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11
Oct

Teens get their own Amazon accounts (if their parents let them)


Amazon’s terms of service state that anyone under the age of 18 can only use the service with “the involvement of a parent or guardian.” Now, the online retailer is making it easier for parents to do just that. The company has introduced a new service that allows teenagers aged 13–17 to create their own logins tied to their parents’ account.

There are multiple ways parents can set limits on how their teens shop on Amazon. Once the order is placed, the parent will receive a text or an email with the item, cost, shipping address and payment information. Teens can also input a reason they need an item. Amazon’s default setting with this service is autoapproval of orders, but parents can individually approve them via text if they so prefer.

If parents want to give their teen more autonomy, they can skip the approval step altogether and just set spending limits. Once the order is placed, parents can see an itemized invoice and are able to cancel and return items, according to Amazon.com’s normal terms.

What’s more, parents can share Prime Video and Twitch Prime with their teens, allowing them to have their own account on these services. To get started, parents can visit amazon.com/forteens or sign up via a text or email invitation from their teens.

Source: Business Wire

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11
Oct

Watch the Oculus Connect keynote right here at 1PM ET!


Guess what today is? If you said “Oculus Connect 4 keynote day” you were right. You also probably knew what day it was before reading this post. But I digress. Assuming you aren’t in San Jose for the event, you’ll need a place to watch it come 1 PM Eastern. Well, that’s what the embed window below is for. And, if you have a Rift or Gear VR, you can watch the keynote address that way too. Speaking of, maybe expect a new Rift headset to be announced, and perhaps an update on the wireless one teased last year. Oh, and an awkward social VR demo is all but guaranteed. Catch y’all in the asynchronous-spacewarped metaverse.

Source: Oculus Connect, Oculus (Facebook)

11
Oct

‘Blade Runner 2049’ dives deeper on AI to transcend the original


Blade Runner 2049 is a miracle. It’s a sequel that nobody really wanted — certainly not fans of the seminal 1982 original by Ridley Scott. And ponderous explorations of artificial intelligence aren’t something that typically clicks with mainstream audiences. (The film’s disappointing box office results seems to make that clear.) But it turns out that Blade Runner 2049 — directed by Denis Villeneuve — is actually an ideal sequel. It builds on its incredibly influential predecessor by asking deeper questions about AI. As the lines between humans and replicants blur, the idea of being “more human than human” seems truer than ever.

Spoilers ahead for Blade Runner 2049.

The new models

Within the first few minutes, we learn that Ryan Gosling’s “K,” our new cyborg-hunting detective, is actually a replicant. There’s no ambiguity, like there is with Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard in the first film. That immediately gives his job an added weight: He’s hunting his own kind, and he’s well aware of the inherent moral conflict.

We learn through the opening text that a lot has changed since 2019. The Tyrell Corporation unveiled its Nexus 8 replicants, which had a longer, human-like lifespan. That’s exactly what Roy Batty and crew were fighting for in the first film, as they were older Nexus 6 models who could live for only a short four years. Rebellious replicants engineered a global blackout in 2022, in hopes of erasing identification records that were being used to hunt them down. That led to a ban on replicants altogether, which was lifted only when Wallace Corporation, a successor to the original replicant maker, Tyrell, proved that he could make models that were more obedient than the Nexus 8.

K is one of these newer replicants, which still have longer lifespans but differ from older models by their increased reliance on embedded memories. That’s something we saw with Rachel (and potentially Deckard) in the first film, but in Blade Runner 2049 it’s used as even more of a psychic cushion. Replicants are still aware that they’re not “real,” but the memories give them the illusion of human experience — a birthday party growing up, perhaps, or playing with other children when they were a child. While you could view the memories as a “kindness,” as one of their creators describes them, they’re clearly a type of invisible shackle meant to keep replicants content with their subservient role in society.

