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14
Jan

From the Editor’s Desk: Post-CES hot-takes


vegas-skyline-2017.jpg?itok=uMqN8KB8

So long, CES 2018. You were kinda weird.

As we come crashing out of CES week and into 2018 proper, it’s time to reflect on a big (and slightly weird) week in tech.

It’s a working weekend, so I’ll just touch on a few of the show’s major highlights for Android and Google followers. I could go way longer on a lot of these, so consider this assembly of CES hot-takes to be my initial, largely unfiltered thoughts on the show.

Here goes…

Huawei’s U.S. plans crumble

At a pre-CES Huawei briefing for journalists ahead of its big press conference, it was obvious that something was up. Instead of the highly anticipated carrier partnership, the U.S. team presented a slightly confusing message for the Mate 10 Pro framed around millennials, Gen-Z and unlocked sales via the likes of Best Buy and Newegg.

Shortly thereafter, we found out precisely why: Huawei had negotiated a deal with AT&T, but this had been torpedoed at the last minute, reportedly due to “political pressure.” This was not the CES Huawei wanted, and with hindsight, you could feel it in the atmosphere of that initial briefing. The deep-sixing of the AT&T deal, apparently at the eleventh hour, sends the message that Huawei could try, over years, to pen another deal with another of the big four, only to have the rug pulled out from under it just days before the announcement.

It’s unclear where Huawei’s U.S. ambitions go from here, the company essentially having to prove a negative now in terms of alleged ties to the Chinese government. At best, it’s a multi-year setback. At worst, it’s the end of Huawei’s chances of carving out a significant U.S. market presence.

But hey, at least the Honor View 10 is coming to the U.S.! With similar specs, a lower price tag and less software weirdness than the Mate 10 Pro (not to mention a focus on direct online sales by design, not necessity), the View 10 has every chance of being moderately successful in the U.S. market.

Hey Google

Google Assistant was everywhere at CES 2018, much as Amazon’s Alexa was twelve months earlier. The new class of Assistant devices with screens were the most interesting Googley gadgets at the show, demonstrating how a dedicated screen could streamline what is sometimes a clunky voice-only experience.

It’s early days for this on-screen experience, though, which isn’t due to debut on anything until the summer. (Expect to see much more on Assistant displays at Google’s I/O developer conference in late spring.) Google’s CES presence in itself is noteworthy. The company carved out a sizeable outdoor space for demos of Android Auto, “Made by Google” hardware and of course Assistant.

And the new “Hey Google” activation phrase was everywhere, including a prominent spot on Las Vegas monorail trails. “Hey Google” replaces the more awkward “OK Google”, with one fewer syllable and a more natural, conversational tone. Will it make normal people any more willing to talk directly to Google as opposed to the more personable Alexa? We’ll see.

#CESBlackout

Following a day of heavy rainfall that actually closed some outdoor booths, including Google’s, the day before, the lights went out for a couple of hours in two of the main CES halls at the Las Vegas convention center. (Surprise – turns out a city in the middle of a desert doesn’t have great drainage.)

#cesblackout Tweets

This led to a moderately chaotic day two for CES, which included security personnel at the North Hall having to deal with many a besuited wanker trying to barge their way in through side exit when the halls were on lockdown. (Maybe don’t do that when you’re representing your company, and wearing an oversized badge bearing both your name and theirs.)

Weird stuff you’ll never be able to buy

Just as the Razer Phone was a good idea done badly, Razer’s Project Linda — which plugs the handset into a vaguely Razer Blade-shaped laptop dock — is a terrible idea done incredibly well.

By its own admission, Razer doesn’t know if it’ll ever sell Project Linda. But at least weird and wonderful gadgets like this help to keep CES interesting.

The Galaxy S9 is happening

Samsung’s CES presser was full of things like Knox on your fridge and Bixby in your car big ecosystem plays as the company looks to carve itself out a bigger slice of the IoT pie.

