Tesla might trick out its Supercharger stations like 7/11 stores

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Tesla might be aiming to give its Supercharger locations a makeover, which could be great news for hungry, bored electric car drivers who miss gas stations filled with bathrooms, scratch off lottery tickets, and beef jerky. 

The automaker has a plan to add convenience store-esque amenities to its fast-charging stations, according to a report from Restaurant Business spotted by Grub Street. The new plans would transform Supercharger stops from single-purpose power-up stations to mini rest stops.    

“People are coming and spending 20 to 30 minutes at these stops,” Tesla CTO J.B. Straubel told an audience at foodservice-technology conference FSTEC, referring to the Supercharger’s estimated half hour power-up time. “They want to eat, they want to have a cup of coffee, and they want to use the bathroom.”   

Straubel then showed off an “aerial depiction” of a tricked out Supercharger station outfitted with all the hallmarks of a convenience store, according to the report. A Tesla rep couldn’t send Mashable an image of the rendering when reached for comment, so we can only imagine that it looked like any old rest stop you can find off major highway exits. 

The automaker isn’t going all in and starting up its own chain of Supercharger-adjacent eateries, however. Straubel dismissed the idea of a Tesla-run food management operation, instead shifting the focus to potential partnerships. “We already have been working with restaurants,” he said. “That can only start scaling up.”

Tesla says that it specifically places its Superchargers near amenities like hotels, restaurants, and shopping areas to give drivers something to do while their car is charging up. The company is missing out on a massive potential revenue stream by declining to monetize the areas even more — so there’s no reason it shouldn’t build out its own version of 7/11 stores. 

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Cloud Partner Program Aim to Replace ERP

Brightpearl, which offers a cloud-based retail management system for mid-sized retailers and wholesalers, on Wednesday launched a new Enterprise Partner Program.

The company aims to build out its partner ecosystem to deploy an end-to-end management service for omnichannel retailers as an alternative to traditional enterprise resource planning systems.

Brightpearl is seeking technology providers specializing in commerce, EDI (electronic data interchange), accounting, POS (point of sale), logistics, shipping and inventory, and marketplaces.

Ecosystem partners will offer a customized enterprise-grade end-to-end retail management solution for small and mid-sized retailers with gross merchandise revenues of between US$2.5 million and $50 million.

Such potential customers typically would work with solution providers such as such as ShipStation and Silk Software, which already have partnered with Brightpearl.

“The EPP is a new program that we’re launching, and we’re delighted to include a number of partners from across the retail technology ecosystem from Day One,” said Derek Rosenzweig, Brightpearl’s head of partner business development.

Along with Silk and ShipStation, initial partners include SPS Commerce, SIgnifyd, BigCommerce, Avatar, EY Studios, and PayPal Here.

“We believe we can offer retailers a comprehensive end-to-end solution today,” Rosenzweig told the E-Commerce Times. “We expect the EPP to grow as other vendors with particular expertise seek to join.”

EPP Benefits

The program will offer three tiers of partner support to solution providers and agencies that manage various levels of commerce builds and integrations with traditional ERP systems.

Among Brightpearl’s Enterprise Partner Program benefits:

  • Dedicated business development reps;
  • Co-marketing opportunities and co-branded regional events;
  • Certified Brightpearl training and on-site training for sales, solution design, and
  • professional services; and

  • Access to Brightpearl’s application marketplace.

Participating partners will “be able to build stronger relationships with customers by being able to meet requirements beyond their own capabilities,” Rosenzweig said. “Being able to introduce a trusted partner is a valued service.”

They also will benefit from introductions to new business opportunities.

“Depending on the nature of the partner’s solution, a joint project may result in opportunities to sell additional services to existing customers,” noted Rosenzweig.

Organizations “are looking for new retail suites, but they want more nimble solutions to upgrade or replace existing solutions,” remarked Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“Partners are looking for scale in delivery, sales and IP creation,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Participation in Brightpearl’s Enterprise Partner Program means partners would have “less partnerships and technologies to manage, train and sell for,” Wang said.

