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UK appeals court rules AI cannot be listed as a patent inventor

Add the United Kingdom to the list of countries that says an artificial intelligence can’t be legally credited as an inventor. Per the BBC, the UK Court of Appeal recently ruled against Dr. Stephen Thaler in a case involving the country’s Intellectual Property Office. In 2018, Thaler filed two patent applications in which he didn’t list himself as the creator of the inventions mentioned in the documents. Instead, he put down his AI DABUS and said the patent should go to him “by ownership of the creativity machine.”

The Intellectual Property Office told Thaler he had to list a real person on the application. When he didn’t do that, the agency decided he had withdrawn from the process. Thaler took the case to the UK’s High Court. The body ruled against him, leading to the eventual appeal. "Only a person can have rights. A machine cannot," Lady Justice Elisabeth Laing of the Appeal Court wrote in her judgment. "A patent is a statutory right and it can only be granted to a person."

Thaler has filed similar legal challenges in other countries, and the results so far have been mixed. In August, a judge in Australia ruled inventions created by an AI can qualify for a patent. However, only earlier this month, US District Judge Leonie M Brinkema upheld a decision by the US Patent and Trademark Office that said “only natural persons may be named as an inventor in a patent application." Judge Brinkema said there may eventually be a time when AI becomes sophisticated enough to satisfy the accepted definitions of inventorship, but noted, “that time has not yet arrived, and, if it does, it will be up to Congress to decide how, if at all, it wants to expand the scope of patent law.”

23.09.2021 21:16
Microsoft Edge update adds tab groups and new shopping features

Just ahead of the Windows 11 launch, Microsoft is rolling out some updates to Edge. Perhaps the most useful feature for most people is the addition of tab groups. You'll be able to assemble collections of tabs to make your browser a little less chaotic.

To create a group, hold the control button and choose the tabs you want to include, then select "Add tabs to new group" from the right-click menu. You can customize the label with a different color for each group. When you hover over a tab, you'll be able to see a preview of the web page as well.

Microsoft Edge is also getting some handy shopping features. The browser can give you swift access to reviews and ratings for more than 5 million products. When you're on a product page, click the blue tag on the address bar and you'll see expert reviews from reliable sources, as well as the average consumer star rating from various retailers.

When you do figure out what to buy, Microsoft aims to help you complete the transaction a bit faster. If you select a retailer's guest checkout option, you can click "Try express checkout" on the address bar. After you fill in your details manually one time, Edge can save them for future transactions on any shopping site. Once you're sure everything's accurate, click the "Try all coupons and autofill details." Edge will then add your information and automatically find out if there are any coupons that can save you some cash, in a similar way to PayPal's Honey tool.

Elsewhere, Edge now has built-in travel recommendations. When you look up flights, you can click a notification on the address bar and you'll see suggestions of things to visit and do at your planned destination. The tool is only available in the US and on select booking sites for now, but it will be available elsewhere soon.

On top of that, it should be a bit faster for you to look for flights and hotels across multiple websites. Once you enter details on a booking site, Edge can store that info. It can then autofill the travel dates and so on when you visit another site. The company says it has improved flight search results in Bing too with the help of travel industry partners.

Elsewhere, the new personalized news feed called Microsoft Start is integrated into the browser. You'll see headlines and articles relevant to your interests from a range of publishers when you open a new tab.

23.09.2021 20:54
Twitter will make it easier to discover and listen to audio Spaces

Twitter will soon make Spaces even more prominent in its app as it looks to add more creator-focused tools to the live audio feature. The company says it’s working on making conversations in Spaces easier to discover, and will begin to feature more Spaces at the top of users’ timelines.

It’s also working on a dedicated tab for the feature, where users can browse recommendations and upcoming Spaces. And it plans to add recording and playback features so users can listen to conversations after they have already ended. The company is also adding new ways for creators to monetize Spaces. In addition to Ticketed Spaces, which began rolling out in August, Twitter plans to start a dedicated fund for Spaces hosts. The program would provide “ financial, technical and marketing support” to “emerging audio creators” who frequently host Spaces, according to the company. 

Twitter is making it easier for creators to track their earnings.
Twitter

Twitter didn’t provide many details about how this program would work or how it will select creators to participate. But it’s yet another sign of how focused the company is on its live audio features. Even as rival Clubhouse has fallen in popularity in recent months, Twitter sees Spaces as a key part of its strategy to build monetization features for its users.

The company also previewed a new dashboard that would allow creators to keep tabs on their earnings from Spaces. Twitter also expanded its tipping features to include Bitcoin payments and said that all users will be able to send and receive tips on the platform.

Twitter will test a new
Twitter

Elsewhere, Twitter says it plans to test a new feature that could help further minimize harassment or “unhealthy” conversations on the platform. Called “heads up.” The feature would provide “more context about a conversation’s vibes” before you jump in and start tweeting, said Twitter’s lead for conversational safety, Christine Su. She added that the feature would empower users to have more control over their interactions on Twitter much like the platform’s new features for managing replies and the new “safety mode.” The heads up feature will be “coming soon.”

23.09.2021 20:07
Audi tested its RS Q E-Tron hybrid in the deserts of Morocco

With a little more than three months before the start of the Dakar Rally in January, Audi took its RS Q E-Tron to the deserts of Morocco to test the custom-built hybrid ahead of the endurance competition. Over the two weeks that Audi was in the country, it subjected the RS Q E-Tron to temperatures hotter than 100 degrees Fahrenheit and sandstorms. The automaker says it tested the vehicle in Morocco specifically to put it through the most extreme conditions possible. The heat and other factors pushed the RS Q E-Tron's electric drivetrain and other components to their limit. 

Audi RS Q E-Tron
Audi

"The insights we gained in Morocco are invaluable, but they also show us that we still have a lot to do before the Dakar Rally and there is not much time left," said Andreas Roos, project manager of factory racing at Audi Sport.

Audi and the Volkswagen Group have a lot riding on the RS Q E-Tron. If it can win the Dakar Rally, it would be the first electrified vehicle to do so. While not a pure EV, it features an electric drivetrain with two modified Formula E motors. An energy conversion system with a TFSI engine charges the car's high-voltage battery while driving and braking. Volkswagen has already said it expects the RS Q E-Tron will help inform some of its future production cars.   