While it wasn’t at CES proper, an interview with Samsung mobile boss DJ Koh did confirm that the Galaxy S9 would land at Mobile World Congress in February, a month earlier than the S8 last year. And with that, the company effectively steamroller every other phone at that show. For all intents and purposes, MWC is now the Galaxy S9 show, even if the phone itself turns out to be a largely iterative update on last year’s models.

Pretty pictures

Huawei invited me and Michael Fisher (aka MrMobile) on a chopper tour of the Grand Canyon to test out the camera of the Mate 10 Pro. The Mate’s camera impressed us a few months back, and it’s only gotten better with a couple of updates that have landed since then. You’ll find a gallery of some of the best pics over here on Google Photos.

That’s it for now. I’ll be back with more pre-MWC thoughts in a few weeks!

-Alex

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14
Jan

After Math: CES 2018 by the numbers


After a week in the desert, CES 2018 has finally come to a close. Booths were trod, products were demoed and the conference was visited by only one of the biblical plagues. Puffco debuted one of the only cannabis gadgets seen at CES in recent memory, a gaming robot beat virtually every human who challenged it in Scrabble, and Toyota’s “E-Palette” mobility concept turned all of the heads. Numbers, because how else will you tally votes for the Best of CES awards?

20 seconds: That’s how long it takes for the Puffco Peak concentrate vaporizer to fully heat up — a fraction of the time it takes e-nails to do the same and far less flammable than the butane torch method.

5 years: That’s how long we’ll have to wait for regulators to work their magic before hopping into Volocopter’s 18-rotor autonomous sky taxi. Just make sure wherever you’re flying to is within the 30-minute range limit.

$120: That’s how much you’re going to pay for the Vortx gaming accessory if you want to have air puffed into your face during your next Overwatch session.

82: That’s the age of first-time CES exhibitor Carol Staninger, who’s here to help save the lives of children by alerting an adult when said ankle biters are left unattended in hot cars.

112–81: That was the final score in a friendly match between Engadget managing editor Terrence O’Brien and ITRI’s Scrabble-playing AI. The AI won handily, despite its hands actually being manipulators.

2 hours: That’s how long the Las Vegas Convention Center was thrust into darkness on Wednesday. Oh, the sweet, sweet irony of the world’s largest electronics expo losing electricity for hours on end.

3: That’s how many Best of CES awards the Toyota e-Palette mobility concept took home: Best Transportation Tech, Best Innovation and the coveted Best of the Best of CES award. Fingers crossed it actually makes it out of testing and onto our roadways.

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

14
Jan

The best freezer


By Tyler Wells Lynch

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After more than 40 hours of research, including interviews with two butchers, an engineer, and a bunch of hunters, we think the Frigidaire FFFH20F2QW is the best freezer for most people.

How we picked

Most freezers do an admirable job of accomplishing the basic task of keeping things frozen, but they aren’t all created equal. The best freezers are those with an upright configuration, with a capacity of at least 15 cubic feet and a cost per cubic foot of less than $45. They come from reputable companies with reputations for long-term reliability, and they include these five key features:

  • Storage baskets and shelves that you can move around
  • Bright interior lighting
  • Adjustable leveling legs
  • Power-on indicator light
  • Safety lock

We leaned toward upright freezers over chest freezers because they offer more storage space in a smaller footprint and are easier to organize. Most uprights are “frost-free,” which means the temperature periodically rises to melt frost buildup. This eliminates the need for a painstaking manual defrost, but increases the risk of freezer burn. We have recommendations for both frost-free and manual-defrost designs.

Because we weren’t able to test the freezers physically, we devoted dozens of hours to researching, spreadsheeting, and reading about 60 different freezers. We disqualified any models that lacked a power-on light, a safety lock, and an interior light. We also cut models that didn’t have at least 100 reviews and an average rating of 4½ stars out of five. Finally, we considered other editorial reviews, warranties, price, consumption, and availability to winnow the list to just four models.

