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Engadget giveaway: Win a Molekule air purifier!

Breathing is a pretty important aspect of life and when poor air quality or allergens get in the way, it can make for a miserable time. Molekule has a new tool in the battle against air pollutants with its PECO-based air purifier. The Photo Electrochemical Oxidation (PECO) process breaks down particles using light and helps eliminate pollutants 1000x smaller than those captured by standard HEPA filter devices. The Molekule handles allergens, mold, bacteria, viruses and airborne chemicals, which all get eliminated rather than stored in a filter, providing you with a clean air environment in rooms up to 600 square feet. This week, Molekule has given us one if its silver pylons of purity for one lucky reader, so they can breathe easier even in the midst of allergy season. All you need to do is head to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to three chances at winning this Molekule air purification system.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. Comments are no longer accepted as valid methods of entry. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, though we may offer them as opportunities for extra entries. Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given to third parties.
  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec), 18 or older! Sorry, we don’t make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so direct your anger at our lawyers and contest laws if you have to be mad.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. One (1) winner will receive one (1) Molekule air purifier ($799 value).
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes your real name and a contact email. We do not track any of this information for marketing or third-party purposes.
  • This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. Engadget and AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
  • The full list of rules, in all of its legalese glory, can be found here.
  • Entries can be submitted until April 18th at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!

‘Yakuza 6’ makes its belated appearance on PS4 today

After a few bumps in the road, Yakuza 6, the latest entry in Sega’s long-running gangster series is finally available for purchase in the US. That means you can finally take a stroll down the game’s fictional recreation of Tokyo’s Kabukicho for yourself. The game was released in Japan last December, but given how story-heavy it is, it took awhile to localize all the voice and text for Western audiences. That’s fine though — early word is that the narrative is one of, if not, the best, in the franchise and a fitting send-off to protagonist Kazuma Kiryu.

Now the question for PlayStation 4 owners is whether they want to explore a life of crime this week or bond with their son while killing creatures ripped out of Norse mythology. A tough choice to be sure, but you can only sing karaoke, hang with a newborn baby, chill out at a cat café and shoot sharks with a speargun in one of them.


Amazon’s mobile app simplifies shopping for international customers

It’s easy to take Amazon for granted if you live in a country with an official portal, but what if you live in a country where imports are your only realistic option? If you have your phone close at hand, it should now be relatively easy. The company has launched an International Shopping feature in its Android and iOS apps to let you shop Amazon US goods that are eligible to ship to your corner of the world, complete with localized pricing and duty estimates. The app will use its location to automatically enable International Shopping if you’re a first-timer in a country where the feature is necessary, but you can always switch it on yourself and customize the currency or language.

At launch, the feature supports five languages (English, Brazilian Portugese, German, Simplified Chinese and Spanish) as well as 25 currencies. You can use it to deliver orders to over 100 countries, however, and there are promises of wider currency and language support in 2018.

This isn’t the same as having a truly local Amazon store in your country, and there are some products that simply won’t be an option no matter how much you’re willing to spend (particularly devices that require access to US-only services). However, the addition could make Amazon’s shopping app genuinely useful in regions where it was previously little more than a curiosity.

Update: We’d reached out to Amazon, and it noted that the announcement focused on 11 countries and regions: Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Peru, Thailand and Uruguay.

Source: BusinessWire, App Store, Google Play


Snapchat’s Lens Studio now allows anyone to create a face filter

Snapchat’s Lens Studio allows anyone to create custom lenses for the popular social networking app. Now, the company has announced some new features. Most importantly, Snapchat has finally opened face filter creation to everyone; before this, the only lenses available for custom creation were world lenses.

The company has also launched an “Official Creator Program,” which will allow the Snapchat team to connect with people creating filters and give them direct support, as well as highlight their work. Snapchat is also introducing Community Lens Stories, which is a story containing Snaps from various members of the public with just one thing in common: They all use the same community lens. It’s an effort to highlight these lenses — just swipe up on these stories to use the lens for yourself.