Throughout the film, K is on the verge of an existential crisis. In the opening scene, he reluctantly subdues and kills a rogue Nexus 8 who’s trying to live out his years as a protein farmer. He’s shaken afterwards but takes the encounter in stride, since that’s what he’s programmed to do. During a mandatory synchronization test — which appears to be an evolved form of the Voight-Kampff exam for finding replicants in the first film — K proves that he’s performing at “baseline.” The movie doesn’t explain what that means, but we can assume that it refers to being within the limits of his programming. Throughout the movie, though, he also strives to push against those boundaries to become a “real boy.”

A replicant savior

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Warner Bros.

The main mystery behind Blade Runner 2049 is an explosive one: A replicant gave birth to a child naturally, just like a human. Specifically, Rachel and Rick Deckard had a child. K’s boss, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), immediately understands the implication of that as something that “breaks the world.” People rioted when replicants were able to live a bit longer — how would they react to their being able to reproduce on their own? She tasks K with erasing all of the evidence of the discovery, a mission that sets him down the path to reject his programming.

The idea of artificially intelligent, human-like robots getting pregnant has profound implications. The original Blade Runner made the villainous replicants surprisingly sympathetic. They just wanted more life, as Roy Batty explained to his creator, Tyrell (before gouging his eyes out). Sure, they used violent methods to achieve their goal, but the desire is an understandable one for any conscious being. Giving replicants, which were stronger and smarter than humans, a short four-year lifespan seemed like an act of cruelty.

Blade Runner 2049 takes that existential question a step further. Now that replicants can live longer and have realistic emotional responses, what really separates them from humans? Especially if they can reproduce on their own? When they’re merely manufactured, it’s easy for us to convince ourselves that they’re just soulless robots. But if a replicant can be born and age naturally, without any direct help from humans, we need to think harder about the nature of life.

Enter Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), the genius scientist behind the most recent batch of replicants. He’s desperate to figure out the secret behind replicant pregnancy, which was originally developed by Tyrell. For him, it’s more about the corporate power of owning that technology. He can’t build enough replicants, so he’s looking for new ways to increase production. Niander isn’t concerned with the moral implications — he just wants to become an even bigger industry titan.

AI love

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Blade Runner 2049

While K is tackling these bigger questions, he’s also dealing with a domestic relationship. He’s in “love” with Joi (Ana de Armas), an AI program who also appears to love him as well. We have to qualify that idea of love, though. Joi is marketed as the ideal companion, one who tells you what you want to hear and shows you what you want to see. She doesn’t have the free will to do otherwise, and she’s certainly not self-aware. So even if she produces a love-like emotional response in K, is that the same as the emotional responses from two conscious beings?

Once again, this relationship takes a simple idea from the first film — can robots love? — and evolves it in fascinating ways. While K is more conscious than Joi, he’s still fundamentally an AI program as well. The big difference is that he’s aware of himself, and he spends most of the film pushing against the limits of what he’s built to do. It’s ambiguous whether Joi ever does that in the film.

This is where things get interesting. Even if Joi is just a wish-fulfilling program, she still evokes a love-like response from K. And that’s enough to make her important to him. So when we see Joi get “killed” later in the film — the hardware she’s stored in gets smashed — we also feel genuine loss as an audience. Eventually, K encounters a giant Joi ad who repeats some of the same lines his Joi whispered in his ear. And he’s reminded that as much as he loved her, it’s not the same as a “real” relationship.

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Warner Bros.

Replicant rights

You could view the original Blade Runner as the story of a cop hunting down and killing lower-class beings, who aren’t seen as people, in cold blood. Don’t forget that at one point he ends up shooting an unarmed Nexus 6 multiple times in the back — in public. That’s a perspective laid out by Sarah Gailey at Tor, and it’s an important one to consider as we move to Blade Runner 2049.

Just like before, replicants want more life. But it’s not just about living longer — there’s an entire resistance movement that demands the same rights as humans. It’s easy to see the parallels with the civil rights movement in America. Replicants have always been viewed as disposable slave labor. But as their consciousness and capabilities have improved, they’ve also become a threat to what makes humans special. And now that there’s a replicant who was born naturally, they have a savior who could arguably have a “soul.”