The best freezer: Frigidaire FFFH20F2QW

Photo: Frigidaire

The Frigidaire FFFH20F2QW is the best upright freezer for most people. It offers 20 cubic feet of storage space in a modest footprint, and has a lower cost-per-cubic-foot price than any other freezer of its size and type. It’s even more energy-efficient than our top pick, drawing only 480 kilowatt-hours of energy per year. That amount of power will add about $61 to your annual energy bill. The FFFH20F2QW is a frost-free machine that has all five of the most important features we think any freezer should have.

We’re confident in the FFFH20F2QW’s long-term performance, mostly because of Frigidaire’s reputation. According to Yale Appliance and Lighting, just 8.3 percent of the 5,657 Frigidaire products it sold in 2016 required service. The FFFH20F2QW also has solid reviews from professional testers like Consumer Reports and customers on the Home Depot and Best Buy websites.

Runner-up: Frigidaire FFFU17M1QW

Photo: Frigidaire

If you’re looking for something slightly smaller or slightly cheaper, or if you simply prefer a manual-defrost system, we recommend the Frigidaire FFFU17M1QW. At 17.4 cubic feet, it’s still quite a large freezer, and its cost per cubic foot is among the lowest we’ve seen in the mid- to large-size category. Like our top pick, it has all five of the most important features you should expect in an upright freezer. The FFFU17M1QW draws an estimated 362 kilowatt-hours per year, enough to add about $50 to your annual energy bill.

The FFFU17M1QW is really just a scaled-down version of our top pick, with manual defrost instead of a frost-free design. That means a lower risk of freezer burn and spoiled food, but you’ll need to defrost your freezer whenever the ice reaches a quarter-inch in thickness. It’s the highest-rated manual-defrost upright freezer in current Consumer Reports rankings, and it maintains glowing customers reviews too.

Budget pick: Maytag MZF34X16DW

Photo: Maytag

Among mid- to large-size upright freezers, the Maytag MZF34X16DW is the best pick for the price. A 15.7-cubic-foot frost-free machine, it has top ratings for its temperature performance and energy efficiency, and its price is notably less than our top pick’s. In terms of price relative to capacity, no freezer matched the value of the MZF34X16DW: Its cost per cubic foot was the lowest among all the upright freezers we researched. You can expect it to cost you a little over $40 a year to run continuously.

This freezer lacks a few important features found in our other picks, like a power-on light, safety lock, and adjustable leveling legs. But we still think it’s a good value for more budget-conscious folks.

The MZF34X16DW has solid reviews among owners and professional testers, due in no small part to Maytag’s reputation for long-term reliability. It’s currently Maytag’s top-selling upright freezer. It also has one of the most comprehensive warranties we’ve seen: a one-year limited warranty and a 10-year warranty on the compressor.

The best chest freezer: GE FCM11PHWW

Photo: GE

For a chest freezer, we recommend the GE FCM11PHWW, which strikes the right balance of price, performance, features, reliability, and required floor space, despite being much smaller than our other picks at only 10.6 cubic feet. We considered larger chest freezers, but found they were difficult to organize and took up far too much floor space. If you need a larger capacity, we think you’re better off with an upright freezer.

This GE costs roughly half the price of our top pick, and it is one of the most popular, top-reviewed freezers you can get. It offers three storage baskets and was one of the only chest freezers we saw with adjustable leveling legs. It’s backed by one of the best freezer warranties available: the standard one-year limited, and an additional 10-year warranty on the compressor.

Consumer Reports currently ranks the FCM11PHWW as the top overall freezer—chest or upright. It draws only 218 kilowatt-hours per year, so as CR estimates, it will cost just $30 a year to operate, less than any other freezer in this guide. Customer reviews for the FCM11PHWW are glowing, averaging out to higher than those of any other freezer we looked at.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

14
Jan

Nissan shares its vision for our autonomous EV future at CES


Not surprisingly, autonomy and electrification dominated transportation news at CES 2018. Toyota introduced its e-Palette concept mobility solution (which proceeded to dominate Engadget’s Best of CES awards), while Silicon Valley startup Robomart unveiled plans to bring produce shopping to your front door. Automakers also announced a slew of upcoming self-driving technologies, ranging from Alexa integration and automated emergency brakes to Level 5 personal transport pods that do away with the steering wheel altogether.

