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False alarm: Emergency alert in Hawaii claims ‘missile inbound’

A few minutes ago, phones across Hawaii received the above emergency alert about a “ballistic missile threat inbound,” but according to state officials it isn’t true. US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii’s governer David Ige and the state’s Hawaii Emergency Management Agency all chimed in one Twitter to confirm the alert is false. Honolulu police confirmed in a post that “State Warning Point has issued a Missile Alert in ERROR!,” while Buzzfeed reporter Amber Jamieson tweets that one EMA employee said it was a part of a drill.


NO missile threat to Hawaii.

— Hawaii EMA (@Hawaii_EMA) January 13, 2018


— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) January 13, 2018

There is NO missile threat.

— Governor David Ige (@GovHawaii) January 13, 2018

Source: Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (Twitter), David Ige (Twitter)


Taking Arcimoto’s three-wheeled EV for a spin

The rise of the electric car promises a cleaner future. Arcimoto CEO Mark Frohnmayer believes that we can do more to reduce our footprint by not just removing trash from our air but also using smaller vehicles built using fewer materials. The $11,900 Arcimoto three-wheeled EV is the result of his desire to lower his CO2 emissions and cut down on the space a daily driver takes in the world.

At CES, I had the opportunity to get behind the… well, it’s not a wheel. I sat behind the handlebars and whipped the tiny EV around a Las Vegas parking lot. Meant for quick jaunts around town, the two-seater Arcimoto won’t be much help on a trip to Costco. But for the majority of the single-person trips around a neighborhood, for the truly adventurous, it could replace a second car.

Arcimoto calls its car the FUV (fun utility vehicle). On the road, the Arcimoto, even at slow speeds, is exactly that. Its peppy acceleration and quasi motorcycle feel, without the worry of tipping over, create an experience you don’t get from your typical electric car. I caught myself leaning like I did as a kid on my three-wheel ATC, even though it wasn’t needed. Your childhood memories may vary.


It’s set up like a scooter with a twist-and-go accelerator. The front brake is a hand lever, and the rear brake is positioned on the floor. A single passenger can sit directly behind the driver, and both are strapped in with two seatbelts that criss-cross your body. That felt a bit like overkill, but safety first, I guess. I could only spend about 30 minutes, but apparently I could have spent hours doing circles, thanks to the range of the vehicle.

The base-level 13kWh battery has a range of 70 miles. A larger 20kWh battery pack will keep the Arcimoto FUV on the road for up to 130 miles. It can be charged via the regular 110V wall outlet at the rate of 10 miles’ worth of charge after one hour, and a level 2 charger will juice up the vehicle at the rate of 40 miles in one hour. Normally I’d be bummed about a vehicle with a 70-mile range, but let’s be honest: No one should be using the Arcimoto for road trips of any consequence.


I drove the Signature series FUV, a limited-edition vehicle built for 10 customers. Arcimoto says it’ll spin up production of the consumer version this summer. It’s not for everyone. The center dash consists of a lever for the single wiper, two USB ports, a parking brake, defroster, handlebar grip heater and seat heaters. That’s it. The display is equally sparse, with a speedometer and a huge battery gauge.

And yet, if you’re low on space, want an EV with more than enough range to get around town and enjoy the open-air excitement of riding (or driving, I’m really not sure) a not-really-a-motorcycle-but-not-quite-a-car, the Arcimoto FUV is worth checking out.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.


Windows 10 adds ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature

If you’re part of the Windows Insiders Fast Ring (or have opted to skip ahead), you’ll find the Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 17074 available to download. Of note is the addition of Quiet Hours, which functions similarly to the Mac Do Not Disturb feature. You can set your own schedule, during which you will only receive notifications from people and apps in your priority list. The feature will also automatically switch on when you’re playing full screen DirectX game and when you’re duplicating your display.

There are quite a few other improvements included in this build; many focus on the reading experience within Windows 10. There are new grammar tools for both EPUB books and Reading View on websites. Additionally, Microsoft Edge has a new look for reading across EPUBs, PDFs and other documents, as well as syncing reading progress and notes across devices. The build also includes support for custom audio in EPUB.