Unfortunately, Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t dive too much into the replicant resistance. But it sets the stage for future films to explore that concept even further. That’s not something I would’ve wanted before seeing this film — especially given the way Prometheus and Alien Covenant went down. But now my mind is swimming with where the Blade Runner world can go. And if that’s not a successful sequel, I don’t know what is.

11
Oct

Pretend you still need film with Yashica’s digital camera


Yashica has unveiled a new camera on Kickstarter that seems to offer the worst parts of both film and digital cameras. The digiFilm camera forces you to load a film-like cartridge that sets the look of your images to match real analog film. For instance, the 1,600 ISO cartridge lets you shoot in low light with high contrast, while the ISO 400 black and white applies a filter that removes all colors. You even have to “wind” the camera before each usage.

The idea is to provide an analog experience with digital tech — once you load the ISO 400 B&W cartridge, you can’t shoot in color, for instance. And the winding forces you to slow down and perhaps concentrate harder on each shot, hopefully yielding better pictures at the end.

The camera otherwise seems, and looks, pretty cheap and plasticky compared to iconic Yashica cameras of yore (the trademark was purchased by Hong Kong’s Jebsen Group). It has a tiny-ish 1/3.2-inch sensor, 35mm equivalent f/2.8 lens, and minimum focus distance of about a meter (3.2 feet). On top of the two mentioned, you can also get ISO 200 ultra fine and old-school square 120 format cartridges. Oddly, they don’t store the digital photos — you still need an SD card for that.

The price is 1,108 HK$ ($142) with two cartridges, or 1,248 HK$ ($160) with all four. The closest thing I can think of to the Yashica model is the Gudak app for the iPhone that makes you wait three days before you can “develop” your digital photos.

In other words, it’s a pretty gimmicky way of recreating the analog experience. But what do I know? The Yashica digiFilm has already quintupled its Kickstarter goal, earning over $650,000 to date, with 39 days still left in the campaign. If you’re interested, remember that Kickstarter projects don’t always pan out.

Via: Design Taxi

Source: Yashica (Kickstarter)

11
Oct

’The Swift Life’ is a social network app for Taylor Swift fans


Glu Mobile is the company behind freemium apps such as “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood,” and now it has partnered with a new celebrity: Taylor Swift. The company is creating an app called “The Swift Life” that’s designed to be a gathering place for the singer’s fans. It could even provide an opportunity to interact with Swift herself.

The app will be beta released in limited countries soon. Platforms aren’t specified, but Glu cites Google Play, the App Store and the Amazon AppStore in its release, so it’s likely to be broadly available across mobile devices. You can see a first look at the app in the video below.

It’s not a surprising venture for Swift, a self-promotional marketing machine. Back in August, she announced a partnership with Ticketmaster for her fans to receive priority status in buying tickets. The details made it clear, though, that it was a thinly veiled opportunity for Swift to use the promise of good tickets to increase hype, from asking fans to buy the album through select stores to watching her music videos over and over again for “points.” Still, it’s likely her avid devotees will flock to this app, especially as it gives them the chance to interact with the superstar herself.

Source: Business Wire

11
Oct

Oculus Go is a $199 VR headset that doesn’t require a phone


While Oculus has pioneered the modern consumer VR industry with the Oculus Rift and Samsung’s Gear VR, it’s been working hard on a truly wireless VR solution as well. Last year, Oculus teased that it was planning on a standalone VR headset called “Project Santa Cruz,” and earlier this year, there was news that Oculus was working on yet another tether-free headset codenamed “Pacific.” Now, the company is finally ready to unveil its first standalone headset. This is the Oculus Go.