Retailers would have “one throat to choke and better integration,” he pointed out. They also would get “the ability to scale out technology platforms over time for economies of scale and agility.”

The average global retailer has “anywhere from 13 to 47 back-office retail and order management systems,” Wang pointed out. “The market’s ripe for replacement.”

Target Markets

Brightpearl’s EPP targets existing customers, customers already working with partners, and new customers, Rosenzweig said.

“In cases where a customer of one of our partners is seeking a back-office retail management solution, the EPP enables a streamlined introduction to Brightpearl,” he noted.

“Similarly, Brightpearl customers looking to extend their capabilities in areas such as e-commerce, EDI, accounting etc., can benefit from easy access to potential providers,” said Rosenzweig.

Helping Retailers Remain Competitive

The EPP “is about adding new capabilities to help retailers be successful in a highly competitive market,” Rosenzweig said.

Despite the troubles faced by large store chains — some of which have reduced the number of their brick-and-mortar locations and others, such as Toys “R” Us, that have filed for bankruptcy — the retail industry is strong, suggests a report from the IHL Group, which notes that retailers have opened more than 4,000 stores so far this year.

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus don’t really support true HDR video playback

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Smartphones like Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, LG’s V30, and even Apple’s iPhone 8 and iPhone X are finally getting HDR (High Dynamic Range) video support, which means any HDR content you play on them will look better. Like, noticeably better. 

HDR content looks better because it has visible improvements like greater dynamic range and brighter highlights that makes the picture quality more realistic and authentic to the director’s original artistic vision.

But something’s not adding up, especially on the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

Apple advertises on its website that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus support “Dolby Vision and HDR10 content.”

From that statement, you’d think that these new iPhones would display HDR in all of its eye-popping glory. But you’d be wrong.

To get the full benefit of HDR content, your device needs to have an HDR display. HDR content requires special display tech to properly render it.

For instance, you’d need a screen with a certain level of brightness (measured in nits), with a certain contrast ratio spec, and wide color gamut display support, to see all the extra improvements.

It’s kind of like watching 4K content. The only way to really appreciably view 4K content is on a 4K TV or monitor.

This is why you need to buy a brand new TV with HDR support in order to view HDR content. Your rinky-dink TV just won’t do if you want all that extra picture quality.

Image: lili sams/mashable

So what’s the big deal? Well, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus don’t have HDR displays. The iPhone X is the only iPhone and Apple device with an HDR screen. Apple says it right there on its iPhone comparison page.

Without the necessary hardware for HDR, then what the heck are you actually seeing on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus when you load up a Dolby Vision movie on Netflix? That’s a good question because the answer wasn’t exactly obvious.

Normally, if your screen doesn’t support HDR, it simply won’t be able to read the signal and you’ll see the standard non-HDR version.

But that’s not the case on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Apple told Mashable that users of these two phones will see visual enhancements to dynamic range, contrast, and wide color gamut when playing Dolby Vision or HDR 10 content from their respective content providers, but it will not be at the full level of HDR visual fidelity as it’ll be on the iPhone X, which does have an HDR screen.

We also reached out to Netflix, but they referred us to Apple. Dolby didn’t immediately respond to our request for clarification on the faux-HDR support for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

I know it’s a little confusing, but you could think about it like this: Many phones have an HDR mode within their camera app. When you take an HDR photo or video, instead of seeing blown-out areas, you see added colors and details.

You’re not technically looking at true HDR content but to the naked eye you’re seeing some discernible differences. Better video quality is better video quality, but if you want to watch HDR the way it was meant to be, you’re going to need to get a device with an HDR screen.

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iPhone 8 and 8 Plus cameras get top marks from testing outfit DxOMark

If our review didn’t convince you that the cameras in the latest iPhones are something special, perhaps DxOMark’s lab-heavy evaluation process will do the trick. The camera testing site unequivocally states that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have the best smartphone cameras it’s ever tested — though they aren’t without their flaws.

Where the cameras stand out is in the everyday situations where you just want to get the shot, and don’t want to have to worry about using “low light mode” or watch helplessly as the camera struggles to focus properly on your puppy’s gambols.