But even among the most adventurous concepts floated at this year’s trade show, Nissan’s vision for the future stands out. One in which driver and vehicle could someday work in perfect harmony, thanks to a brain machine interface that instantly translates your thoughts into the vehicle’s actions. It’s one of a number of ideas the company is pursuing, Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s global head of design, explained to Engadget as we walked around an IMx concept vehicle mock-up at the Nissan booth.

The IMx, much like Byton’s recently unveiled Concept SUV, is packed with sensors and ringed with cameras — everything you’d expect an autonomous vehicle to come equipped with. But it’s what Nissan does with that data that’s novel.

“If someone walks on the other side, you can see them walking through the wood [and LED-screen paneling on the interior of the passenger side door],” Albaisa explained. “Because what happens, especially on an SUV, is the visibility around the car below is not so good. So if a child or something is walking, you don’t see them.” But with this system, the driver can monitor the sides and rear of the vehicle in real time, without having to adjust the side-view mirrors. That’s a good thing, given that the IMx forgoes its exterior mirrors in favor of cameras. Unfortunately, neither Nissan’s nor Byton’s vehicles will be going mirrorless anytime soon, due to federal NTSB regulations.

Albaisa sees electric-vehicle and autonomous-navigation technologies as intrinsically linked. “The EV has inspired everyone to bring other innovations,” he said. “Because autonomous driving and EV, they’re kind of related in the sense that the issue of drive-by-wire, ship-by-wire, it’s usually linked. And to ensure that autonomous EVs operate safely, “you need those kind of intelligent controls systems,” Albaisa said.

The spread of EV technology will have a number of impacts on the design of tomorrow’s vehicles, often in ways that the public might not initially appreciate. “The fact that the floor [of the IMx] is completely flat is a major deal for the people in the car companies,” Albaisa said. “Because usually you have to deal with exhaust, with transmissions, and drivetrains. We don’t have any of that in the future. So you’re able to have this completely open space” in the vehicle’s interior that opens up a slew of unconventional configurations, with seats that rotate or recline completely flat.

“Also, the EV models are getting smaller and smaller,” Albaisa continued. “Eventually [the electric engines are] going to jump into the wheels. This is the next big thing… it is going to then free up most of the [vehicle’s interior] volume.”

While Albaisa credits the interplay between his team and Nissan’s engineering department with continually generating new ideas, he doesn’t limit his inspiration to the automotive industry. Narration has emerged as a potent ideal in Albaisa’s designs. “One of the things that I do now is hire filmmakers,” he said, because of their ability to tell stories.

The problem Albaisa hopes to address here is how to help drivers make sense of the myriad disconnected pieces of information generated during an autonomous car ride. “There’s a bunch of information that’s not related,” he lamented. “There’s the speed of technical issues within the car, there’s also where the car is going, all of the data from the cloud, all the apps, the curiosities of the customer, not related.” Albaisa argues that the storytelling skills that filmmakers possess could help the drivers of tomorrow to more easily and seamlessly understand what is happening in the car around them.

For example, he points to the distracted-driving issue as a way in which seamless transitions might make driving safer in the future. “People are expecting to be able to access Instagram and Facebook while they’re driving. That’s the definition of distraction,” he said. Car companies must make it so that drivers can access the information they want — whether on a central display cluster or otherwise — without losing focus on the road and without irritating the vehicle’s occupants.

Autonomous navigation can be applied in this situation, enabling drivers to safely take a break from actively driving, get their social media fix and then retake command of the vehicle. Unfortunately, “the customer doesn’t understand why you need to transition,” he said; they simply expect things to work.

The other major obstacle facing Albaisa’s team is one of weight. Take the vehicle’s wheels, for example, which are among the heavier components in a modern car. Nissan engineers are currently exploring new materials such as composite plastics and thinner, lighter designs that offer the same structural integrity and performance as a standard alloy rim but at a fraction of the weight.