23.09.2021 19:39
Twitter will let users send and receive Bitcoin tips

Four months after Twitter first introduced in-app tipping, the company is expanding its “tip jar” feature in a major way. The company is opening up tipping to all its users globally, and for the first time will allow users to send and receive tips in Bitcoin.

With the update, Twitter users around the world will have access to tipping, which allows users to send each other cash through apps like Venmo, Cash App, or Bandcamp, GoFundMe and PicPay, a Brazilian mobile payments platform.Twitter users in the United States and El Salvador will have the additional option of sending and receiving tips with Bitcoin via Strike, a person-to-person payments app built on the Bitcoin Lightning Network. People in other countries will be able to receive tips via their Bitcoin address.

As with tips using traditional, non-crypto platforms, Twitter won’t take a cut of tips exchanged between users. Tipping is rolling out to all of Twitter’s iOS users beginning today, and will become available on Android “over the coming weeks.” 

Twitter will enable Bitcoin tipping via the Strike platform.
Twitter

Twitter sees the change as an extension of its recent work to empower creators on its platform. “We want everyone to have access to pathways to get paid,” Twitter’s Esther Crawford said during a call with reporters. “Digital currencies that encourage more people to participate in the economy and help people send each other money across borders and with as little friction as possible help us get there.”

The move is also Twitter’s first big move into cryptocurrency, which founder Jack Dorsey has been a major proponent of. Crawford, who leads the company’s creator monetization efforts, also said the company is in the early stages of exploring an NFT authentication service, which would allow users to display NFT art on their profile.

Those plans are still in an experimental stage, but the idea is to support NFT creators by giving them a way to showcase NFTs on Twitter, and provide details about their ownership, Crawford said. “By allowing people to directly connect their crypto wallets, we can track and showcase our NFT ownership on Twitter,” she said. It's not clear exactly what this would look like, but she said it could take the form of a badge or another visual cue. “We are interested in making it somehow visually clear that this is a[n] authenticated avatar and, and then giving you some interesting info and insight about the provenance of that NFT.”

Twitter has previously experimented with NFTs or non-fungible tokens. The company recently released its own collection of NFTs, and Dorsey sold an NFT of his first tweet for $2.9 million earlier this year.

23.09.2021 19:00
Razer's Kaira X is a lower-cost headset for console gamers

You're in luck if you liked Razer's Kaira headset but didn't want the added cost or pairing of a wireless model to your console. Razer has launched a $60 Kaira X line that offers the core functionality of its predecessor to PlayStation and Xbox gamers, just with a 3.5mm wired connection — and, of course, a $40 lower price. You'll still get the 50mm "TriForce" drivers (albeit without a titanium-coated diaphragm), cardioid boom mic and on-headset controls, and the cable opens the door to virtually any device with a standard headphone jack.

The differences beyond that largely boil down to color. The Kaira X for PlayStation is available only in a Sony-friendly black-and-white design, while the Xbox variant is available in five hues that include black, white, and three eye-searing colors (blue, red and "volt" green) that match official Xbox Wireless Controllers. Only the more somber colors of either version are available now, though, as the three brighter Xbox options will only be available for pre-order on October 14th.

Don't worry if you're happy to spend more. Razer has also introduced a "White Suite" of Xbox peripherals that include new shades of the Kaira and Kaira Pro as well as a Wolverine V2 gamepad. They're on sale now for the same $100, $150 and $100 respective prices as other versions. You can also pick up a Universal Quick Charging Stand for Xbox controllers for $40, or $50 if you buy one in an Aqua Shift colorway.

23.09.2021 18:44
Unagi's $2,440 smart scooter includes turn-by-turn directions and GPS tracking

Unagi Scooters has revealed what it claims is the first smart scooter around in the Model Eleven. It includes a bunch of intriguing features, such as audible directions, remote kill and an advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) sensor.

You can play your own music or podcasts using the built-in Bluetooth speaker and hear turn-by-turn directions to help you get where you're going. Unagi teamed up with Google to bring the navigation feature to its iOS and Android app. After you've selected your destination and put your phone away, you'll hear direction prompts through the audio system and see directional signals on the display.

Unagi Model Eleven smart scooter
Unagi Scooters

On the security end, there's a motion sensor alarm to deter potential thieves, as well as GPS tracking. You'll be able to kill a stolen scooter remotely from within the app.

Perhaps the Model Eleven's most eye-catching feature is that ADAS sensor in the higher-end version. Unagi says the scooter can tell the difference between people, stop signs, stoplights, cars and other objects. It can warn you of a potential collision through both the audio system and the touchscreen display.

Unagi Model Eleven smart scooter
Unagi Scooters

Unagi enlisted industrial designer Yves Béhar to help create the Model Eleven, which it says is the lightest, full suspension scooter on the market in part thanks to its use of long carbon fiber. The foldable scooter features Unagi's existing dual motor system, a swappable battery system and what the company claims are puncture-proof tires you can easily change when needed.

The standard Model Eleven costs $2,440. For the ASAS model, you'll need to fork over $2,860. Unagi is initially offering pre-orders through an Indiegogo campaign, but with the likes of Best Buy now selling the company's scooters, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Model Eleven at retailers in the future.

Unagi Model Eleven smart scooter
Unagi Scooters

23.09.2021 18:30
Airbnb doubles its pledge to house Afghan refugees

At the end of August, Airbnb announced it would offer free, temporary housing to 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan. Now, through its Airbnb.org nonprofit, the company says it can go beyond its initial commitment. With help from hosts and donors from across the US, Airbnb announced today it's prepared to house as many as 40,000 refugees temporarily.

As Airbnb itself notes, that doesn't necessarily mean it will max out that capacity. "If demand for housing aligns with supply in communities where refugees are resettling, these new resources could help provide housing for an additional 20,000 Afghan refugees," the company said.