There are all kinds of new template details and integrations — for example, Lens Studio now integrates with Giphy, allowing for GIF stickers in your custom lenses. You can also use face paint to create a filter tied to facial features, distorting faces, attaching 2-D and 3-D objects to faces and triggering events based off of facial movements. You can give them a try over at Snapchat Lens Studio.


Boosted’s 2018 line includes faster and shorter electric skateboards

Boosted has been running some pretty sweet discounts on its line of electric skateboards lately, but those are days coming to a close with today’s new product launch for 2018. There are four models this time around, and two versions are even smaller than your standard skateboard deck. That’s the Mini, which will arrive in both standard (S) and extended range (X), along with two updated versions of the popular longboard model. There’s now a Plus, which comes with extended range as a standard, and a premium Stealth version which comes with a speed boost and grey-toned color scheme. That grey will be the indicator for Boosted’s premium versions, which also includes the upcoming Mini X.

We’re looking forward to testing these out in the coming weeks and will fill you in on the details then. For now, let’s take a look at the specs and what’s new for Boosted and its business outlook for 2018.

The company has dropped “Boards” from its moniker, which is emblematic of its shift towards transportation as a whole. There are no firm statements about what to expect, but it’ll be products based on the concept of getting people from A to B in the age of electrically powered vehicles.

Boosted is also now its own OEM for wheels, decks, trucks and motors. All of the decks are taking their cues from snowboard construction methods, using a composite build with lightweight poplar at its core wrapped in fiberglass. This is meant to dampen noise and provide a smooth ride, while still being light and snappy. Plus, all the edges are sheathed with a polymer bumper to protect against impacts.

The iconic orange wheels still exist — unless you opt for a premium model — only now they’re sporting the Boosted brand. There are also re-designed trucks from Boosted, which are CNC precision machined instead of cast to increase overall strength. The remote control, however, hasn’t changed one bit and I’m not mad at it. This is one of the more comfortable controllers I’ve tried. You’re also going to get a slightly tweaked version of the same dual brushless electric motors on all these models.

First up, and arguably the most interesting form factor of the bunch is the Boosted Mini. There will be two versions of this model: the Mini S (standard range) and Mini X (extended range). They will be the same overall size and look, albeit with the X rocking those premium grey tones and a fatter battery. The Mini is just shy of your average skateboard deck length, measuring only 29.5 inches long. There’s a good amount of concave here, as well as a kicktail (with screw-on skid plate) which will all help you maneuver this board in ways that you can’t with a longboard.

Boosted Mini S – $749 Boosted Mini X – $999
Range Up to 7 miles Up to 14 miles
Top speed Up to 18MPH Up to 20MPH
Hill climbing Up to 20% grade Up to 20% grade
Modes 3 ride modes 3 ride modes
Wheels Boosted Lunar 80mm Boosted Lunar 80mm
Weight 15 LBS 16.8 LBS

Now on to the more familiar form factor that Boosted has been known for: the Plus and Stealth longboard models. All the various previous models that boosted offered have been rolled into a single Plus version. This comes with extended range as standard and four ride modes. It’s still the same 38-inch deck length, but with slightly straightened edge lines and the new poplar and fiberglass construction with ABS edge bumper.

Although the flexible bamboo deck has been transformed, you should still expect that bouncy yet smooth ride that Boosted’s known for. While the Plus model comes standard with what were once all the bells and whistles, the Stealth takes things up a notch higher. The top speed has been bumped up to 24 MPH and there are additional ride modes as well. You’ll be paying top dollar for the Stealth model, but considering it’s still the same price as the previous Dual+ version, it’s not too shabby.

Boosted Plus – $1,399 Boosted Stealth – $1,599
Range Up to 14 miles Up to 14 miles
Top speed Up to 22MPH Up to 24MPH
Hill climbing Up to 25% grade Up to 25% grade
Modes 4 ride modes 3 ride modes
Wheels Boosted Stratus 85mm Boosted Stratus 85mm
Weight 17 LBS 17 LBS

The Boosted Mini S will begin shipping in May 2018 with the Mini X not far behind with an estimated ship date of June. The Boosted Plus and Stealth models are both slated to begin shipping in late May / early June 2018. All four of Boosted’s new boards are available for pre-order starting today at the company’s website and we’ll have our own look at the Boosted Mini S in the coming weeks.