Unlike the Oculus Rift, which needs to be tethered to a PC, or Samsung’s Gear VR, which requires a phone, the new Oculus Go is entirely self-contained. CEO Mark Zuckerberg says this is the “most accessible VR headset ever.” It has cameras on the headset and uses computer vision tech to figure out positional tracking. It will sell for $199 and will ship early next year.

The Oculus Go has a new mesh fabric that conforms to your face. According to VP of VR, Hugo Barra, the headset has a soft elastic strap and comes equipped with next-generation VR optics. It ships with all new optical design, with lenses that are the next generation of the ones on Oculus Rift. It has the same wide field of view as the Rift and promises significantly reduced glare.

As for its display, it’s a “fast-switch LCD” with WQHD 2560X1440 resolution. According to Barra, it has a higher pixel fill factor than OLEDs, with a “dramatic effect on visual clarity” that “reduces the screendoor effect.”

What’s more, it even has an integrated spatial audio experience. That means the audio drivers are built into the headset, and you don’t need headphones to listen to the sound. That means that the people around you can listen in on the game or experience as well.

As for the apps, Barra says that they are binary compatible and it shares the same controller input set as the Samsung Gear VR. This means that apps that are built for the Gear VR will also be compatible with the Oculus Go.

… Developing…

11
Oct

Judge limits government warrant for info on anti-Trump protest site


We’ve been following a case for a few months now between the Department of Justice and web hosting company Dreamhost surrounding anti-Trump protests on Inauguration Day. Originally, the DoJ demanded that Dreamhost hand over all the information they had on everyone who’d visited the domain. Now, the judge has stripped the DoJ’s warrant to basically nothing: Dreamhost has been ordered to redact all personally identifying information from “non-subscribers” of the website, or in other words, users who have nothing to do with this investigation and merely visited the site.

The Department of Justice’s interest in the website in question, disruptj20.org, was due to a small number of people who participated in “a premeditated riot,” according to US Attorney Channing Phillips. Dreamhost opposed the initial, extremely broad warrant, which asked for the personal information of every visitor to the site, as well as unpublished draft blog posts. The DoJ then narrowed the scope of their inquiry, asking for information only between certain dates and removing the request for draft articles. A judge ordered Dreamhost to comply with this new warrant.

Dreamhost appealed this ruling, and now Chief Judge Morin of the Washington, DC, Superior Court has issued his final ruling. He says in the decision, “While the government has a right to execute its Warrant, it does not have the right to rummage through the information contained on DreamHost’s website and discover the identity of, or access communications by, individuals not participating in alleged criminal activity, particularly those persons who were engaging in First Amendment activities.”

Via: ZDnet

Source: Dreamhost

11
Oct

Facebook is working on VR ‘Venues’ for live concerts


Mark Zuckerberg wants virtual reality to be less isolating, and to hep that, Facebook is working on “Venues.” Think of them like VR social spaces where you can meet up with friends to watch concerts like the ones Live Nation is pumping out. Venues make a lot of sense when you consider Facebook’s push for live video, sports and putting things like VR streams and 360-degree photos and video into the News Feed. Zuckerberg said that Venues will also play host to movie and TV premieres as well.

11
Oct

Sketchy Rumor Points Towards October 26 Launch for Amazon Prime Video on Apple TV


During WWDC in June, Apple finally confirmed that Amazon Prime Video will launch as an app for Apple TV users sometime “later this year.” Since that announcement, a few rumors and theories have predicted launch dates for the app, all of which have subsequently been passed by with no official debut of Amazon Prime Video on the tvOS App Store.

Another sketchy rumor has been shared on the Apple TV Subreddit this week by a user who claims to work for Amazon, pointing towards a late October launch for the app. The user — AmazonVideoEngineer — originally created the Reddit account to share a post a few weeks ago, which stated that October 26 would be the “earliest” date that Amazon would launch its app on Apple TV.