Since announcing the initiative, Airbnb says it has helped place 675 Afghan refugees across the US. "Resettlement agencies expect bookings will increase as more Afghan evacuees move off military bases and into communities where they will resettle," the company noted.

The need for temporary housing for Afghan refugees is dire, particularly in the US. Officials estimate as many as 65,000 refugees will arrive in the country by the end of the month. Additionally, another 30,000 could come over the next year. And that's just in the US. In August, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said there were 2.6 million registered Afghan refugees worldwide. To that point, Airbnb said it's assessing the possibility of expanding the availability of the program to other countries that have committed to resettling Afghan refugees.

23.09.2021 18:28
Google's Android Automotive OS is coming to Honda cars in 2022

A host of features are being added to Google's Android Auto experience, and the company's Automotive OS will come to more cars including, for the first time, Honda vehicles from 2022 onwards.

Google introduced its Android Auto app in 2015, enabling drivers to run a tethered connection between their smartphone and their vehicle’s stereo system to play music from the device, have Maps’ turn-by-turn directions be read aloud, and take calls through the sound system. In the six years since, both Android Auto and the infotainment systems they operate on have gotten a whole lot smarter. On Thursday, Google announced that it will be rolling out even more features and capabilities to drivers, whether they run Android Auto on their phones or directly through their cars.

While Android Auto has been designed to minimize distractions to the driver when on the road, initially connecting the phone to the infotainment or stereo system has to date been a whole thing. You’d have to make sure the Bluetooth radio was live on your phone, then cajole the vehicle into recognizing and pairing with the device, then remember the myriad various oral commands to incite Android Auto into doing what you actually wanted it to. But no longer! Drivers will soon be able to effectively automate the tethering process just by saying “Hey Google, let’s drive.” 

What’s more, Google has redesigned the Auto UI to enable access to a bevy of content sources including Amazon Music, Audible, iHeartRadio, JioSaavn, Pandora, Podcast Addict, SoundCloud, and YouTube Music with one-tap accessibility as well as have the system read incoming text messages aloud and allow the driver to respond by voice. Expect to see these new features arrive over the next few weeks in English-speaking markets as well as Germany, Spain, Mexico, France and Italy.

And for international travelers using dual-SIM phones, Android Auto will allow you to establish separate Work and Personal profiles and have their relevant contact lists and calendar appointments display, depending on when and why they’re behind the wheel.

For vehicles with in-car displays, Android Auto (the mirroring version, not what you’d find on the Polestar 2 or the XC40 Recharge) will soon boast a few new features, such as games. Google is partnering with GameSnacks to offer drivers quick and fun diversions to play while the vehicle is parked. Finally, an end to doom-scrolling while sitting in public charging lots. Conversely, Google is making paying for gas less interactive. Just say “Hey Google, pay for gas” to have the vehicle’s infotainment system complete a contactless payment with Google Pay. You do have to select the fuel grade and, you know, actually pump the gas but, still. The feature will be available at Exxon and Mobil gas stations to start with support for Shell, Conoco, Phillips 66 and 76 stations coming soon.

As for the integrated Android Automotive OS (like what you’d find in select Ford, GM, and Volvo vehicles), get ready to see it in a whole bunch of new makes and models. Google announced on Thursday that its latest partner is Honda, which will begin producing vehicles with built-in AAOS come the 2022 model year, and will soon be available in both the Chevy Silverado and the Renault Mégane E-Tech.

23.09.2021 18:00
Pixel-only Photos and Gboard features are coming to more Android devices

You won't need a Pixel phone to use some of Google's handiest (and in one case, face-preserving) features. Google is rolling out a batch of Android feature upgrades that include perks previously reserved for its in-house devices. Google Photos' Locked Folder is coming to Android 6 and newer devices, for instance — you can create a passcode-protected space to keep certain photos and videos separate from the rest.

Similarly, Gboard's Smart Compose is coming to Android 11 and newer hardware. If you're writing a common phrase or just want to save time, you'll get suggestions to complete messages. And there's good news if you're prone to walking into lamp posts — the Heads Up anti-distracted-walking feature is available through Digital Wellbeing on all Android 9 or later devices.

Other additions are new to all Android devices. Google Assistant now has a central Reminders hub. Nearby Share now includes a much-needed privacy control that can limit visibility to no one, contacts only or everyone. Gboard, meanwhile, can automatically suggest pasting addresses, phone numbers, web links and even screenshots. Over 1,500 new Emoji Kitchen stickers are due in the fall. And if you have an Android TV, you'll find remote control features built into Android on your phone.

This strategy is a familiar one for Google. It tends to bring features to Pixels first before a wider release, whether it's to help sell phones or just to ensure they work well before reaching other devices. Whatever the reasons for the staggered launch here, the greater availability might just be welcome if you're privacy-minded or in a hurry.

23.09.2021 18:00
Android's accessibility updates include a way to control your phone using your face

Google has introduced quite a lengthy list of Android features, including new accessibility tools for the mobile OS that rely on eye and facial gestures. Starting this week, users will see a new addition to the Android Accessibility Suite that can turn a phone's front-facing camera into a switch. Aptly called Camera Switch, the tool replaces keyboards, mice and touchscreen displays as a device's input method. With the feature, users will be able to navigate their phones with eye movements or with facial features, such as smiling or opening and closing their mouths. The tech giant started beta testing it in August, but it's now giving the feature a wider rollout.

Android
Google

The tech giant has also launched a new application called Project Activate specifically for those don’t speak or have neurological conditions. Its purpose is to make it easier for the users to communicate with other people. They can program the app to speak phrases like "Please, wait!" when they move their eyes a certain way or make a gesture with their face. The application can also be programmed to play audio, make phone calls or send texts, such as emergency messages seeking assistance. 

Finally, Google has updated its Lookout app with handwriting recognition. It can now read out handwritten and printed text for Latin-based languages while in Documents mode. Further, it can now recognize Euro and Indian Rupee in currency mode, with Google planning to add support for more currencies in the future. The tech giant first announced Lookout back in 2018 as a way to provide Blind individuals and people with visual impairments spoken notifications about their environment. Google added food and document scanning to its capabilities in 2020, along with support for languages other than English. 

