Arrested Development and Pee-wee’s Playhouse. The location has 32,000 square feet of space and 13 soundstages.

Another sign that it’s amping up its game are reports that Apple is trying to snag a Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon drama that Netflix also has its eye one. The company is planning to spend over a $1 billion per year on original content in a push to start competing with companies like Amazon, Netflix and even YouTube that are currently well outpacing it in regards to original TV and film content.

Source: Financial Times


Sharp is ready to sell 8K consumer TVs now that we all have 4K

While other electronics companies are just getting to consumer 4K screens, Sharp is once again focusing on the next resolution milestone. Today, Sharp announced its 8K AQUOS televisions will be coming to Japan and China in December, with releases in Taiwan and Europe planned for early 2018.

Sharp has been pushing near-8K screens (7,680 x 4,320) since 2015, though its first models later that year boasting true 8K had a consumer-unfriendly $130,000 price tag. But the issue wasn’t accuracy — it was lack of content recorded at such a high resolution to actually enjoy on the fancy screens. Watching 4K content isn’t much different whether you’re watching on a 4K or an 8K screen.

Ergo, Sharp’s announcement blitz today also introduced a company initiative called “8K Ecosystem” dedicated to refining the process and tech of shooting, editing, storing and broadcasting content in 8K. Sharp’s new TVs won’t make much of a splash if there isn’t material that only their screens can show off, and there’s very little 8K content in the wild.

It’s the same chicken-egg problem that 4K faced at first, though some pressure from outside the industry could nudge 8K along. Japan’s telecommunications ministry is pushing for production and broadcasting of 8K technology by next year to ensure systems are ready for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, according to The Japan Times.

Sharp will start selling its 8K AQUOS TVs in China and Japan later this year. Then it will release AQUOS models as 8K monitors for release in Taiwan in February 2018 and Europe in March — but no official plans for a US release. Sharp hasn’t listed a price for these screens, but a source told the Nikkei Asian Review that they may start at 1 million yen (or about $9,000).

Source: PR Newswire


Samsung’s 43-inch Frame TV is like a fancy art piece for your wall

When Samsung announced The Frame TV earlier this year, it quickly became a product of interest for people with minimalist taste. That’s because it’s essentially designed to double as an art piece, and its aesthetics can easily blend in with any paintings you may have on your wall. It launched in June in both 55- and 65-inch size, but at IFA 2017, Samsung unveiled a new 43-inch model. This may be a good option for those of you who, maybe, liked the looks of the TV but would prefer it in a smaller size.

Naturally, as you might expect from a TV in 2017, the Frame features a 4K screen and smart apps. Where the device stands out though, aside from the design, is with the Samsung Collection, a library of 1,000 pieces of art work that you can set as your background when you’re not using it in TV mode. As part of yesterday’s announcement in Berlin, Samsung also revealed that it will soon be adding exclusive content from Spain’s Prado museum.

The Frame is only the latest in experimental television designs for Samsung. If you recall, the company last year introduced the Serif TV, which looks more like piece of furniture than an actual TV. Perhaps in the near future we’ll get one that blends in with our floor, couch or… something else in our home.

Unfortunately, Samsung hasn’t said how much The Frame TV is or when it’ll hit stores, but don’t expect it to be cheap. The 55- and 65-inch versions, for context, are priced respectively at $2,000 and $2,800.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!


Technics’ SP-10R is its latest high-end throwback turntable

If you thought Technic’s SL-1200 reissue was expensive, you haven’t seen anything yet. Meet the SP-10R. Technics calls the throwback deck its “most premium turntable ever” and its 7kg (almost 15.5 pounds) brass, rubber and aluminum platter drives that claim home even further. “By optimizing the natural frequency of each ayer, external vibrations are thoroughly suppressed resulting in a beautifully clear and crisp audio experience,” a very technically-worded press release says.

You might be wondering what that separate box is next to the deck in the photo above. Well, it’s an external power supply. Technics says that keeping the ultra-low-noise switching power supply apart from the platter helps suppress humming sounds and vibrations. Technics first introduced the SP10MK2 in 1975; back then it was the first direct-drive professional turntable on the pro market.

Like the SL-1200 reissue, this features a coreless direct-drive motor and will likely command an absurdly high price once it’s released next summer. How much it’ll cost wasn’t revealed, but the SL-1200 was $4,000, and with all the boasting Technics is doing about sound quality you can expect the SP-10R to top that.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!


Apple Store in Simi Valley Permanently Closing Later This Month, Possibly Due to Lower Sales [Updated]

Apple has announced that its retail store at the Simi Valley Town Center in Simi Valley, California, located approximately 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles, will permanently close later this month.

Apple Store at Simi Valley Town Center
Friday, September 15 is the last day the store will be open. Apple provided thanks for “over 10 great years” and advised customers to visit its retail store list to find a nearby location. Apple Simi Valley originally opened in May 2006.

Apple hasn’t publicly commented on the reason for the store’s closure, but multiple tipsters have informed MacRumors that the location may have suffered from low sales and customer traffic — a rarity for an Apple Store.

At a minimum, the closure doesn’t appear to be related to Apple’s ongoing store renovation process across the United States.

There were high hopes for Simi Valley Town Center when it opened in 2005, but the outdoor shopping mall hasn’t been as bustling as envisioned. The less-than-expected customer traffic may be partially due to an expansion of The Oaks Shopping Center in nearby Thousand Oaks, California in 2008.

Apple itself has a retail store at The Oaks that opened in October 2005, and several other locations in the greater Los Angeles area.

Over the years, Simi Valley Town Center has lost several retailers, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, Coach, American Eagle, Cache, Forever 21, and PacSun, according to the Simi Valley Acorn. Macy’s also merged its standalone menswear store into its main location at the shopping center earlier this year.

A tipster informed us that Simi Valley Town Center may eventually be repurposed as an outlet mall, which could explain Apple’s departure.

MacRumors has yet to learn whether the store’s employees will be laid off or offered the opportunity to transfer to another location.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Update: In related news, Apple said its Westfield Topanga store in the Canoga Park neighborhood of Los Angeles reopens Saturday, September 16 at 10:00 a.m. local time. (Thanks, Storeteller!)

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