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Sonos will add AirPlay 2 support for direct control in 2018

If you watched in envy as your Spotify-loving friends controlled their Sonos systems from within the music streaming app, hoping Tidal and AirPlay 2 would follow, there’s reason to celebrate. The audio firm has announced support for those services as well as Pandora. AirPlay 2 won’t be out until next year, but Pandora and Tidal will be available before the end of 2017. Meaning, you’ll be able to control a multi-speaker system via your streaming app of choice rather than Sonos’ own kludgy application. It’s the latest step Sonos is taking to provide a platform-agnostic experience, where almost everything works with its hardware regardless of who’s providing the music.

Source: Sonos


Spider silk and stem-cell leather are the future of fashion

On Sunday, there were no cars in Paris as the city clamped down on soaring pollution and tried to honor the climate accord that bears its name. With Paris Fashion Week here too, garment makers must face their own part in the planet’s despoilment. An incubator called Fashion Tech Labs (FTL) is trying to break the textile pollution cycle with new tech like stem-cell leather, recycled fabrics and ultra-strong spider-silk-based fibers. At Google’s Paris Arts & Culture Center, I had a look at some of the tech and talked with FTL and the event’s esteemed host, sustainable designer and fashion icon Stella McCartney.

The fashion industry uses obscene amounts of water and fills dumps and oceans with materials that linger for generations. “You have to understand the impact the fashion industry has on our environment,” McCartney told Engadget. “It’s the second-most-harmful industry on the planet. We need to take responsibility.”

McCartney is on the forefront of sustainable fashion, having used “skin-free leather,” recycled fabrics and other innovative materials ever since her company launched 16 years ago. Another major manufacturer experimenting with the idea is Adidas, which has developed several shoes in conjunction with ocean-plastics recycling organization Parley. Adidas plans to eventually produce up to a million of its Ultraboost Uncaged Parley shoes by the end of 2017, but for now, production is in the thousands.

Unless the majority of clothing and footwear companies — and not just high-end fashion lines like Stella McCartney or select manufacturers like Adidas — start to make sustainability a priority, the problem will only get worse.

That’s where Russian fashion industry scion Miroslava Duma and her new organization come in. Fashion Tech Labs is an incubator for sustainable fashion, wearable electronics and other cutting-edge clothing, jewelry and designer innovations. FTL is one of a new breed of such research and incubation firms that see garment-industry waste as not just a problem to be solved, but a financial opportunity.

“This is a revolution that’s coming,” said Duma. “So we’d rather be in, because it’s going to happen anyway.”

Duma’s company organized the event along with McCartney and Google’s Arts & Culture Lab, which has a tie-in via its recently launched We Wear Culture virtual style exhibition. The idea was to show off some of the tech that’s germinating, often literally, at Fashion Tech Lab.

That includes VitroLabs tissue engineering, which creates ethical leather from cow, ostrich and crocodile cells, and Worn Again, which recycles discarded textiles, saving copious amounts of water, oil and other raw resources. Other companies include Bolt Threads, which produces high-tensile-strength materials molecularly derived from spider silk, Diamond Foundry’s “morally pure” man-made diamonds that are “optically and atomically the same as a mined diamond,” and Mint Materials, which is producing a plant-based antibacterial and odor-control treatment for clothing.

All of these companies are doing cutting-edge work that, in some cases, has yet to be commercialized. To help, FTL used the Paris show as an opportunity to introduce them to both investors and the press.

“We use advanced stem-cell technology and tissue engineering to create full-thickness skin that we then tan and turn into leather,” VitroLabs co-founder Ingvar Helgason told Engadget. “This completely removes the need for animals; it reduces the environmental impact and allows us to enjoy the beautiful materials that we’ve become accustomed to, but without the environmental or ethical implications.”

VitroLabs showed off a piece of the leather, which was, to say the least, weird. However, the company has made only small chunks of skin and is still working on scaling it up (though it says it will have an announcement about that soon). Suffice it to say, VitroLabs needs tons of capital, support, and a network of fashion contacts, which it hopes to get in spades from Fashion Tech Lab and Duma.

“Fashion Tech Lab is working across a couple of different pillars, the first one being investment into these startups,” said the company’s chief of technology and research, Dr. Amanda Parkes. “We’re really trying to grow and scale these technologies to make them accessible and connect them with luxury and big fashion brands.”