On these occasions, the iPhones excel, offering accurate autofocus, extremely good detail in most lighting situations, and superior performance in the faux-bokeh category everyone is so hot on these days. The zoom in the Plus is also best-in-class, though in smartphones that still remains a bit like a dog walking on its hind legs — it’s amazing that it works at all.

It beat out its nearest competitors, the excellent Pixel and HTC U11, which topped the charts until today in most categories. Low light detail and HDR performance gave the iPhone an edge, and its much more natural background blur function wins handily (especially in the Plus).

DxOMark includes plenty of context and sample pictures that are worth perusing. One in particular stood out to me, however:

Phone cameras have come a long way in just a few years, and there’s plenty more to do.

There’s still plenty to improve. The autofocus, while accurate (which really is the most important thing), isn’t the quickest. Video, while good, is judged to fall behind the Pixel’s. Portrait mode still produces artifacts around the borders of the blur, but far less noticeable ones than the Pixel. And they didn’t mention the studio lighting mode, possibly because like me they think it looks pretty bad most of the time.

It’s a well-earned victory by Apple, but the competition is about to strike back: the new Pixel is set to arrive soon. As Matthew pointed out in the review, smartphone reviews are quickly turning into camera reviews, and Google knows that as well as anyone else. We’ll see what the competition brings to the table on October 4, when it’s set to be unveiled.

Everyone’s waiting for the iPhone X, and that may be bad news for Apple

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Today’s retail launch of the Apple iPhone 8 and 8 Plus is a crucial test for Apple’s riskiest iPhone strategy.

For the first time, Apple introduced its latest iPhone upgrades while simultaneously teasing something better coming soon — what, by Apple’s own admission, is “the future.”

Apple’s iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are, based on my review and what I’ve seen elsewhere on the web (and even in teardowns), “S” series devices in full-number-update clothing. Except for the glass back, the handsets maintain the iPhone 6 design introduced in 2014. Apple swapped out the A10 Fusion chip for the incredibly powerful A11 Bionic CPU, but left the screen and cameras largely unchanged.

I really like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, but the changes come directly from Apple’s “S” playbook.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this, and I really like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, but the changes come directly from Apple’s “S” playbook: Upgrades instead of an overhaul, so the number stays the same to signal the subtler nature of the changes.

Instead of delivering the iPhone 7S (and 7S Plus), though, Apple gave them the full-number update treatment and simultaneously introduced the iPhone X (which, to remind, is pronounced “ten”). With its aggressive redesign and cutting-edge technology like the TrueDepth camera module, edge-to-edge OLED display and retirement of the home button, the iPhone X earns the name. It’s the true apex iPhone and easily the most coveted product in Apple’s iPhone lineup.

On Friday, the day Apple put the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus on sale in retail stores (after a few days of online store pre-sales) I started reading reports of sparse crowds at Apple Stores. In London, there were more Apple employees in the store than queued up iPhone 8 buyers, and it appears to be a very similar picture in the U.S. To be fair, iPhone retail launch events have been in decline since the iPhone 6 launch.

At the same time, I launched a little online poll:

People want the X.

People want the X.

Image: lanc eulanoff

Granted the results aren’t exactly scientific, but the sentiment is clear: More than half the people responding are sitting on their hands and waiting until the sexier iPhone X ships in November, even after numerous reports said supplies could be so low that some people won’t get the smartphone until next year

What if, I wondered, Apple made a terrible mistake?

This strategy of offering the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus first, while the real update, one that some believe is prohibitively expensive, looms just a few weeks later, is an unusual choice. In fact, it could squeeze Apple from both sides. iPhone consumers usually want the shiniest, new thing, but they don’t want to pay an arm and a leg (The argument could be made they they’ve been doing so for ages, but the loss of carrier subsidies and the psychographic impact of a $1,000 price should not be underestimated).

Could iPhone consumers feel caught in the middle between the phone they really want, but can’t afford, and the more reasonably priced device that doesn’t excite them because it’s not Apple’s ultimate iPhone?

Looked at this way, this bold iPhone strategy could be Apple CEO Tim Cook’s first big misstep… or another stroke of brilliance.

