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31
Mar

The best universal remote control


By Darryl Wilkinson and Grant Clauser

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. 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.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use universal remote to control up to eight devices, we recommend the Logitech Harmony 650. It’s the best option for most people looking to simplify the operation of their home theater or media system. It’s easier to program than any non-Harmony remote. Its backlit hard-button layout makes it simple to use, even in the dark, and it’s way cheaper than other systems that are equally comprehensive.

Who needs a universal remote?

You already have a remote for your TV and your DVR, so why do you need another? If your home entertainment system consists of only two or three devices, such as a TV, a DVR, and maybe a DVD or Blu-ray player, you may not want a universal remote. But if sitting down to watch TV or a movie requires shuffling between several remotes, switching inputs, and powering multiple components at the same time, a universal remote is for you.

How we picked and tested

A universal remote control has to be, well, universal. That means that the remote can control all the components an average audio/video enthusiast could throw at it. A remote that can juggle eight devices at once will cover most systems. It should also have a well-organized button layout or on-screen display that can combine multiple actions into one button. Finally, it should be easy to program and connect with your devices.

If you scan Amazon and other online retailers for universal remotes you’ll find a lot of low-end replacement remotes—remotes whose primary purpose is to replace the one the dog ate and do little else. Competition in the advanced remote category is very small. Though we did sample other products, these days, selecting the best universal remote is largely a matter of selecting the best Logitech Harmony device. There are also several systems for using your smartphone as a remote, but we think the demands of unlocking the phone and opening an app for something as simple as changing a channel rules out the app approach for most people.

Our pick

The Harmony 650. Photo: Michael Hession

The Logitech Harmony 650 is the best universal remote for most people because it can coordinate the functions of up to eight components, is relatively simple to program with its MyHarmony software, and uses a smart, activity-based interface that simplifies control of your whole home theater. It can control only IR (infrared) devices—that’s most audio, video, and home theater gear—but it can’t communicate over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, so it isn’t compatible with some recent devices such as the PlayStation 4, Sonos speakers, or Amazon Fire TV.

By far, the most helpful feature of the Harmony 650 is the help function accessed from a button above the display. If for some reason your TV didn’t turn on or the receiver didn’t switch to the correct input after you selected an activity, pressing the Help button will cause the Harmony 650 to immediately emit an infrared command that will, ideally, rectify the situation.

A budget option

The Harmony 350. Photo: Michael Hession

We think the 650 is a great value for what it offers, especially for something you’ll use multiple times per day, every day. But if you’d prefer to save some money, the Harmony 350 also controls eight devices and is very similar to the 650.

However, a few things keep it from being our overall pick. The loss of the screen means it isn’t as simple to use. Also, its buttons aren’t backlit, which is a big deal if you’re trying to use the remote in the dark. It also lacks the interactive help feature.

For more advanced home theaters

The Harmony Companion remote is smaller, sleeker, and more powerful than the Harmony 650, but gives up the cheaper device’s useful display and easy-to-navigate help functions. (The help feature is available in the Companion app.) Photo: Michael Hession

The Harmony Companion is usually two to four times more expensive than the Harmony 650. It controls the same number of devices, can be set up with the MyHarmony application or a smartphone app, and has a similarly intuitive, conveniently arranged button layout.

So what do you get for the extra money? Most notably, the Harmony Companion is a two-piece system consisting of a handheld remote and a separate “hub” that’s placed next to the AV components in your system. The remote doesn’t have a built-in IR emitter. Instead, the IR emitter, along with the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios, are built into the hub—that means you can connect with Sonos wireless speakers, a PlayStation 4, or any other non-IR devices. The Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios let you control a wide range of smart-home systems and devices. The Companion also allows you to control your system with the Harmony app and can be operated with Amazon’s Alexa voice interface.

The luxury upgrade

The full-featured Harmony Elite. Photo: Michael Hession

If the relative ease of programming, vast control database, and smart activities of the Companion just isn’t enough for you, and what you really want is a cool color touchscreen to let you tap your home theater into action, and you’d like to integrate even more of your smart-home devices into your system, you’ll want to investigate the Harmony Elite, the top-dog remote in the Logitech lineup. It can control up to 15 devices, and it comes with two IR blasters you can position in front of the cabinet doors to keep your gear out of sight.