The Nissan IMx is an all-electric crossover concept vehicle offering fully autonomous operation and a driving range of more than 600 kilometers. The innovative concept vehicle provides a glimpse into the future of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, Nissanâs approach to changing how cars are powered, driven and integrated with society. Itâs designed to strengthen the link between car and driver as a close, reliable partner that delivers a safer, more convenient and more enjoyable drive.

But it’s not just wheels, mind you. “I don’t know how much people feel it, but for us in the companies, everything is in play,” he said. “Everything has to be thought about in a different way.”

Take an action as simple as opening the door, for example. The IMx doesn’t actually have any door handles. Instead, cameras mounted in the B-pillars will scan the driver’s face as he approaches, leverage facial-recognition algorithms to confirm his identity, then automatically pop the door open.

“You just have a solenoid lock that releases the door and just opens it a little bit using the hinge geometry. It’s cool, but also it’s a massive weight reduction,” Albaisa said, pointing out that such a design conforms to his ideals of seamlessness. The same is true for the interior, where, despite individual pieces being small and light, removing the various plastic bits in the cabin can add up to significant weight savings.

The trick moving forward, Albaisa believes, will be one of balancing cost and quality. “At the end of the day, the customer expects the car to be the same price,” he said. “We’ve actually started loading things that are, you know, screens — these are not free. And the computing power to operate screens and to operate apps is expensive.”

“So that’s the biggest challenge we have,” Albaisa concluded. “How do we do these things in a way that is affordable to people? Because it would be a shame if all of these technologies are only for the rich.”

14
Jan

Learn how to set up voicemail on an iPhone


Do you have a new iPhone? Then it’s time to set up your visual voicemail function! This is the feature that allows you to see all your voicemails without needing to call up a number first. You can organize, delete, and play your voicemails from this handy menu, but first you need to know how to set up voicemail on an iPhone.

Note: This process should work on most modern iPhones, including the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, although you may want to make sure that iOS is updated before you begin — do this via Settings > General > Software Update. If you haven’t set up basic voicemail through your carrier yet, skip down to our additional tip to get started and make sure everything is ready for visual voicemail.

Setting up voicemail on your iPhone

Pretty much every phone service provider in North America now supports visual voicemail. Apple has a full list of carriers and what they support if you want to check, but if you use any major carrier at all, you are probably covered. Here’s what to do:

Step 1: Go to the Phone app at the bottom of your iPhone home screen and select it. At the bottom of the phone window you will see the Voicemail icon in the right corner. Select it to open up your visual voicemail.

Step 2: The voicemail screen should show an empty space with a button to Set up now in the center of the screen. Select this: Now you have a choice. If you have used iPhone’s voicemail service in the past and have signed into it before, you can input your old password here to automatically access your old voicemails. If you have never used visual voicemail before, then you will have to create a password and re-enter it. When finished, select Done.

Step 3: Now your iPhone will bring up the Greeting screen. If you don’t care much about the greeting, you can select Default and then Done to skip this step. If you want to personalize your greeting, select, Record to record your greeting, and Play to repeat it back. When you’re happy with it, select Done.

Step 4: Your iPhone voicemail is now officially set up. However, you can also take a look here to learn more about how to move voicemails around Apple services. You can share voicemails with AirDrop, mail them to others, save them as an audio memo to save on space, and more. Check out your options and get comfortable using the voicemail system!

Additional tip: Setting up basic voicemail

You may want to set up and use basic voicemail on your phone until you are ready for visual voicemail. If you just switched carriers or this is your first carrier, you will probably need to set up basic voicemail directly with them. This is a good option if you’re still getting comfortable with your phone and want to use traditional voicemail until it’s time to set up the visual voicemail app.

Most of these setup procedures require dialing the right number and setting up your voicemail over the phone, but they all differ in small ways. Let’s go through by major carrier to see what they require.