The build adds an option to never save passwords for a domain, which was highly requested feature among Windows Insiders. It also allows for autofilling passwords and using extensions when using InPrivate mode. Additionally, fixes were put in place to make Near Share more reliable. You can see the full list of improvement at the Windows 10 blog.

Source: Windows 10 Blog


Zap your brain for a better you

Squirt some conductive gel on your skin, place a lightweight headset on your noggin and, according to a number of companies at CES, there’s barely a limit to the types of self-improvement you can achieve. You can improve your sleep or your athletic performance, or lose weight. You might relieve nausea or even aid depression. And with almost no effort on your part.

Many of these gadgets use tDCS — transcranial direct current stimulation — to mildly stimulate or suppress neurons firing in certain areas of the brain. It’s a straightforward mechanism that has been heavily studied in connection with everything from math skills to post-stroke rehabilitation. There is much we still don’t know about how the brain functions, and tDCS research is not conclusive — it merely correlates electric shocks with improvements in conditions without our understanding why. Yet when it works, it’s a noninvasive, relatively cheap clinical treatment that’s fairly safe, beyond potential burns and mild discomfort.

Off-the-shelf devices that tap into this research, mostly to help users focus or relax, have been around for a while. Yet, increasingly, startups are allowing you to administer your own electric zaps, to achieve a host of goals.

Modius, for instance, is designed for weight loss. It doesn’t use tDCS, because its currents don’t hit the brain directly. Instead it targets your vestibular nerve, which affects the hypothalamus.

As CEO Jason McKeown explained, the hypothalamus controls fat storage, appetite and metabolic rate. By stimulating it, Modius essentially tricks your brain into thinking the body is in motion, which jacks up your metabolism. “It feels like you’re moving,” he said. “It’s a pleasant floaty feeling.”

To me, it was more of a lightheadedness, like a dizzying rush of blood to the head. McKeown claimed that, of the 650 people using Modius, 80 percent lost weight, with an average decrease of six pounds after six weeks. After an Indiegogo campaign last summer, the device went on sale this month for $499.

Meanwhile, Danish company Platoscience’s headset, called Platowork, is designed to help you be creative or focused, depending on the setting. (Another product still in development is called Platoplay; the company says it will boost eSports players’ performance.) The company says that 15 minutes with the headset shortly before you want to work gives you a brain boost for about an hour.

Research indeed shows a link between tDCS and creativity, and the company pitches its product as a way to stop procrastination or break through a mental block. “We don’t help you be better at creativity or focus; we help you get into that mind-set,” said Morten Lindhardt Madsen, the company’s UX designer.

Then there’s Ybrain, a startup from Seoul, South Korea, that claims to treat depression. In South Korea, depression rates are comparatively high for a developed country, but the condition still carries a public stigma. The company says it wants to provide private relief to users. “We found that many patients who have depression are not coming to hospital,” said a spokesman. A number of papers have shown that tDCS can decrease depression, and a recent review claims that depression is one of the most responsive conditions to mild electric pulses, along with addiction and fibromyalgia.

In an unpublished study by Ybrain, 56 percent of patients with major depressive disorder responded to their device. In these patients, the treatment by headset was comparable to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are a common form of antidepressant. The study consisted of 12 tDCS treatments in six weeks, involving 96 patients in Korea — a relatively large sample size compared with similar studies.

The clinical model is called MINDD and is approved by Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (the FDA equivalent) for treating depression and post-stroke rehabilitation. It is being used in more than 30 hospitals, according to the spokesman. The company also showcased a consumer model, which they hope to launch in 2019.

Together with more established neurostimulation companies at CES, like NuCalm (which is about to sell its consumer model, ReNu, with a catalog of potential emotional outcomes) and Halo (which primes your brain for workouts), this sector of devices is filling up.

Yet, although there’s more than a decade of tDCS research, some experts in the area are reluctant to prescribe it for conditions like clinical depression. The issue is that when consumers see treatments on the shelves, they have every right to assume they’re safe and effective.