The app option

What if you don’t want another handheld device but the idea of universal remote control does appeal to you? Of all the app-based systems we tried, we liked the Logitech Harmony app best, which comes with any of the company’s Hub-based remotes. You can also purchase the Harmony Home Hub as a stand-alone unit (it’s available without a remote) and just use the app. But it currently costs more than you’d spend for our top pick, the Harmony 650.

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.

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31
Mar

Apple goes on hiring spree to improve Siri’s smarts


It won’t shock you to hear that Siri is lagging behind rivals like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant — the HomePod struggles to handle non-music tasks as well as competing smart speakers, for instance. And Apple appears to be aware of this shortfall. Thinknum has noticed that Apple has been on a Siri-related hiring spree in recent months, with 161 positions listed as of the end of March. There’s been an uptick ever since summer 2016, but there was a distinct surge in February of this year.

Nearly all of the new positions are for engineers, and it’s notable that some of those spots are meant to tackle Siri’s relative weakness in general questions. There are entries for Siri software engineers tackling “General Knowledge” and the “Knowledge Graph,” for instance. Other notable recruiting efforts include a machine learning scientist as well as multiple engineers to address areas like Proactive Intelligence (Siri’s ability to anticipate info you might need), the SiriKit developer framework and speech generation.

There’s only so much you can divine from Apple’s hiring campaign, and it’s likely to take a while before you see the results. Even if Apple immediately filled every opening, it could take months or years before their influence shows up in Apple’s software. However, the very existence of this recruiting frenzy says a lot. Apple knows Siri needs work, and it’s ready to invest in the brain power needed to improve its AI helper.

Source: Thinknum, Apple

31
Mar

The invisible home screen: an ultra minimal theme, or excellent April Fool’s Day prank


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This theme pulls double duty as an April Fool’s prank and testament to Android’s customizable beauty.

There are few themes that are quite as flexible and adaptable as what I like to call the “invisible” home screen. It’s a theme that could only exist on Android, and it is both high art and farce. It is both a prank and a functional beauty. Setting up this theme is quite easy, it can work with just about any wallpaper, and it’s like turning your home screen into a fun little magic trick.

This is the invisible home screen, and here’s how you can pull it off.

There are two methods to utilize in this theme — completely clear app icons and gesture launcher shortcuts — and while the former is available on almost any launcher that allows custom icons, the latter is a little harder to come by. In the interest of expediency, we’re going to give you instructions for this theme in our two favorite theming launchers: Nova Launcher and Action Launcher.

Whichever launcher you use, you’ll need this blank png to set all of your home screen icons to.

  • Picking a wallpaper
  • How to set a clear app icon in Nova Launcher
  • How to set a clear app icon in Action Launcher
  • How to turn off app labels in Nova Launcher
  • How to turn off app labels in Action Launcher
  • How to activate gesture controls in Nova Launcher
  • How to activate gesture controls in Action Launcher

Picking a wallpaper

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This theme is wonderful because you can use literally any wallpaper you want. Use an ultra-minimalist wallpaper, use a completely chaotic wallpaper, use a photo of your kids; use whatever you like. The important thing to remember with your wallpaper is that you’re going to be using the wallpaper to gauge where your icons are on the screen. So if you use a wallpaper with a lot of distinct elements in it, you can use those elements to signify your shortcuts. On a minimal wallpaper, you’ll have to rely more on muscle memory and your knowledge of your home screen’s app grid.

Need some help finding a new wallpaper? We can help

How to set a clear app icon in Nova Launcher

Long-press an app shortcut on your home screen.
Tap Edit or the pencil icon in the menu that appears.

Tap the icon square to edit the icon.

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Tap Gallery apps.
Tap Files.

Navigate to and select the downloaded blank .png icon.

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Tap Done.
Tap Done again.

Repeat with every app and folder on your home screen.

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How to set a clear app icon in Action Launcher

Long-press an app shortcut on your home screen.
Tap Edit.