23.09.2021 18:00
‘Star Wars: Visions’ breaks from canon while Marvel’s ‘What If…?’ refuses to

The following contains spoilers for episode three of 'Star Wars: Visions' and episode seven of 'What If...?'

Back in the days when DVD was king, I remember there was a trend of making animated tie-ins for live-action franchises. There were direct-to-video features for Chronicles of Riddick, Van Helsing and, the most famous project of them all, The Animatrix. Nearly 20 years later, streaming reigns supreme and services like Disney+ seem to be returning to the idea, but bigger and grander with shows like Marvel’s What If…? and Star Wars: Visions.

Visions, premiering this week, is probably the more ambitious of the two, enlisting talent from various Japanese anime studios to create short films about different aspects of the Star Wars universe. The list includes juggernauts like Trigger (Kill la Kill, Promare) Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Haikyu!!) and Science SARU (Devilman Crybaby, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!). Unlike The Animatrix, Lucasfilm was content to mostly hand over the reins to these studios, creating shorts that differ in tone, style and, most notably, continuity.

Robot Jedi? Sith twins? Intergalactic rock band whose members include a Hutt and a former Jedi padawan? It’s an intriguing array of concepts, but as a long-time Star Wars fan I couldn’t tell you how they fit into the timeline. If they fit in, at all. Visions is more about taking some base concepts — the Force, the Jedi, the Sith — and playing around with them in each studio’s unique style. It reminds me the most of Batman: Gotham Knight from 2008, a collection of shorts also by various anime studios, including Production I.G. The one thing that DC Entertainment has always had going for it is the variety of TV and movie adaptations it’s had going on independently of each other, where audiences just understood that these weren’t meant to be connected in any way.

Force-user and droid
Lucasfilm

However, even for DC things have been changing in that regard, especially after last year’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover. For years now, the TV “Berlanti-verse” has been flirting with continuity, not just in how The Flash was a spinoff of Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow was a spinoff of both, but even having the Flash and Supergirl meet up even though they were on different networks and in different universes.

Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoit
DC

“Crisis” upped the ante by merging these separate worlds in the end, while also confirming almost every other DC-based TV show as part of the bigger multiverse. It was great for fans who obsessively watch every comic book program they can, but less so for people who would rather keep their viewing limited and compartmentalized.

On the other side, Marvel didn’t have the same deep catalog as DC did, with its live-action MCU franchise only taking off 13 years ago. Marvel Studios was perfectly happy to wipe the slate clean of everything that had come before, from the 1989 Punisher film to 2007’s Ghost Rider with Nicolas Cage. Since then everything live-action has tied into the universe somehow, including Netflix shows like Daredevil, Hulu shows like Runaways and the Freeform show Cloak & Dagger. This was great for someone committed to the franchise, but could be daunting to casual viewers.

It also presented some creative constraints. Everything Marvel now had to fit in with the larger MCU somehow, so once a character appeared another movie or show couldn’t present its own take on the same person (alas, poor Inhumans). They couldn’t have world-shaking events outside of, say, the Avengers films — at least, not without making some kind of excuse why Captain America or Thor couldn’t just come charging in. Everything had to be carefully planned out as the universe expanded and connected internally.

That’s partly why the show What If…? exists. Sure, it’s based on a pre-existing comic series, but what both show and comic do is allow creators free rein with the characters and events of the Marvel Universe, experimenting to see what would happen if you change one or two things. Though this week’s is hardly a “slight” difference.

Thor and some
Marvel Studios

The point of divergence here is that Odin doesn’t adopt Loki as his son, leaving Thor to become an arrogant, spoiled child who prefers to party rather than take his duties as the would-be king of Asgard seriously. How is he still worthy of Mjolnir? We have no idea and the episode isn’t interested in telling us. Instead we’re shown how Thor likes to take the Warriors Three on long benders across the galaxy, with his next destination being the “backwater” of Earth. And everyone’s invited — Drax, Rocket, Howard the Duck, the Grandmaster and even Loki and the other ice giants who somehow, are friends with Thor anyway in this reality. When you consider why and how these characters got involved in the “main” timeline in the first place, it really doesn’t add up.

Captain Marvel, Frigga and Thor
Marvel Studios

You could just try to enjoy it at face value, as just a silly story with no larger bearing on continuity. However, the point has been made repeatedly that this show is technically, in continuity, and not just in the sense that the Marvel Universe consists of many realities and everything is valid somewhere. While other comics and shows can be given an official universe “number” like 616 or 1,999,999 and just written off as a huge divergence from what we know, the concept of What If…? is that it shows us incremental changes from the MCU in particular. But the divergences shown in this week’s episode are far more than incremental, with an offbeat, cartoonish tone to match. It’s the least What If-like What If…? installment so far.

Unfortunately, like most of the episodes so far, it still ends on a downbeat, one that’s sort of rushed in and not explained. I can’t even imagine how we ended up with a Vision-Ultron hybrid in possession of the Infinity Stones and, unless this episode gets a sequel, it doesn’t really matter. The ending is just a non sequitur to affirm, as every episode does, that the regular MCU sequence of events is the “correct one.” It’s tacked on, and makes what was already a messy adventure even worse.

Padawan and Jedi Master
Lucasfilm

This is where the strength of Star Wars: Visions lies. There’s no attempt to tie the episodes to each other or the larger Star Wars universe. It lets each installment stand on its own as an homage to the larger “ideas” of Star Wars, while also showcasing the idiosyncrasies of each studio. The third episode, “The Twins,” is a great example of this in action. There’s a lightsaber fight on the hull of a Star Destroyer! No one is wearing environmental suits! They’re yelling at each other despite a lack of air! People’s clothes explode off their bodies! It doesn’t make a damn lick of sense, but it doesn’t have to, because it’s not meant to be more than a bit of fun.

23.09.2021 17:31
Europe may require all phone manufacturers to use USB-C charging

Europe may require all manufacturers to use USB-C charging for all phones and electronic devices, according to a new EU Commission ruling proposal. It aims to reduce e-waste and "consumer inconvenience" caused by different and incompatible chargers still in use. The Commission also wants manufacturers to unbundle the sale of chargers with electronic devices. 