In the unsupervised hands of consumers, there’s a risk that a one-size-fits-all dosage may not fit the patient. For instance, tDCS treatment on depression patients in a Taiwan psychiatric facility resulted in outbursts of rage in two instances last year — episodes that could have been missed if they had taken place at home. While Ybrain’s consumer model will not allow users to change the dosage, the company acknowledges that patients with epilepsy or undiagnosed bipolar disorder could be harmed by the treatment — and they cannot say why 44 percent of patients showed no improvement in their study. Modius, meanwhile, can be used only once a day for 60 minutes, after which users will be locked out. Both companies say they will educate customers on holistic treatment for depression and weight loss, respectively. But ultimately, they can’t make people listen.

We are forever chasing self-improvement, and neurostimulation promises immediate results. Yet without solid science, a doctor’s guidance or specific regulations, these consumer products simply might not work. Then again, if the technologies emerging at CES take off, they’ll raise a host of new questions too: Will users rely on them to the detriment of their long-term health? Could they become addicted to mini electric shocks to the head? If mishandled, this technology could turn out to be ineffective at best, and dangerous at worst. And of course, the allure of a quick fix might be too strong for its own good.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.


iMac Pro is $1,000 Off at Micro Center Stores, Now $3,999 While Supplies Last

Micro Center stores are currently offering the base model iMac Pro for $3,999, a significant $1,000 discount off Apple’s regular price, and by far the lowest price we’ve ever seen for the powerful desktop workstation since it was released a month ago.

Micro Center says the deal is available at its retail stores only and not online. The official Apple Authorized Reseller has 25 locations across the United States, many of which appear to be open this Saturday and Sunday.

The best deal we had previously seen on the base model iMac Pro, which starts at $4,999 from Apple, was a $250 discount from Best Buy that dropped the price to $4,749.99 earlier this week, so this is an impressive sale.

Micro Center says the deal is limited to one per household, and supplies are likely extremely limited, so we recommend calling ahead if you are planning on visiting one of their stores. There’s no indication when the sale ends, so act fast.

The base model iMac Pro is equipped with a 27-inch 5K display, 3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor, 32GB of ECC RAM, 1TB SSD storage, Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics with 8GB HBM2 memory, 10Gb Ethernet, and four Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Related Roundup: iMac ProTag: Micro CenterBuyer’s Guide: iMac Pro (Buy Now)
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Amazon’s flop of a phone made newer, better hardware possible

Amazon devices have taken root in our homes with almost alarming speed, but the tech giant hasn’t gotten everything right. Back in 2014, Amazon released the Fire Phone, an ambitious smartphone that remains the company’s biggest hardware flop to date. The comapany has never confirmed how many Fire Phones it sold, but considering Amazon took a $170 million write-down in October of that year, it’s fair to say the device bombed.

While the Fire Phone was a punchline and a commercial failure, it did lead to good things — eventually. In a conversation with Engadget at CES, Sandeep Gupta, Amazon’s Technical Program Manager for Fire TV, suggested that the teams and processes built to make the Fire Phone reality also made possible the impressive hardware ecosystem we now see.

“Building the phone was sort of a trial by fire,” Gupta said before groaning at his pun. “It was a very intense product, and we learned so much. And the teams we built from the Fire Phone have helped seed a lot of the other teams. You’ll see people on the Echo team, the TV team, the tablet team who got their start on the Phone team.”

If Amazon’s teams learned a lot, it’s because they needed to achieve a lot. The Fire Phone wasn’t Amazon’s first hardware project; a handful of Kindles came before, not to mention a few Fire tablets and Fire TV set-top boxes. But the Phone presented fresh technical challenges for Amazon to grapple with.

“The phone is, without a doubt, one of the hardest working hardware products you can build,” Gupta said. “They’re very compact. You’ve got antennas, you’ve got an ecosystem, you’ve got an app store, you’ve got content services, you’ve got the whole kit and caboodle.”

It didn’t help that the Fire Phone was designed to be more complex than rival smartphones from the get-go. Four front-facing sensors tried to track the motion of user’s heads so some of the images that appeared on-screen would move with them. And since the Fire Phone was intended to be a kind of concierge for Amazon’s massive online store, we got Firefly: a feature that allowed people to scan everyday objects around them for identification and eventual purchase. That’s one hell of an undertaking, but Amazon powered through despite a relative lack of experience.

Along the way, Gupta says, Amazon was forced to figure out the intricacies of small-scale hardware design, not to mention more efficient ways to work with chipset vendors and manufacturers. Amazon also had countless other questions to answer. How do you define your product? What are the milestones in development to work toward? While the answers to those questions weren’t complete, they were enough to prepare Amazon to do better in the future.