Swipe up to reveal the app icon menu and tap My photos.

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Navigate to and select the downloaded blank .png icon.
Tap Done.

Repeat with every app and folder on your home screen.

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It’s worth noting on Action Launcher that you cannot change folder icons to custom icons the way you can on Nova Launcher. If you want to make a folder invisible on Action Launcher, you’ll first have to enable its Cover, then set the icon of the first app in your folder to invisible as well.

How to turn off app labels in Nova Launcher

Now, most launchers have app labels turned on by default, and having iconless labels floating on your home screen would ruin the invisible home screen effect. Here’s how to turn them off.

Open Nova Settings.

Tap Desktop.

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Tap Icon layout.

Tap Label to turn off app labels.

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How to turn off app labels in Action Launcher

Now, Action Launcher has app labels turned on by default, and having iconless labels floating on your home screen would ruin the invisible home screen effect. Here’s how to turn them off.

Open Action Settings.

Tap Desktop.

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Tap Text layout.

Tap Home screens to uncheck it.

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How to activate gesture controls in Nova Launcher

In order to use gestures in Nova Launcher, you must have Nova Launcher Prime, which is $4.99 and worth every single penny. Nova Prime seldom goes on sale, but if you answer surveys on Google Opinion Rewards, you should be able to pay for it that way after a few months. There are 11 gesture controls you can set for your home screen on Nova Launcher, but the three set most frequently by far are Swipe up, Swipe down, and Double tap.

You can set your gestures to any app you’d like, to a variety of Nova Launcher tasks, or you can even set shortcuts like direct dialing or a Tasker task. Once you decide what you want your gestures to do, here’s how to assign them.

Open Nova Settings.

Tap Gestures & inputs.

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Tap the gesture you want to assign.

Select the app, shortcut, or Nova action you wish to assign.

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How to activate gesture controls in Action Launcher

Like Nova, gestures are a paid feature on Action Launcher, meaning you’ll need to pay for Action Launcher Plus. Plus is an in-app upgrade, priced at $4.99, and if you’re a long-time Action Launcher user, you probably invested in Plus a long time ago. Action Launcher sets you set 12 gesture controls to an App, a Shortcut, or an Action.

Open Action Settings.
Tap Shortcuts.

Tap the gesture section you wish to assign.

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Tap the gesture you wish to assign.

Select the *app, shortcut, or Action you wish to assign.

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Your turn

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Is your invisible home screen a thing of precision and minimalism? Is it chaos that only you can navigate? Did it freak out your girlfriend when she saw your home screen was empty? Tell us in the comments.

31
Mar

Skagen Falster smartwatch review: Minimalist design, minimal features


Maximum nostalgia.

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It took far less time for the smartwatch market to cool than the smartphone ecosystem it was supposed to emulate. The interest curve of early adopters to mainstream consumer acceptance seemed to happen fairly quickly, but the falloff was, I think, far more severe than anyone realized.

I’m referring mainly to the Wear OS (née Android Wear) and not to the Apple Watch, which as Apple products usually are, seem to be immune to category softening (though one could argue that the Apple Watch never quite took off as many pundits believed it should have).

This brings me to the current environment for Android-based smartwatches. There’s a new name, Wear OS, and the promise of upgrades to come, but right now, all but a few tech companies have bowed out of the race. It’s unlikely we’ll see successors to the LG Watch Style and Sport this year, despite being modeled as the “Nexuses” of Android Wear in early 2017, and Samsung long-ago decided that its wearable fate lies in the hands of its own Tizen platform (a decision that appears prescient).

In lieu of the tech companies, fashion brands like Michael Kors, Fossil, Movado, Tag Heuer, Guess, and others decided they needed to add smarts to a stale industry to better compete with the looming Apple Watch revolution, and glommed onto then-Android Wear with unabashed confidence. But instead of innovating in the space, they’ve merely turned their storied designs into touchscreen equivalents, replete with second-rate watch faces and oversized hardware — to accommodate the large batteries needed for the ancient processors inside them.