"With today's proposal... USB-C will become the standard port for all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld videogame consoles," according to the report. 

The EU said its work with industry has managed to reduce the number of mobile phone chargers from 30 to 3 over the last decade. One of those three is Apple's Lightning port used by around 20 percent of devices sold in Europe. The EU hopes to change that situation, according to a statement by executive VP Margrethe Vestager:

European consumers were frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers. We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger. This is an important win for our consumers and environment and in line with our green and digital ambitions.

When a common charger was first voted on by the EU last year, Apple issued a statement saying that the proposal would "stifle innovation," and its position has not changed. "We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world," an Apple spokesperson told the BBC

Since the launch of the iPhone 12, however, Apple has stopped including chargers in the box, something it said would save 861,000 tons of copper, zinc and tin. Apple itself now uses USB-C charging on its latest Mac laptops and certain iPad models, since that standard supports higher voltage charging required for larger devices.

Nearly all Android smartphones now use USB-C charging, and many models from Samsung and others are sold with charging/data cables but not chargers. It total, around 420 million mobile phones and other portable electronic devices sold in Europe just in the last year.

The EU throws away 12,000 tons of chargers each year, some unused, according to Bloomberg. At the same time, consumers spend around 2.4 billion euros ($2.8 billion) on standalone chargers not included with devices. The law is still in the proposal stages and needs to be passed by EU lawmakers and governments, so it could come into force around two years after that. 

23.09.2021 15:16
Amazon knocks $100 off Sennheiser's Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds

Despite being more than a year old, Sennheiser's Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds remain our favorites if you're looking for the best sound quality you can get. But they're pretty pricey at $300, and we rarely see them drop lower than $250. But both Amazon and Sennheiser direct have them right now for $200, or $100 off their normal price, making it a great time to upgrade to a better pair of wireless earbuds without completely emptying your wallet.

Buy Momentum True Wireless 2 at Amazon - $200Buy Momentum True Wireless 2 at Sennheiser - $200

Sennheiser brought its audio expertise into its wireless earbuds and it resulted in stellar audio quality that remains unmatched. Out of the box, the True Wireless 2 have a warm, inviting tone, with an audio profile that highlights the subtle details in songs. You're able to customize the EQ in its companion mobile app if you want more bass or something similar, but these buds don't require the manual adjustments that some other earbuds do to sound their best. The active noise-cancellation is good as well, blocking out most surrounding noises, but unlike other buds, there are no ANC levels to choose from — just on and off.

We also appreciate the True Wireless 2's small, comfortable size, customizable controls and handy mobile app. As far as battery life goes, these buds should last for seven hours before they need more juice and unfortunately they don't support wireless charging. But our biggest complaint about Sennheiser's buds have always been their high price tag — and this sale fixes that. 

But if the True Wireless 2 still fall outside your budget, Amazon has the white model of the Sennheiser CX 400BT wireless earbuds on sale as well for $90. That's $100 off their normal price and a record low. These are the company's midrange wireless buds and they were just replaced by the CX Plus series. The CX 400BT have a 7mm dynamic driver, customizable controls, voice assistant support and up to 20 hours of battery life with its case.

Buy CX 400BT at Amazon - $90

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

23.09.2021 15:15
What rights does an evil sentient computer have on Star Trek?

This post contains major spoilers for season two, episode seven of ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks.’

Artificial intelligence has been baked into the Star Trek universe since the original series. Kirk and his crew occasionally faced off against computers gone amok, including Nomad, Landru and the M-5. The only way to defeat these digital villains was to outwit them using logic, which caused them to self-destruct. But in The Next Generation, the franchise became more interested in exploring the personhood of artificial beings like Data and hisfamily, Voyager’s holographic doctor or the exocomps. This week, Lower Decks dredges up the old-style megalomaniacal AI and asks, are you really sure about those rights?

The USS Cerritos is once more called upon to help out a civilization enslaved by an evil computer, this one called Agimus (voiced by long-time Trek actor Jeffrey Combs). Disconnected from his network of drones, he’s actually pretty pathetic, desperately begging the organic beings around him to just hook him up to a computer. All that’s left for Starfleet to do is to drop him off at the Daystrom Institute, which isn’t the most glamorous of jobs, so of course Beckett Mariner and Bradward Boimler end up on this particular babysitting gig.

CBS

A gravimetric shear complicates things for the pair, forcing their shuttle to crash on a barren world with only the pleading voice of Agimus to keep them company. The computer uses this opportunity to pit the two against each other, continuing a plot thread that we thought had been settled two episodes ago. Beckett still doesn’t trust Brad's abilities despite all they’vebeen through. It feels like a regression or perhaps even a mis-scheduled episode, except that we the audience still see his growth while his supposed best friend doubts him. It’s a plot line unlikely to go away after a few episodes, reaffirming this show’s commitment to character-driven storytelling.

However, that breadth of characterization doesn’t really apply to Agimus. He’s really just… kind of a jerk, and he doesn’t have the ability to directly influence anything due to his lack of arms and legs. Boimler and Mariner spend the entire episode lugging his box around: a sentient MacGuffin. If you’re not familiar with that term, it means an item (or person) that moves the plot forward and motivates the characters, but is not actually important in itself. With Agimus’s reign over, he really just serves here to get Mariner and Boimler at each other’s throats.

CBS

His status as a sentient being is never in question, but the problem of what to do with him as his behavior worsens goes in directions that would never come up for an organic individual. Mariner suggests burying him, a suggestion turned down by Boimler because he’s a sentient being and that’s not what Starfleet does. So it seems we have made some progress from the ol’ “destroy them with their own logic” days of TOS. But then the two ensigns end up burying him anyway, while Agamus protests that “he has rights!”

And yet Star Trek has always been a bit sketchy about what those rights are. While episodes like “The Measure of a Man” and “The Offspring” have reaffirmed Data’s humanity, it’s been contradicted since by events on Voyager and Picard. The Doctor asserted his authorial rights to a holonovel he created and won, but wasn’t actually recognized as a person. The question remained unanswered nearly 20 years later on Picard, with us only being shown holograms of limited capabilities, or those based on the personalities of other sentient beings (Rios’ crew). And fully synthetic beings like Data, ones with brains and bodies, were illegal after the attack on Mars.