AT&T: You can read AT&T’s specific instructions here. You will want to start by pressing the voicemail key or holding down the “1” key. You then set up a greeting and a password (it’s now a requirement) for your voicemail. AT&T also lets you upgrade your voicemail for more space, but this is not necessary to set up visual voicemail.

Verizon: Verizon’s setup is app-based and easy to do before you set up visual voicemail. Select the phone app, select Voicemail, and go to Set Up Now. This will walk you through choosing a password and a greeting on your iPhone.

T-Mobile: Similar to AT&T, T-Mobile wants to you press and hold down “1” key until it connects you with your voicemail. From here, set up your password and follow the instructions to record a greeting.

Sprint: If you have a Sprint phone, you have to press and hold “1” here, too. You can learn more about the process here.

Editors’ Recommendations

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  • Stop those unwanted phone calls and learn how to block a number in Android




14
Jan

Want a high-end gaming PC? Origin’s Millennium proves you should go custom


When you’re shopping for a gaming desktop it’s sometimes hard to see the value in going all-in on a custom-made monster like the Origin Millennium. After all, couldn’t you get the same thing cheaper somewhere else? You could get the same internals, and maybe even save some extra money by purchasing from a mass-market company like Acer, Dell, or Lenovo. Yet there’s a reason companies like Origin charge such a high price for their premium gaming hardware. It’s not because of the internal components. It’s not even because of the lighting inside. It’s the case.

That’s right. A custom chassis can sometimes justify the often exorbitant prices we see on high-end gaming desktops. Instead of just paying a premium for a manufacturer to cram off-the-shelf components into an off-the-shelf case, a custom-made chassis signals that you’re getting something a little special, something a bit more bespoke and less cookie-cutter. The internals are all the same ones you’d get from just buying it yourself, but you’ll find a certain degree of craftsmanship in a good custom-built chassis. Otherwise, you’re really just paying for the labor of putting all the parts together.

Origin’s Millennium is the perfect example of why custom is the way to go. The exterior looks like nothing else, and offers a selection of side panels including tempered glass, laser-itched metal or glass, and 3D printed materials for a textured look. You can buy it in exactly the color you want, or even ask Origin to paint a design that you like.

Inside, you’ll find that every single braided cable has been laid precisely where it needs to be. There’s a logic to how the internal components are wired that makes routine maintenance an absolute breeze. That’s all a part of the extra attention to detail you’ll find in a well-made custom gaming desktop. If you’re going to be spending $4,000 or more on a gaming desktop, you should be getting more than an assemblage of off-the-shelf components. You should be getting a luxury item, and the Origin Millennium is a excellent example of what you get from a high-end custom build.

Editors’ Recommendations

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14
Jan

MoneyGram and Ripple announce partnership


Last week, we reported on a rumor that Rippple and Western Union were considering a partnership. Those rumors remain unconfirmed, but Business Insider has reported that Ripple and MoneyGram have teamed up. The project is still in its infancy, but MoneyGram hopes to use Ripple’s cryptocurrency, known as XRP, in its “payment flows.”

Companies such as MoneyGram use pre-funded accounts to handle payments, but this process is often slow and can tie up funds for longer than is ideal. MoneyGram’s Alex Holmes told Bloomberg that he was hopeful that the use of Ripple’s blockchain technology could speed up the process of transferring funds.

“Ripple is at the forefront of blockchain technology,” Holmes said. “We’re hopeful it will increase efficiency and improve services to MoneyGram’s customers.”

It remains to be seen as to whether or not MoneyGram will actually adopt XRP, but Ripple has had some success in this area before. It currently offers quick and affordable money transfers to users on different continents. Ripple’s fees are lower than traditional services and digital rivals such as bitcoin, because it employs several middlemen to expedite and simplify the process.

The full details of this plan have not yet been revealed, but MoneyGram’s partnership with Ripple highlights the changing nature of money remittance services such as Western Union and MoneyGram. Currently, so-called legacy providers remain a dominant force in this industry, but digital competitors such as Ripple are starting to catch up. One only needs to look at the fate of Blockbuster Video to see the dangers of ignoring the shifts in a changing market.