After being pleasantly surprised by Michael Kors’ second-generation Grayson smartwatch, which featured a large, vibrant display and an honest-to-goodness manipulable crown, I was curious to see how Skagen’s entry into the canon holds up.

My take? It’s not great, but I love it anyway.

Skagen Falster What I love

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  • Price: $275-$295
  • SoC: Snapdragon 2100 SoC
  • Memory: 512MB RAM, 4GB storage
  • Dimensions 42mm case, 12mm thick
  • Band: 20mm replaceable
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1 LE, 802.11n
  • Battery: 300mAh
  • IP rating: IP67, 1ATM

My first Skagen watch was a gift to myself for my 16th birthday. I was a counselor at a small summer camp and earned just enough money to buy a couple computer games and one of those thin, mesh-banded watches you see at department stores all over the world. I still have it, though the battery ran out years ago. I’ve always appreciated Skagen’s minimal Danish aesthetic, though in the years since I’ve switched predilections from metal to leather. That’s why I was so eager to try the Falster, which reworks Skagen’s familiar design into the Wear OS facade that we’re familiar with today.

Like Movado’s entry into the Android Wear game (and I’ll be using Wear OS and Android Wear interchangeably throughout this piece, so simmer down), Skagen takes the bare essence of what makes its hardware recognizable — circular symmetry; exposed lugs; thin, comfortable bands — and fills in the gaps with software. The six included watch faces are overly simplistic, and only barely meet the requirements of Skagen’s storied branding, but alongside the comfortable 20mm brown leather strap (there are also steel-mesh and black leather options), I found a couple faces I love and settled into to be won over with charm.

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You see, at the moment Wear OS is a known quantity; the app store is a barren wasteland, but the platform’s core competencies are still in tact, and over the years I’ve learned to expect little else but accurate time and notifications.

That the Falster offers a fairly convincing digital approximation of a real Skagen watch while mirroring notifications from my Android phone (and offering quick responses by voice, canned retorts, and a beguilingly small keyboard) is enough to satisfy my needs, and do it in a way that justifies its $275 price. It’s not cheap, but I’ve spent more on watches that do less, and this one hits me right in the feels.

Even if it lacks a few things that would make me cherish it for longer than I likely will.

Skagen Falster What needs work

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Where is my digital crown? When I unboxed the Falster and realized the single side button was just that, and not a more desirable way of navigating the OLED display, I was more than a little disappointed. When I realized the watch lacked NFC capabilities, which prevents Google Pay, it added to the frustration. And while the lack of a heart rate monitor isn’t as significant a pockmark, it reinforces that this is a smartwatch for those who want little more but to be seen wearing a smartwatch.

Battery issues with Wear OS watches have more to do with Qualcomm’s ancient processor than the battery size or screen quality.

The side button isn’t very good, either: it’s squishy and requires almost a double press to activate, and feels like it would be the first point of failure. And while the screen is a manageable size on my wrist, its 42mm diameter means it may not be as universal as Skagen desires. Thankfully, there’s an ambient light sensor hidden behind the display, but there’s also a massive bezel swallowing a good 10% of the front — and the 12mm thickness of the body makes it difficult to forget that you’re wearing a gadget instead of a timepiece.

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Such dimensions would be justifiable if battery life was better than the average Wear OS device, but it’s not. I used the Falster every day for two weeks and bled it dry each time, and managed around 36 hours — the afternoon of the following day if I took it off the charger in the morning — before it died. Not particularly surprising, but not reassuring given the pedigree.

The issue is barely with Skagen, Fossil, Michael Kors, or any other sucker company building Wear OS watches these days; the Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip inside the device is a derivative of the smartphone-based Snapdragon 400 that shipped in the first generations of Android Wear smartwatches. In other words, there’s 2013 tech inside this 2018 watch. That Google hasn’t worked with Qualcomm to further the progress of this silicon speaks to the indecision and insecurity around wearables as a viable long-term business. While Intel has dipped its toes into the wearables hardware game with Tag Heuer and a few others, it will be Qualcomm that, should it decide to, pushes the market forward with smaller, more power-efficient smartwatch SoCs.