One iPhone for all

Ten years ago, we had one iPhone to choose from. Even as Android competitors started introducing a wider array of handsets and the early, large-screen devices that, at the time, few (certainly not Steve Jobs) believed would be successful, Apple maintained its one (small-screen) handset strategy

That strategy persisted until 2013, when Tim Cook unveiled the iPhone 5C alongside the iPhone 5S. Suddenly, Apple’s new phone lineup doubled in size. It set the stage for the company’s first big-screen iPhone, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, which launched in 2014 next to the 4.7-inch iPhone 6. 

Personally, I loved this shift. It acknowledged changing smartphone tastes and started to give people design and price options. 

Today, we have a lineup of eight iPhones that range in price from the $349, 4-inch, iPhone SE to the $999, 5.8-inch, iPhone X. There’s a lot of choice in there and I have no doubt that consumers welcome this. However, the core iPhone user, the person who bought the first iPhone as a status symbol and has upgraded like clockwork to every new device each year is possibly facing a dilemma.

This bold iPhone strategy could be Apple CEO Tim Cook’s first big misstep…or another stroke of brilliance.

If they bought the iPhone 7 last year, are they planning on buying the iPhone 8? Probably not. It certainly wasn’t my recommendation. So that means they wait for the iPhone X.

As Mashable Senior Tech Analyst Raymond Wong pointed out to me: This is potentially a “win-win” for Apple. Consumers who don’t buy the cheaper iPhone 8 or 8 Plus, will just wait for the expensive iPhone X.

He may be right, but what if anemic iPhone X supplies in 2017 mean that most people are waiting or buying their iPhone X in 2018?

“So what?” you might respond. Apple still makes the money, right?

Yes, but what does the Apple’s first quarter look like if demand for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus is low (we have yet to hear about pre-sale numbers, but there have been zero reports of delivery delays on pre-sales, a possible sign of soft demand) and tens of millions of customers wait for iPhone X in 2018?

Apple’s first quarter, the one that includes holiday sales, has looked amazing for almost a decade precisely because of the iPhone, which sells anywhere from 40 to 75 million units in the first three months after launch. Those sales are driven by the Apple’s hottest new device and, in this situation, that isn’t the iPhone 8.

Things could still work out in Apple’s favor, especially if they just collect all the pre-orders for the iPhone X, put those sales on the 2017 Q1 books and then let people wait for delivery until next year when they can make enough of the 5.8-inch handsets.

Alternatively, Apple could benefit from the unusually high number of upgraders ready to buy new phones. Samsung told me earlier this year that some 50 million consumers were at the end of the 18-month smartphone ownership cycle. They hope to sweep a lot of them up in the Galaxy S8/S8+ and Note 8 launches. But they’re up for grabs for Apple, too, which could sell them any one of eight different iPhones.

I’m confident Apple will sell millions of new iPhones, but if most them end up being the iPhone X, the question of when those sales happen starts to look really murky. Will they still be meaningful if many happen after the Samsung Galaxy S9 is a reality? Or iPhone 11/iPhone X2 rumors start to mount?

How the world — and Apple’s customers — respond to a protracted iPhone X launch is anyone’s guess.

Watch: Secrets of the Steve Jobs Theater

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Make your watch unique and love it even more with the best Apple Watch faces

Chances are, you won’t know how to do everything when you first get your Apple Watch. That being the case, you’re probably wondering how to personalize it and make it your own. When we first reviewed the Apple Watch, we loved everything that it could do and all the accessories you could get for it. There’s a range of third-party accessories and beautiful straps available for Apple’s iconic wearable — whether talking last-gen devices or the newly-unveiled Apple Watch Series 3 — all of which will ensure your Apple Watch looks good on a child, your grandparents, or a body-builder.

Watch faces are part of this equation, and allow you to configure your watch to fit your individual style and needs. Read on and discover the best Apple Watch faces.

Don’t forget that some of the best Apple Watch apps allow you to expand the capabilities and face complications of your Apple Watch.