Dropbox’s Showcase presentation tools are faster and more flexible

Since going public earlier this year, Dropbox has been steadily rolling out new features to its all-important business customers. Earlier this month, the company’s Smart Sync feature had a wide release after several years of testing, and today Dropbox is announcing an expansion of the visual “Showcase” portfolio-sharing tools it introduced last fall. If you haven’t seen it, Showcases are meant to be a more distinctive way to share a group of files; instead of just providing links to folders, Showcases feature large images and headers alongside rich previews of the files contained inside.

Dropbox originally rolled out Showcases as part of a $20/month “professional” tier aimed at individual proprietors and small business, but as of today they’re available to the company’s Business Advanced and Business Enterprise customers. As the names imply, these are typically pretty massive corporations, but Dropbox’s Vinod Valloppillil (group project manager for premium products) said that he imagines big companies will use Showcases the same way individuals do.

“One thing we’ve seen Showcases used for in a large company is any situation where you want your content and presentation to look very professional while still having lots of control over it,” Valloppillil said. Since Showcases technically share files in the same fashion as the rest of Dropbox, you can make things read only or revoke access, and the company is adding some new control features today as well. Specifically, admins can decide whether Showcases can be shared externally or not, or whether the files can be downloaded or view-only. But when downloads are allowed, there’s a “download all” button so users can grab all the shared files in one go.

Based on user feedback during the testing period, Dropbox is also adding a handful of new features for Showcase creation. For starters, users can add multiple text headers to better organize their content. “When we started, most use cases involved three or four bits of content,” Valloppillil said, “but as Showcases grow to dozens of bits of content, there’s need for more narrative control.” Dropbox is also making it easier to add things to a Showcase even if the files are stored elsewhere — you can just drag and drop right into the web interface, and files will get uploaded to your Dropbox and added to the Showcase at the same time.

Another set of changes come from users asking Dropbox for tools to make Showcase creation faster. “Something that surprised us was that a bunch of people use Showcases in a high volume environment,” Valloppillil said, “so we’re making it easier to create and distribute to multiple audiences.” A new cloning tool takes an existing Showcase and makes a new copy, so you can share it with a different audience or use it as a template for a new document. This follows a feature added a few months ago that let users create a library of logos and headers to pull from when creating new Showcases in an effort to streamline the process of building the document.

Finally, Dropbox has improved the Showcase preview process — creators can see how their documents will look on the recipient’s end before sharing, and it includes mobile previews as well. The idea here is simply to make sure things look the way that the creator wants, regardless of what device they view on and whether they’re logged into Dropbox or not.

All these features are available as of today for Dropbox Showcase users — that includes the existing Dropbox Professional subscribers as well as the new Business user support that will begin rolling out now.


Target’s Drive Up service is now available at 270 stores

Last year, Target began piloting a new service called Drive Up that lets customers order what they need from the Target app, pick up their purchases at a Target store and have it delivered right to their car. Now, Target has announced that the service is available in nearly 270 stores throughout the south and southeast.

A number of stores in Texas and Florida now offer the service as do select stores in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Carolina. To use it, just be sure to select Drive Up as the fulfillment option when ordering through Target’s app. You’ll then be notified when your order is ready for pickup — Target gives a two-hour timeframe, but orders are often ready sooner than that. Tap the “I’m on my way” button when you head to the store and you can share your location so the team knows when to expect you or if you’d prefer not to do that, you can share your location status manually. TechCrunch notes that your location isn’t tracked once your order is complete.

Once you arrive at the store, you’ll park in the designated Drive Up spots and an employee will bring out your order within two minutes. They’ll scan a barcode on your Target app to confirm your identity. Then you just have to provide a signature and you’re on your way.