Charging the watch, too, is a bit of a letdown: the dinky plastic magnetic charger is identical to other Fossil-built smart products (likely a money-saving measure) and barely adheres to the bottom of the watch. It’s an Apple Watch charger clone done wrong.

Should you buy it? Do you love Skagen? Then yes

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Like the watch market itself, the Wear OS ecosystem is separated less by the quality of the products these days than the nostalgia value of the brands themselves. I like Skagen so I like Skagen’s first attempt at a smartwatch. I like the way the Falster looks on my wrist because I enjoy minimal design and quality leather bands, and I don’t mind spending $275 for the privilege. I don’t mind that price despite the product’s numerous flaws and lazy oversights meant to prop up Fossil’s margins.

You, however, may mind, and that’s OK because there are plenty of other products that do practically the same thing for less money.

See at Amazon

31
Mar

Lincoln’s Aviator SUV matches style with hybrid tech


When you think of Lincoln you can’t be blamed for imagining those Navigators and Continentals that pick up very important folks at the airport. But the automaker wants to make sure more than professional drivers get behind the wheel of their cars. The new Aviator looks like it might just do that.

Unveiled at the New York Auto Show, the Lincoln Aviator is more than just a shrunk down Navigator. It’s its own vehicle and it looks amazing. While designing the SUV with third-row seating, the automaker decided against the more aggressive lines that have appeared on vehicles in the past few years. Instead, it looked to the world of planes (duh, Aviator) for something a bit more fluid and the results are magnificent.

It’s also more than a pretty face, the interior is incredibly comfortable. Like La-Z-Boy chair comfy. While not quite a concept car (Lincoln called it a “teaser” model), it’s also not ready for people like me to get inside it and start pushing buttons and try to open compartments. Hopefully, at least 85 percent of what I saw in the car makes it into the production car.

When Lincoln does ship the Aviator, it’ll have a twin-turbo V6 engine with a plug-in hybrid option. The automaker didn’t share any additional information about the engine or battery range of the car.

What Lincoln will tell us is that when the Aviator hits showrooms in 2019, owners will be able to use their smartphones to lock and unlock the vehicle. Sort of like the Tesla Model 3. But you know, bigger and with more buttons.

We also don’t know how much the Aviator will cost. We’ll probably find out at a future auto show. Meanwhile, the luxury SUV market is full of great looking vehicles and the Aviator on design alone is certainly ready to join those ranks. Next year we’ll find out if it drives as well as it looks.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from the 2018 New York Auto Show.

Source: Lincoln

31
Mar

The Morning After: Weekend Edition


Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Welcome to the weekend! We have more information about last week’s Model X crash and a status update on Google’s link shortening service.

The NTSB is investigating.Tesla: Autopilot was engaged in fatal Model X crash

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After a fiery crash in Mountain View, CA killed the driver of a Tesla Model X, the company confirmed Friday night that its Autopilot feature was engaged at the time. It noted that the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision. The driver’s brother told an ABC 7 News reporter that his brother had previously complained of Autopilot previously swerving the SUV towards that same divider.

And just a step away from some NFL player’s next touchdown celebration.‘Fortnite’ wants to put your dance in the game

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Epic Games just launched a contest for players to submit video of their smooth moves, with the best one making it into Fortnite.

Expected ship date: February 28th, 2019.Hasbro got 5,000 pre-orders to build a massive replica of Jabba’s barge

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The huge Jabba the Hutt barge replica Hasbro showed off at Toy Fair this year will soon become a real item making its way to backers’ homes. That’s because it has raised over $2.7 million in funds from over 5,500 backers (as of this writing) on the company’s HasLab site, eclipsing its original 5,000 pre-order goal. If you’re interested in dropping $500 on the four-foot model then you still can — orders are open until April 3rd.

Old links will still work.Google is shutting down its goo.gl URL shortening service

Google is replacing its own service, goo.gl, with Firebase Dynamic Links (FDL) as of April 13th. These new smart URLs let you send folks to any location within iOS, Android or web apps.