The company is certainly creating a buzz for its clients. At one point while shooting photos and video, I looked up and standing right in front of me was McCartney, actor Salma Hayek and Diane von Furstenberg, checking out the VitroLabs leather and schmoozing with Duma.

The fact that celebrities and designers are taking an interest in sustainable fashion tech is a good sign. Wearable technology needs fashion designers more than fashion designers need technology — smartwatches, for instance, were moribund until Apple, Fossil, Tag Heuer and others introduced decent-looking products.

Some of the technology, from Diamond Foundry and VitroLabs, for example, is aimed at the high-end luxury fashion business, for now. “[We have] a customer base that really does care about sustainability,” said Ian Rogers, chief digital officer at ultra-luxury brand LVMH. “If we can upgrade the high-quality materials that we work with and make the planet better along the way, that’s a win.”

But what about the rest of us? Recycled textiles and materials made from ocean waste and other sources seem to hold the most promise for the larger consumer market. With its ocean-plastic shoe, Adidas proved that customers are buying into the premise, and Stella McCartney thinks manufacturers and designers needn’t worry about demand.

“The consumers are way ahead, sadly, of the designers and businesses,” she said. “And I hope the industry is seeing that we seem so old-fashioned. [Textile waste] is really quite terrifying, so I hope that they go away from this event and reflect on how they need to do something about it now.”


Of course there’s retro-inspired ‘Stranger Things’ mobile game

Netflix has flirted with simple games starring its most popular original series, but its latest stab at interactive promo goes a little deeper. The streaming juggernaut tapped developer BonusXP to make a full-on mobile game for Stranger Things. And as you might expect, it’s is about as retro as possible, aping classics of yore like River City Ransom and the NES’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for inspiration. All that to say, it’s a bit more complicated than Netflix Infinite Runner from January. You can do sweet jumps on your bicycle as one of the kids and explore the Upside Down as Hawkins police chief Jim Hopper, for example.

The title is available for Android and iOS, but if you don’t have a compatible device, you’ll have to wait for the show’s second season premiere on October 27th to journey back in time.

Source: iTunes, Google Play


Live from Google’s Pixel 2 event!

It’s already been a year since Google officially announced its pair of Pixel smartphones, the Google Home speaker and a host of other hardware products. Naturally, that means it’s time to do it all over again. At an event in San Francisco, Google is expected to reveal the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones, updates to the Google Home line, a convertible Chromebook and more. We’ll be there live bringing you the news as it develops with our up-to-the-minute liveblog, and we’ll have hands-on and first impressions from the event afterwards. Keep an eye on this page for everything as it’s announced — Google’s event kicks off on October 4th at 12PM ET / 9AM PT.

Follow all the latest news from Google’s Pixel 2 event here!


You can now assign Google Home speakers to specific rooms

Now that Google is poised to have multiple Home speakers in its lineup, you’re going to need a better way to manage those speakers — and thankfully, it’s already here. Google has revamped the Home app (currently just the Android version) with not only a fresh look, but support for assigning speakers to specific rooms. The tweak should make it easier to control specific speakers and even whole environments. If you want to stop music playback in the bedroom at the same time as you shut off the lights, you can issue a single command to do it all.

The concept of assigning speakers to rooms certainly isn’t new — it’s a cornerstone of the Sonos experience. For Google, however, it’s important as Home evolves into a larger product family. Although you certainly weren’t forced to use one Home speaker before, it’s now crucial that Google knows just which device you’re referring to. Room names make that easy, especially when you’re creating speaker groups to produce stronger, room-filling sound.

Via: Android Police, 9to5Google

Source: Google Play


Amazon’s Echo line is heading to India and Japan

Amazon has been on quite an expansion push with its smart home speaker line recently, but now it’s clear that they’re increasing more than just the number of Echo devices on the market. The company announced today that Echo and Alexa are now available in India by invitation only, and they’ll expand to Japan later this year. Devices will start shipping in India this month.

According to Tom Taylor, the SVP of Amazon Alexa, the company will also open the Alexa Skills Kit and Alexa Voice Service in order to allow developers to create customized software for Indian and Japanese customers. Hardware makers will also have the freedom to build devices that can work with Alexa.

This expansion marks the first foray into Asia for the Echo, a necessary step for Amazon to compete in the smart home speaker market. Apple and Google have an advantage over Amazon in this regard simply because they already have a large presence in Asia. It’s a smart move for the online retail giant; they’ll probably expand to more countries in the region next year.