This is one of a few ways Target is stepping up to compete with rivals Walmart and Amazon. Yesterday, the company announced that it was introducing same-day delivery to stores in five major US cities. Today, it said that its Prime Pantry-like Restock service will hit more than two dozen markets next month while Drive Up should be available in 1,000 stores by the end of the year.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Target


NASA may extend ISS stays following crew vehicle delays

SpaceX and Boeing are both contracted to develop vehicles to carry US astronauts to and from low Earth orbit, a capability we’ve lacked since the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet in 2011. However, these efforts have been plagued by constant delays, which has required NASA to get creative in figuring out how to continue normal space operations without an operational crew vehicle. Robert Lightfoot, the acting administrator of NASA, has suggested a new option: longer stays on the ISS for US astronauts.

Speaking in front of the commerce, justice and science subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, Lightfoot said, “One thing we have is a great relationship with our Russians partners, and we’re looking at other alternatives about potentially extending mission duration for the current missions that are there so that we don’t gap the ability to get there.”

The problem right now is that the US has Russian Soyuz seats through the fall of 2019. It’s possible that commercial crew flights may not become operational (out of the testing phase) until early 2020. That would leave a gap in the US’s ability to send and retrieve astronauts from the ISS. The first commercial crew test flights are scheduled to happen later this year, though those will be uncrewed, according to Lightfoot. That means that the crewed tests will likely be delayed until next year.

NASA has modified its agreement with Boeing to operationalize the first test flight of the Starliner vehicle, adding a third crewmember and having a flight duration as long as six months. This is another method of trying to work around the commercial crew delays that NASA is facing. It’s clear that the agency is being as creative as possible in order to ensure that crewed space operations continue as normally as they can in the face of one challenge after another.

Via: Space News

Source: House Appropriations Committee


Facebook begins fact-checking news stories in India

Facebook announced this week that it has begun piloting a fact-checking program in India, it’s largest market. Boom, which is certified through the International Fact-Checking Network, will review English language stories flagged on Facebook and provide accuracy ratings after checking the stories’ facts. The pilot will first roll out in the Indian state of Karnataka where an important election is scheduled to take place in May.

Following the 2016 US presidential election, Facebook came under fire for not doing enough to stop the spread of fake news on its platform. It has since introduced a number of features aimed at stemming the spread of misinformation — fact-checking being one of them. As in other markets where Facebook already utilizes fact-checkers, stories found by Boom to be inaccurate, will be pushed further down in News Feed. Facebook says it has been able to reduce the distribution of false stories by 80 percent. Additionally, Pages that repeatedly spread false news stories will also see their distribution reduced and will lose the ability to advertise or make money off of ads.

Facebook has said elections are a major priority for the company — Mark Zuckerberg reiterated this point numerous times during his Congressional hearings last week. It made concerted efforts to prevent the spread of misinformation and remove fake accounts ahead of major German and French elections last year. Along with a number of state elections taking place this year, India is gearing up for a national election in 2019.

Alongside its fact-checking efforts, Facebook will also continue to show articles debunking false stories in the Related Articles connected to the original and anyone or any Page that shares a story found to be rife with misinformation will get a notification that they’ve done so.

Boom told BuzzFeed News that it would be hiring two additional people to focus on Karnataka-related stories.

Via: BuzzFeed News

Source: Facebook


CRTL-Labs’ EEG wristbands may spell the end for keyboards and mice

From the earliest days of punch cards, interacting with computers has always been a pain. Whether it’s a keyboard and mouse, joystick or controller, getting the thoughts out of our heads and into the machine requires numerous, unintuitive processes. But until we start implanting USB ports into our brains and downloading our thoughts directly, we’ll have to make do with the neural signal-detecting wristbands being developed by CTRL-Labs.