Block everything out except the music.The best wireless headphones

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We’ve already offered some suggestions on the best wireless earbuds, so now it’s time to examine the best over-ear wireless headphones. Each was selected for its mix of comfort, sound quality and effective noise cancellation. Because let’s be honest: Audio is just one part of the equation when it comes to long listening sessions.

Plus it connects to Amazon Alexa and Google Home.Hyundai’s Kona is ready for almost anything

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The Kona is a great little SUV that hits all the right marks — except for its lack of adaptive cruise control.

But wait, there’s more…

  • Canon’s 120-megapixel sensor enhances video better than CSI
  • Apple iPad hands-on (2018): It’s all about the apps
  • Xiaomi’s Mi Gaming Laptop packs NVIDIA GTX 1060 graphics
  • Huawei P20 Pro hands-on: Camera tricks and a supercar finish
  • The Boring Co. will sell giant ‘Lego-like’ building bricks
  • iOS 11.3 is live now, complete with new battery features

The Morning After is a new daily newsletter from Engadget designed to help you fight off FOMO. Who knows what you’ll miss if you don’t Subscribe.

Craving even more? Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter.

Have a suggestion on how we can improve The Morning After? Send us a note.

31
Mar

Reis & Irvy’s robotic frozen yogurt machine to be released in April


Want to see a robot serve your frozen yogurt? It may sound futuristic, but Reis & Irvy’s, a subsidiary franchise concept of Generation NEXT Franchise Brands, Inc. (OTCB: VEND), could make it a reality soon. The company announced today that its frozen yogurt vending robots will be on the market sometime in April. The first 65 locations will see their robots delivered and installed by the end of the month. The robotic vending machine has long been eagerly anticipated, and the public will finally get to see just what that entails.

The patented technology of the froyo vending machine robot was manufactured by Flex, Ltd, with frozen yogurt created by Dannon YoCream. The Froyo Robot offers seven flavors of frozen yogurt, ice cream, sorbet, and gelato, and patrons can choose up to six toppings. The company promises that patrons will only have to wait 60 seconds or less for their sweet frozen treat to be ready, which should satisy even the most impatient dessert lovers.

Since news of the Froyo Robot’s impending release came out, the franchise opportunity has garnered a high level of interest both domestically and internationally.

Reis & Irvy’s is determined to install its Froyo Robots in high-traffic areas, such as theme parks, airports, movie theaters, and Fortune 500 companies. That commitment is reflected in the announced first 65 locations, which include the Kentucky Science Center, Indianapolis Airport, Women’s Hospital of Texas, Austin Convention Center, and Henry Ford Museum. Following the first round of rollout in those 65 locations, Reis & Irvy’s expects to ship an additional 185 units in May and 250 units in June.

“We are pleased to report this positive news for not only the locations about to receive our patented technology, but also for our franchisees and our shareholders,” said Nick Yates, Chairman for Generation NEXT Franchise Brands. “With this announcement, our top-tier locations may begin profiting from the technology, driving repeat business back to their store all the while continuing to improve the experience for their customers. Franchisees can begin servicing the technology they have acquired from us and, most importantly, begin generating revenues. Our shareholders should also see the company recognize significant revenues before fiscal 2018 comes to a close.”

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31
Mar

This robot can mimic your hand gestures and whoop you at rock-paper-scissors


From smart speakers like the Google Home and Amazon Echo to the Roomba autonomous vacuum cleaner, there are a growing number of smart A.I.s and robots we can call on to perform different tasks in our homes. A new collaboration between innovation studio Deeplocal and Google’s Internet of Things (IoT) framework Android Things wants to add another robotic helping hand to the mix — and we mean that quite literally.

Called HandBot, it’s a D.I.Y. robotic hand which can recognize your hand gestures and mimic them back to you, or compete against you in a classic game of rock-paper-scissors. To do this, it uses some smart machine learning-based image recognition, courtesy of an built-in camera that feeds it images of your movement.

“We teamed up with Deeplocal to build a series of demos to help inspire and show what developers can build by harnessing the power and potential of Android through the ease of the Android Things platform,” Melissa Daniels, a program manager at Android Things, told Digital Trends. “These demos also demonstrate the on-device processing power that makes Android Things unique.”