Now, the same user has shared a “quick update” on the app, mentioning that the app is “still on track” for an October 26 debut. AmazonVideoEngineer is “very confident” that this date is “finally the day” Amazon will launch its Apple TV app. Check out both posts below:

Original post:

Wanted to make this throwaway account after yesterday’s debacle. I saw many people get upset so I wanted to issue this warning: do not expect Amazon to launch before October 26th. The app is done, and has been done for months already. However there are a lot of politics going on beyond my pay grade that are pushing the launch back. And just to clarify, October 26 is the earliest I would expect it. Launch could be pushed well into November.

New post:

Some of you will remember my post a little while back, in which I warned that Amazon would not launch until at least October 26. We’re now just about two weeks from the 26th, and the app is still on track to launch that day. In my time at this job, I have never once seen a release slip this close to a scheduled launch. I am very confident in saying that the 26th is finally the day.

Because the rumor comes from an unconfirmed Reddit source, this October 26 date should be approached with a heavy dose of skepticism. Previous rumors surrounding Amazon’s Apple TV app centered around logical events that the app could have debuted alongside of — Thursday Night Football, the Amazon hardware event in September — but October 26 appears to be a somewhat random date.

Since we’re now four months out from WWDC and Apple’s confirmation of the Amazon Prime Video app for Apple TV, we should hopefully hear an announcement of the app’s launch date sometime soon.

Related Roundup: Apple TVTags: Amazon, Amazon Prime VideoBuyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)
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11
Oct

Tim Cook Thinks Retailers Will Find Augmented Reality as Key as Having a Website


Apple CEO Tim Cook believes there isn’t any sector or industry that will be untouched by augmented reality going forward.

Tim Cook via Alastair Nicol for Vogue
In a recent interview with Vogue, Cook said he believes the technology will transform everything from fashion runway shows to shopping.

“If you think about a runway show in the fashion world, that’s a great application of AR because some of these, you want to see the dress all the way around, you do not want to just see the front.” That kind of experience is all the more important now that runway shows are catering to a wider consumer audience watching online, and not just those seated in the front rows, he added.

Apple’s chief envisions a world where customers will essentially be able to “point and buy” products. If your friend is wearing a pair of shoes you like, for example, you could point your iPhone at them, and a shopping app could instantly bring up information about the pair with the option to purchase them online.

“We don’t have a plan to collect all of these objects, but I know companies who are working on that for their products,” Cook said. “If you think about companies that offer a fair number of shoes, and [if a customer] sees a shoe and goes I want that one, you just want to point and [buy]. That will be a part of the shopping experience of the future, it absolutely will.”

Cook is so confident in augmented reality’s future that he believes the technology will become “as key as having a website” for brands.


Some retailers have already implemented augmented reality features using Apple’s new ARKit platform on iOS 11. IKEA, for example, has released an app called IKEA Place that lets you virtually place furniture in your home, with true-to-scale models of everything from sofas and armchairs to footstools and coffee tables.

Cook thinks the current selection of augmented reality apps is only the very beginning of what’s to come in the years ahead.

In one early ARKit demo, for instance, a woman is able to virtually try on various shades of lipstick and quickly choose her preferred color.


Later in the video, the woman browses a virtual aisle of images of herself with various cosmetics digitally applied, making her selection a much simpler process than the traditional hassle of physical makeup application.


Cook also said that the technology needed for augmented reality glasses “doesn’t exist to do that in a quality way,” suggesting that widely rumored Apple Glasses won’t be released “any time soon.”

“There are rumours and gossip about companies working on that, and we obviously don’t talk about what we work on. But today I can tell you that the technology itself doesn’t exist to do that in a quality way,” Cook said. “We don’t give a rats about being first, we want to be best in creating people’s experiences. Something that you would see out in the market any time soon would not be something that any of us would be satisfied with.”

Cook’s sit-down discussion appears to be the same one that The Independent covered earlier this week.

Full Interview: Apple’s Tim Cook On The Future Of Fashion & Shopping

Tags: Tim Cook, ARKit, augmented reality
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