How do I add faces to my Apple Watch?

best Apple Watch faces

To add faces to your Apple Watch, open the Watch app on your iPhone, tap Face Gallery at the bottom, and choose your faces. Once you’re finished configuring the watch face, just tap Add.

best Apple Watch faces

You can also press down on the watch face and swipe left until you see New, then add a new face.

Note: To delete a watch face, press down on any face, scroll to the left or right until you find the face you want to delete, and swipe up on the face. Then, tap Remove to delete it.



best Apple Watch faces
Siri’s watch face gives you personalized information throughout the day. It works like a scrolling Rolodex of data gathered from your Calendar, Alarms, News, Reminders, and it can even remind you to breathe. These are all options that you can turn on and off in the Watch app using your iPhone. Once you set up what sort of information you want Siri to display, you can set up the face just like any other and choose your complications.


best Apple Watch faces
The Utility face gives you the flexibility to choose four complications and four different types of dials. If you want to keep the face of your Apple Watch simple and legible, this is an excellent choice. It also showcases your most important complications at the forefront without feeling crowded.


best Apple Watch faces
If you crave even more information than the Utility face has to offer, then the Modular face is the way to go. The offering is without a doubt one of the most flexible faces currently available for the Apple Watch. It offers five complications, features a digital display for easy reading, and keeps everything tidy, even though it crams ample information into a single spot.



best Apple Watch faces
The Activity face is the go-to Watch face for fitness buffs, one that works via activity rings. The Move ring — represented by the red band — shows you how many calories you’ve burned so far, while the green and blue rings show you how many minutes of activity you’ve completed so far and how often you’ve stood up and moved about for at least a minute, respectively. You can also configure it to show you “roll” hours. Instead of standing and moving, it will show you hours in which you’ve pushed (in case you are in a wheelchair). You can also configure it with up to three different complications.


best Apple Watch faces
This Watch face is perfect for runners or those who need a digital chronograph. The hands tell you the total time, and there’s a second flyback hand for monitoring lap times. You can customize the timescales to measure both short and long periods, too, and the face syncs with the Stopwatch app so you can keep better track of your lap times.



best Apple Watch faces
Kaleidoscope is a beautiful app with patterns that intertwine and change throughout the day — it’s also designed for relaxation purposes. When you turn the Digital Crown, the patterns move. The faster you turn the crown, the faster the patterns will move. Needless to say, you can use this to get yourself into a relaxed state if you’re having a stressful day.

Toy Story

best Apple Watch faces
The Apple Watch is known for having one of the largest selections of third-party cases and straps of any watch in existence. This makes it possible to turn the Apple Watch into a device fit for kids. This Watch Face showcases the main characters from the Toy Story franchise. You can currently choose from Woody, Buzz Lightyear, or Jessie, and the characters will animate and wave at you.

Mickey & Minnie Mouse

best Apple Watch faces
This watch face will take you back to your childhood, allowing you to to choose either Mickey or Minnie Mouse. The characters move their hands to indicate the time, but they move their body naturally, tapping their feet as they do. It is a modern take on an old classic. The face also lets you to use up to three complications at once, including Reminders.


best Apple Watch faces
The Motion face is a gorgeous app that reacts to your touch. It has three collections that you can choose. The Butterfly collection has 25 different species that move just like real butterflies. Every time you raise your wrist, a different butterfly will appear. The Flower collection has nine different flowers that animate themselves blooming. The third, the Jellyfish collection, has six different species of jellyfish, and depicts a different one every time you raise your wrist. Each one of these collections features a natural animation that can keep you entertained for days.


best Apple Watch faces
For the astronomy aficionados, here’s a face that displays the time and showcases a real-time model of the Earth, Moon, and our Solar System. The Earth shows you the transition between day and night. You can also follow the moon phases, or you can choose the Solar System view to see the position of the planets on any day of the year. Rotating the Digital Crown will show the passage of time, too, so you can track the alignment of the planets or the next full moon.


best Apple Watch faces
Time-lapse is an elegant face that shows you six landscapes and cityscapes from around the world. Every time you look at it, the face will show you that city or landscape at your time of day. You can also add up to two complications to this face, which makes it one of the simplest available.