The HandBot robot is built using the Android Things developer kit, servos, and some custom cut acrylic. The palm of the hand contains five servos which move the fingers, and one servo for the wrist. The base, meanwhile, contains two more servos for forearm movement and other electronics such as an LED ring, PicoBoard, and the camera.

If you’re interested in creating a HandBot of your own, you can access all the open-sourced code on github and hackster.io, along with instructions for building it. The parts should set you back around $490, plus the price of an Android Things starter kit. The estimated build time is around seven hours, meaning that — provided you’ve got all the pieces — you should have no trouble building this over a weekend.

Sure, it’s probably not going to be the most useful gadget you’ve got on your shelf, but it’s a pretty neat way to dust off your engineering skills, while learning a bit of Tensorflow machine learning in the process. You can’t say fairer than that!

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31
Mar

Brain scans and A.I. confirm that dogs are great at recognizing our emotions


What dog lover hasn’t looked at his or her trusty mutt and tried to figure out what they’re thinking? Researchers from National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City have gotten a bit further toward answering that question than most. Or, at the very least, the team appears to have gained some insight into why dogs seem to understand us so well.

In a recently published research paper, the team demonstrates that it’s possible to work out what a dog is looking at by analyzing a scan of its brain. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology, the researchers scanned the brains of four border collies, trained to sit on a scanner without moving. The dogs were shown happy, sad, angry and fearful facial expressions — all made by people they were unfamiliar with — and had their brain patterns recorded.

Analyzing these patterns using machine-learning algorithms allowed the researchers to figure out which face the dog had seen. The most distinctive brain pattern was associated with a happy face, which triggered a particular activity in the temporal cortex of the brain, used for processing complex visual information.

Interestingly, the study mirrors findings from a more human-centric experiment staged earlier this year. In that case, researchers in Japan were able to get an A.I. to caption images describing what a person had seen, based solely on an fMRI brain scan image. Accurate captions included the likes of, “A dog is sitting on the floor in front of an open door” or “a group of people standing on the beach.”

While the researchers in this latest experiment limited their study to only a few emotional states to identify, it certainly suggests an impressively high level of human emotional recognition on the part of our dogs. Now if only someone could figure out how to convert this into some kind of portable brain-reading tech so we can see more information about how dogs interpret the world around them on a daily basis!

A paper describing the work, titled “Decoding Human Emotional Faces in the Dog’s Brain,” is available to read online on scientific paper repository bioRxiv.

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31
Mar

‘PUBG’ will start testing its tiny ‘Savage’ map next week


PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds continues to ramp up the changes as it fights back against Fortnite for the battle royal crown. One part of the plan that we’d already heard about is a smaller map option called Codename: Savage measuring at 4×4 Km, which is just a quarter of the size of Erangel and Miramar, the two maps already included in PUBG. The smaller play area should add even more tension to the game’s fast-paced action.

The only bad news? Its developers said that the first round of testing will be closed, and limited to only a few players when it occurs between April 2nd at 10 PM ET and April 5th at 7 AM ET. To get access, you should keep an eye on the game’s social media channels for keys, with more information going out on Monday. Check out the video above for some footage of the new map (starting after the thank you message at about 2:52).

Until then, players can check the first round of its Event Mode offerings, which follows up on the teaser image of a Flare Gun by adding a few of them to the game. If your four-player squad finds one, then you can fire it in the air to call in a care package drop to your location loaded with weapons, armor and other items you’ll enjoy — assuming you’re alive to pick them up after other players converge on your signal. If you’d like to check it out then move fast — the mode goes away April 1st at 10 PM ET.

Get ready. The first testing window for our new, 4x4km map, codename: Savage, begins April 2 at 7PM PDT. This will be a closed, limited time test. Expect more information on how you can sign up to participate soon: https://t.co/60D06C9nzq pic.twitter.com/AZuce1lkJm

— PLAY BATTLEGROUNDS (@PUBATTLEGROUNDS) March 30, 2018

Source: Savage Map, Flare Gun Event Mode, Event Mode FAQ

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