CBS

Lower Decks takes place a mere year after the end of Voyager, so it’s free to pick up and explore some of those plot threads without that later baggage. But without a synthetic crew member on the USS Cerritos it can only glance off the subject. Agamus is dumped in a storage facility as just another “self-aware megalomaniacal computer,” not too dissimilar from the warehouse where the Ark of the Covenant is dumped at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Is it a prison? Did he get a trial? Are he and the other computers just going to sit there until the end of the Federation? From an ethical perspective it isn’t great, but it’s unlikely to ever be fully addressed, because who in Starfleet is really going to fight for the personhood of a computerized fascist dictator?

23.09.2021 15:00
Samsung's Galaxy Watch 4 has never been cheaper

If you've been thinking of getting a Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 — the model formerly given the Active moniker, not the Classic one — you may want to check out Amazon's Deal of the Day. Over the next 20 hours or so, the website is selling the wearable bundled with a fast charging wireless charger for up to 26 percent less than its original price. The bundles are even cheaper than the watches alone, and yes, the deal includes both 40mm and 44mm smartwatches in various colors, as well as both Bluetooth-only and LTE models. 

Buy Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 at Amazon - $230 to $310

The 40mm Bluetooth-only version bundled with a wireless charger will set you back $230, or $80 less its usual price. Meanwhile, its 44mm counterpart is now on sale for $260 instead of its usual retail price of $340. If you want the the capability to call, text and stream on the smartwatch without your phone, you'll need to get the LTE version. The 40mm LTE bundle is currently priced at $280, down $80 its typical retail price, while the 44mm LTE bundle is also listed at $80 less for $310 instead of $390. 

In our Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review, we said the devices are still the best smartwatches around. They're the first models to run the new "Wear OS powered by Samsung," which allows you to download apps from the Play Store directly to your wrist. While the Classic has a spinning bezel and the non-Classic models don't, both versions feature upgraded biometric sensors, a body composition scanner and improved sleep tracking. The watches also come with gesture controls that let you answer or dismiss calls by flicking your wrist or lifting your arm. 

Samsung just released a much pricier Thom Browne Edition Galaxy Watch 4 Classic. But if you'd rather not pay $799 for a smartwatch, head over to Amazon for the limited-time sale.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

23.09.2021 13:45
The Morning After: Microsoft launches its 2021 fall collection

Microsoft has announced a small flotilla of new devices during its fall event, and there’s plenty of highlights to pick through. Most interesting, of course, is likely Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio, a notebook with a screen that pulls forward just like its desktop namesake. This replacement for the Surface Book 3 also turns into a tablet-esque PC, although its stacked design may divide users.

As we surmised a few days back, the Surface Pro 8 did get a fairly magnificent redesign with a new skinny-bezel, 13-inch 120Hz display, Thunderbolt 4 and new, faster internals. It’s been built with Windows 11 in mind and goes on sale when the new operating system arrives on October 5th. Thankfully, Microsoft allowed our chum Cherlynn Low behind the velvet rope to spend a little time with the Laptop Studio and Pro 8, so read this for all the juicy details.

Much as with the band U2, we also need to discuss the “other two” members of the lineup, the Surface Pro X and the Surface Go 3. For the former, the only real news is the new, cheaper WiFi-only model, which retails for $899, and the bundling of Windows 11. Similarly, the Surface Go 3 (arguably the Larry Mullen Jr. of Surface tablets) gets faster chip options but is, in most other regards, the same affordable but deeply underpowered device we already know and, uh, love.

Surface Duo 2
Cherlynn Low

On the mobile front, Microsoft announced the Surface Duo 2, its second-generation dual-screen Android smartphone. The most notable upgrade for this year is a triple camera system and a notification bar on the hinge, so you can see what’s going on without opening your phone. And yes, Cherlynn has already spent some time up close with the Surface Duo 2, and you can read all her impressions right here.

Microsoft also unveiled a bunch of other accessories, but the one that’s probably worth focusing on is the Adaptive Kit. It’s a set of add-ons that can help people with accessibility needs get around their Surface devices more easily. That includes raised port indicators, cable wraps and labels to help your fingers land on regularly used keys. Given Microsoft’s increasing focus on ensuring its devices are useful for everyone, products like this are always welcome.

If you’re interested in watching our edited highlights of the event, you can check out our supercut here, and if you’re already reaching for your wallet, here’s all the pre-order information you could possibly need or want.

— Dan Cooper

iPad mini review (2021): The best small tablet gets a facelift

Another Apple device loses its headphone jack.

Image of the iPad Mini (2021)
Valentina Palladino

The new iPad Mini is, more or less, a shrunken iPad Air, with USB-C, a TouchID-capable power button and an 8.3-inch display. What it packs in performance, style and support for the Apple Pencil 2, it lacks in ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack. Valentina Palladino has reviewed the new baby slate, finding that, despite all the changes, much of its basic utility has stayed the same. Sadly, that higher price might be a sticking point for all those folks who wanted an entry-level iPad that doesn’t cause your bank account to break into tears.

Continue Reading.

'Guardians of the Galaxy' is already better than the 'Avengers' game

The new title has an emotional core that actually works.

Image from the new video game
Square Enix

Everyone deserves a second chance to make a first impression, and it looks as if the second Marvel game has atoned for the sins of its predecessor. Jess Conditt dived into the world of Square Enix’s Guardians of the Galaxy and has come away pretty pleased. The characters may look and sound different to their cinematic counterparts, but they feel much more fleshed-out, and there’s a better emphasis on relationship building over button mashing. Conditt says the game has an emotional core that bodes well for the finished title, saying it already feels “way better” than Marvel’s Avengers.

Continue Reading.

Shareholders claim Facebook overpaid an FTC settlement to protect Zuckerberg

That’s generally considered something of a no-no.