“The engineering excellence was there,” Gupta said. “That’s what continued to flow through the organization and allowed us to get to where we are.”

If Amazon had learned those lessons sooner, the Fire Phone might not have turned out the way it did. Still, even though it languished on store shelves, the Fire Phone itself wasn’t a bad device. The hardware was expensive but functional. The software was overly ambitious, but it was impressive when it worked. Amazon (perhaps wisely) decided not to use its refined understanding of the development process to build another phone, but Gupta is adamant that the company’s “trial by fire” made subsequent devices like the Echos and the improved Fire TVs better.

“We took those learnings and now we’ve been able to apply them to a lot of the other products we’re building,” Gupta said. “And sometimes you learn what to do by learning what not to do.”

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.


New bill seeks to ban Huawei from any US government contracts

Mere days since Huawei lost a deal with AT&T to sell its flagship phones in the US due to security concerns, the Chinese tech company faces a new challenge to its US expansion plans. Congress has just proposed a bill that prohibits any government agency from working with Huawei (and another Chinese tech firm, ZTE). The bill, titled H. R. 4747: “Defending U.S. Government Communications Act,” cites several intelligence reports that these telecommunications companies are “subject to state influence.”

The bill references a 2011 report from the United States China Commission alleging Chinese governmental influence upon Huawei and other companies, a 2013 statement by General Michael Hayden of the CIA and NSA that the telecom company had shared sensitive information with the Chinese state and a 2015 FBI report that reiterated a concern that the Chinese government would be able to access US business communications via Huawei technology. In 2017, says the bill, ZTE Corporation pled guilty to illegally shipping US-origin items to Iran, a violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. As a result of this and other assertions, the bill seeks to prohibit the use or procurement of any telecommunications equipment or services from the two companies as a “substantial or essential component of any system, or as critical technology as part of any system.”

As noted by TechCrunch, the bill still needs to be approved by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, then passed to the House floor for a vote. If the bill succeeds there, it will be sent along to the Senate, and eventually the President for a signature before it could become law.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: US Congress


Bathrooms are getting smarter, for better or worse

Getting up from the toilet after a satisfying bowel movement, you walk right over to the sink and start washing your hands. “Alexa, flush my toilet,” you say while reaching for your toothbrush. Your mirror starts displaying your schedule for the day, the weather update and latest news. Suddenly, there’s a ping — your toilet has detected an anomaly in your stool and recommends you increase your fiber intake. A dispenser built into your medicine cabinet whirs and spits out a fiber supplement.

The futuristic bathroom I just described isn’t that far away from becoming reality. In fact, at CES 2018, Kohler unveiled a new addition to its toilets and shower devices that let you ask Amazon’s Alexa to assist you. Moen also added Alexa support to its smart shower line, promising Siri compatibility is on its way. Smart mirrors that tell you your daily agenda while assessing your complexion have already been available for months, too.

It’s a little strange to tell someone to flush your toilet for you — it feels oddly intimate and lazy. But there are benefits to having such an option. Germaphobes can avoid touching surfaces potentially covered in bacteria, while those who have limited use of their hands due to injury or disability have a convenient alternative. Of course, there are other hands-free methods for flushing, like motion sensors or foot flushes. So having a conversation with your toilet just feels unnecessary.

That’s why Kohler is less interested in you talking to your bath fixtures than it is in taking advantage of Alexa’s tendrils snaking throughout your home. For example, you could ask an Echo in your kitchen to run a bath while you finish the dishes. The new Perfect Fill Tub would then automatically turn the faucet on, adjust the temperature to your preference and turn off when the water was just right. When you’re washing up the dishes after dinner, you can tell Alexa to get your bath ready, so you don’t have to actually go turn on the tap and monitor the water temperature yourself.

Moen, on the other hand, provides Alexa as a complement to its existing U by Moen connected bathroom system, which is mostly controlled by an in-shower panel. Using the voice assistant in the shower would be tricky, since the sound of water spraying all over could potentially confuse Alexa.