best Apple Watch faces
If you were looking for the most minimalistic of faces, then this might be the one for you. The Numerals face displays hour and minute hands, a second hand, and the hour in the upper-left corner. You can change the colors and the font of the number, too, but that is about as much as you can do with this face. You can add one complication at the bottom, or you can leave it barebones.


best Apple Watch faces
The Simple face is one of the most flexible faces, in that you can make it as bare or as useful as you want. You can set it up to showcase just hour and minute hands, or you can add up to five complications. The Simple face is similar to the Modular face, but this one is more elegant, showing you an analog watch face instead of digital. So if you want to strip your face to the bare essentials, this offering will give you the most style.


best Apple Watch faces
As we’ve said before, the Apple Watch can fit youngsters as well as seniors. If you’re planning to buy an Apple Watch for someone who finds it hard to read small text, this face can be a life saver. It will show you the digital time in bold, and utilizes an extra large font that envelops the face of your watch. You can also add one complication, but it will take up the middle of your display and still show you the current time on top.

Weekly Rewind: Free Lyft rides, new Nest products, legendary Porsches

A lot can happen in a week when it comes to tech. The constant onslaught of news makes it nigh impossible for mere mortals with real lives to keep track of everything. That’s why we’ve compiled a quick and dirty list of this week’s top tech stories, from what Nest’s big product announcement to the best Porsches ever made  — it’s all here.

Behold the majesty of our world with the 46 best drone photos

best drone photos update 2

Drone costs have dropped substantially over the past few years, and during this span, we have seen the technology increase exponentially. While early designs were more of a backyard novelty (and often a nuisance) than anything else, the latest drone models are loaded with advanced cameras and stabilization technology that allows for more practical uses. Designed with extended operational range, long gone are the days of simply buzzing — and often caroming — about the backyard or neighborhood. The best drone photos can attest to this.

As the demand for drones has increased, so too has the market, as manufacturers look to cater to each specific industry niche. While pint-sized quadcopters are well-suited for navigating narrow indoor environments, there are hundreds of more powerful brutes on the market designed to handle the gustier conditions often involved with aerial photography. We should know — we have tested dozens of drones over the years and curated a comprehensive roundup of our favorites.

Read: Behold the majesty of our world with the 46 best drone photos

How fast? How far? Chips inside the NFL’s new footballs track every last stat

NFL x Zebra Technologies

During Monday night’s showdown between the New York Giants and the Detroit Lions, I looked up from my seat and saw Jamal Agnew maneuver though a sea of Giants ready to take his head off, en route to a stunning 88-yard punt return touchdown at Metlife Stadium. Seconds afterwards, he deflated a stadium full of fans. I looked down at a Microsoft Surface tablet and saw who kicked the ball, how fast it traveled, and even how fast Agnew was running.

Are you ready for some football … tracking? The NFL has placed coin-sized radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips from Zebra Technologies inside footballs for every game this season to provide a deeper dive into statistics — information the league has never effectively captured. The advanced stats the NFL will collect from players and footballs could be used in fantasy football, but the NFL tracking footballs might not be as dramatic as some might hope.

Read: How fast? How far? Chips inside the NFL’s new footballs track every last stat

These are the 15 best Porsches ever made

Best Porsches Porsche 962

Even among the crowded world of German sports car manufacturers, Porsche has legendary status. For almost 100 years, the company has been building some of the most captivating and awe-inspiring performance machines on Earth; so much so that its iconic 911 has become the benchmark by which other supercars are judged. It’s hard to name one model as our favorite, however, so for this list, we’ve compiled 15 of the best Porsches ever assembled. Some are classics of yesteryear and some are hot off the assembly line, but they all have one thing in common: they’re fast as hell.

Read: These are the 15 best Porsches ever made

Amazon reportedly working on Alexa-powered smart glasses and security systems


Leave it to Amazon, one of the world’s largest retailers, to seek to disrupt augmented reality and home security. The Seattle, Washington-based retailer is actively developing Alexa-enabled “smart glasses,” according to an exclusive report in the Financial Times, alongside a “smart” security camera.