In addition to being faster than traditional services, XRP could also disrupt this industry by being more affordable. Digital-first companies have the competitive advantage of not having to pay as high costs as their brick-and-mortar rivals. They’re able to pass those savings on to consumers making them an attractive option for the money-conscious.

The longterm success of this plan remains to be seen, but the short-term has turned out well for both companies. MoneyGram saw its stock rise by 10 percent. Ripple saw an increase of four percent during the same time period.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • XRP’s value rises amid rumors that Western Union may adopt the blockchain
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  • What is a blockchain? Here’s everything you need to know




14
Jan

MoneyGram and Ripple announce partnership


Last week, we reported on a rumor that Rippple and Western Union were considering a partnership. Those rumors remain unconfirmed, but Business Insider has reported that Ripple and MoneyGram have teamed up. The project is still in its infancy, but MoneyGram hopes to use Ripple’s cryptocurrency, known as XRP, in its “payment flows.”

Companies such as MoneyGram use pre-funded accounts to handle payments, but this process is often slow and can tie up funds for longer than is ideal. MoneyGram’s Alex Holmes told Bloomberg that he was hopeful that the use of Ripple’s blockchain technology could speed up the process of transferring funds.

“Ripple is at the forefront of blockchain technology,” Holmes said. “We’re hopeful it will increase efficiency and improve services to MoneyGram’s customers.”

It remains to be seen as to whether or not MoneyGram will actually adopt XRP, but Ripple has had some success in this area before. It currently offers quick and affordable money transfers to users on different continents. Ripple’s fees are lower than traditional services and digital rivals such as bitcoin, because it employs several middlemen to expedite and simplify the process.

The full details of this plan have not yet been revealed, but MoneyGram’s partnership with Ripple highlights the changing nature of money remittance services such as Western Union and MoneyGram. Currently, so-called legacy providers remain a dominant force in this industry, but digital competitors such as Ripple are starting to catch up. One only needs to look at the fate of Blockbuster Video to see the dangers of ignoring the shifts in a changing market.

In addition to being faster than traditional services, XRP could also disrupt this industry by being more affordable. Digital-first companies have the competitive advantage of not having to pay as high costs as their brick-and-mortar rivals. They’re able to pass those savings on to consumers making them an attractive option for the money-conscious.

The longterm success of this plan remains to be seen, but the short-term has turned out well for both companies. MoneyGram saw its stock rise by 10 percent. Ripple saw an increase of four percent during the same time period.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • XRP’s value rises amid rumors that Western Union may adopt the blockchain
  • Former Tinder love gurus introduce Ripple, a swipe-based professional network
  • Ripple’s XRP saw the strongest growth of any cryptocurrency in 2017
  • Here are all the places that support Apple Pay
  • What is a blockchain? Here’s everything you need to know




14
Jan

Google and Qualcomm are poised to put assistants in all the things


Android-figures.jpg?itok=JOwVsINE

Get ready, because little digital helpers are going to be in a lot of the things you buy next year.

You know what I want? I want a microwave oven that has Wi-Fi, a really good speaker, a small touchscreen and Google Assistant. I can make my Hot Pockets while listening to some music, and even tell my little digital buddy to add Pizza Rolls to the shopping list or to turn the heat up a little bit because my feet are cold. And I think I’m going to have the chance to buy it this holiday season because new chips from Qualcomm and changes to Android Things will make it easy to put Assistant in everything.

Cheap specialty hardware and free software makes it silly to not put a voice assistant in your next product.

That’s what it takes to make it happen. Everyone is talking about Lenovo’s Smart Display Google Assistant video thing-a-ma-jig they demoed at CES, but it’s the tech you can’t see that makes it happen. You need the right microprocessor(s) with support for the right things and an operating system that can power it all without adding too much overhead. That’s what Qualcomm and other chipmakers like NXP, Intel or Broadcom and Google have quietly been doing.