“When your brain wants to go and effect something in these virtual spaces, your brain has to send a signal to your muscle, which has to move your hand, which has to move the device, which has to get picked up by the system, and turned into some sort of action there,” Mike Astolfi, head of interactive experiences at CTRL-Labs, explained to Engadget. “And we think we can remove not only the mouse or the controller from that equation, but also, almost your hand from the equation.”

The as-of-yet-unnamed device is essentially an EEG wristband. It senses the changes of electrical potential in the user’s arm muscles, “the signal that your motor neurons are sending … the impulses that it’s gonna send into the muscles in your arm that’ll pull on the tendons that connect to your fingers,” Astolfi said. This information is then fed back into a machine learning algorithm which enables the system to reconstruct what the hand is doing, whether it’s typing, swiping or gesturing.

Measuring the electrical impulses through your arm, rather than your scalp as traditional EEGs do, helps increase signal fidelity. “When you put electrodes on the head, you deal with all the other electrical signals that your brain is putting out. Static from consciousness and seeing, and getting sensations back from the body,” Astolfi explained. “When you go down lower to an area like the arm, your body has already done all of the filtering for you.” That is, the signals travelling through the arm are those signifying an intentional action, “so it actually gives a lot cleaner signal, and then a lot larger density of signal as we start to drill down into finer grain detecting of the neuron spikes.”

A visualization of what the wristbands “see” as the user’s hands gesture – image: CTRL-Labs

With a cleaner signal, the system doesn’t have to work as hard to interpret the user’s intentions, which in turn helps lower the learning curve needed to acclimate to using it. “You can learn how to do this in 30 seconds to a minute,” Astolfi said. Take virtual reality for instance. Most current VR systems (Leap Motion notwithstanding) still rely on handheld controllers to replicate the user’s hands in the virtual space. What’s more, these controllers only offer between 3 and 6 degrees of freedom, compared to the human hand’s 48.

In a VR application, “we’re working toward the ability for users to be able to walk up, put the band on, not have to do any training, and be able to roll right away,” Astolfi said. “They can start using it using sort of a generalized model.”

The wristband would enable users to leverage their hands as in-game controllers as well. “We have the ability to let the user actually customize the signal that they’re sending into the device,” he continued. “We call it adaptive learning. The idea would be that the device would learn whatever gesture the user’s doing, and use that to control something inside of the game.”

For example, one of CRTL-Labs earliest demos leverages your hands to aim and fire digital projectiles at a virtual target. “You can do whatever you want with your arm to generate that,” he said. “As long as you’re consistent, then the system will learn that.” Since the algorithm learns from scratch, the user is able to program any movement or gesture that suits their needs or capabilities.

Such a system could prove a boon for users with dexterity or mobility issues since, once the algorithm figures out which muscle signals translate into which onscreen actions, there’s no need to hold a controller or even make noticeable hand or arm movements. During a 2017 demo for Wired, the team showed off the ability to type on a virtual keyboard while barely moving their fingers and play an Asteroids clone without taking their palms off of the tabletop.

“Because we’re actually looking at the muscle signals and not tracking that actual finger movement, you can start to abstract away from actually needing to move your fingers,” he explained. “So, depending on what you train into the system, you might be able to train a little muscle twitch, or actually just the initial motor neuron spike, without actually resulting in any physical movement of the finger.”

This system could eventually lead to more responsive prosthetics as well, however, initially the company is focusing on three specific applications for the wristband: VR gaming, navigating 3D environments such as immersive AutoCAD or Autodesk models, and robotics.

“We see it as being a really good analog for use with robotics,” Astolfi said. “So anything where you want to guide the movement of a real-world object, being able to use your arms sort of guide that and having a meaningful manipulator on the end, your actual hand or, really, the signals that are driving that hand, can make that easier.”

Unfortunately, the company does not yet have a set date to release the wristband, though it does hope to begin releasing its dev kit sometime next year. Whenever the technology does come of age, “we think that this has the potential to really become the dominant way that you interact with computers in the future,” Astolfi concluded. “We think this is gonna be such a big leap forward in the way that you interact with machines that people will eventually stop learning how to type.”

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