Facebook shareholders believe the company overpaid its $5 billion FTC settlement in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, to personally protect Mark Zuckerberg. Reports say the FTC was originally going to levy a fine closer to $106 million (yes, million). The smaller fee, however, was conditional on Zuckerberg himself being named as a defendant in the case. Those shareholders are alleging in a lawsuit that Facebook offered $5 billion on the condition that Zuckerberg avoided any personal liability.

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Apple won't let 'Fortnite' back on the App Store until all court appeals are exhausted

Its lawyer says Tim Sweeney’s own public comments show the developer can’t be trusted.

Fortnite
Epic Games

It’s always a delight to see wall-to-wall shade buried in a pile of legalese, and this missive, purportedly from Apple’s lawyers, is a doozy. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has published a letter he received saying Apple won’t restore Fortnite to the iOS and Mac App Stores just yet. The letter, put simply, says Apple cannot presently trust Epic to behave itself, especially after public comments made by Sweeney. Consequently, Fortnite will remain off the platforms until the lawsuit Epic brought against Apple reaches its conclusion. But the letter is well worth a read in its entirety, given all of the sass lurking between those lines.

Continue Reading.

The biggest news stories you might have missed

Netflix is acquiring the rights to Roald Dahl's books

Twitch reveals new process for dealing with unauthorized music use

London's largest cab company will go fully electric by 2023

The Gitamini is a smaller, smarter "stuff" hauling bot

23.09.2021 13:15
Apple MacBook Air M1 models fall back to all-time lows

You can get an Apple's latest MacBook Air powered by the tech giant's M1 chip for $850 on Amazon again if you missed previous deals the sold the laptop at that price. That's an all-time low for the device, which has an original retail price of $999 — that's also $100 less than its average price on the website since the beginning of September. Take note that the $850 deal is for all colors of the version with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage. If you need more space than that, you can get the variant with 512GB of SSD storage for $1,100, which is also an all-time low for the laptop that usually sells for $1,249. 

Buy Apple MacBook Air M1 256GB at Amazon - $850Buy Apple MacBook Air M1 512GB at Amazon - $1,100

We gave the MacBook Air with M1 chip a score of 94 in our review, praising it most of all for its impressive speed and iOS-like smoothness. The laptop was shockingly responsive, and launching apps built for the chip felt as fast as opening apps on an iPad Pro. If you use Safari, websites would even load up instantly, and scrolling would feel smooth and effortless. The M1 chip gives the laptop decent gaming performance capability, as well, and it blew away Intel's integrated graphics during our tests.

Since the 2020 MacBook Air relies on heatsink and passive cooling, you won't have to deal with fan noise at all. Another thing we praised is its battery life, seeing as it lasted 16 hours and 20 minutes during our benchmark tests — and that's with us playing HD videos on the laptop. It also comes with a responsive trackpad and Apple's scissor-switch keyboard. 

Most of the MacBook Air M1 laptops are marked "in stock soon" on Amazon. The silver 512GB model is in stock and could arrive at your place as soon as tomorrow, but you may have to wait until October and November for the other versions. 

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

23.09.2021 13:05
'Flying' microchips could ride the wind to track air pollution

Researchers have created a winged microchip around the size of a sand grain that may be the smallest flying device yet made, Vice has reported. They're designed to be carried around by the wind and could be used in numerous applications including disease and air pollution tracking, according to a paper published by Nature. At the same time, they could be made from biodegradable materials to prevent environmental contamination. 

The design of the flyers was inspired by spinning seeds from cottonwood and other trees. Those fall slowly by spinning like helicopters so they can be picked up by the wind and spread a long distance from the tree, increasing the range of the species. 

The team from Northwest University ran with that idea but made it better, and smaller. "We think we've beaten biology... we've been able to build structures that fall in a more stable trajectory at slower terminal velocities than equivalent seeds," said lead Professor John A. Rogers. "The other thing... was that we were able to make these helicopter flyer structures that are much smaller than seeds you would see in the natural world."  

They're not so small that the aerodynamics starts to break down, though. "All of the advantages of the helicopter design begin to disappear below a certain length scale, so we pushed it all the way, as far as you can go or as physics would allow," Rogers told Vice. "Below that size scale, everything looks and falls like a sphere."

The devices are also large enough to carry electronics, sensors and power sources. The team tested multiple versions that could carry payloads like antenna so that they could wireless communicate with a smartphone or each other. Other sensors could monitor things like air acidity, water quality and solar radiation. 

The flyers are still concepts right now and not ready to deploy into the atmosphere, but the team plans to expand their findings with different designs. Key to that is the use of biodegradable materials so they wouldn't persist in the environment. 

"We don't think about these devices... as a permanent monitoring componentry but rather temporary ones that are addressing a particular need that’s of finite time duration," Rogers said. “That's the way that we're envisioning things currently: you monitor for a month and then the devices die out, dissolve, and disappear, and maybe you have to redeploy them."

23.09.2021 12:08
Xbox Insiders' 360 gamerpics now display properly on modern consoles

If you're attached to your Xbox 360 gamerpic but hate how that it looks small and ridiculous on modern consoles, don't change it for a newer one just yet. Microsoft developer Eden Marie has announced that a recent fix for Xbox 360 gamerpics on newer consoles is now rolling out to Insiders, so everyone should get it soon. 

As a reminder, tiny 72x72 pixel Xbox 360 gamerpics were never scaled up on new consoles, so they've grown smaller and smaller and are the wrong shape, to boot. Marie and others engineers originally fixed the issue by scaling the icons to the right size, fitting their square shape into modern round gamerpic (rather than cutting off the corners) and even using transparency for a more seamless appearance.

According to a tweet from Marie, the transparency fix was "walked back a bit due to user feedback that the square images looked too different from normal gamerpics." Rather, the circle is now semi-transparent. It will only show up if you've ever had an Xbox 360 gamerpic, "and if your current gamerpic isn't already your Xbox 360 gamerpic," she said. Once set, any changes you make on an Xbox 360 console will "automatically carry over." 

The fix arrived first to the Xbox Alpha Ring, but has now hit the Insider ring starting with Alpha Skip Ahead users. Pending more feedback and possible changes, it should work its way up the Insider ring levels and arrive to all users in the near future. 