Enter the Low Power Bluetooth SoC QCC5100 from Qualcomm. As you can tell from the name (who named it anyway?), it provides Bluetooth support and doesn’t use a lot of power. Two very important things for any modern electronic device. What the name doesn’t tell you is that it also has baked-in support for voice assistant services, Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo, aptX HD audio, and integrated hybrid/active noise cancellation. This chip was designed just for headphones that use Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa service. Other chips in development or already for sale offer similar support for specialty products.

On the Google side, new APIs for Android Things make it easy to make a cool thing with the next generation of chips. Android Things is an operating system for small connected devices that runs fast and lean. It’s also easy to develop applications for because you use the same tools and methods that you would if you were building an app for an Android phone. And like Android “proper”, it’s free for the taking, and if you follow Google or Amazon’s guidelines on what the OS can do and what features it will support when you build it, you also get Google Assistant or Alexa for free.

Not every company is as ambitious as Samsung and wants to build their own infrastructure and service backends for a voice assistant. What companies like Qualcomm and Google are offering is a turn-key solution to building a product that people will buy. This allows a company like Lenovo to build out a Smart Display. Or a company like Nest (an Alphabet holding) to put Google Assistant in the next generation of smart thermostats. Or Xiaomi to put Assistant in a television, or Kenwood to put it in your car’s dashboard.

android-auto-concept.jpg?itok=msZSfytiThe closest any of us here has ever been to a Maserati.

It’s important to remember that these aren’t Google products. They are made by the companies selling them using off-the-shelf parts and a purpose-built operating system that they get for free. Companies can add a new feature to a product without much extra cost to the bill of materials in the hopes that it will be a hit and they will sell millions of them. Everyone makes money — Qualcomm sells their specialty hardware, Google gets more data for their giant advertising machine in the sky, and companies like LG and Pioneer get to keep the profit from the things they sell. It’s sort of like that Perfect Storm scenario from the movie, but with less rain and death (hopefully).

My prediction is that once you can add Assistant or Alexa to a product without spending a lot to develop it, companies are going to do it to everything. From a toothbrush that works with Google Health and Google Fit to a doorbell that reminds you to take an umbrella along as you leave the house, these products are coming. The question is, are we ready for them?

14
Jan

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ ventures outside Gilead in second season


The Handmaid’s Tale has been a huge success for Hulu, earning the streaming platform quite a few Emmys and two Golden Globes. The first season was based on Margaret Atwood’s novel by the same name but many have wondered what’s in store for the upcoming second season. “The biggest barrier of season two was season one,” showrunner Bruce Miller told Entertainment Weekly. “You sort of intimidate yourself. But at a certain point, you can’t spend all your time second-guessing things. Instead, you just have to remember to try and tell a good story.” Miller says he and Margaret Atwood began talking about the direction of the second season before the first was completed.

THE HANDMAID'S TALE -- The Emmy-winning drama series returns with a second season shaped by Offredâs pregnancy and her ongoing fight to free her future child from the dystopian horrors of Gilead. âGilead is within youâ is a favorite saying of Aunt Lydia. In Season Two, Offred and all our characters will fight against â or succumb to â this dark truth.(Photo by: Take Five/Hulu)

THE HANDMAID'S TALE -- The Emmy-winning drama series returns with a second season shaped by Offredâs pregnancy and her ongoing fight to free her future child from the dystopian horrors of Gilead. âGilead is within youâ is a favorite saying of Aunt Lydia. In Season Two, Offred and all our characters will fight against â or succumb to â this dark truth.(Photo by: Take Five/Hulu)

While keeping the season’s plot largely under wraps, Miller did give EW some hints as to what’s to come in season two and some stills from the show give us a look as well. Characters living outside of Gilead will definitely be a part of the season, and those include Samira Wiley’s character Moira as well as those exiled to the polluted and contaminated Colonies — a place only mentioned in the novel. You can see a depiction of the Colonies in the image above. Miller also teased a handmaid funeral scene and one still shows a bloodied Offred — Elisabeth Moss’ character.

The second season of The Handmaid’s Tale will premier in April.

Images: Hulu

Via: io9

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