Amazon’s smart glasses, which are said to resemble an off-the-shelf pair of spectacles, pack a microphone, a wireless chip of some kind, and an earbuds-free bone-conduction system that pipes Alexa’s voice straight to your inner ear. It’s reportedly being spearheaded by Babak Parviz, the founder of Google Glass, who joined Amazon in 2014, and could launch as soon as “year-end.”

Read: Amazon reportedly working on Alexa-powered smart glasses and security systems

Nest Secure hands-on review

Nest Secure device

Nest is back, and it’s back with a vengeance. The company recently took the wraps off of the Nest Thermostat E, but that did not mark the end of Nest’s 2017 announcements. Instead, Nest saved its biggest product unveilings for an event in San Francisco, where it revealed a lineup of security-focused products.

The star of the show is the Nest Secure, the company’s new smart alarm system that works in concert with a series of door and window trackers called Nest Detect, a key fob called Nest Tag, and Nest Guard, the brain-center of the whole system. It’s built to be super intuitive, super secure, and relatively easy to install. We were on the ground at the event, and managed to get some hands-on time with the new Nest Secure product lineup.

Read: Nest Secure hands-on review

Budweiser and Lyft want you to get home safely for free

lyft self driving 3

Getting home this weekend is about to get a lot easier, and it’s thanks to a surprising source. While Budweiser isn’t generally in the business of making you a more responsible driver (quite the opposite, in fact), the beer maker is now ensuring that you can have your fun while being safe. For the second year in a row, Budweiser and Lyft are teaming up to stand against drunk driving by giving you a free ride home.

The two companies are offering up to 150,000 total round-trip rides starting today and lasting through the end of the year. So even if you don’t have a designated driver, you can still rest assured that you’re not putting anyone in danger when you make your way home at the end of the night.

Read: Budweiser and Lyft want you to get home safely for free

Why Google bought part of HTC’s smartphone team for $1.1 billion

Google Pixel XL

It’s official: Google has agreed to acquire a select team of engineers from HTC’s smartphone division for $1.1 billion in an all-cash deal. Under the terms of the unusual arrangement, the search giant won’t get a direct stake in HTC — instead, it’ll gain “non-exclusive” licensing rights to HTC’s current and future intellectual property. The engineers are people who have already worked with Google to develop its Pixel smartphones, and they will soon become “fellow Googlers.”

Analysts seem confused about the real purpose behind the deal, however.

“It remains a complete mystery to me as to what Google is paying money for,” noted Richard Windsor, a former Nomura Securities analyst and the force behind Radio Free Mobile.

Read: Why Google bought part of HTC’s smartphone team for $1.1 billion

Equifax confirms it suffered a separate data breach in March

equifax headquarters

Following the massive data breach that Equifax disclosed to the public in early September, news of a second, earlier attack at the credit agency has emerged. Although originally just a rumor from anonymous sources, Equifax confirmed the secondary hack on September 19, which took place in March, though the firm denied it had anything to do with the larger hack. Adding insult to injury, Equifax has now inadvertently contributed to a phishing campaign by sending its customers to phishing site rather than its own breach notification portal.

Read: Equifax confirms it suffered a separate data breach in March

That app-controlled paper airplane just got an update and it’s pretty sweet

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Paper airplanes are a classic form of office entertainment whether you’re seeing how far you can throw them, trying to dunk in a wastepaper basket, or hitting your annoying coworker in the back of the head. 

Back in 2013, Mashable wrote about POWERUP 3.0, an app-controlled device that you can attach to your paper airplanes to give it more speed and steering control. The aeronautic geniuses behind that project are back with an updated version that has a bunch of new features — most importantly the ability to do sweet tricks — that has already completely surpassed it’s goal.

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The POWERUP team has returned to Kickstarter with their new model, which builds on the success of the previous ones. You still attach this little device to a paper airplane, which is then controlled on your phone via Bluetooth. In addition to the cool new moves, this updated version includes a crossbar for stability and attachable wheels and rear skid for smooth takeoff and landing. It also comes with printed templates for professional-quality paper airplanes, so you’ll get the most out of your DART.