Smart home companies believe there’s plenty of room for more technology in the toilet. Abbie Byrom, director of global partnerships at Samsung SmartThings, said there is potential for the bathroom to be a way to glean insights into a person’s health. Future toilets could tell if a woman is pregnant, not only saving her a possibly embarrassing run to the pharmacy, but also alerting the more-oblivious to their situation.

But the idea of a toilet that analyzes and potentially collects information on your waste feels even more invasive than a voice-controlled flush. Although it’s not meant to replace a visit to your doctor, there are still myriad concerns around privacy and accuracy that make it unlikely that we’ll see a poop-analyzing toilet anytime soon.

Not only would companies have to ensure compliance with HIPAA guidelines that protect a person’s medical data from being shared with others, they would also have to defend their networks and servers against exploits that could leak this sensitive data to the public. Plus, each new device you introduce presents another potential access point for anyone trying to harvest your data, whether it is the smart mirror’s camera that scans your face or the radio that sends your data from your weighing scale to your phone.

Byrom also suggested that there could be connected medicine dispensers in the bathroom that remind the elderly (or just plain forgetful) to take their pills. Again, smart pill bottles that ping you to take your medicine already exist, but if this technology is already built into your medicine cabinet, it saves you the trouble of having to buy another device.

The good news is, major companies in both the smart home and toilet industries agree it’s important to respect the sanctity of the bathroom, where we are often at our most exposed and vulnerable. “It’s a place where we begin and end our day. It’s such a personal space,” said Tony Hang, district sales manager for Toto.

The challenge, then, is to make sure that the push of smart home technology into the bathroom isn’t just about adding technology for technology’s sake. Instead, it’s imperative that companies are thoughtful about how and why these features are being implemented. For now, it’s clear the industry is just dipping its toes into digitizing our bathrooms, but it’s likely to dive in deeper soon.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.


Bitcoin was briefly legal tender at KFC Canada

Say what you will about its heart-stoppingly tasty chicken — KFC is willing to get weird. Whether it’s a zany VR cooking experience, suggesting orders based on your face or chicken-flavored nail polish, the chain has pulled its share of stunts over the years. Now it’s letting customers in Canada pay with bitcoin for a limited time…so long as they only order a new crypto-themed meal bucket.

The Bitcoin Bucket, which includes 10 tenders, waffle fries, a side, some gravy and a pair of dips, costs however much of the cryptocurrency you can get for $20 Canadian. As the joke goes, that’s equivalent to 0.001167 bitcoin at the time I type this, but that could swing wildly by the time this post is published — and again by the time you read it. Given bitcoin’s meteoric rise, however, buying chicken with that fraction of currency now could mean forfeiting value if the cryptocurrency’s value skyrockets higher.

The point might be moot since the Bitcoin Bucket is sold out on KFC’s website with no indication it will go on sale later, so don’t go mortgaging your house to scoop up more of the cryptocurrency just yet.

Via: Motherboard

Source: Colonel & Co (KFC Canada)


Prototype satellite makes way for 4K ‘Earth observation’

British company Earth-i confirmed the successful launch of a prototype satellite earlier today. Called the CARBONITE-2, it’s an early test version of a planned constellation (the Vivid-i) that will be the first network bringing full color, full motion video from Earth’s orbit.

The prototype satellite has a UHD camera aboard, which will be able to capture high-res images of locations anywhere on Earth, as well as record up to two minutes of video similar to Urthecast. It’s just the first step for Earth-i, though; the company plans to use CARBONITE-2 to prove that its tech is viable, as well as demonstrate what the eventual group of satellites can do. The company has already ordered its next five satellites in the Vivid-i constellation.

“The launch of VividX2 is a significant next development of Earth-i’s constellation, and welcomed by ESA,” said Josef Aschbacher, the director of Earth observation programmes at the European Space Agency. “The Vivid-i Constellation will provide capabilities we haven’t seen before including full-colour video, and an assured stream of high-quality data from space to help improve both our planet and our lives on Earth.”

The CARBONITE-2 launched on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, from the Sriharikota rocket launch center in southeast India. It was one of 31 payloads aboard the rocket and was the first launch for the PSLV after it suffered a payload fairing error last August.

Sample video from an earlier prototype, CARBONITE-1, shows satellite video of traffic on a highway in Dubai:

Source: Earth-i, SSTL

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