23.09.2021 10:23
California governor signs warehouse productivity quota bill into law

California governor Gavin Newsom has signed AB-701, the bill that aims to regulate warehouse productivity quotas, into law. As The Washington Post notes, that makes California the first state to put a restriction on productivity quotas in warehouses like Amazon's, and it could lead to better conditions for workers. After the law takes effect on January 1st, 2022, companies will be required to have transparency around productivity quotas. They have to disclose those quotas to their workers and provide authorities with a detailed description of the targets workers are expected to meet.

In addition, it will prohibit the use of algorithms that prevent workers from being able to take state-mandated meal and bathroom breaks or force them to do things that aren't in compliance with health and safety laws. Workers can't be fired or retaliated against for failing to meet unsafe quotas, as well. In his office's announcement, Gov. Newson said in a statement:

"We cannot allow corporations to put profit over people. The hardworking warehouse employees who have helped sustain us during these unprecedented times should not have to risk injury or face punishment as a result of exploitative quotas that violate basic health and safety. I'm proud to sign this legislation giving them the dignity, respect and safety they deserve and advancing California's leadership at the forefront of workplace safety."

The bill's proponents had Amazon in mind when they wrote it up. Amazon's warehouse workers previously spoke out about having to urinate in bottles just so they wouldn't have to be disciplined for "idle time." The e-commerce giant also has a massive injury rate, because workers are expected to be able to keep up with the machines they're working with. 

California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the bill's author, said in a statement:

"This bill is simply about giving workers some basic dignity back and empowering them to keep themselves safe. As workers are increasingly surveilled on the job and supervised by algorithms, AB 701 is just the beginning of our work to regulate dangerous quotas and keep employers that have operated above the law in check."

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, however, previously denied that the company has unreasonable productivity quotas. In a letter to shareholders back in April, he said that employees are "are able to take informal breaks throughout their shifts" and that the company doesn't set "unreasonable performance goals." He added: "We set achievable performance goals that take into account tenure and actual employee performance data."

23.09.2021 07:21
Samsung's Thom Browne Galaxy Watch 4 Classic goes on sale September 29th

Starting on September 29th, Samsung will start selling limited quantities of the Thom Browne Edition Galaxy Watch 4 Classic it announced at its recent Unpacked event. The release will mark the first time Samsung has sold a Thom Browne-branded Galaxy Watch separately. Previously, you had to buy the wearable as part of a bundle that included other Galaxy devices.

Each watch comes with interchangeable straps made from leather, rubber and fabric and features rhodium plating. It also includes five custom watch faces. One thing to note about the Thom Browne Edition Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is it will only be available in a 42mm size with Bluetooth connectivity. At $799 for a single watch, you’re paying a hefty premium to get the Thom Browne model over the $250 Galaxy Watch 4 and $350 Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, but that’s how it usually goes with high fashion.

23.09.2021 04:00
Impossible's plant-based 'pork' is coming to restaurants this fall

Just a couple of weeks after bringing its “chicken” nuggets to restaurants, Impossible Foods is launching another plant-based product. Its spin on ground pork, the inventively named Impossible Pork, will be on restaurant menus this fall.

If you're in New York, you can try Impossible Pork starting on Thursday. Chef David Chang's Momofuku Ssäm Bar in Manhattan will serve a version of its spicy rice cakes made with Impossible Pork ragu as of tomorrow. Starting on October 4th, more than 100 restaurants in Hong Kong will offer dishes using the ingredient, which will also arrive on some Singapore menus in the coming weeks.

Impossible claims its faux pork is more sustainable than ground pork from pigs. The company says the product uses up to 85 percent less water and as much as 82 percent less land than is needed for typical pork production, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 77 percent. In addition, Impossible claims the ingredient has fewer calories, less fat and more iron than 70/30 USDA ground pork.

We tried Impossible Pork at CES 2020 and found it tasted pretty similar to the real thing. Eateries in the US and Hong Kong can now order the product from major distributors, so you might find it on the menu at your favorite dining spot soon.

23.09.2021 01:30
Twitter is working to stop tweets from disappearing as you read them

Twitter plans to address a longstanding complaint people have had with its mobile app. If you use the software frequently, you may have noticed tweets will sometimes disappear from view just as you’re partway through reading one. You see this happen when your timeline refreshes and it happens most often when there are a lot of people replying to a single tweet.

“We know it’s a frustrating experience, so we’re working on changing it,” the company said, adding that it plans to roll out a variety of updates over the next two months to address the issue. Twitter didn’t detail what those changes will look like but promised they will keep your timeline fresh while preventing tweets from disappearing as you’re reading them.

Twitter has been iterating on new features at an increased clip in recent months. For instance, the company recently said it would begin testing a tool for removing followers sometime this month. Twitter also recently began rolling its Communities feature to users.

23.09.2021 00:28
Discord tests YouTube integration following music bot crackdown

Discord has started testing a feature called Watch Together that allows users to create playlists of YouTube videos they can then watch directly on the chat platform. First spotted by The Verge, the feature is only available to friends and family servers at the moment. However, the company reportedly plans to roll it out to the broader Discord community by the end of October. Users can add a video to the server queue either by searching directly through the included interface or pasting a link from YouTube.

Discord didn't have much to say about the test when we reached out to the company. "As a company founded in innovation, we're always experimenting and building things we believe our users will enjoy," a Discord spokesperson told Engadget. "We don't have anything more to share right now, but stay tuned."

However, the integration comes just weeks after YouTube sent cease and desist letters to Groovy Bot and Rythm, two of the most popular tools for playing music from YouTube, Spotify and other streaming services directly over Discord. The move forced both apps to shut down. As The Verge points out, the company tested a feature similar to Watch Together toward the start of the year, but ended up shelving it temporarily before bringing it back this week. The company appears to have reprioritized development on the feature following the shutdown of Groovy Bot and Rythm.

Impressum: Bernard Henter, Am Flugfeld 33, 40489 Düsseldorf, Tel. +49-211-404113     Kontaktformular   2021-09-23 22:04