The Kickstarter is wrapping up on October 18, with delivery for all backer purchases arriving before Christmas. If you’re looking for the perfect stocking stuffer, this is it.

Logitech’s MX Ergo made me a trackball convert

Some geeks of my vintage have a nostalgic fondness for trackballs, but I never managed to form such an association. Instead, I’ve been pretty much a dedicated mouse user since the mouse first became an option. But Logitech’s MX Ergo wireless trackball has changed all that – and I’m not sure I’ll ever go back.

The new trackball has some highlight features including a load of customizable buttons, as well as a hinged magnetic integrated stand that allows you to adjust the angle between 0 and 20 degrees depending on what fees more comfortable. There’s also a precision mode you can trigger with a single click when you want to be more granular with your pointing action, and it supports use across multiple computers using Logitech’s new Flow feature.

The fancy extras are great to have, but the bottom line is that this is just a terrific user interface device for general purpose computing. It’ll definitely take some adjusting if you’re new to trackballs, or left them behind long ago, but I found it remarkably easy to get the hang of it, even when using it across my expansive three monitor setup.

I’d definitely recommend getting Logitech’s own software accessories to use this device, since it lets you quickly and easily set up your customization options, including scroll and tracking speed. But the nice thing about the MX Ergo is you don’t have to go crazy with settings if you don’t want to – after only a couple minor tweaks I was off to the races.

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The MX Ergo has some side benefits for desk slobs like myself, too: It sits in one place instead of needing to rove a portion of your desk, meaning it’s unaffected by clutter. And it has a micro USB port up front for charging while in use.

The Ergo also uses either Logitech’s unifying receiver or Bluetooth for connecting to your computer, which is nice flexibility to have, and it can last up to four months on just one charge. My primary complaint with the device is that it uses micro USB instead of USB-C, which is found on Logitech’s new Craft keyboard (and should be standard across everything from now on as far as I’m concerned).

The MX Ergo is on sale now, and retails for $99.99 in the U.S. We all roll down here.

Texting-and-driving documentary highlights our smartphone addiction

Why it matters to you

The film may be a wake-up call for some drivers who still find it hard to ignore their phone when they’re behind the wheel.

“I don’t even realize half the time how much I actually use my phone [while driving], it kind of just happens … I’m lucky that I haven’t had an accident yet.” So says one of the subjects in a new documentary featuring five Australians in Melbourne hooked on their smartphones to such an extent that “common sense and self-preservation” go out of the window.

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Eva Orner, It’s People Like Us features plenty of terrifying footage of guys and gals using their smartphone behind the wheel, despite each one of them acknowledging the dangers posed by such behavior.

“I know it’s not safe but I still feel like I’m not going to have a crash,” one of the subjects says in the just-released film.

The release of the short comes as Australia’s Transport Accident Commission released data showing that half of drivers aged between 18 and 30 in the Australian state of Victoria check their handset immediately when they receive a message while motoring along.

Orner said that with smartphone users checking their devices an average of 150 times a day, “phone attachment has become ingrained in our everyday lives.”

She continues, “We haven’t established boundaries on when and where it’s OK to use our phones, resulting in a profound impact on our behaviour, our relationships, and our personal health and safety.”

The filmmaker says she hopes the documentary will “get each and every one of us to think about how we use our phones in everyday life, question how they have become an extension of ourselves, and inspire change and self-regulation.”

Toward the end of the film, one of the subjects says: “I’m very sure one day I’m going to be checking my phone at the lights thinking it’s all good and an undercover cop car is going to pull me up and I’m going to be caught red-handed … I know it’s going to happen.” Of course, the fact that she’s gone on in front of a camera to admit her dodgy driving behavior should make it a little easier for cops to catch her in the act.

“Their argument is that they’re only using it at the lights but the problem is their attention is all centered on the phone,” one of the officers says in the documentary. “The light goes green, they’re still looking at it when they’re driving forward; you could get a pet run across, you could get a bike coming in the way. It may not be your fault because you’ve got a green light, but you’ve got to live with the fact that you’ve killed someone, it’s as simple as that.”

You can watch It’s People Like Us on YouTube.