Source: Amazon


Tinder adds Reactions to help you make a point in chats

Tinder has frequently tweaked its offerings. Over the past year or so, it’s introduced a new user interface, more inclusive gender options, a feature that figures out which of your photos are more appealing as well as GIFs and emoji. If you’re willing to pay a little, Tinder also offers the ability to move your profile to the front of everyone’s queue and see who has already liked you. Today, the app launches another way for you to communicate with other users — Tinder Reactions.

Some of the available Reactions include laughing emoji, applause, hearts and a bouncing “Ball’s in your court!” tennis ball. And for incoming messages that aren’t so appealing, users will have the option to send Reactions like an eye roll, a strike and a thrown martini glass.

While incorporating Reactions into Tinder messaging makes sense, the company’s marketing for the new feature doesn’t really hit the mark. Tinder has recruited actor and comedian Whitney Cummings to promote Reactions and the campaign — dubbed “The Menprovement Initiative” — paints Reactions as a tool to combat men on the app who send unwanted messages or say inappropriate things. Reactions certainly aren’t going to clean up dating sites or empower women, but if you take them for what they are — just another way to send a message — they’re a fun addition to Tinder’s features.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Tinder


Google Home Mini is a basic $49 smart speaker

If you feel the regular Google Home is overkill when you just want to ask about the weather, you’re in luck: As rumored, Google has introduced the cut-down Home Mini. For all intents and purposes, it’s Mountain View’s take on Amazon’s Echo Dot. The puck-sized, fabric-covered device drops music-grade speakers in favor of a narrow focus on Google Assistant voice commands (including a Find My Phone feature) and, as you might imagine, a lower price to match. At $49, it’s competitive with the Dot and decidedly more accessible than the standard Home. Pre-orders start now, and it ships Oct. 19th to all seven countries where Home sells today.

Is it a perfect replacement for Amazon’s tiny speaker? Not quite: You can’t plug in a wired set of speakers, so you’ll have to stream to a Chromecast-enabled speaker (whether through an adapter or built-in) if you want music. You might also prefer the Echo Dot’s approach to on-device playback controls. The Home Mini is certainly more fashionable, though, and it’s the only real game in town if you want an always-on Google Assistant gadget at a low price.

Follow all the latest news from Google’s Pixel 2 event here!

Source: Google


Google’s $399 Home Max is 20x more powerful than the original

At today’s Made by Google event, the company has introduced a buffed up version of its Home assistant device called the Google Home Max. This version of the speaker uses premium materials and improved speakers (dual 4.5-inch high-excursion woofers, two custom tweeters), putting it in position to compete with products like those from Sonos (like the upcoming Sonos One that also has Assistant built-in) or Apple’s upcoming HomePod. Available in December for $399, it uses AI-powered Smart Sound to tune the audio for whatever room it’s in. It’s also smart enough to recognize the “Ok Google” command even while it’s playing music loudly, turns down the volume in the morning, and can get louder when the environment is noisy.

Follow all the latest news from Google’s Pixel 2 event here!

Source: Google Blog


Nest’s new security products will soon do more with Google Home

Today’s Google event is all about, well, Google hardware, but that doesn’t mean Nest isn’t getting some love too. On stage the company just announced that its Google Home speaker (and now, Google Home Mini) will soon have deeper, more useful integrations with Nest hardware. So if you have a Nest camera set up, you can ask Home to show the live feed on your TV via Chromecast. You can also change the temperature on your Nest thermostat with conversational terms like “warmer” and set up your Nest Hello doorbell so it calls Home, like a remote intercom.

Just say: “Ok Google, show me the entryway.” and Nest Cam will be able to livestream to your TV. #madebyGoogle

— Nest (@nest) October 4, 2017

Nest will also support Google Home routines. These are bundled actions that you trigger with a single key phrase like “okay Google, goodnight.” Soon, these grouped actions will include Nest hardware, meaning you can turn down the temperature while also killing your smart lights and any music playing in the living room. In short, Google is pushing all of its smart home products, including those developed by Nest, to feel like one natural and cohesive whole. How that all works in practice, of course, remains to be seen. We’ll have to try it all out when the functionality goes live.

Follow all the latest news from Google’s Pixel 2 event here!

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